If you’re an artist, you have to be great. But when push comes to shove between greatness and differentiation, differentiation wins.
Whether it’s a new artist vying for position or an established artist looking to reinvent themselves, being different in a relevant way is essential to exponential growth. We talk about content all the time, but what about context?
So what does it mean to be different? And what really matters when it comes to differentiation?
When speaking about how an artist is different, it rarely matters where they’re from or their ethnicity or the fact their voice doesn’t sound like anybody else. These are characteristics we resort to talking about when there is nothing elevating the artist… yet.
What does matter is nobody is doing what they’re doing in the lane they’re doing it – That’s important to get people to care, which is how fans are created.
When we started working with Krewella, there were no American multi-dimensional dance groups, especially with vocalists doubling as DJ’s.
When we started working with ZHU, every DJ was about their face and there were no acts creating deep house for the larger mainstream festival audience.
Take a look at a few of your favorite acts buzzing today and you likely see they too are different in all the right ways…
Alec Benjamin – What solo male act under the age of 25 is writing singer/songwriter pop music as catchy as he is?
Ava Max – Which major (or emerging) female star recorded a fantastic pop song without trying to be “cool” or outdo themselves in the last two years?
Marshmello – No description necessary 🙂 there isn’t a photograph of Marshmello you can show somebody not familiar with his phenomenon without them questioning, “Who’s that?!”
DaBaby – What rapper has a country western theme music video executed as well as this today?
If you look at the above four acts, they’re brilliant artists in their own right. At the same time, the history has already been painted for them by those who have come before them.
Alec Benjamin is the second coming of John Mayer for the next generation.
Ava Max’s hit is reminiscent of Lady Gaga, whose career has elevated to new sounds leaving the gap in the marketplace for Ava’s current single to fill.
Regarding Marshmello, the dance music scene has already seen acts with helmets reach the pinnacle of success i.e. Deadmau5 and Daft Punk before that.
And DaBaby is not the first act to have a soon-to-be hit country western style video, but he’s the first to do it in the modern era. If you want to look back, see Nelly (Country Grammar anyone?), who was inspired by Crucial Conflict.
When we fall in love with an act’s talent as potential representatives, sometimes we don’t care how the act will be positioned.
We act emotionally based on our love for the craft. But when you take a step back and look at breaking artists logically – if there is such a thing! 😉 – differentiation is key and timing matters more than it is discussed.
Most acts do not want to hear this… After all, they’re human. They are who they are.
Some naturally differentiate themselves, like Kanye West wearing polo’s and backpacks rapping about school, and others may be willing to learn the way the game works and build toward separating themselves in order to propel their career.
But since most won’t consciously work toward a differentiated direction (and in some cases, even if they did, it would not be authentic, which is essential), picking the artists already embracing differentiation is a key aspect of the A&R process.
If you want to work with emerging artists capable of breaking through to the masses, it’s critical their vision (and your vision for them!) is unique and the top spot for them is available… Or will be soon.