I often hear a lot of musicians proclaiming they’re going to do something new. Usually it means they’re going to do something different and more specifically it means they’re just going to do something different for them. And sadly, often these musicians still only produce something similar to what they were already doing. I know, cause I’ve often too said I was going to do something new.

Doing something authentically new in music is harder than it sounds (pun not intended). And though doing something different may lead to something new, there is no guaranteed success. And even then, when you have produced something really new, it might still be unlistenable avant-garde crap no one wants to hear. But regardless of this doing something new (or different) won’t happen if you stick to the same roads. Here’s a list of 10 things I can recommend you can try to make something truely new (or different):

  1. DO find new collaborators, people you have never worked with, people you don’t know. You can place ads on (local) websites or the local practice centre notice board. You can ask musical friends about people they work with. DON’T keep recruiting the same people you’ve worked with in all your previous bands.
  2. DO try to make music all by yourself, instead of relying on the time, effort, charity and genius of others. It will also allow you to work without compromise to something that’s uniquely yours. DON’T worry if you make music all by yourself, you won’t be able to play all the instruments live or all instruments at all. Think in possibilities, not restrictions. If need be you can always get in people later to help you out.
  3. DO try out new instruments. And by that I don’t mean buy a new guitar. Try a theremin. Try a weird plugin for your composing software. Skip the default settings on your instruments and try out all the knobs and settings. Especially if they’re not in the manual. Try some websites that lets you make weird noises. Sample noises you hear outside or on tv and find a musical application for it. Give yourself a challenge. It doesn’t mean you have to stop using your favourite instrument altogether, but realise there’s more things that make noise outside drums and guitars. Use them. DON’T form a default band that has one or two guitarists, a drummer, a bass-player and a lead-singer. And that includes adding one keyboard-player instead of a guitar. Trying to create something unique and new with that line-up is near-impossible. It’s been done for over 50 years.
  4. DO make piles and piles of unfinished, abandoned and/or failed experiments. Write any random idea for a song, lyric, tune or beat down or record it if possible. If necessary, just sing it into your phone’s memo recorder (if it has one). Failure is part of learning. When you’re low on inspiration or ideas, dust off these notes and recordings and sift through it. You might find that two or three bad, unfinished ideas you had on a Tuesday night, might actually make something quite brilliant when combined. DON’T try to record the final version of your Greatest Hits album on the first try. Even the Beatles wrote some crappy songs only collectors listen to these days. People will remember you for the greatest songs you made over period of time, not your failed experiments. Unless you’ve created a truly horrible monster.
  5. DO make music by trying out bits and pieces from different styles. Take things and ideas out of their original context and apply them to your style. If you love dubstep, but are used to playing metal, you might be the first to create dubstep metal. Or it might also sound like neither and be something new. Ever hear of throat singing? Arabic scales? It doesn’t mean you have to become a reggae artist when all you ever played was rock, but it doesn’t hurt to take a look in some one else’s kitchen. Try it and find out. DON’T assume or expect you’re doing something radically new, just cause you say you are. DON’T label your own music, because it will create false expectations anyhow. Even when asked, just give a vague description and others will label your music for you. Poorly. They will call you ‘rock’ or ‘techno’ or ‘folk’ or ‘electro’ even when you’re not. Don’t worry about it.
  6. DO discover new music, new styles, new musicians and new musical idols. If only for a month. Listen carefully why you feel their music is so special and figure out how to put those feeling and ideas into your own music. DON’T be a devoted fan of the same musician for longer than ten years. And certainly DON’T try to follow in their exact footsteps by copying their exact (style of) music note for note. They release a Greatest Hits after a while or usually move on to something new and so should you.
  7. DO explore new platforms to interact with fans directly, distribute music (Bandcamp, SoundCloud), connect with other musicians, create music and arrange gigs for yourself. And keep looking even after you found it. DON’T be on MySpace. It’s a shinking ship and just cause every other band is on it, means nothing. The audience is moving away from it. Also don’t try hard to get into all sorts of established music magazines or websites. Not to get noticed any how. Only hard-core music lovers and other musicians read those and if you really are hot shit, the magazines and sites will come to you.
  8. DO find new and unique venues to play. And by that I don’t mean some pub on the other side of town you’ve never been before. Is a friend opening an exhibition at an art-gallery? If you practice in your mom’s basement, why not organise your own gig there? Remember, the point is you get noticed by normal people who like the same things as you, not the few regulars who hang out at the music venues. Get noticed out of context. DON’T play at the same venues you’ve always played over and over again. It’s nice that the owner of your local practice center will let you host your demo release party there again, but after a while even your mom will stop coming to these gigs. No one new will simply show up just cause you posted a poster somewhere, when they have never heard of you. Only your fans will and how many of those have you got?
  9. DO organise your own hip events, perhaps in collaboration with other people or bands. Can’t get booked to a festival? Start your own. Create a buzz around this new thing you do, make it larger than just you. Become part of a scene, not just musically. Find people who like your kind of music and what bonds them, instead of making music that people you know might like. Let the scene inspire you. DON’T play band competitions or (televised) talent shows. The judges are usually hired to recruit what the organisers of some local festival or record label see fit as their opening act on the smallest stage they have or the next big thing to last for a month. As such they are usually not on the lookout for something new and innovative, but something that sounds a little different, but okay to an everyman audience. Unless that’s you, don’t be there. Also the other bands/artists will pretend to be nice, but meanwhile talking about how much you suck and they rawk. (Seriously, I’ve seen people do this). And you will start doing this too after a while, when you keep ending second or third without a prize. You were making music because you love it, not to please others or as a competitive sport, right?
  10. DO enjoy making music. Know that you can always be in a local blues/rock cover band who have no fans and/or do nothing new and still truly enjoy this (and some times even get paid). There is no shame in this or making a little money that way. If figuring out every solo by Van Halen in your bedroom is what you love doing, then do it. If you love playing the same songs over and over again then do it. If you love making avant-garde crap, do it. DON’T complain if you feel you can’t make something new,  no one wants to listen to your new thing or no one ever hears it. Don’t worry if no one will recognise your musical masterpiece, even after you die and it will be lost forever. You enjoyed it and that means it has served a purpose. Not everyone can be Mozart.

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