Author of “1,2,1,2: A Step By Step Guide To The SA Music Industry,” Dave Chislett offers Music industry tips for aspiring bands and musicians
After 30 years of listening to and making South African music I think I know the answer to why we consistently fail to break out into an international market. I have watched bands, played in bands, managed them and gigged with them. And finally the secret dawns. Yes, this is the big one, this is the hint that you need to really make yourself a career as an artist. And man is it simple!
And write some more.
And write more songs.
Every musician knows that in order to improve you must practice. You put in those hours, play those scales, go for lessons, pick up hints and tips, chat to other players and generally work very hard and put in a lot of hours to get better on your instrument.
And yet, when it comes to writing the songs and the music that this technical craft will be expressed through, almost without exception, artists write enough songs to fill a set or an album and stop. What this means is that your songs have the sum total of song writing experience of the actual number that you play. This flies in the face of logic. It defies reason. And yet, just about all of you do it. Song writing is a skill, just like playing, singing or doing gymnastics. The more you do it, the better you get. Sure some days you will write rubbish, but the more you hone the craft the better your rubbish will get until you are able to write really good stuff with seemingly little effort because you have written and written and you know the craft, the tricks, the short cuts, the theory and you have written the rubbish out along with the good.
We buy into so many myths: overnight success, one hit wonder, only being able to write when the muse strikes. Sorry, none of these are true! If you are choosing your album tracks from a pool of 15 or so, it stands to reason that there will be a percentage of not so good and even bad songs. The bigger your pool, the greater the number of good songs. Simple. Percentage wise, maybe the same, but number wise: more. Work it out!
The one thing the big major labels overseas have got right traditionally is that they are very focussed on good songs. You WILL choose your album tracks from 80 songs. Not 20. And the results speak for themselves. SA artists battle not because they are not talented, not gifted not interesting… They battle because the overall standard of their song writing is just not up to scratch.
You gotta get over yourselves my friends. This is not magic, not mystical, not a mystery. It’s a job and the more you do it, the better you get. So give up that attachment to each song you write as if it is some precious gem of blood and bones you squeezed from your soul. Set it down and get writing another and another. Maybe that one WAS a real gem, but statistically speaking, chances are it is not. Even the biggest genius delivers their fair share of rubbish. They just never release it.
As a consumer, you are sick and tired of buying albums that only really have 2 good tracks on them and the rest are just fillers. As an artist battling for market share in a depressed economy, why would you do exactly the same thing to your audience? Up the ante people, write more, get better and differentiate yourself through excellence.
That’s the secret, Simple isn’t it?
His book 1,2,1,2: A Step By Step Guide To The SA Music Industry is an easy to understand, no holds barred self-help book for anyone wanting to do better in the business.
It is available from Exclusive Books, Look & Listen stores and all good independent shops.
He also hosts workshops and private consultations to help artists get ahead.