For good reason you never ever see anyone comparing a band to The Beatles with the exception of tribute bands which are equivalent to fake rare gems. They have no value in a music scene at the edge of a wild frontier. However, making comparisons to other music in the mainstream is all too common, and is often requested of indies.
At the outset of the indie movement in 1997, CDBaby’s founder, Derek Sivers, encouraged artists to compare their music to familiar musicians his burgeoning audience could identify with. He also encouraged artists to name their genre even if it didn’t exist. This was an absolute necessity so artists with no name recognition could be found in the unexplored universe CDBaby was about to blast into.
Sivers’ innovative business model required contributing artists to be just as innovative in their marketing strategies through point of purchase descriptions. Pushing to expand indies’ thinking and thoughtfully marketing their product appears to be behind one of the most successful DIY models music has experienced.
Some 16 years later, it’s commonplace for indies to create a genre and make comparisons to mainstream icons they are either attempting to emulate, or their style of music naturally falls in line with. The kicker is some folks are one toke over the line in their desperation to be seen and heard.
Comparing your own music to Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts –is that in your best interest? It’s presumptuous and cocky to brand yourself so mightily. Why promote someone else’s brand instead of building your own?
Providing an instant niche and recognizable category for new music with this size yardstick always implies something deeper. The inference suggests the level of success is on equal footing with those to whom the comparison is made. This is just wrong on many levels. What’s more, it’s an instant red flag to discount the artist and the music, then move on.
Valid comparisons come from objective sources who make that claim on the artist’s behalf. It’s rare to see those comparisons these days, but it happens once in a while.
Some artists are actually in a league with well-known, even luminary musicians. If the validation comes from an objective source, then I totally respect the comparison. If it comes from the artist, I never give it a second thought. I never listen to their music because what they’re telling me is they didn’t create their own art, but are simply imitating someone else. At worst, they’re attempting to convince the world they are something they can never be. It’s already been done.
Understandably, some artists don’t have the writing skills to adequately describe their own music. But if they can’t do it for themselves, how and why should anyone else?
Mostly, I see this as just being lazy, plain and simple. Sometimes I see it as a space constraint on various platforms. But that isn’t an excuse. When you go to the trouble, time and expense to record original music, spend adequate amounts of time perfecting how you want the world to perceive it. Anything less is undermining what might be great music many will skip over for a more authentic and thoughtful approach drawing attention to something fresh and original.