One critique you often hear from people who don’t enjoy country music is that it all sounds the same, and the lyrics are all identical. In fact, there’s even some evidence to support this. Country fans will of course brush these comments off, and if you truly know the genre you know they’re simplistic complaints. But from the point of view of someone looking to grow an audience and establish a name, it’s worth thinking about the greater meaning behind the complaints – which is that country music doesn’t always feel fresh to people.
Kelsea Ballerini is a good role model for young country artists to follow.
That begs the question of how any young country artist can stay true to the genre and still establish a name. It may seem at times like you’re doing a great job as an up-and-coming artist, perfecting your craft and putting out a great, authentic country sound. But what if, to country and non-country fans alike, there just isn’t enough to make you stand out from the pack?
The real issue, of course, is that it’s extremely hard to make a name for yourself as an artist beyond a local following or something of the like. This is an extraordinarily competitive industry, and there’s a reason there aren’t new people breaking in all the time. Given the extraordinary level of competition though, there are a few tips and tricks a young country performer might put into action in an attempt to stand out.
This might be the most important tip for anyone attempting to make it these days, not just in music but in any creative field. Social media is your path to engagement with other artists, fans, and even people who might be interested in signing you or spreading the word. It’s a good idea to research what artists are doing right when they’re successful on social media, with some of the key points being to stay authentic, create and release content (such as miniature behind-the-scenes videos), and engage with followers, rather than simply exist where they can see you. It still takes time to develop much of a community, but people like getting to know artists they’re going to listen to, and this is your way to make it possible.
Focus On The Local Following
A lot of times the very idea of a local following can sound a little unimpressive to someone with aspirations of really “making it” in music. And it’s true that playing in a downtown bar isn’t quite as glamorous as you might want it to be. That said, you have to start somewhere, and audiences grow organically. For that reason it’s a good idea to really drum in your connection to your local area. Play shows for free where you can, engage with any fans you gather, hold album release and signing events, and play with other local bands if you can. Think about it simply: you’d rather have people out there saying, “There’s this really good country artist in town” than not! That’s how word spreads, and in the event that you ever do make it big in the genre, it’ll be cool for you and your fans alike to have established that connection anyway.
Partner With Other Creators
Here we’re talking specifically about other multimedia creators – people working on their own films, or producing interactive music websites or even designing video games. If you can lend your sound to a local filmmaker you’re exposing your music to everyone who might eventually see the movie. And the same is true of a video game. Granted, country sounds don’t work too well with most video games, but there are examples these days of smaller games that pretty much exist to showcase musical acts. You’ll find them via mobile as well as online, where Guns N’ Roses and Jimi Hendrix are both mentioned among the most popular game titles for the company NetEnt, which primarily produces digital slot reels. These are obviously very established bands, but you can try to accomplish the same thing on a smaller scale, if you get linked up with a game designer.
Show Expanded Interests
Showing expanded interests is a great way to define yourself as more than just another country artist. It’s fair to say that country has a fairly established culture, and while some on the outside might look at it in a more limited way, it does exists, and it keeps you in a sort of bubble. This is easy enough to break out of, largely through your social media presence and public activity. Show that you listen to other genres of music and appreciate non-country artists; demonstrate that you’re out having fun in a big city that isn’t Nashville now and then; show an interest in something cultural that goes against the All-American southern image. These are all ways to make yourself a little more accessible to a broader range of potential fans.