Which Part Of His Her Music Belongs To The Singer-Songwriter Staying True To Your Music – And Pursuing Success

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Staying True To Your Music – And Pursuing Success

I received a CD in the mail not long ago from a songwriter who is a friend of mine. I put the CD in and listened to really fine writing and a well produced and recorded CD. But still I felt something was missing. I like to think I have a wide ear and you can catch me listening to almost any style of music at any given moment. But I’m not the general public of listeners and when I finished listening to the CD I felt that again my friend probably won’t reach a much wider audience than they hope.

I have some friends who write music that would be considered outside the mainstream. I have watched over the last 10 years as they try to support themselves as performing songwriters, but with minimal financial success. They had great reviews, radio appearances on the eclectic radio shows that would play their kind of music, but no record label calling, no tours, no money and my friends still have the non-music business day job we all hate. The songs my friends make, on the other hand, are incredibly creative, weird and interesting. Just not mainstream.

So what if you want mainstream success but are inspired to write non-mainstream music? Well, I think the artist should start by defining success for him. If good reviews and a local niche following equals success, then don’t worry. But, if success is a recording contract, Late Night TV appearances, a national or international tour, then something has to give. Now, what is this ‘something’? In surrender (or adjustment or compromise, or whatever you want to call it) do you stay true to your music?

Well, I think we can look to Bruce Springsteen for an example of staying true and still surrendering enough. Bruce was willing to make subtle changes to his songwriting so that the music he created could be heard by a larger audience. After Springsteen released “The Wild, The Innocent, and the E. Street Shuffle,” the record company insisted that he not sell any more copies and he knew he wasn’t reaching as many people as possible. Although there is a similar sound to “The Wild/Innocent…” and his next album “Born to Run”, you can hear that he made a slight adjustment in what he wrote about. He wrote less about the individual and more about each person. His songs became more ‘radio friendly’ and more concise. He had success with “Born to Run” and seemed to have found a formula to connect with a wider audience.

I came across many articles online and in magazines that talk about the rules for writing songs. They talk about writing a good hook, writing a memorable melody, good production, and on and on. I think it’s good to know such rules in the back of a writer’s mind, but to start basing one’s style on what other people think is a good poem will only lead to stagnation. You have to write the music you have to write. Artists have ideas inside them that need to come out and be expressed. But do they all connect with an audience and find success?

How do you get in touch? How do you stay true to your music? Are you worried about success? These are the things artists need to ask themselves as they write and as they work their ass off to get people to hear their music. Let me know what you think – darryl@bluecavestudios.com.

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