Finding your sound as an artist can be a long, torturous process. It can take years of experimenting until you find a sound that you’re truly happy with. So we decided to put some thoughts together to help you along the way of your creative journey.
Take your time
The first thing to remember is that for the vast majority of artists, it’s going to take years of absorbing music, practising and writing to find their own true sound. Finding your sound is about combining your influences with your own personality and putting your own twist on the music that you’re passionate about.
So don’t rush it and don’t expect to instantly love everything you create. Some artists prefer not to release anything for several years even while they find their feet, while others are happy to go through this process in the public eye, as it were.
Either way, it’s best to scrutinise your music carefully before you send it to labels you like. Would you buy this record? Would you sign it? Are you confident that you’re presenting your best possible sound in that demo? If the answers to these questions are ‘no’, it may be best to wait. Good things take time.
Be true to yourself
Above all, it’s crucial that you make music that you believe in which really represents who you are and what you love. People can spot a fake a mile off, and if you’re not committed to and passionate about a certain sound, you’re probably going to end up hating it. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or what success they might be having. Do what you want to do and what you believe in.
Beware the bandwagon
If there’s a hot new sound or trend at the moment, just be aware that it could all be over within a year. A lot of producers have found fame by jumping on a musical bandwagon and then finding themselves lost when that bubble bursts and experiencing difficulty transitioning to a new sound or scene.
That said, there are also plenty of cases of artists who have successfully moved on from a hype sound—think of the many producers who started in dubstep and have gone on to even bigger things—but it’s something worth thinking about.
Refinement vs eclecticism
Perhaps the biggest dilemma artists with wide tastes face in finding their sound is whether to have a very specific, recognisable style or to have a more eclectic approach.
The simple answer is that it’s a lot, lot harder to get noticed with an eclectic approach. Think about a new artist you have discovered recently. You can probably sum up their sound quite easily, right? This is really key. For you to stick in people’s minds, and—to use a rather unsexy word—for you to be easily marketable, it’s much easier for fans and labels to latch on to what you do and be able to know what to do with you if you have a distinctive style. People will remember you and recognise your music more. Sadly for those with more eclectic desires, this is how the music industry generally works.
Of course there’s room for more diversity on an EP or an album, but it’s all about creating a uniting thread that runs through the music you’re putting out when you’re trying to build your name. Those who are more established have the luxury of being able to be more varied and experimental once their career is well-built. But you definitely have a greater chance of success if you can refine your style and have a more identifiable, describable sonic ID.
Genres vs hybrids
Broadly speaking, at this stage in the history of music, most artists fall into either the category of a ‘pure’, well-defined genre, or they take elements of different genres and combine them together. Nothing is truly ‘new’ anymore; most artists who find acclaim and feel like they’re breaking new ground are those recontextualising sounds from one genre into another, or creating interesting new hybrids.
Again, it’s a choice to be made which route you’ll go down. You can do both, but like we say, there needs to be a commonality running through your music if you want the best chances of people connecting with it.
Don’t rush into finding your sound. Give it time to emerge organically. Nurture it and coax it out of you. Practice, experiment, and find out what makes you truly happy when it comes to your creative output. If the thing that makes you truly happy is having a different sound and style on every track, go for it—just be prepared for a longer, more frustrating journey!