There is normal competition and then there is the kind of furious competition that artists in the music industry face; and not just emerging talent, but established performers as well, who must constantly reinvent themselves both for existing and new fan bases. After years of hard work, some artists achieve their dream and find themselves in the spotlight, but without the right management, structure and foundation, it slips away quickly. Once that happens, it’s virtually impossible to reclaim those heights.
The toughest part about breaking through in the music industry isn’t just standing out in a crowded space, but it’s sustaining that notoriety and building upon it, says music and entertainment industry entrepreneur Lindsay Guion. Lindsay is the Founder and CEO of GUION PARTNERS, INC., and has also worked with Grammy award-winning artists, songwriters, and producers.
According to Lindsay Guion, here are three ways that artists can stand out in a relentlessly competitive marketplace.
1.Differentiate — or Else!
The worst thing that can happen to any artist — but especially emerging ones — is that their sound, vibe, and overall presentation is so derivative of a more well-known and established artist, that they quickly (if not in some cases instantly) get tossed into the “wannabe” bucket. To avoid this cruel and often permanent fate, artists need to make sure they establish what makes them different and unique.
Lindsay Guion notes that this does not mean that artists cannot or should not be influenced by their peers. However, there is a line between aligning with an artist — like The Weekend’s embrace and echo of Michael Jackson’s sound, or Beyoncé’s embrace and echo of Mariah Carey’s sound — and basically being a cover artist. In other words, it is perfectly fine to respect another artist, but not to reflect another artist. Each legitimate artist has to stand on their own, make their mark, and if they’re good enough for long enough, eventually they will be the ones who inspire and influence others down the road.
2.Build a Community
Another powerful way for artists to stand out is by building a community of loyal fans across the social media landscape who not only serve as a valuable source of market intelligence, but also influence and integrate new fans into the flock (what businesses these days call “brand ambassadors”).
The three most important elements of an artist’s social media profile — whether they are hoping to make it big on a national or international stage, or they’re already playing sold out arenas and stadiums — are authenticity, relevance, and regularity, says Lindsay Guion. Fans want to know that they have direct access to artists, and they further want to be engaged by a relevant, ongoing stream of content that goes beyond status updates. They also want to connect and communicate with other fans to share everything from tribute videos to emotional stories to album and concert reviews, and the list goes on.
3.Never Stop Creating and Growing
Successful artists don’t create music and then wait for word to spread and fans to appear. Instead, they never stop creating and growing — sometimes reaping rewards, and sometimes identifying the need to change course and re-calibrate their sound and brand.
Lindsay Guion adds that a big part of creating is experimenting. Artists obviously need to play to their strengths, but they shouldn’t be afraid to push the envelope. Perhaps the most stirring example of this in the hip hop world is Public Enemy’s seminal and now legendary track Fight the Power. It’s impossible to appreciate how much of a risk this represented at the time. The band could have lost everything. Instead, they changed history within and beyond the music industry.
The Bottom Line According to Lindsay Guion
Standing out in the music industry — and sustaining visibility and popularity — is extremely difficult. However, rather than being daunted (or just flat out depressed) by this reality, artists should be inspired by it. As the old saying goes: if it was easy, everyone would do it.
Artists need to dig in and never give up —even if it means they need to take a part-time or full-time job driving a cab, teaching school, catering weddings, or anything else. With enough raw talent, a lot of hard work, the right people around them, and of course good timing and plenty of luck, their dreams can come true, says Lindsay Guion.