Bundle up, it's cold out there.
November 15, 2013
Joshua Macrae

Just got back from a music seminar down in Los Angeles. For those of you who haven’t been there in a while, it hasn’t changed much. It is still the home of some of the most talented people on the planet, it still takes an hour and a half to get anywhere, the sky is still grayish brown, and just like all industry towns, it’s better to be poor some place else.

The seminar was just like all seminars, you go searching for the golden ticket, and you leave with a shopping bag of glossy fliers and an overwhelming sense of bewilderment.  Like Vegas, but without the hookers.

And the message is always the same. 

Packaging.

Know your niche. Describe yourself in a sentence. Have your elevator pitch ready. Work hard. Meet the universe halfway. Talent is not enough. Create an “I AM” statement and then deliver.

Which, as an artist, and more specifically, as a songwriter, I reject with every fiber of my soul.

You can’t bundle my body of work or contain it in a hash tag. You can’t slot me to a single genre.  The art is far more important than the medium. I am Trent Rezner on Tuesday and Hank Williams on Wednesday. I need the freedom to go Disco and Delta Blues and Dubstep and Diggerydoo. I am totally untweetable.

And that’s how it should be.

Right?

When you craft the sound to best serve the song, you could end up with The White Album. Conversely, if you craft the song to fit the sound, you end up peaking in Nickelback territory. You do however get to  see what Avril Lavigne looks like without her hoodie, so, touché Chad.

You simply can’t package that which was created outside of the box.

And yet, for all my self-righteous bluster, I’m terribly wrong.

And I’ll tell you why.

Because if you’re anything like me, counting the hits on your Facebook posts, scraping pennies together for studio time, taking the subcompact to LA for the weekend, then you my friend, are standing outside the castle walls. And there is a line in front of you, and a line behind you, and it’s starting to get dark, and it’s starting to get cold, and as critically complex as you are, the gatekeepers can’t see the depth of your amazing technicolor dream coat, they only see a man dressed like a clown.

So decide for yourself what you do best. Bundle that up into the coolest, simplest, most accessible package and make that your thing. Make that your niche, make that your “I AM” statement.

The point is: Get inside by finally listening to the taste makers who have been telling you the same thing since like forever.

And don’t lose heart. David Bowe wasn’t always Ziggy Stardust, Madonna eventually shed the material girl, Dylan went electric and the Foo Fighters are a much better band than Nirvana ever was. (Don’t argue, unless you’ve seen them both live, which I have)

And if you get inside and you feel like you’ve done enough, like, you’re cool with playing the same two hour set twenty years from now at a casino in Jacksonville, then you go my friend. Give Avril a kiss for me.

 

(Joshua Macrae is a singer/songwriter who writes a daily blog about being a musician, a pop culture enthusiast, and a terrible, terrible parent. You can find more at his website www.waitdad.com)

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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