What is authenticity in music? When you think of your music idols, chances are they have something unique about them that sets them apart from everyone else. It could be the singer’s unique vocal style, the musical style or even their image. They are instantly recognisable and there is no one else quite like them. They are unique.
As an artist looking to make a career out of music, it is very tempting to fall into the trap of copying your idols. After all, why wouldn’t you want to emulate a musical style and sound that is proven to sell millions of records? However, finding your signature sound is a much better longterm strategy.
The world already has a Billie Eilish, a Shawn Mendes and a Drake – and their fans are unlikely to be interested in their lesser-known clone. So, how do you discover your unique voice to set you apart from the competition?
How to find your singing style
Music fans don’t want to keep hearing the same old style of singer or artist time after time, they want something that is going to make them sit up and go ‘wow! This is really different’. This is why so many record labels are scouting through Spotify looking for unique sounding artists to sign.
Although labels will be looking at streaming numbers and follower counts, one of the things they look for the most is an artist who offers something a little bit different. Someone who sounds like they would fit in with the modern charts, but who is also instantly recognisable and who sounds like no other. This is no mean feat, but if you want success in the music industry, you must identify what your USP is.
How to find your singing voice
How important is authenticity in music?
I’d probably be right in guessing that your musical idols are also likely to be authentic – you probably sense that they are creating music which they love and you can personally identify with that artist. It is this connection with artists that draws us into their music. If you can fuse uniqueness and authenticity as an artist, then you are already halfway there.
Fans are more likely to be drawn to you if you are authentically you. If you are a copy of another artist, that doesn’t tell the fans who you really are and then you lose that connection from the outset. You need to be yourself. If you are yourself then people will be able to identify with you more and will want to learn more about YOU, the artist.
Billie Eilish is a brilliant example of an artist who just created music that she wanted to create and didn’t have any expectations from it. She put ‘Ocean Eyes’ out on Soundcloud and it went viral. You cannot deny that Billie Eilish has captured a brilliantly unique sound; her voice is instantly recognisable and her style of music sounds like nobody else. She is unique and she is authentic. This is why her fans connect with her so much and why she has seen such global success.
How to find your sound as an artist
So what is ‘being unique’ all about? Well, it usually involves having an instantly recognisable singing voice, a unique musical style that pushes the boundaries or which combines one or more genres, and/or a unique image. The challenge is being unique whilst also being marketable at the same time.
If you want to be as big as Ariana Grande, then you’ll need to strike that fine balance between developing your unique sound, but also offering something that is universally familiar and marketable.
Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to find your own sound as an artist:
#1 Create a signature sound by working with a producer
Music Producers are often known for their signature sounds as much as the artists they produce, but they are also brilliant at taking your raw musical ideas and turning them into a polished record. Good, skilled producers are often well versed on chart trends and musical styles and will be able to help you create your own sound based on your influences and ideas.
They will be best placed to ensure that your records are commercial but also not a carbon copy of anyone else (no producer would want to be seen as copying another artist!) So if you are serious about your music career, reaching out and finding a producer that you click with should be one of the most important decisions you can make as an artist.
#2 What makes a musician unique?
As musicians, we are all influenced by the artists we love. They are probably the reason why we wanted to become artists in the first place. And being influenced by your favourite artists is totally fine….it’s healthy and it helps you work out what kind of music you want to create.
Being influenced by other artists without imitating
Be inspired and influenced but don’t imitate those artists. Success as an unknown clone will be unlikely! You can strike this balance by creating music in a similar genre, but don’t try to imitate the vocal phrasing or styling of the singer and don’t write songs with the same chords, similar melodies, lyrical themes, and definitely don’t try and imitate their voice!
#3 Don’t be afraid to experiment and do something different
It can be daunting doing something different, but if you manage to pull it off, it can really help you develop your unique sound and bring in those fans. Doing something different in music could mean a whole range of things, but the most effective approaches could be using really unique effects on your vocals, or writing a song that has an unconventional structure, or doing what Billie Eilish did on ‘Bury a Friend’ and sample a Dentist’s drill to be used in place of a lead synth.
Think outside of the box. What would sound interesting and unique that hasn’t been heard before? There are endless possibilities.
#4 Make the music YOU want to make, not what you think will sell
This is incredibly important. Mainstream success in the music industry is ridiculously hard to achieve, and you won’t get there if you are not authentic. Plus, this could be your full-time job, your career – do you really want to be creating music that you don’t love? But, more importantly, fans can see right through fakeness.
So if you absolutely love 80s synth-pop, then create 80s synth-pop with your own unique modern edge. If you love bubblegum dance then do it! There are over 2400 genres out there, and I guarantee you that there are fans out there for every musical style. You just have to find them and then convince them that you are an authentic artist with something unique to offer them.
#5 Listen to all types of music
If you’re struggling a bit with ideas for creating a unique sound, try listening to other genres of music that you wouldn’t usually listen to. This can be really inspiring and can give you an insight into how different genres are produced. In fact, the most successful artists of today tend to fuse multiple genres together to create that ‘unique’ sound I’ve been talking about.
Look at Bruno Mars who mixes funk, Motown, synth-pop, hip-hop and R&B into one unique sound that is instantly recognisable as him. That fusion of genres can appeal to fans of different musical styles and therefore increase your potential fan reach. A good start would be to look at the official Spotify playlists of various genres.
#6 Write about personal experiences
How to write a song from the heart
What you ultimately want to achieve as an artist is creating an emotional connection in the songs you write and in the way you perform them. Emotional performances are powerful and it is what your listeners will connect to the most as they can apply their own personal experiences to the lyrics in your songs. So rather than sitting down and writing a song about going to the club and putting your body on another body, try writing about a key moment in your life, or about a strong emotion you have felt.
Putting this into lyrics and then singing about it in the studio and live, will really resonate with audiences…and it’s one of the sure-fire ways to make you appear authentic. And remember…. authenticity is likely to attract more fans.
#7 Work with a vocal coach
Think of your voice like a fingerprint; you have a vocal tone that is uniquely yours. But it’s easy to fall into bad habits and sing like the artists we hear in the charts. An effective way of bringing out your own unique singing style is to work with a qualified vocal coach.
A vocal coach will focus on developing your diction, tone, pronunciation, as well as work on your breathing techniques – all of which will bring out your natural voice. So this option is well worth considering if you are struggling to find your natural vocal style.
Finally…. do it for the love of music
It’s worth mentioning that you should be in music for the love of it. Not only will it help you connect more with fans, but it will make it a much more enjoyable experience for you. It’s a fiercely competitive industry with so many talented musicians who are desperate to do this as a career. In the early days of an artist’s career it can be a challenge to earn any decent money from your music, but see it as an investment in you and your music ‘business’.
It will take a lot of hard work, hustle, creativity, financial investment and business skills to carve out a successful music career.
However, with the right attitude and work ethic, anything is possible.