Using Innovation For Setting Yourself Apart From Other Artists

TThe biggest thing that you, as an independent artist or musician, can do to for your own career is to find a way to set yourself apart from the pack. In a world of copycats and knock-offs, this may seem an impossible task. However, hundreds of thousands of artists have found ways to become innovators and leaders rather than imitators and followers. A very effective way that you can do that is to be the first at doing something that no one else has done yet. Here are some examples.

You can be the first to:

    • You can meld several musical genres. Garth Brooks brought a heavy rock influence to his music, resulting in his becoming a crossover phenomenon. Lyle Lovett‘s music is a unique mixture of country, jazz, swing, blues and more! Josh Grobin’s operatic voice broke the pop barrier, and Freddie Mercury’s operatic voice (Queen) broke the pop/rock barrier.
    • You might use an instrument that no one else has used (at least not prominently) in your genre of music, just as The Beatles introduced the sitar to pop music in Norwegian Wood. On the other end of the spectrum, Zamphir became a household name when he introduced the pan flute to millions via his infomercials. The prominent saxophone solo in ‘Gerry Rafferty’s hit, ’Baker Street’, led to a resurgence of the instrument’s popularity, known as the ‘Baker Street Phenomenon!’

Image credit:

  • Try introducing a new or distinct sound in your music. This is easier now than ever with the advent of synthesizers, guitar effects etc. Brad Paisley‘s guitar sound and playing style are instantly recognizable. The same holds true for Jimi Hendrix.
  • Introduce a new production technique, as Phil Spector did with his infamous ‘Wall of Sound’, and Les Paul did by recording ‘sound on sound’. The Beatles were the first to use multi-tracking.
  • You might try to invent a new instrument, as Dr. Robert Moog did with the Moog Synthesizer. Although he wasn’t a famous artist or musician himself, his invention enabled keyboard players to create totally unheard of sounds.
  • Try using a special effect, such as Peter Frampton’s infamous ‘Talk Box.’
  • Can you write or sing songs mostly about a particular subject, as Taylor Swift does about life as a teenager? What do you love that no one has become famous for singing about?
  • You can be the first to use unique lyrical content, such as Bob Dylan did with his vibrant imagery.
  • Be the first to take a specific song style to the masses, as Weird Al Yankovic has done with parodies.
  • Be the first to use your unique vocal sound or range within a genre. Joe Cocker’s gravelly voice and bluesy style are unmistakable. Celine Dion’s vocal power and range enable her to sing songs many artists can only dream about.
  • Revive a sound that hasn’t been heard in a long time, as Asleep At The Wheel does with western swing.

Done effectively, doing something first can actually start a trend. You can accomplish this in many different ways:

  • You can be the first to present your unique overall image. The Rolling Stones became known as the ‘bad boys of rock ‘n roll’.
  • You can wear something unique, such as Michael Jackson’s white glove, Elvis Presley’s jump suits, Elton John’s sunglasses or Liberace’s entire diamond-studded wardrobe.
  • You can pioneer a completely new sound as the Beach Boys did with surf music.
  • You can put a geographic location on the map. Owen Bradley established Nashville as a music capital by building a first class recording studio in the middle of an emerging city and recording such icons as Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and many others. John Denver often sang about life in Colorado, and Jimmy Buffet brought attention to the Florida Keys and ‘Margaritaville’.
  • You can become known for who or what you champion. Bruce Springsteen has become known as a champion of the common working man, and his sound has been branded as ‘Heartland Rock.’
  • You can be the first to relate to a specific demographic. Taylor Swift is the first person in country music to write for, sing about and appeal to pre-teens and teenagers.

There are an unlimited number of ways that you can stand out from the crowd. It just takes imagination and creativity. Open your mind to multiple musical influences. Experiment with every aspect of your songwriting, sound and image. Introduce the world to something they’ve never seen or heard before.

Read more tips in the original Vinny Ribas‘ article from the August issue of Indie Connect Magazine.