Standing Out


Uniqueness is often equated as “originality” though they are not necessarily the same. Originality is more of a technique, a device that differentiates your song from others — more like creativity. Uniqueness, on the other hand, refers more to individuality. The less your songs resemble the Tried And True songwriting conventions, the more unique your song becomes.

Now, let’s stop there and state the obvious. Are you unique as a person?

The answer, obviously, is a resounding YES. There’s nobody like you in this world. You may think that you are “typical” in many ways, in terms of your background or upbringing or education. However, there’s no such thing as an “ordinary” life. Everyone has a unique, unduplicated combination of experience, life events and influences. For example, if you compare the music collections of two serious music lovers, it’s virtually impossible to find them to contain the exact same set of albums and artists.

In short, you are unique. That’s built into your nature. You can’t help but be a unique person.

So, how do you become a unique songwriter? It’s actually simple. You just need to write songs that reflect the inherent uniqueness you possess.

As stated above, no two musicians have the exact same sets of influences. Even if you and someone else grew up listening to the same kinds of music, inevitably you are picking up different bits and pieces from them — the particular sets of music in your influence is always unique. That’s where we start.

Music is a subjective art, so everyone has a different definition of what makes a good song. To make you an unique artist, you need to basically identify what makes a song “good” for yourself. Because you are a unique person, what sounds good to you will be different from anyone else, even if the difference is subtle. Don’t worry at this point if your music taste still seems generic enough to be ordinary.

In short, uniqueness is not really a pursuit for being different for difference’s sake. Rather, uniqueness naturally happens when you learn to write songs that honestly reflect that unique person that you are, with an eye toward emphasizing the rarer elements. It’s not an overnight process to develop a distinctive songwriting style, but with correct focus and diligence, anyone can develop his/her own individualized writing style. And having a distinctive style is a tremendous asset, one that can play a great role in developing a lasting career.

Take Kurt Cobain for example, when he wrote songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are.”, they were so NOT the style of music that was dominating the airwaves. He was simply writing songs that honestly reflected who he was. And they became powerful statements that millions of people related to.

In reality, most artists really fail at being unique. Because they are after the quick and easy acceptance that comes from doing what’s expected, they never dig deep enough to bring out what’s unique about them. If you get to a point where you honestly believe that you have developed a distinctive songwriting style, you’ve already made leaps and bounds into the pursuit of building a thriving career. The only remaining tasks are to record/perform those songs, and to find people who dig them — and those are the easy parts.

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