Sometimes, in the music business, we find ourselves wondering whether we’re creating something that has a market, or feeling pressure to create something that doesn’t feel authentic, for the sake of a bigger market, or just feeling the dreaded “imposter syndrome” because we observe another artist enjoying a level of success that we feel is out of reach.
It is at times like these, that I try to apply an analogue to my efforts in music-making, and I’m typically drawn to comparisons with the film industry – not just because of my love of creating music for film, and not just because I love watching movies, but because there are plenty of useful comparisons between the two forms of art.
Think about your music. What kind of movie does it most resemble?
Blockbuster, or Art House?
Consider the film industry. Every weekend, there is a huge diversity of movies being released to theatres. Some are the big-budget, big-screen, larger-than-life action thrillers (think Marvel superhero) with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, destined to earn even more in box office receipts. But many are not that at all – many are earnest, wonderful movies made on comparatively tiny budgets, opening in fewer theatres, from producers who will be thrilled to see the movie find an audience, and hopefully make enough profit to allow them to keep making movies.
Consider the movies nominated for best picture at the 2018 Academy Awards (not the only measure, nor even the best measure, necessarily, but a place to begin the conversation).It’s staggering to think of the range of studio budgets for these nine movies – between $3.5 million and $100 million. The Oscar for Best Picture went to “The Shape of Water”, made for $19.5 million and earning only the fifth best box office gross of all the nominees. “Get Out” earned a massive box office revenue for a film with such a modest budget.
All of these films found an audience, and all but one made a profit at the box office. Not everyone wants to go to the movies for a blockbuster action movie.
Rules of the Genre
If your favourite movie is a horror flick, it will follow a different set of rules than a romantic comedy. The same is true in music – each genre will have its tendencies, and it’s fun both to discover those tendencies (I really dislike the word “rule”) and to break those tendencies, to come up with something fresh. I love discovering a new song that plays with my expectations and gives me something fresh and creative.
Back To Work Now
There are plenty of big-budget, massive sounding songs being released, and there are also plenty of great songs being created that deliver the goods with the simplest of productions.
Only a fraction of active musical artists find the funding to make big-budget releases, but so many artists are creating awesome music. It’s truly inspirational.
If your music were a movie, what would it look like on the big screen?
(See more on my fascination with comparing songs to movies, in A Song Is Like A Movie Monologue)