Musician Tip: Standing Out In The Crowd
by Susan Gabrielle
Grabbing the attention of someone from a record label is what most singer/songwriters are working towards. Whether it be one of the major labels, a big indie label, or a startup that is all about the artist, you want to put yourself in a position for something wonderful to happen. Or, if you believe the old adage that says, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” you want to be ready for some luck to grab hold of you.
Personally, I love that saying. It makes it sound as though we can create our own luck. Well, if you are truly prepared in every way and you are in an environment to be seen and heard, it really is just a matter of time before somebody who can make a decision that can alter your life forever will find you.
Then the question is where and how long. This can probably be answered by a very long and complicated mathematical formula having to do with where you live and where you are most likely to be, how many other people are likely to be there, divided somehow by how many industry people frequent such a place. Okay, I didn’t understand it in high school and I don’t think I’m getting it now either.
There are easier ways to level the playing fields, take advantage of opportunities, and make your own luck. Contests like IAMA are probably the best way to bring everybody to the same starting place. I’m not saying that because I happen to be writing an article for them. I used to produce (much smaller) contests myself with a partner. I was always mesmerized by the amount and level of talent we would find.
These competitions are inexpensive and a great way to be heard. So, here are some things that can help you stand out.
1. Have a clear sounding recording. I don’t know what the rules or how much importance that holds in this contest. For ours we said it was enough as long as we could hear and understand it. But if you are in an acoustic contest and you really want your artistry to shine through you want a quality recording. I’m not saying you have to spend tons of money. Just something that shows you in a good light.
Also, don’t make winning the only reason you enter a contest as prestigious as this one. You just have no idea who’s ears you may catch with your music. Maybe you won’t win a prize but a judge will make a point of saving your info to see how you develop from here. Maybe you aren’t ready yet and they are anxiously waiting to hear what you bring to the table next year.
2. I am not one of those real secure people when it comes to songwriting. BUT, I know that I can write decent melodies. I just can. I think it comes from a lifetime of piano playing. I understand the theory and most of the time get a good beat going too. Lyrics, well that’s a different story. I have had the most success with songwriting when I had a co-writer.
I know some people are just so set on doing it all themselves. I don’t know why. I would rather have even one cut with a co-writer than nothing at all, ever.
I lived in Nashville, MUSIC CITY, USA for over 10 years and going to open mics there is like no place else on earth. I feel like I can say that I have heard some of the best songs ever written.
So many of these people at the open mics had been going for decades, however, without a single break. They worked all day and did open mics at night waiting for that break. They were a type and you could recognize them at every venue. They had great lyrics but they got lost in mediocre music or the music was catchy but the lyrics weren’t strong at all.
Many of the people with this issue welcomed the idea of co-writing and moved up the ladder. Maybe they didn’t become the song writing duo of the century, but they were part of what they dreamed about for so long. The purists who refused to work with someone, the ones who said, “I just can’t do that,” were left behind.
3. The last thing I will offer is some words to non-writers. To players and vocalists. Don’t let yourself be swept under the rug. You are needed and we all know how competitive your role is. Don’t slack off. Always take a song and look at it from another point of view. Add something vocally, such as ending one verse on a harmony. Play around a bit with the melody.
Sometimes when a fast song is turned into an acoustic ballad, I can’t believe it’s the same song. I can’t believe I had missed the message for so many years. Or perhaps I didn’t miss the message. Perhaps a different style just changed everything. Maybe that’s the magic of music.
All of you singer/songwriters have so much power. You have the power and the gift to make people feel. To feel what it would be like to be someone else for a few minutes. Or realize that we all have different experiences but the feelings are the same. It’s important.
In an industry as big as this one, these are a few things record label scouts and executives notice.
For more information on the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com