It’s no secret that making a full-time living as a musician is tough. There are only so many ways to make money by playing music, and even if you’re incredibly talented, there are already thousands of people like you trying to make it big. Every year, millions of people try to become a famous or popular musician, but very few are successful.
The market is crowded, so if you want a chance to make money and grow your popularity, you need some way to differentiate yourself. How are you going to stand out? What makes you different than all the people who came before you? What makes you different than your peers?
Photo by Ed Zavala on Unsplash
Standing Out With a Bold Image
You can start by perfecting your visual imagery:
1. Branding and album covers. It’s hard to deny the role that band branding and album covers have had on the success of some of the greatest musicians of all time. Talented artists like David Bowie or the Beatles may have been able to be successful without groundbreaking imagery in their branding and album art, but their breakthroughs in these areas helped propel them even further. Choosing the right logo, album art, and overall image can be crucial to your success.
2. Fashion, hair, and jewelry. You’ll also need to think about how you dress, style your hair, and wear jewelry. For example, do you want to be onstage bald and shirtless, with dozens of full-body tattoos? Or would you rather grow out your hair and wear custom gold grillz? Or maybe you’d prefer to always play shows in a full hotdog costume. Whatever you do, aim for something different than your peers.
3. Lighting and showmanship. Similarly, you’ll need to think about the lighting during your show, and your showmanship during performances. These extra visual touches can go a long way in making your band more popular.
Standing Out With Original Music
Of course, you’ll also need to stand out with your music. On some level, you’ll need to keep things consistent—that way your fans will become familiar with you and know what to expect. But within your internal self-consistency, you can play with the following:
1. Genre adherence and defiance. Most music genres have semi-firm boundaries. If you’re trying to fit in with a certain subculture or group, you’ll want to adhere to many of these genre conventions—but if you want to stand out, you’ll also have to break some of the rules. Consider merging genres, or choosing some genre conventions to bend or break.
2. Instrumentation and intonation. Choosing unique instrumentation, or a unique intonation for your instruments can help you stand out (and create a signature sound for your band simultaneously). Something like a violin, flute, or trombone could help you break from traditional rock norms, for example.
3. Rhythmic variance. Syncopation and rhythmic variation can take a mediocre song and make it unforgettable. If you’re stuck on how to make a tune sound different, experiment with an unconventional rhythm.
4. Resisting tropes. If you listen to music on the radio, you can usually predict which way a song is going to go. You know the verse-chorus patterns, and all the usual chord progressions. If you want to stand out, you need to resist these tropes as much as possible; they aren’t necessarily bad, but you can’t lean on them too heavily or else you’ll be easily forgotten.
5. Overall experimentation. There are countless ways to experiment with your writing and recording, so the sky’s the limit. You never know when some crazy experiment could end up in a hit song.
Standing Out in Your Approach
You can also try to stand out in how you approach your musical career:
1. Target demographics. If bands in your genre typically target one demographic, consider altering your approach to cater to an adjacent demographic.
2. Venue choices. Similarly, you can branch out to venues that don’t usually host bands like yours, or venues that don’t usually have musicians at all. It’s a great way to reach new people who will add you in their playlist, or define a new niche for yourself.
3. Networking. Spend time meeting and getting to know other musicians in the scene. It will help you see what’s already out there and get ideas for how to improve.
4. Listener engagement. Work with your listeners as much as possible. Learn what they like and don’t like, and spend time actively engaging with them.
If you’re successful in defining yourself consistently as a musician, and standing out from your contemporaries, you’ll have a much better chance of scoring gigs and selling albums. Even with a completely original art form and sufficient talent to back it up, it’s going to be a difficult journey—but if this is your passion, every new listener you find and every dollar you make is its own form of achievement.
Keep being AllDayChic!