You Don’t Have to Choose Boring
Everyone wants to have a number one hit, but most of the time no one knows what a "number one hit" is. Since the decline of the ability to sell recordings in a traditional physical format, the “middle class” for songwriters and bands has dried up into a sort of modern feudal system within the “music business.” As uncertainty dominates the regional and local music scenes and culture, many artists choose a certain genre and then rigidly write only a certain style of songs. They then try to make their songs palatable to as wide of an audience as possible to try achieve sustainability. The outcome is boring music due to lack of creativity in both writing and recording. The same kinds of scenarios are happening in business. People are risk adverse. They stick to what feels safe, to what has worked for them in the past or what they think might work now or in the future, but then they stop growing and cannot continue to adequately compete in their markets. People are choosing “safe” and “boring” right and left. The sad thing is, they don’t have to.
Do work that matters
It’s human nature to want to keep it safe, to fit in just enough to keep someone from changing the station—but then the audience is not really engaged. The songwriter or band has to compete with several immediate pieces of media even in a live setting: the TV, the smartphone, the laptop, the tablet, etc. Just trying to keep the attention span of the audience is more of a challenge than ever. This, in my opinion, should be just one more reason to not play it “safe” as a song-writer or band. Music still possesses the intangible power to communicate at an almost spiritual level. If the song has that capability, it can capture the attention of the audience as individuals and hold it.
As a producer, my job is to help hone that quality in the songs that artists present to me to record, and to encourage them to find that quality in their songs and capture it to a recorded medium. Often in that process, that little kernel is found and the artist discovers what the true soul of the song is - enough to present it to the audience in a live setting as well as in the studio.
If you aren’t taking risks, you are just surviving
People tend to romanticize the days gone by, the 1960s and the days of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. The 1960s were an extraordinary creative time in music. Folk music, rock and roll, psychedelia and Big Band, combined with the introduction of popular Brazilian music and Jazz were all happening at the same time. This is because during that time there was a complete explosion of culture at large. Artists were taking risks and experimenting in meaningful ways due their new license and the momentum of what was happening culturally. These were people trying to reset the bar in ways that would take them to new places. The “music business” was trying to keep up with the culture and the culture demanded authenticity. The rule was and still remains that as an artist, you cannot do timeless, authentic, meaningful work by staying safe: you have to write about what scares you the most.
Doing work that matters requires jumping out of your comfort zone and tearing down the statusquo – and being willing to do this at the risk of alienating part of your audience. Every great artist who has ever done music that matters has done this and every great innovator in the business world has too. If you aren’t doing this, then you are at risk of not getting the best out of yourself as an artist. You are, in effect, just surviving. You’re better than that.
Thank you, and now you can leave your offering in the collection plate
At the Troubadour Studio, we are not interested in participating in work that is meant for the background. We believe there are others who are very good at that. We, instead, are going to keep pushing through the barriers. Why? Because we believe you get better results, and love your work more, when you take risks and do something authentic and timeless. Maybe your audience isn’t really expecting to experience a transcendent thing. They’ve been conditioned not to expect this. But we believe that what people really want – what we need as a part of what we can offer culturally today –is something that moves us and something that reminds us that we are still human.