I was reading a post by Caleb99 (I think that was his handle), about needing passion in your music, and I completely agreed. So I thought it may be worth while to expand on the topic a little and share my experience with writing music, while discussing successes and failures.
1. Like He Said, You Need Passion
I primarily play punk and folk music, two genres that generally don't require a massive amount of technical ability (this applies to punk way more than folk, unless you're talking about such sub-genres as crust punk). While I used to be heavily into metal, and then eventually prog-metal... Oh my, I found myself smelling my own farts quite a bit at that time (metaphorically of course). I'm not trying to bash prog in anyway, it is just at the time, I was so focused on showing off my technical ability, which I have since lost due to not caring, that the music ended up being boring for anybody who wasn't concerned with appreciating the minutia of complex music. I had a very small number of followers who wanted to talk theory all the time and a few who were really just enthralled with my stage antics (I was and still am insane). But what I had failed to realize is that most people want to hear something that the artist clearly is just animated about... Which is why John Entwistle
, while very good at what he does, is the least memorable member of The Who.
Also, my insistence on technical superiority made it really difficult to keep a band together.
Anyway, I rambled a lot there. What it came down to is this, don't let technical prowess make your music uninspired.
2. Don't Bore Your Audience
Like Caleb99 and I said, passion is important to the musical process. If you're not passionate about what you're playing then the audience is going to know that, and find you boring... Very, very boring. This is why I personally can't enjoy shoe-gaze music, well than and hipsters. Connecting to my previous point, if you're so enthralled with your tapping or kicking solo (something I personally avoid like the plague... I'm essentially the not-famous version of Joe Strummer in one of my bands) that you can't be bothered to look at the audience, they will be bored and probably assume you smell your own farts (I already used this joke, but I don't care). They really do want eye contact, Wills Earl Beal gets this, he takes off his sunglasses and opens his eyes wide during parts of his show, essentially performing hypnotism, like a snake (a very seductive snake).
What you want to do is be loud, energetic, and engaging, the people eat that up. Masturbatory musicianship is boring. You can screw up all you like, the audience probably won't notice, but do be well practiced and in time of course. Throw in some wild antics, but don't alienate the audience either, unless you're playing punk and it is in jest (we eat that up like cats and catnip; well I do anyway). Really though, if you're having fun and are not objectively terrible, the audience will probably love it.
3. Know Your Audience
Do the people you want to play to enjoy politically or socially minded music, then do that or find a new group of people to play to. Do they like insane antics, then go crazy, Alice Cooper is popular for a reason. But this brings me to my next point...
4. Don't Rely On Gimmicks
Alice Cooper does a good job of combining visual experience with music, people enjoy seeing the show and the music. Same for the Masked Intruder. Still, if your going to extremes to fulfill some sort of gimmick, then it is annoying for most of the audience. Slipknot for example, as I have commented on on an article, instead of writing a review which would have been more effective, does have some legitimate talent, but, and this is a big but, the whole mask thing kind of overshadows the music. Furthermore, the mass amount of people in the band also overshadows the quality of work coming from the few talented musicians in the group. It is as if they just delegated people with little musical ability to do menial tasks to create their image. Also, in my opinion (let that be clear) the lyrics are kind of hackneyed attempts to come off as creepy and angsty (which is knowing their audience, but their has a massive turnover rate, with fans growing out of the music and more coming into it). The gimmick only works on the audience for a short time... Then again, what do I know, they're still making lots and lots of money.
5. Also, Avoid The Clichés
Same thing for the previous point, with the addendum of, everyone has seen it before, it get boring after a while. If you want examples of this, look no further than here. Also, we are in an ever progressing time, objectifying women, while still common practice is starting to be see for what it is, terrible (see the Masked Intruder's tung-in-cheek commentary on this in their music). Persona and content clichés will only get you so far... I guess unless you're Nickleback, but most people here hate them anyway, so, point proven.
6. Keep An Open Mind
I don't want to come off as confrontational, but it probably will; just because one band's genera doesn't match your's doesn't mean you should avoid everything to do with it. So of my favorite shows that I've played were with hip-hop acts, and, here comes the confrontational part, there is a tendency for fans of guitar music to despise the genera (this was never an issue for me, I'm just making an observation). On that note though, also be willing to experiment, but do be careful (see point 4). I recently made a song that was largely based off soul music, a genera I love but never really played, and it was wildly successful (granted to the audience I played for, which it should be noted, I'm nowhere near famous, but this is probably beyond obvious, I'm just some schmuck on the Internet).
7. Everyone Should Be A Front Person
If everyone is entertaining then how can the audience not be entertained? Just makes sure everyone's actions make sense in regard to each others, or else you will have some very confused people in the crowd. This will also help to maintain a positive group dynamic if everyone is getting the spotlight, or let's be honest lack thereof, because most of us are going to be playing houses and dive bars.
8. Have Fun
Regardless of how successful you ever end up being, if you're not having fun, well one, you probably shouldn't be doing this whole music thing, and two, your audience isn't going to have fun either. When I come out of a show cover in Jello and sweat, and injured due to my manic tendencies, I've had a blast, and the audience has too, and I've gathered some new fans. Hell, I've had mildly successful bands, with record deals fall in love with my bands. If you had fun then the crowd most likely had fun, unless you were having fun at their actual emotional expense.
So... Yeah, I hope this helps ya'll out.
***Author's note: I in no way proof read this, so it may sound like garbage, but as the Adverts say, "The punks don't care! We don't give a damn!"***