I hear so many artists pontificating about being “original” or “authentic” in their art. Most artists do not bring their unique authentic selves to their art because that requires a lot of intelligence, work, and vulnerability.
All of this for little in return more than pride in the work.
It’s too much work for most people.
Especially for an artist who’s banking on some kind of financial return to afford the time to become more intelligent, work harder, and be vulnerable.
This commitment to excellence in spite of zero financial return is what really crafts our definition of a real artist, isn’t it?
They did it all anyway in spite of the money and then they found a way to make us aware of it.
Two separate efforts that have to happen to achieve greatness. By the way, I’m NOT talking about financial greatness although that can certainly be a byproduct.
My muse for this article was taken from a brilliant Todd Brison article, How To Be More Authentic.
He hits the nail on the head here, guys.
It’s ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE.
There are only 12 notes.
There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet.
So initially we are all derivative and it isn’t until we put our unique perspective into the art that it becomes authentic.
It isn’t until we craft something into our understanding and ask other people if they understand it that we become true artists.
YOU are the ONLY thing on this planet that is truly unique.
Read that again.
YOU are the ONLY thing on this planet that is truly unique.
Therefore, your vision, your perspective, your tone, your experiences, your past, your addiction, your trials and tribulations, your language, your feel, your heartbreak, your story, and your DNA is what makes you authentic.
Stop trying to sing like this artist or that artist and start finding your voice.
Appreciate it for what it is in an instrumental sense and a songwriting sense.
I hated the sound of my voice for so long. This fact affected my artistic self-esteem for quite some time until I learned that other people liked it, so maybe I should give myself a break, you know?
Odds are If you can sing relatively well and you don’t like your voice it’s because it doesn’t sound like anything that is familiar to you when you hear it back.
That’s the ticket!
What you fear at that moment is actually your biggest asset.
Most budding artists are busy putting their favorite artists or the most popular artist’s perspective into their music in the hopes of “sounding like them” and getting noticed or to make themselves feel like real artists.
Sadly, that is a first class ticket to anonymity.
You have, to be distinctive, you have to stand out, you have to have a fresh perspective to be authentic.
Equally troublesome is the fact that the current system doesn’t like unique. Radio doesn’t want you unless you sound like what is making them money right now.
Since the labels rely on radio to promote their product, they want you to be derivative too.
I see too many gifted artists who get into the game at that high level fall into the trap of appeasing the system.
Think most American Idol top 5 contestants. They get into the machine without really knowing who they are as an artist and then…
They become homogenized and then…
The artists who painstakingly craft their voice, their artistic lane, their authenticity and then stick to their guns during the process of making the world aware of what they’ve created become important.
They strike a chord.
They touch a nerve.
They truly speak to us in a way that we haven’t been spoken to before, therefore they communicate.
Communication is NOT your intent rather it’s what’s being received.
Sometimes these important artists reach us by sharing DEEPLY personal troubles that throngs of people can relate too. Think Tori Amos with “Me and a Gun”.
Most rape victims won’t share with anybody let alone write a song about it and put out into the world. I’ve seen Tori live a couple times and I swear half the audience has a secret rape wound they get to emotionally mend a bit at her show. They relate in a secretive, raw, almost shame-discarding way.
Tori’s connection with her audience is palpable.
That’s what you want, right?
You want your audience to connect to you, yes?
Again, most artists won’t go there because it’s too close to them, it’s too much work, or both.
What I LOVE about today’s music industry is that you don’t need anybody’s permission to be authentic.
The only hurdle you have to overcome is yourself.
Write about what you want.
Sing well but sing like yourself, no matter how weird or uncomfortable you think it sounds. From my perspective I see a truly unique, weird, vocal tone as IDENTIFIABLE in the marketplace.
Makes it easier for fans to latch on and line up behind you.
They learn to instantly recognize the voice!
Listen, what I’m writing about is definitely the road less traveled. It’s hard, man. Everybody thinks you’re crazy, but screw them.
This is about your art.
Once you get your creativity and performances to a point where it becomes compelling, your audience is waiting.
You have one.
You just don’t know it yet.
All you have to do is find them which has never been easier from your couch on social media.
Got a song about divorce? #Divorce
Got a song about sexual assault? #Rape #SexualAssault
Got a song about Merle Haggard? #MerleHaggard
It’s so damn easy to sniff these people out and find the beehives that will relate to whatever you’re about.
Then it’s just about getting yourself educated and practiced up in marketing to effectively execute the task of reaching them, connecting, and getting them to believe in you.
It’s not easy or everyone would be a rock star.
It’s not rocket science either. You just have to be willing to fail a bunch of times to get to whatever is going to work for your particular situation.
Once they line up behind you and begin believing in you you’ll start to sell music.
They’ll crave it.
Now you’re on your way.
If you can get one fan, you can get 10.
If you can get 10 you can get 100.
If you can get 100 you can get 1,000.
The rest is just zeros and THAT’S what the record labels want to deal with; zeros.
Now you don’t have to answer to anyone.
You don’t have to compromise for them because you’re already making money AND you’ve already proven that your music has value out there.
If they don’t get it, they don’t get it. You move on.
Someone will get it, but the authenticity, the connection, the drive, and the work equals a buzz.
When you have a good enough buzz out there, everyone you need will find you, and nobody can take it away.
It’s all about being authentic these days.
PS: Make an artist date with yourself to sit down and listen to Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. It’s a glorious melodic lesson in how to be vulnerable.
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