Recording Artist Advocate: Train Tracks, and your Brain

Taking a dinner break with a singer, her shuffle played a new version of an old song. The artist changed up the song so that it was still interesting but there was more going on to make it apealing to us. Every time we heard the original version of that song, our brains actually connected cells to connect that song into our long-term memory. The new version was able to piggy-back on that. So the new version was actually taking advantage of established brain structures to get our attention. We automatically attributed the feelings associated with the original song to the new version. 

You don’t have to re-do old songs to take advantage of these connections.

Any group has shared experiences. A first car means freedom and independence to a young person. A song about driving has added appeal. It won’t make the song, but it helps. When the song is about driving to a new place or experience and you get an extra boost.

Think about the experiences we all share and how you can tap into them.

The struggle between wanting freedom and needing to be a part of a group is another theme that resonates. Attraction, embarrassment, and voyeurism are more universal themes. Think we’re not voyeurs? Explain the popularity of reality shows.

These brain structure connections are train tracks your song can ride on to help connect with your listener’s experiences. They have more distractions than ever and you need all the help you can get. A clever lyric is not as good as anything that resonates or connects. Dig deep. That’s where the gold is.

Do it wrong and your just more background noise. But do it right and you’ll be a part of their lives. Your music will be loved for generations.

Recording Artist Advocate: Rock and Roll Work Ethic

I watched a bunch of “Guitars and Gear” shows online from Sweetwater. Several stood out in that the artists talked about the same things I talk about here.

Work ethic was first. It can’t be stated enough that you have to make life easy for the people who book you. Show up on time and put on a great show. Work the merch table. Do publicity even when it means getting up early and answering the same stupid questions. Remember that the audience likes the person interviewing you, so don’t be rude or get upset. Treat the interviewer as a friend and the audience feels the same way about you. The interviewer wants to be seen as an insider and you want to connect with their audience. Do it right and it’s win/win.   

Second thing that stood out was how much work the most successful bands put into social networking. Every picture needs a caption. Video needs to be short and interesting. It all adds up to a feeling of intimacy. The viewer remembers the experience as if they were there with you. If they already feel a connection to you, it’s easier to get them out to shows. Look in the camera. Lower your voice like your letting them in on a secret. Connect. The deeper you connect with them, the more likely you can turn them into fans. Fans will influence more people than you could ever reach.

What can you do or say that people will share with their friends?

With every interview and every posting it gets easier. It's like working out. But instead of muscles, your fan base gets bigger.

Recording Artist advocate: Do you know Brocha?

There is a stereotype of a snarky movie critic that hates everything. You have such a critic in your brain. His job is to look for patterns he can reject. Broca is the gatekeeper and will only let interesting stuff get past. Everything else has to be rejected. There is not enough room in your brain for everything.

When you surprise him you don’t just get past, you get a reward. Surprise brocha and your audience leans in. Since so much gets rejected, what gets through is special. That means you are special.

It can be a unique word or sound or the way you pitch up when it seemed you’d pitch down.

Shocking isn’t your goal, surprise is.

In a room full of beautifully dressed women, the girl in the bikini stands out. On a beach full of bikinis an elegantly dressed woman stands out. A really fancy armchair in the middle of a field gets your attention. How often have you seen that?

See, I just did it. I told you several things and then asked you a question in the same paragraph. Your brain had to switch gears and recall those images.  

If your song is un-predictable or surprising or if the imagery is unexpected, you can surprise Brocha.

Once that door opens, it doesn’t slam shut quickly. You have a chance to get other stuff past. Have you ever seen a comedian follow up after a big laugh with several more? The other jokes may not have worked on their own, but he kept you laughing.

That’s Brocha!

 It works with anything. A director shows you the world in a way that gets past Brocha and you like Tim Burton movies. You’ll pay more attention when his next one comes out. It may not be as appealing, but you’ll carry over from the one that got you.

And that’s how you become a legacy band with fans that stay with you for life. Surprise that part of their brains and stay interesting. It’s so easy. Why doesn’t everyone do it?           

Recording Artist advocate: Creating Change?

Hundreds of years ago you could face serious consequences if you said anything considered heresy. Even though the Bible describes the earth as a sphere, the first scientists to do so were taking a great risk. Then as now artist tended to see the world as it should be and those themes are all over their art.   Artists who said things that could get them into trouble learned to be very cryptic.

They also knew their audience. The people who could pay for art through commissions and the regular people they wanted to influence. You don’t have the same gatekeepers today, but you still need to think about the people who like things the way they are and will be against you.  It’s not as necessary to hide your intentions, but it does make for more interesting art.   

Here’s what I’m advocating; take a cue from the artist of the past and learn to say things in a more subtle or sophisticated way. You already know we have two brains. One is very literal and one is very intuitive. The literal side can take the things you say and reject them out of hand. But when you couch it in allegory or don’t fill in all the blanks it gets past the analytical gatekeeper. The payoff is that your listener can really like a song they would reject if they really knew what you were saying.

Isn’t that great; a racist who likes “brown eyed girl” not realizing that it’s about an interracial relationship. It’s smart on so many levels. You get to write on a wide variety of subjects without alienating anyone. You can be seen as an artist and not pigeon-holed as another finger wager.

That means you sell more CD’s and downloads and get more people to your shows.

Oh, and the people who do get what you’re saying will love you more and feel even more connection.  

Recording Artist Advocate: The weak link

Every band has one.

Sorry, that’s just how it is. In any group there is someone who doesn’t work as hard, isn’t as talented, or worse, is a boat anchor the rest of the group has to drag along.

My advice is to never be that person.

This could be the most important thing you do to make your band successful. Ask yourself who is the weak link, and why.

Be brutally honest especially if it’s you.

Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Just quit doing whatever it is that makes you the weak link. It may be spending more time practicing, getting to shows on time, or not getting drunk at shows.  

I’m not saying to ditch the weak link though it may come to that. But you have to identify the things that are holding you back and change them.

If you are in a group of misfits it may be time to remove yourself and find a better band.

The main thing is to be realistic and honest about your band’s future and do what it takes to get more shows, attract more fans, and be a success in this business.