Composition,  Tips

The Adaptive Analytical Approach

When reading this article, consider:

– How trends affect the industry
– The benefits of analysing trends
– How you can use trends to your advantage

“Successfully” writing in the music industry as it stands today, is becoming harder and harder. The platforms, formats and applications for music are ever changing, and with it our need as writers to adapt has kept growing. As such, we adapt our behaviours, habits and processes as we continue to mould and refine our workflows to be as efficient as possible. In a similar way our “success” and efficiency on platforms (such as Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes etc.) is directly related to how we take on board the usage-data.

Trends… Enemy or Ally?

Trends have existed for centuries. They’ve had a role in worldwide politics, culture and economy. Trends come about from a person/groups admirations, snowballing into a Trend. Are Trends important? Yes! Whatever industry you work in, trends are at the centre of it all. A whole industry is based on the manipulation of economic Trends… Marketing. Understanding how to use trending data to your advantage is the core idea of Marketing.

“So it’s good business practice… but should we limit our creativity and destroy the structural integrity of our work just because… money?” I hear you say. First of all, limits on creativity provide us as creators with more of an opportunity to be creative. Each limit is like a challenge, colour inside the lines where you are told to and add your personal twist! Secondly, if you don’t like the idea of adapting or composing a piece to a specific structure, you clearly have never even come across Sonata form let alone a Fugue. If the great composers of old can be that creative working in specific structures, why can’t we? Nobody criticised them for sticking to a recognised form!

“Understanding how to use trending data to your advantage is the core idea of Marketing. “

Take a little time to do some personal research in-between projects.

Taking Notice of Trends and Behaviours

As creators, we only get a small amount of usage data to work with. In most cases we only get what we experience. When looking at just some of the things to consider below, try to come up with three different solutions for each question.

Analysing and Utilising Time

How long do listeners hang around for before moving on? For most people a decision is made about the piece in the first 10-15 secs. As a result some aim to grasp the listeners interest and attention within that time frame.

For streaming services, how much of it do the audience have to listen to before you get paid? If you only get paid after they’ve listened to your music for 30 secs, what can you do to keep the listeners attention up to that marker. Following this, what can you do to reward the listener later on for listening to your whole track?

At what time of day are you likely to reach the most amount of people when you upload something new? Catching your audience at the right time can be the difference between your work going viral and it flopping.

What techniques do successful artists use to create anticipation during a run up to a release? By keeping them in anticipation, they will expect and be ready in waiting for your release.

Composing for your Audience

What sort of rhythms are trending? Most people are more inclined to listen more favourably to something that they are familiar with. Be careful that you aren’t overusing a Rhythm though. Once the rest of the industry catches on, it’s everywhere… so your audience will move onto the next trend.

What sort of textures and timbres are popular (ie. clean, gritty, organic, electronic etc.)? Choosing the right sound for a piece will ultimately determine whether your work is going to be received as out of date, modern or ground breaking!

What other things are your audience familiar with (real world context)? Focusing on what your audience is familiar with, will either emotionally involve them or alienate them.

What harmonic progressions do others use that are going to get you the emotional response you need? Are you going to be yet another composer that composes mostly in the famous “Four Chord” harmonic progression or are you going to keep diversifying to keep your audience on their toes. Varying your harmony will keep you fresh in the mind of the listener.

What instrumentation is currently popular?Perhaps at the time you’re reading this the Bagpipe and Banjo combination has really taken off. Never underestimate the power of instrumentation, as it is one of the first things listeners tend to recognise (whether consciously or subconsciously).

The best way to catch your audience at the right time is to observe when they’re active.

“Catching your audience at the right time can be the difference between your work going viral and it flopping.”

The Pitfalls

Never assume that you know better than your audience, you will lose your audience. The feedback your audience gives you (whether verbally or non-verbally) is very valuable to you indeed. How are you suppose to progress if you’re not in touch with your audience.

Do not get so analytical that you copy ounce for ounce a large chunk of someone else’s work… not only is it outright rude, it will get you in a lot of trouble and lose you some potentially valuable contacts in the future. This is a close knit industry, upsetting someone is only ever going to work against you.

Don’t stay a trend follower. Following trends will decrease your chances of “success”. Be a Trend Setter, develop the current trends into something new.

Writing in a particular structure may soon wear down your creativity and make your process more algorithmic… This is bad. When your creativity starts to run dry, take a break by doing something else, maybe a personal project or going out for a coffee break. This should keep your mind fresh.

Identify traps as early as possible. Try to think of other ways that you can deal with these before you encounter them.

Try to answer the following:

– What is the benefit of introducing limits into our creative process?
– What are some of the benefits of being analytical?
– What are some of the traps and pitfalls of being analytical?

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