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Stop Trying to Sound Like Everyone Else


In 1988, Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce formed Jackopierce. They became one of the hottest indie folk pop acts in Texas, drawing comparisons to the Indiego Girls. Their second albumWoman As Salvation was an absolutely brilliant piece which fused Caribbean rhythms with pop harmonies. They signed to A&M records and released Finest Hour. It was a piece of crap, sounding like a flat version of every other bad pop act in 1996. A year later, they broke up. In 2012, they released a new album–Everywhere All the Time. Once again, it was sounded like every other recording on the radio. Good songwriting. Crap sound.

In 2006, Jonathan Coulton became an internet sensation when he released one new song per week for a year. His first hit was a fantastic cover of “Baby Got Back” that blew the socks of quite a few people. However, it was his more geeky songs like “Re: Brains” and “Code Monkey” that got the geek community online involved and built his fan base. In 2011, he finally released his first album since the Thing A Week project. It was produced by They Might Be Giants. However, much like The Monkeys Head album, it (unintentionally) abandoned the geek fan base to grab a bigger slice of the pop market. The album was boring and sounded like a They Might Be Giants rip-off. Everything that was great about Thing A Week was gone.

There are countless stories just like this. Band signs to a major label. He records a million dollar album with a million dollar producer and is lucky if he makes $50K before being dropped. Or Band hears his idol on the radio and tells a producer he wants to sound like that. I used to do the same thing. It’s understandable, but it’s flawed thinking.

Here is the Cycle of Music Life:

  • Band creates a great sound that becomes a hit.

  • Record Label signs every other band that sounds like Band.

  • Record Label milks sound for all its worth until the next cool sound comes along.

  • Rinse. Repeat.

I used to be part of that cycle. Then one day I realized that the reason people started listening to my music in the first place is that I don’t sound like everyone else. I play an autoharp. I CANNOT emulate a guitar sound no matter how hard I try. Hell, I don’t even sound like any other autoharper! I am unique and my fans love it.

It’s tempting to try and duplicate the sound of those who came before you. But if you get caught in the Cycle of Music Life, you become a victim of it, just like Jackopierce, just like Jonathan Coulton. I loved their music, but they turned away from it when they tried to sound like everyone else.

The simple fact is…

You will never stand out from the crowd as long as you continue to be a part of it.

So please. Do me a favor. Do your fans a favor. Do yourself a favor. Stop trying to sound like everyone else.


Marc Gunn is an actual working Celtic Geek musician. He was nicknamed “The Celtfather” for his incredible support of indie Celtic music and his award-winning Irish and Celtic Music Podcast. He has helped 1000s of musicians make money with their musical groups through The Bards Crier Music Marketing Ezine. Now you can get FREE “how-to” music marketing and promotion advice, plus tips on how to sell more CDs when you subscribe today. Subscribe atwww.bardscrier.com!

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