Artist Development

Posted on July 21, 2010

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Developing an Artist’s talent is simply the most important factor in selling the talent to the top A&R representatives. It takes so much more than a flashy Myspace page and a good looking CD package to grab a labels attention, but it can be done!

There are countless bands looking to remake the sound of an artist that inspired them to play. I can’t count the bands that play the Whiskey and sound like the bands that played on KROQ last year. It’s an excellent achievement that your band made the sound it was going for and brought it to the stage, but for what? It’s been done and overplayed on FM radio already. Maybe your goal was to get that show at the Key Club, and congratulations … you did it. You put together a great 28 minutes of music into a live performance that may have well cost you $700 out of pocket and you were rushed out the back door within minutes of that final applause by 35 people inside the club when the time slot you purchased ended. No major executives came, no magazine broadcast of the achievement and no airplay spins from it.

Developing an artist takes time. Songwriting, reworking the arrangement, creating a sound that works with the vocalist, as opposed to working a vocalist to fit the sound. You can’t simply struggle out the lyrics to a song and be satisfied if it sounds close to the original. You need to create the sound YOU have.

I spent a lot of time talking and listening to Boston native, Tommy Dempsey. Tommy is an incredible vocalist, an amazing songwriter and in front of the band, Tommy takes the stage. Tommy fronted the band that ultimately became known as Sunshine Jive. They had a hit single that played in the Boston FM market for a whole summer; coincidentally titled “Under Summer Skies”. Tommy toured the States, played in Japan and spent years honing his craft, literally.

In the past five years Tommy has been writing and recording acoustic styled music on a less than hard rock level. The songs speak his wealth of earthly and spiritual knowledge with melodies that compliment his vocal style. A perfect match! Tommy spent a year making his first CD’s worth of songs perfect and recorded a live album in a popular hall in Boston called Club Passim. It’s brilliant. His interaction with the audience between tracks speaks of his comfort with the crowd, his songs and the ability to perform live that which makes him fantastic. This spawned a pro-labeled CD, a sound scan ranking and sales at each show that matter. They matter because it puts money in his pocket, and people buy the CD because it is exactly the pro sound and styling they see when he performs. It’s HIS well crafted originality that made him who he is and it’s something listeners WANT to own and enjoy.  

Beyond this, Tommy took the time to record a very high quality five song CD of some of his work. Songs selected from his set list that reflect his talents, that which he has proved to a fan base already. Another great achievement that came about because Tommy took the time to DEVELOP himself as an artist. He could have recorded his well crafted voice over three chord songs that already played over and over on the radio, but Tommy took the time to develop his rock roots into a song style that reflects the talents that come naturally to him.

Tommy is one of thousands of artists that decided rushing it wasn’t the answer. Developing the sound, the performance and the recorded work takes time and a whole lot of effort. Not just that it can be done, it must be done to separate YOUR natural talents from the rest of the artists you are competing with, and you ARE competing. 

Look at your work. Are you proud of it? Too proud to take criticism? Do you use the success of one show to defend comments when someone tells you outright that they didn’t like a song that ten other people told you they loved? Consider that one comment and take time to develop it into what works better. It might work well now, but it can always work better. Don’t rush your pro CD. It will be money wasted. Perfect your song on in-expensive home demos and get the critiques. If ninety-nine out of one hundred people love it, re-work it until all one hundred love it. If it’s frustrating and takes more time than you are willing to put into it, maybe this isn’t your best career move. 

Develop it to perfection before you make that choice. Is it worth another year of work to get that label deal? You’ll figure that out in the development process.

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