File Under: Creating and Making Your Music
This article is part of the Creating and Making Music series: how to create and produce more music for the new streaming world.
You are NOT qualified to judge your own music. Sure, you can certainly judge how you feel about your music, but once you release it into the world, it's the world's to judge. As you'll see, this is a good thing! This week we're going to explain how this realization can amp up your creativity, song output, and ultimately lead to growing your fanbase and making more money with music.
This concept doesn't mean you should force your music to near-perfect standards so the world will only hear the greatest you can produce. In fact, it means the exact opposite. During our TheSongOfTheDay.com project where we wrote, recorded, and released 365 songs, we learned how terrible we were at predicting what songs our fans would like. Many times it turned out the songs we loved, the ones we poured our soul into and were the most meaningful to us, were met with a "meh" by our fans and daily listeners. In fact, what we learned from our site's analytics and the feedback we'd get from fans directly through email, social media, and in person was they'd fall in love with songs that burst out of nowhere and we effortlessly produced or were what we considered "throwaways". There was very little correlation between what we thought was the best and what our fans loved.
Here's what this realization about judging your own music means for your own creativity and musical output:
1. Don't judge your music while you make it!
There's a reason for every creative urge that you have. You might not know what that reason is, but those urges deserve to be honored and you should explore them wherever they may lead. But critiquing during the creative process is like driving with the parking brake on. Judging your work as you're creating kills it before it even has a chance to go anywhere. Always remember you can edit, refine, and curate your finished music later. And, even when it's ready for release, you can still decide to withhold it from the world if you don't feel comfortable.
2. You will never really know where a released song of yours will wind up.
When you do finally release your song out into the world you have no idea where it may end up or who will hear it. Everyone who meets your music will react differently. Our band learned to be humble and let the world decide whether it likes it or not. And, in many ways, we learned this in one of the most surprising ways. The song we licensed to Disney was almost dropped off the album because we felt it wasn't good enough. To some of us, it didn't feel like it captured the energy of the original demo. It barely made the cut. To our surprise, some six months later, Disney contacted us. They had heard the song and licensed it for a commercial campaign; the same song we were wondering if it was good enough for the album. But the song's lyrics tackled the exact subject of their latest reality TV show and it had the right energy and mood.
3. Make a lot of music.
After we licensed our song to Disney, we learned two lessons: we no idea what music of ours would wind up where (#2 above) and we should make and release a lot of music. That led to TheSongOfTheDay.com project, but it's truer now in a streaming world than when we did it in 2007. For instance, we recently did a talk at 2112 in Chicago: How To Release Your Music In A Streaming World To Grow Your Fanbase And Generate Revenue where we covered aspects of the release strategy we discussed in our EM article, Master Class: Make Spotify Work for You. The key idea we shared is you will want to release a lot of music on a regular schedule throughout the year, and the more that you have available, the better. You will never know which songs listeners, fans, licensees, music supervisors, the press/media, music reviewers, or bookers will connect with, but the easiest way to find out is to release it out into the world and see.
4. Once you have a lot of songs, find an audience for your music.
When we created as much music as we did, we found some of our songs spoke to particular audiences. For example, The Bong Song found a home on a pot podcast. While each song was not for everybody, very often, each song would have somebody who liked it. We took it on as a creative challenge to find out who might like it and used the lyrics, topic, or style of the song as hooks to promote it. Thinking of each track in this way follows our "Find a Niche" strategy we discuss in the EM article Masterclass: Nine $0 Music Marketing Strategies. Not all songs may have a particular audience, but some will and the only way you can see if they might connect with those listeners is to give it a shot and reach out.
Within music history, there's story after story of famous songwriters that were surprised their biggest hits were B-sides or filler tracks. Again: this is not to say that you should ignore your creative instincts for your work. Certainly, put all of the effort into your creative process, and once you do release your music into the world, let it go. The world will judge your music not you And, if you can give a song a particular push in a certain audience's direction to spark things, definitely do it. You never know where your song may wind up and what opportunities it may unlock.
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