Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Subjectivity and Creativity

“It almost goes without saying that subjectivity is not the friend of the commercial artist.
Everyone's a critic; everyone thinks they have a lock on what colors work, what images convey the right message and what's truly hot in the market already.”

A quote taken from Fugitive Musings.

Even though he’s coming at art from a different world than I am these same things apply. Reading his blog hit me because it’s sort of what’s on my mind these days.

The band I play for “Downhere” is in the process of writing and choosing songs that will go on our next album. It’s such a crazy process. We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 demos now I’m guessing and there are some really great songs in there. So how do we decide which songs go on the album? How do we figure out which songs will have the most appeal, which ones the most people will like the best? How many fast songs, slow songs, different sounding songs, songs in a different meter, songs with different lead singers?

Radio has an interesting way of doing this, at least in our industry. They’ll take sound clips of let’s say 50 songs and play them for a sample group of people. These people then rate each clip they have heard. The crazy thing is that they mix in new songs and old songs. I don’t know about you but if I have even heard a song once I almost always like it better the second time. Take the new Coldplay album for instance. I wasn’t really into it when I listened to it for the first time or even the second time. Then my brother in law Bob told me how much he was enjoying it so I made myself go back and listen to it a few times with more of an open mind. Now I really like it, at least the first half, likely because those are the ones I’ve listened to most often.

So who decides what is good and what isn’t? Take a look at these charts from R&R and figure out how many songs you like or even know.


“Right Here”



“Pon De Replay”
(Def Jam/IDJMG)

“Doesn't Remind Me”

Mariah Carey
“We Belong Together”

“Listen To Your Heart”

Pussycat Dolls f/Busta Rhymes
“Don't Cha”

Kelly Clarkson
“Behind These Hazel Eyes”

Christian CHR
Jeremy Camp
“Lay Down My Pride”
(BEC/Tooth & Nail)

(Sparrow/EMI CMG)

“Burn For You”
(ForeFront/EMI CMG)

John Reuben f/Matt Theissen

“Strong Tower”
(BEC/Tooth & Nail)

For full listings go here and click on formats.

So what I’m getting at is that I don’t think any of us has a better idea than anyone else as to what people will like. When we are dealing with subjective art everyone’s opinion is just as valuable. I guess the program director at the big radio station would have an opinion that would be more valuable but only because he decides what to play. And whatever he plays people will eventually know and probably even like only because they’ve heard it so many times!

So there you go. A little look into what goes on while preparing to record a new hit album that everyone will love and want to own. As you can see this whole having a hit song thing is quite elusive but also quite necessary to the survival of a band. I just pray that God would show favor to us and that program directors at radio stations will somehow be attracted to our songs no matter what we decide on.




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