Catching the Attention of the Audience
By Michelle Paulino
I visit Myspace pages every day to check out what artists are up to. A lot of times, I listen to twenty to thirty seconds of a song and I’m already bored. I skip right to the next artist page. I noticed that this happens even when the singer has a great voice and when I like the style I am listening to. So why didn’t these songs catch my attention?
Everybody wants to be a musician and nobody is ashamed to post their music online for the world to hear. Listeners are being bombarded daily with thousands of songs online, in the radio and on TV. It is only normal for the listener to become more and more selective as they are being exposed to such a wide variety of choices. So how do you stand out?
You will find hundreds of tips for musicians online telling them how to stand out. But very few of them start with this: Make great music! Not good music! Great music!
You can be awesome on stage, have a banging street team and be on every radio show and magazine out there. You will probably get many profile hits with that but if your music is not the top of the crop, you are going to be just a “nice” band and not a “I gotta have your album” band. If your product is not excellent and if there are competitors coming out of the woods with great products, guess what? Your product will sink!
I’ve found some of these tips to be very helpful:
- 1. Don’t be fooled by trends. Your music should be timeless. Trends aren’t! Everybody uses autotune and everybody likes to add certain trendy effects to their voice or their track because they think it’s cool. Well, think again! It might not work for you. You want people not only to buy your album but you want them to remember you for a long time, as well as always go back to your songs and reminisce. The listener likes songs they can identify with and attach memories to. Trends are based on hype. It makes you feel good or it makes you bounce but there is usually not much depth to it. On the other hand, trends get somebody famous really fast, it sells a lot but unless there is constant mass promotion of the artist, the band will be forgotten 5 years down the road. There is no sin in adding a trendy song here and there but do not make an entire album based on a trend, unless you are the one creating it. If following trends is something you want to give it a try anyway, make sure you portray the right commercial image pertaining to that style, else you are going to come across as a “wannabe”.
- 2. Your musical style should not be based on what you like. Find a style that is not only suitable to your personality but also to your voice. Some vocalists are true cowboys and love country music but their vocals just don’t go with it or they are maximized by singing something else. Finding or making a track that allows your vocals to explore its full tone makes a song go from “that’s really good” to “WOW!” .A good example is the singer Esmee Denters. Compare her songs “My Own Heart” and the song “Outta Here”. Notice how the second song opened her vocals. You can feel how comfortable her voice is. A good exercise is to record yourself at home singing songs of different genres. Listen to them and try to notice the difference in your voice tone. Maybe ask around to see what people think about your voice on each one of them.
As far as personality goes, that is a big part of what people fall in love with. So, the style of an artist should obviously be translated into their music and vice-versa.
Unfortunately, there are many bands that do not have a defined personality. They play any and every style. The audience will like the versatility of your talent but the tendency is for you to always be the first type of band to get stuck playing at bars and weddings because whoever hires you – and its audience – end up perceiving you as a quick fixer-upper, after all your band pleases different crowds gathered in one single place, since you play everything. But when somebody buys a ticket to watch your show, they know exactly what they want to hear. You will rarely have a venue filled with people that are there just to hear your reggae songs and another group that is there just to hear your R&B songs and yet another group just for your pop songs. They want to enjoy every single song you play, especially if they are paying for your show. They expect you to share your personality with theirs, which includes your music. If you have no personality, then it’s going to be hard to define a fan base and please them in a deeper level. Remember: you are a brand.
- 3. How you shop for your instrumentals makes a big difference. Create the instrumentals for your song from scratch or buy a track that can be tweaked and preferably that is not even mixed yet. There are many awesome beats for sale out there but after you pay for it, you receive the file and realize the final product is fully mixed with all sorts of reverb effects in a compressed format that you can’t edit. When your sound engineer mixes your voice with the track, it will sound like your voice was put over the track, instead of being uniformly combined. What you want is to be able to mix the track around your vocals so the whole song can sound as one, as a complimenting whole that is equally polished.
- 4. Your lyrics might be the problem. Pay attention to each word you use in your song. If you have a hard time pronouncing words or sentences when you sing them in a verse, when you have to squeeze time to fit all the words in a verse or when the flow of the song asks for a rhyme you don’t make one, chances are that the lyrics you wrote are not flowing as smoothly as they should. Make sure that the words, the melody and instrumentals have a natural flow among themselves. If you want to be innovative and risky and decide to go with a sound that is the opposite to the natural flow of the song, make sure the discrepancy is pleasant to the ears. A good way to know if your song is keeping its flow is by listening to what you wrote with your eyes closed. Forget about how great or how bad you think your voice is. Pretend that it is somebody else’s music. Listen to it from the top just for the sake of listening and enjoying the sound. If your mood changes to a less exciting one at certain points of the song and if that is not intentional, that is a sign that the flow of your song failed somewhere. Notice where exactly you lost that flow and reword your sentence or find other notes to sing the melody and harmonies.
- 5. Sing flawlessly. I know money to spend in the studio is almost always an issue to artists and the advice you will get is to record as fast as you can and take your time in the mixing part of the session. I still disagree with that. Even if you are a great artist that records beautifully the first time you sing on the microphone, recording the same thing over and over again helps you to achieve perfection. Even if you already got the perfect sound, try recording it a few more times just in case. Remember that you can always do better.
Let us know if this worked for you!
One book I would recommend: Succeeding in Music: A business workbook for performers and songwriters by John Stiernberg.
One thing I can’t live on the road without: laptop and fries! (I know. Bad habit!)