Over the past years, I spoke to so many musicians. From the times before I was working at a radio station until today as a mix engineer. And most musicians loved to share their music.
While there were great songs amongst the sheer masses of releases, most of the music didn't stand out. In other words: It wasn't great enough.
But having great music is the most important thing.
It always amazes me that most music promotion and marketing experts withhold this simple truth from independent artists.
(Maybe all they want is your money? Anyways...)
Again, the most important thing is to make great music.
Once you have this dialed in, you can (and should) promote and market the sh-t out of it.
This leaves us with one question...
What is great music?
Great music isn't determined by one variable. There are plenty.
But before we dive deeper, keep the following in mind:
Everything is relative.
- If you want to get into Top 40, create a song that's great enough.
- If you want to get on Spotify playlists, make sure to sound great enough.
- If you want to please listeners of a certain genre, create a song that's great enough.
- If you want your music appeal to the audience of another artist, create a song that's great enough.
And the list goes on.
Do you get the point?
In short: Make great music for your audience.
Of course, there's always the chance to change the listener's behavior. In fact, the music industry evolves at an extreme speed. But, still, this usually happens over time, and not with only one song.
So unless you know for a fact that you're the next big bang - keep it real and make great music for your audience.
The many variables of great music
Once you know why you make great music, you can focus on the what and how.
What do you need to make great music? How do you create great music?
So let's start with what you need.
What do you need to make great music?
First of all, leave one thought behind:
You don't have to be the very best to make something happen. You need to be great enough.
For example, you suck at playing guitar but wanna play a crazy guitar solo. To get this done, you have to practice enough to master the flying fingers. Or you hire someone who does the guitar solo for you. Keep in mind though that if you ever wanna play this live, you have to master it yourself or hire someone to join you.
Another example: All you want is to play rhythm guitar. Now your focus switches and you need to master the rhythm and the chords. Or, again, hire someone who masters this.
It’s a decision-making game. And you are in charge of making them.
Though, the game is called All About Great Music. If you master hiring a team of people who create a great song for you, that's fine. (Although you would rather be a producer than an artist by then.)
It's crucial for you to master what you need to make great music.
But how do you create great music?
When you know what you need, the how becomes easy
Many variables play a role in creating great music. And not all are equally important to you. I wrote an article about the balance between art and business and the importance of thinking as a full stack artist. This next part ties into this idea.
Here's a simple list of variables:
- Vision: get a clear picture of where you wanna go - what do you want to achieve?
- Management: outline and delegate all vital steps to be successful.
- Songwriting: create a song that connects with your audience.
- Pre-production: enhance your writing to be catchier and easier to connect with.
- Performance: infuse your idea with flawless playing/singing and passionate emotions.
- Recording: capture this amazing moment to make it timeless.
- Post-production: add elements that increase the impact of the song.
- Editing: prepare the recordings to sound as perfect as possible - they stay like this forever.
- Mixing: turn your raw recordings into an emotionally immersive experience.
- Mastering: finish strong with the final competitive touch before distribution.
- Branding: find a theme that represents your vision.
- Distribution: prepare your song to conquer the world.
- Promotion: go above and beyond to come closer to achieving your release goal.
- Marketing: produce content consistently that nurtures and grows your loyal audience.
- Sales: have systems in place to turn fans into customers.
Of course, this is only a very brief overview. And it might be a bit confusing because promotion, marketing, and sales could easily fill whole books by themselves. (And I even left out things on purpose.) But it can give you a basic idea of the work behind creating great music.
As long as you know what you want, you can balance the variables to your liking. Prioritize what’s most important for your project. Next, focus on this and nothing else and be successful.
Everything in the music industry is relative
If someone tells you A, another person will tell you B, while you think C. And that's awesome. It shows the unlimited creativity you can use to express yourself.
Because of that, you won’t even find one working universal step-by-step guide on how to become a successful independent artist. It simply doesn’t work that way. We’re in an incredibly creative industry.
And, yes, we are getting spammed with exceptional stories - all the time. "15yo kid produces mega-hit in her bedroom." And some people try to use these stories to sell untested ideas to independent artists.
But what do we know about these exceptions? Not much. However, as soon as we dig deeper into new phenomenons, we often realize that we only saw the tip of the effort-berg.
So forget about what everyone is doing and instead focus on your music career. Create great music.
Did I miss anything?
Now I'd like to hear from you:
What next action will you take to make a great song?
Or do you think it's all for nothing and I'm talking nonsense?
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.