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Old 06-05-2014, 11:50 AM   #1
Victorgeiger
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Making popular music vs. making what you love

I have been thinking a lot about songwriting recently, and specifically writing songs that the mass market enjoys. I am not talking about "pop" I am a rocker and guitarist at heart. What I mean is when writing music should you try and write what you know people will enjoy or just write?

Ok, I understand that not every musician wants to be famous or even just successful from music but I do. I am not expecting some label to pick me up and do it all for me, on the contrary I have studied sound engineering for the purpose creating high quality recordings on my own. I realize that I will need to work hard but sometimes working hard is not enough if you are making something that people don't like.

I am an entertainer and I want to entertain so that means I need to write music that is tasteful and enjoyable yet all the music I have written to date is heavy screamo/deathcore. I know a few of them are quite good but they are just not the type of songs that you could play to your mother.

I am looking to change that but where to begin when trying to write something to people please. Am I missing the point? Do you either have it or you don't and you should rather just write what you feel and hope for the best or should you actively try and make your music more commercially accessible?

Some of my Metalhead friends would call this selling out but I think it is more about being an entertainer. I mean you are not a good entertainer if you are only entertaining a handful of people and everyone else hates it, surely if you are trying to be the best you can be then you should aim to create what can entertain as many people as possible simultaneously?

Just my thoughts, I've pretty much answered the question for myself but I still want to know what you guys think, your take on song writing and from what angle to approach it and commercial success.
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Old 06-05-2014, 11:58 AM   #2
MaggaraMarine
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You can write songs that you like and tweak them a bit to make them appeal to the masses. So I think you can do both. Do what you like but also try to make your songs sound as listenable as possible. I mean, if we take an example like Metallica, you should release an album like Black album but you shouldn't release an album like Lulu (especially if you are not that famous yet - when you are really famous, you can do almost anything and stay famous).

Also, I don't think you need to be world famous to make some money with music. You don't need to have a song in top 10 to make money. There are lots of more underground bands that you have never heard of. But they have a loyal fanbase and I'm pretty sure they make money with their music.

I think the best thing to do is to play gigs. That way you will get a fanbase and more and more people hear about your music.
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Old 06-05-2014, 12:00 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
You can write songs that you like and tweak them a bit to make them appeal to the masses. So I think you can do both. Do what you like but also try to make your songs sound as listenable as possible. Also, I don't think you need to be world famous to make some money with music.

I think the best thing to do is to play gigs. That way you will get a fanbase and more and more people hear about your music.

Basically what I was gonna say.
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Old 06-05-2014, 12:05 PM   #4
Sickz
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I would say you have to strike a balance. I am personally a session player for live events around my area, so i play with a lot of different groups and singer/songwriters, and thats how i get out my desire to play more "popular music". But i also have my own jazz/funk/fusion project which allows me to do the stuff that i am really interested in. The fact that i teach aswell and many young players in my area are interested in rock and metal allows me to get that out aswell. So i have managed to get both the side of what people want and what i want myself out. (Of course it helps in my case that i like all styles of music)

In your case i think it depends on what it is that you like, specifically. If we take the example of heavy screamo/deathcore you are probably right, you would have to change some things to make it "appeal to the masses", since it is very clearly a subgenre that doesnt stand out as one of the largest. But you also want to be careful and not become one of those artists that sound the same as 2-3 other bands. (For example, i personally find many metalcore bands to sound the same. But that is just my opinion)

On the other hand you could also say that if you keep doing something for long enough, and become good at it, others will enjoy it. So you could very well keep writing what you want to write and if you keep marketing it and spreading the word, people will get drawn to it.

It is a difficult question that doesnt really have a definitive answer i am afraid. The best advice i can give you is do what you feel is right, and makes you feel good. That is after all the most important thing, and hopefully that will work out.

Hope that was helpful to you.

Best Regards,
Sickz

Off-Topic: I find the whole thing about people getting angry about "selling out" silly. Just like i feel that genre-bashing is.
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Old 06-05-2014, 12:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sickz
I would say you have to strike a balance. I am personally a session player for live events around my area, so i play with a lot of different groups and singer/songwriters, and thats how i get out my desire to play more "popular music". But i also have my own jazz/funk/fusion project which allows me to do the stuff that i am really interested in. The fact that i teach aswell and many young players in my area are interested in rock and metal allows me to get that out aswell. So i have managed to get both the side of what people want and what i want myself out. (Of course it helps in my case that i like all styles of music)

In your case i think it depends on what it is that you like, specifically. If we take the example of heavy screamo/deathcore you are probably right, you would have to change some things to make it "appeal to the masses", since it is very clearly a subgenre that doesnt stand out as one of the largest. But you also want to be careful and not become one of those artists that sound the same as 2-3 other bands. (For example, i personally find many metalcore bands to sound the same. But that is just my opinion)

On the other hand you could also say that if you keep doing something for long enough, and become good at it, others will enjoy it. So you could very well keep writing what you want to write and if you keep marketing it and spreading the word, people will get drawn to it.

It is a difficult question that doesnt really have a definitive answer i am afraid. The best advice i can give you is do what you feel is right, and makes you feel good. That is after all the most important thing, and hopefully that will work out.

Hope that was helpful to you.

Best Regards,
Sickz

Off-Topic: I find the whole thing about people getting angry about "selling out" silly. Just like i feel that genre-bashing is.


That is great advice! You're the man
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Old 06-05-2014, 01:17 PM   #6
vIsIbleNoIsE
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you don't only love one genre, right? it isn't selling out if you like what you're doing, even if you don't like it as much as another thing. nobody says you can't like pop music.

but if you're intentionally changing your songs against how you'd want them to sound, just because you want to entertain and/or make money, there's a problem there and it might cause unhappiness. but ultimately, only you have the power to say for sure whether you're selling out or not.
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Old 06-05-2014, 02:26 PM   #7
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Just write what you write. If you listen to songs with commercial appeal then chances are you will probably write songs with commercial appeal and vice versa. Imagine if your songs hadn't been written by you, would those songs be some of your favourites? If so then you are writing the right songs. In any case it's quite difficult to predict what will be popular, look at Slipknot and Pantera: They weren't what you would consider commercially appealing, but they were hugely successful and famous.

I would argue that the aim to be successful isn't as decent of a motivation as the simple love for music - Look at the Black Keys, if they had only been in it for the success I doubt they would have had the stamina for all those years as a relatively unknown band.

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Old 06-05-2014, 03:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vIsIbleNoIsE
but if you're intentionally changing your songs against how you'd want them to sound, just because you want to entertain and/or make money, there's a problem there and it might cause unhappiness.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sickz
I would say you have to strike a balance.

Just remember what Ozzy Osbourne said about Black Sabbath's music. He said something along the lines of "we wrote what we liked, and if other people liked it, then that was a bonus." I would suggest focusing primarily on writing music that you like, and if you feel the need to, tweak it to make it more accessible and appealing for a larger audience. Just don't change it too far from how it was, if you feel the need to change it.
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Old 06-05-2014, 03:24 PM   #9
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if you're making the dichotomy between "music i like" and "pop music", then, honestly, chances are you could stand to learn some things from studying pop music. most of the guitarists i've ever met who have some sort of hatred or disdain for pop music were incapable of writing even a half-decent song, let alone a captivating melody or rhythm.

so yes. do both. sickz gave some killer advice, and i'm glad you picked up on that.
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