One thing that’s really struck me over the past couple of years since becoming a music industry professional has been my wider appreciation of music. It’s been really great – not just because it expands my own palate of tastes, but also because it expands my options – not just professionally either, it gives me a sense of openness that I can use anywhere in life. Fully immersing yourself in music, and not just music of one type, leads to a sort of transcendence brought on by art that is almost destined to help to bring your career and band to a whole new level – fusing together ideas and breeding an openness that is crucial to survive in this industry.
When I was a youngster first starting to interview bands and hang out with rock stars I was shocked at how so many of my favorite musicians who played truly abrasive and aggressive music were deeply in love with what they called ‘crappy pop punk’ or better yet ‘douche-country’. It was a struggle for me to come to accept their music tastes – after all – they played music that expanded my mind – why bother with silly stuff that they knew was derivative? Well – when music becomes a lifestyle that type doesn’t matter as much as how it makes you feel and what it stands for. Odds are that there are people in genres that you might perceive as diametrically opposed to your own that you would get along super well with. In fact, the more I dig into the music industry the more I find that the people who really make stuff happen are all the same, regardless of whether they like rap, death metal or show tunes.
The music industry has traditionally moved forward through unity. Now note – I’m not saying polymerization necessarily as much as I think that people from different backgrounds should be interfacing with each other to help build towards a better future. A lot of this openness is important because it helps to you to connect with new people and grow the potential sources of income that you have for your band. That might sound like a tired and antiseptic way to view the music industry – but that’s how a lot of it works, making friends with people you might not normally reach out to and then mutually benefiting – some would say it’s the only way to move forward.
I’ve ranted before on this site about how there are so few people in this industry who really ‘get it’ and who are trying to build a better future for the collective, not just themselves. In your specific genre or subgenre the more you stay boxed in the more you are going to keep yourself from being able to access opportunities that can move this whole thing forward. I mean, there is definitely some validity to that and staying true to a very base or core idea can be important to some bands. If that’s your thing then so be it, this isn’t the conversation for you. If you are trying to build towards making your band a full time professional entity though, the odds are that you are going to need to reach out beyond the common imitations of your genre, and work with people you might not normally consider in order to succeed.
The point that I’m trying to make is that you need to take every advantage that you can get in this industry – and a big part of that is embracing music of a sort that might not normally fit into your wheelhouse. This doesn’t make you a poser – in fact it makes you less of one because it shows that you are confident enough in your love of music to be able to reach out and explore brave new soundworlds. You are expanding your sound, because you, unlike many, are unafraid of change. There’s a whole lot of uncharted territory out there and I think the more we interface with people from different subgenres the more we have a chance to come out and grow not just as musicians but also as people.
I manage a couple of bands for a living and I see this playing out almost every day. My bands that are the most economically viable are the ones who are not afraid to hop on bills that might seem a little alien to them and have sounds that, while certainly their own thing, have the potential for a much greater appeal. If you check out most of the groups on my roster you find bands that aren’t afraid to break the rules and, in the words of Kyle Juett of Mothership ‘create their own void’. In doing this they reach across boundaries and find people they might not normally work with to help create art that resonates across experiences and speaks on a very human level.
Crossing genre barriers and opening up with the people you work with is in many ways the most artistically valid thing that you can do. Music is about community and love at its very core. This was meant to bring people together – not alienate others. Sure – your style of music can be alienating, but you don’t need to be alienating as an individual, and the more people you are able to charm and incorporate into your work then the more you will succeed. This isn’t rocket science – it’s merely being willing to look at the dude with a industry pass at NAMM in a backwards baseball cap and baggie pants and reach out a leather jacketed forearm to shake their hand and ask – “Hey man, what do you in the industry?”