In a time when it’s easy to be an average artist in a sea of musical overabundance, how can musicians stand out from the crowd whilst staying true to their creative process? That was the question posed at Australian Music Week’s Let’s Be Remarkable session earlier this month in Sydney.
Hosted by Footstomp’s Graham ‘Asho’ Ashton, the Let’s Be Remarkable panel brought together renowned musicians Taasha Coates (The Audreys), Michael Carpenter (Love Hz Studios), Neil Murray (Warumpi Band) and Reg Mombassa (Mental As Anything). Here’s the top tips they shared for navigating a music career whilst giving the creative process the reverence it deserves…
Pursue music for passion, not a pay check. This is the resounding take home message. All panellists agreed the fastest way to kill creativity is to confine it to the pressures of paying the bills. If you’re an emerging artist and music is your main money-maker, for the sake of your creativity get a day job before you fall into the trap of trying to write ‘the next big hit.’ Writing to current trends instead of writing music you want to write isn’t part of the creative process, it’s purely a commercial one.
Always serve the song (Michael). With so much technology at our disposal, it’s easy to get carried away adding unnecessary bells and whistles to a track or “overproducing” it. As a Producer, Michael recommends going into the studio with a strong focus and sticking to it, to avoid overcooking a song. If you want to know what to do with a song, he says “it will tell you, if you’re brave enough to listen.” Those who are personally successful come to the song-writing/recording process with no agenda.
Study the art of songs you love (Neil). What better way to learn, than by dissecting songs of the past? If there’s a sound/style/song you love, pull it apart and study it’s elements to understand how to create music like it. Neil doesn’t listen to any current music and believes the best lessons are contained in old music.
Take care of business baby (Reg). While the internet has made it easier than ever to get your music out there, musicians still need some business know-how to get people to hear their music. Having skills across various facets of the music industry including publicity, management and bookings can help musicians cut above the noise. Music Industry Inside Out provides possibly the best DIY advice in Australia on every element of the industry and our own The Power-Up Series is a great starting point for media and marketing tips.
Connect with your audience (Asho). Music is a powerful form of communication – it breaks down barriers and can express feelings words alone cannot surmise. That’s why it’s important musicians use their music to connect with their audience. If you’re concerned about writing music that industry gatekeepers will like, you’ve missed the point. Write authentic music that speaks to people – your biggest supporters are your fans, engage them.
Keep reinventing, your best work is yet to come (Taasha). “My best work is still in front of me,” is the mantra The Audrey’s frontwoman Taasha Coates uses to keep herself pushing forward. It’s easy to get caught up writing to a specific formula or resting on the laurels of success, but creativity is not static, and artists need to keep breaking their processes and tried methods, to keep reinventing. As life evolves, ensure your music evolves too.
In the final words of the panellists, when it comes to creating: don’t be self-conscious, don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ product and don’t be earnest – simply follow your passion and enjoy the ride!
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Australian Music Week took place in Cronulla, 1 – 5 November and will return in 2018.