Good Music is More About Confidence Than You Think
By Paul on April 16th, 2012 in Advice, Songwriting
As an indie music blogger, I am sometimes contacted by a band directly rather than through a label. This is great. I love it when a band wants to give it the personal touch. The thing is, this will sometimes backfire. It’s not because of bad writing. If you’ve made an entire album of music with lyrics, you’re probably a good writer. No, your email backfires when you don’t talk about your music confidently, as one band failed to do recently. Here’s what went wrong.
Bands: When you send me an email, I may or may not read all of it. If it’s pretty short, I will probably read the whole thing. If it’s a little long, I’ll read enough of it to get excited about the music and maybe glean a few interesting factoids. If it’s really interesting, I might read a long email all the way through. But more important than how much I read is when I read. If you post links to your songs at the end of the email as most bands do, then I am probably reading about you before I listen to your music. This means that your email is a chance to get me excited about your music before I even hear it. But sometimes, this happens instead:
It takes me a long time to write a song. It’s a very annoying quality! I wish I could be a spontaneous writer, instead bits ebb and flow out of me.
Oh yes, I see. You carefully spend great lengths of time crafting and perfecting your music. Or at least that’s probably what you were hoping to tell me. What exactly did you say again?
It’s a very annoying quality! I wish I could be a spontaneous writer…
Are you saying you don’t like your music? That your songwriting isn’t good enough? Thirty minutes after reading the email, this is what was still rattling around in my head. This band is apologizing for something I never would have noticed if they didn’t bring it up. Is this what you would do when meeting somebody new in real life? “Sorry about the ugly wart on my butt.” I hope not.
It’s great to want to grow artistically. All bands want this. But you need to be confident in the music you already have, too. Confident bands have a better chance of getting the audience invested in their music. An album is not just a list of songs. It is also the band behind the songs. Try something that sounds a little more confident:
I am always looking for opportunities to grow as an artist. New ideas are always ebbing and flowing. We spent years perfecting our latest album, and it was worth it! Once you hear it I know you will agree.
Much better! It’s the same information as before, but you sound confident. When you are self-confident, I will be confident in you too. In fact, the length of time spent on the album was a bragging point for Miami Horror. It took them YEARS, but instead of sounding lazy they sounded like they didn’t want to release something until it was perfect. But there’s still more. Take a look at this:
You know how certain scents can recall a very vivid memory? These songs are like that to me. Quite frequently I comment on how horrible my memory is, and these songs are little snapshots of moments and thoughts that I might have forgotten otherwise.
You had a great idea: use a metaphor to describe you music in a more memorable way. It’s also the kind of metaphor that means something personal to everybody, making it instantly relatable. But your execution makes it sound like your music is only a strategy to remember where you put the car keys. Your bad memory — even if it is your inspiration — isn’t the best way to tell me what makes your music so great. You have anchored me into the idea that your music isn’t that impressive, when you should be using the anchoring effect to make me love your music before I even hear it. Something like this might work:
You know how certain scents can recall a very vivid memory? A love lost, the summer breeze… These songs are reminders of those moments and ideas that are truly important.
All I did there was to remove the self-deprecation and rephrase the rest. But even small mistakes like these can be costly to new bands. This email cemented in my head the idea that the band is not confident enough to stand behind their own music. What it did not do was get me excited about the music. So, to this and every other band, this is a call to be confident in your music. We know you are in love with your music, or else you wouldn’t have made it. We want to love it, too, and you want us to love it. So tell us with confidence why your music deserves our love!