You want to create an earworm, something that gets into someone’s head that they can’t get out. Doesn’t matter if it’s stupid, it’s just got to be addictive.
If it can’t be played at the club, if it doesn’t induce booty-shaking, you’re on the wrong track.
MAKE IT SHORT
So people repeat it endlessly.
Sell your soul to high heaven. Tie up with anybody who’ll have you. It’s the only way to break through the clutter.
Work with the hitmakers du jour, they know what’s going on.
BE ON A MAJOR LABEL
You’ve got to have juice, they’re the only ones who have relationships, they spend money.
TOUR FAST AND FURIOUSLY
Appear live constantly, even if for free at first, your goal is to hit the arena before twelve months are gone.
LOOK GOOD AND DATE FABULOUSLY
People follow the gossip columns more than they do the record charts, it’s the best publicity you can get. You want to be on TMZ, trust me.
WHORE YOURSELF OUT TO iHEART RADIO
Do everything iHeart Radio will let you. Appear at their festivals. Terrestrial still rules, you want a presence. Even better, sign a deal with a label that’s got an iHeart Radio deal.
All of the above refers to TODAY! Not necessarily tomorrow. Read “Outliers,” sure Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule, but just as much he emphasizes timing. Right now we’re living in a pop world. To deny it is akin to denying the sun will come up. If you’re not making pop music, you’re gonna struggle. And no one wants to struggle.
Ain’t that the truth. If you can write songs, if you can sing, if you can create hooks, if you can play live and grow an audience…be happy anybody cares and know that the winds of change are blowing and what you’re doing could end up the next big thing. The major labels were caught flat-footed, they were not in EDM, it burgeoned without them and the traditional concert promoters involved. Then again, electronic music/raves had been going on for decades before the paradigm blew up in America. You’re just outside the system waiting to happen. But know that you never might.
Can you touch our souls? Can you take us on a journey? Can you make us want to become a fan of your music as opposed to your brand? Do you have something pithy to say about the human condition? Then chances are you’re creating art. And art, unlike pop, is forever. But art has a harder time breaking through, the stars must align, you have to get lucky.
Don’t look back to the way it used to be. That’s a fool’s errand. Everything was built upon foundations that no longer exist. The advent and breakthrough of FM radio. MTV. The CD.
The Internet has changed everything. Made everything available inherently increasing competition. That’s right, you’re competing against every recording ever made, from Sinatra to the Beatles to Michael Jackson. People can only listen to one track at one time and unless yours is as good you will never go mega.
Assuming you want to go mega.
Do you dream big?
Then you’ve got two roads, you can play the game or you cannot.
The reason we love classic rock and those acts can still tour prodigiously today is because they did not play the game, they marched to the beat of their own drummer, literally, the best of them made music that did not sound like anybody else’s.
But no one knew that country would merge with rock and as a result the Eagles would own the biggest selling album of all time.
No one knew America would be open to a British Invasion.
No one knew Woodstock would happen and Joni Mitchell would write a song about it.
No one knew the Vietnam war would cause a schism in society and artists would take a side.
No one knew a cable TV music channel would usurp the power of radio and then push sales to previously unheard of levels.
No one knew college students would create P2P programs that would turn the model upside down, never mind have millions of users.
No one knew the Internet was coming, or that broadband would allow you to download music quickly, never mind stream it.
That’s right, no one knows the future.
But one thing we do know is it does not look identical to today. And when it comes, it ushers in the new and wipes out the old.
This pop era won’t last forever.
Then again, the Internet itself is still fluid. It looks like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are winners, but Microsoft is by the side of the road, with BlackBerry and a bunch of roadkill.
Are you up to starving? Are you up to going your own way? Do you have incredible talent? Do you have something intriguing to say?
If not, you’d better make pop.