Talent Matters

I’ve heard it said that it no longer requires talent to be a successful artist in today’s music industry. I couldn’t disagree more. That judgment is made, I believe, based on an extremely small sample size of artists: those that carry the brand of “Top-40.” An individual may hear Britney Spears on the radio and think to themselves, “Why is she famous?! I can sing so much better than her!” Firstly, no, you can’t. In the world of commercial music, singers are not graded purely by their vocal ability, but primarily by their believability. The implications of that statement are severely misled. A person’s voice is not the primary attribute that qualifies him or her for becoming a Top-40 artist. Rather, is the ability to entertain and to win over a listenership that matters most. Regarding those talents, there are few that match Miss Britney Spears. This fact contradicts also the deeper implication that if a person can sing better than any given Top-40 artist, that they too should become famous- a belief that is, to put it simply, misguided.

All of this is irrelevant considering the majority of artists that “make it” today are not Top-40 artists. They are blue-collar, small-budget musicians that gain their listenership by winning over fans one at-a-time. Their weapons are talent and tenacity. And if you wish to make a name for yourself- more specifically, if you wish to sell music- you must excel in those two areas. Listeners are no longer interested in specific artists as much as particular artist “types.” In a world of iPods and individual song downloads, playlists, not albums, are king. And in order to not become merely “track 4” on Sally’s “insert-artist-type-here” mix, you have to be better than everyone else at whatever it is that you do. You must let your talent set you apart from the pack, so that if Sally craves her playlist on one day, she will crave your entire album on the next. In Sally’s ears, you must never allow yourself to sound generic.

Being un-generic does not mean that you have to be weird, though. It simply means that you must cultivate your talents to the point that no one (or at least very few) can stand to match you- that is, your talents as a singer, songwriter, musician, and entertainer. Rarely do the most talented artists reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Most of the time they are singing simple songs with predictable chord progressions. It is their ability to showcase those songs with their talent that sets them apart and makes them memorable.

In today’s music industry, talent is more important than ever. Anyone can record a quality-sounding album in their basement (and everyone does). In order to succeed, you must separate yourself by being better than everyone else. Be relentless in the refinement of your craft, and accept that great artistry is a lifelong process. Never be overly impressed with the music you create today, because the artist you’ll become in five years certainly isn’t. The only way to ensure success in this industry is to insist on being incomparable, no matter how long that takes to achieve.

To book a lesson with Jeff Mathena, contact booking@singingsuccess.com or 615-866-1099

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