by Maia Davies
(re-posted by permission, copyright in the author)
Artist and Repertoire. How relevant are the tried & true industry opinions on an artist’s choice of material? Nowadays, we will find most artists and bands penning their own songs and sound. But in pining for the prize of popularity, many start considering shifting their creative focus in order to fit in more. Can’t play it on top40 radio. Too commercial for college radio. Can’t put pedal steel on a pop record. Can’t be political in a country song. These are phrases we know to be tossed around so liberally, we seem as an industry to dismiss their implications, ones especially relevant in today’s changing context. I played with the mighty ensemble Broken Social Scene this last weekend at Ontario’s Northern Lights Festival, and here is what I have learned from them.
A rich creative collective, they have engineered a unique sound and genre that’s both enchanting and commercially successful, and this seemingly based on one simple principal: they make music that they like. It neither tries to conform nor subvert accepted formats in my opinion. They are merely inspired and empowered to enjoy what they do, a model which they’ve proven can work. I believe they make great records that people buy, put on a great show that sells tickets.
I’m not implying there aren’t a few dozen more reasons that account for the success of such musically honest groups (like BSS or the Black Keys), but it seems to me that making great art that is a true representation of your artistic expression is a damn good place to start. Especially in a climate that shows poor sales using established marketing and A&R practices. I will be sure to follow my own advice. Wish me luck.