Untried/Forgotten Dynamic and Form-Transcending Methods Musicians Can Employ to Rise Above the Competition
So, we’ve all heard the hype about how you can make a million dollars selling mp3s and touring. And—ah, wait, no, actually its closer to zero than one million… Hmm… Well that sucks.
What are you supposed to do, then?
I was thinking about ways musicians can stand out from the crowd, and not only get their music heard more often, but also give the listener a more dynamic experience.
What do I mean by dynamic? I mean, “transcending the form of mere audio,” which is to say: giving the listener more than just something to listen to.
One example of this – a perfect example of this, actually – is the Gorillaz. Yes, they have a very interesting, unique, and incredible sound… but they also have those cartoons, too!
A lot of people instantly connected with the cartoons, giving the whole ‘Gorillaz experience’ an entertainment value that wasn’t just a combination of unique visuals and unique sounds, but rather, it was a value that resulted from multiplying these two (cartoons and music) together:
(Ca * Mu) = WIN
Yes, by introducing different forms and dimensions into your musical experience, you are rising above 90% of the competition – probably well over 90% – provided that your music is good, to begin with, that is…
The same thing was done with Parliament Funkadelic. Ah, and how I could rant for hours about the awesome funkiness of George Clinton. Comics, cartoons, and funk! What a winning combination:
(Co * Ca * Fu) = WIN
Of course, you might notice that in the previous example, I used “Mu” for music, implying that “Fu,” (funk) is something other than music. ERROR! Then again, you don’t have to take the equations quite so seriously, as they’re really just meant to help point you in the right direction. So uh… moving on…
The point is this: the more dynamic of an experience you can provide, the more memorable, fun, and uniquely entertaining the whole thing will be.
Plus, your musical experience will really look better than the average band you find on soundcloud or facebook or itunes… you know, the generic mold: some rock band with a header image of four dudes, they’re all trying to not look too serious, but they’re trying to not look too silly either, and one of them just looks fucking stupid – one of them is clearly meant to be the “leader” or something, and it seems kind of arbitrary; they have some dumbass name like “Touching Five Stars,” or, “Franklin’s Harmonica,” or, “Shark Committee 9,” or some other nonsensical “funny” name, and they have a mandolin, of course, and they pester you to hear their new ‘cutting edge’ song on bandcamp, but it’s never really THAT interesting, and you just get so annoyed, and they always have a goddamn “rough draft” version of a song on their soundcloud, and you’re sitting there, thinking, “WTF, come on, a rough draft? Are you joking? What is this? Why am I still awake? This is a waste of time, this band sucks. I hate music now.”
This is the experience that you want to avoid putting your listeners through. Its just awful.
So here are some things you could always try, to avoid the awful experience I just mentioned, and instead, try to leave the audience engaged and wanting more. You have to tease their curiosity!
1. Cartoons (As stated above)
If you could animate yourself, what would you look like? Or is there some type of imagery you could use? Maybe you’re some witch house group that Dewey is fond of, and you are REALLY into black cats and haunted houses… Is there some unique way you could put this into some type of cartoon?
2. Comics (Also, as stated above)
Take everything I just said about cartoons just now, and apply it to a comic strip. There’s a nice little piece of software called ‘COMIC LIFE,’ with a free 30-day demo, and it lets you make your comics. It really is helpful, actually. Or, you could draw up your own templates, and make one from scratch. Comics are a lot of fun, and there are LOADS of hardcore comic fans. Comics are fun! I mean, really, who HATES comics?
3. Apps. Games. Creating an interactive experience
I know, I know; apps have been talked about before, in reference to bands. And, I’m sure there is some merit to them, but… I mean, unless you’re a super-hardcore-fan, are you really going to want to download some stupid app that gives you updates as to when some producer you don’t REALLY love is playing in Atlanta?
(…sort of off-topic, but I feel the same way about the Pearl Jam Facebook page… You know that, well, most likely, nobody from Pearl Jam gives a damn about it, and yet, every day, they have some stupid posting, like, “…If you could see Pearl Jam tour with ANYONE, who would it be?” … I would like to see Pearl Jam, Venetian Snares, and Rage Against the Machine team up to create the super-group, The Venetian Jam Machine – they play a wild mix of metal, breakcore and rap… But we all know that isn’t going to happen…. But, alas, I digress… Moving on…)
So beyond some dumb band app, what else is there? Well… How about games? What if you created a “Shark Committee 9”-themed GAME that could be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store? If you get a high score, you unlock posters of the artist, or free tunes, or something like that. Or a concert ticket giveaway to the first person to get ten thousand points!
4. Clothing. Let your fans wear you!
Not just a run-of-the-mill shirt that says “Shark Committee 9,” but something that catches people’s attention. Remember those “Frankie Says Relax” shirts? Ok well… do you remember HEARING about them, at least?
Look at what GalaxC Girl is doing! She makes the dopest, most crunkinest hats ever! Its so fun! If you get one of those, its an instant conversation starter, and people will say, “Oh, snippity-snap! Is that one of those GalaxC Girl hats? I wish I had one of those! GalaxC Girl is awesome! W000t! Let’s go see her show, now?”
5. Plugins. Software. VSTs
So, obviously, this isn’t for everyone, but… Think about it for a second… If you’re making electronic music, and you’re putting your music out there on a regular basis, and people are starting to get all hyped about it, then you know what? There’s a pretty good chance that there are other electronic musicians out there who are also into your music, too. What if (assuming you might be the type to program a VST) you released a plugin that allowed musicians to make that awesome mid-range bassy squeal rhythm, similar to the one you use for all your Shark Committee 9 tunes? You put your name on the plugin in the GUI, and if its an application that people are going to use on a regular basis, they’re going to constantly reminded of Shark Committee 9 every ten minutes. And who doesn’t want that?!
Hmm… That last sentence sounded really sarcastic. Oops.
6. Weird, Cryptic Graffiti.
I remember when I saw an “OBEY” sticker for the first time. My response was, “Oh, what? Weird! What is that?” and then when I saw it online, I was like, “Oh, what? Weird! There it is again! What is that?” I then proceeded to search for it, and read all about the whole thing.
What if a band or a DJ or a producer did the same thing? It isn’t like nobodies tried, before.
It is tried and tested, and sometimes, it works. If done successfully, it should make the observer think two things:
1.) “Oh, what is this new and interesting thing?!” …
2.) “I want to find out more!”
7. Releasing Music in Non-Musical Forms.
What I mean by ‘non-music forms’ is utilizing technologies that are not thought of, traditionally, as being used for art or music.
What if, instead of a mere MP3 on your bandcamp/soundcloud/myspace page (you don’t still use myspace, do you?) you gave away little plush shark toys, with a cheap USB drive sticking out of the fin, and then, when the fans stick the USB shark into their laptops, they get the new Shark Committee 9 album as well as bonus tracks and a live mix – AND – desktop backgrounds?!?!?!
Acha! A dynamic experience is created! USB drives, when bought in bulk, are surprisingly cheap – especially if you’re getting the ones with only a gig or two of memory (which is probably more than enough for a good number of uncompressed songs and graphics).
So there you have it. Tease the world with your offer of a dynamic and inspiring musical experience! Maybe this guide will help you come up with unique ideas of your own. The point is to give the audience more than JUST a new song.
Obviously, as stated in the beginning, it really helps if your music is ALREADY decent. Releasing a USB “shark-drive” isn’t going to make up for bland music.
But if you have a great sound, and couple that with some of the aforementioned ideas, you could come up with a very enticing and rich experience for the audience who is jaded and thinks they’ve “already seen everything.”
Give ‘em something new and excite them. If you do, they’ll come back for more.