JUMPING DARKNESS PARADE WITH EYAL LEVI: THINGS I’VE LEARNED, PARTS 3 & 4
Eyal Levi from Dååth, Levi/Werstler, and Audiohammer Studios has obviously been in this business for some time now, and he’s learned a thing or two about a thing or two. This week, he imparts ten lessons about the music biz — and life in general — to you, our beloved readers, once a day, two installments at a time. You can read the week’s first two lessons here; check out lesson numbers three and four below!
#3: BE UNDENIABLE
I first saw Behemoth live when they toured with Suffocation sometime around 2004. I had only heard of them before that. Needless to say, this band blew me away. The sound was shit, as it always is at that club in Atlanta, but that didn’t matter. They came on stage and OWNED. I was captivated from start to finish of the set. And then I bought a shirt. That is such a rare occurrence that I remember it to this day. For me to go buy a shirt after seeing and hearing a band for the first time is not quite on the level of Haley’s Comet… but in the span of my own meaningless existence, it’s pretty remarkable. Anyways, Behemoth is now an institution in extreme music.
I remember the first time I saw Opeth on the Blackwater Park tour. I had kind of gotten into their music prior to that, but had not solidified my opinion on the band yet. When they finally played, I got this amazing feeling, as though I was watching something historical and religious go down. I had never seen or heard a band produce sounds and transitions and emotions that were so right and so on. I felt like people must have felt when they were first seeing the early metal bands in the 1970’s. I’m not exaggerating one bit. I was completely humbled and a fan for life. Obviously, the rest of the metal world eventually caught on.
Anyone here seen Muse live? I’m a sucker for great musicianship and songwriting, and Muse definitely have an ample amount of both. But that didn’t drive my loyalty towards them until I saw them live. Their show is easily one of the most incredible rock shows ever put on by any band ever ever EVER! To try and describe it will not do it justice. Just go see them. I saw them first in 2005, when they were playing small theaters. They are now headlining arenas. I guess enough people couldn’t deny their power.
I know that this example is old news to everyone, but who here remembers when Slipknot came out? Remember the sea of nu-metal clones? Remember how commercialized and watered down music was becoming? Remember how real metal was pretty much in the gutter? Remember what happened when Slipknot came on the scene? People HAD to watch this band. Metalhead or not, they were absolutely mesmerizing live. They were so mesmerizing that they crossed over to the mainstream and went multiplatinum quickly. Bands would break up because they had to play after them. Most importantly, metal made a huge comeback after they set the ball in motion.
All these examples are of bands that stood out, were marketed properly, and are now on top. These are bands that can remain on top as long as they want to, because their styles are their own, and whether or not you like them, there’s something about them that people just can’t deny. They have won over their audiences, and they have won them over for life. You can’t do that by doing what’s safe. You may be able to attain temporary success by playing it safe and pandering to the trends, but there’s a greater long-term risk — see this.
It’s very difficult to think about doing something different, and to then come up with an idea that stands out and spreads like wildfire. It’s very easy to appear contrived. The public can sniff that out like a dog can sniff fear. Unfortunately, without the element of undeniability, all the effort and skill in the world won’t keep you in the game for the long term. As soon as the trend dies, so does your career. Catch-22, right? You have to stand out, but if you try to stand out you fail. Doesn’t matter. As noted above, NOT standing out is a way bigger problem than trying and not succeeding. Every time you try and don’t succeed, at least you can take notes on why you failed, and then refine your methods for the next time. If you’re not making a mark, don’t be surprised when people flock to the ones who are.
So the following time you take stock of where you are at in life, be sure to ask this question: Am I undeniable, or am I interchangeable?
#4: STOP GETTING IN YOUR OWN WAY (PART 2,009,323)
I know that the music industry is rough. I know that the odds of success are stacked against the artist. Winning at this game isn’t quite like winning the lottery, but it’s definitely a long shot, and it ain’t getting better. Oh, and you think getting there is hard — well how about maintaining it? That’s a whole other beast. So if you’ve got such a daunting challenge ahead of you, wouldn’t you want to tip the odds in your favor as much as possible? One would think so. But sadly, I think that one of the biggest enemies of bands are the bands themselves. I’ve already covered lots of these things in previous blogs, but here are a few that I haven’t touched on yet…
1 – The band that wants to record too much in too short an amount of time.
So you’re a local artist and you want to put something out in the world that represents you and will help get you to the next step. Obviously, you want something that sounds amazing. You need to put your best foot forward. You have your eyes set on a full-length album, but only the money to put out a three-song EP. Why, then, would you push to record nine songs in a week that you barely even know how to play? Do the math. Recording nine songs in one week means you have to divide your time nine ways. Now imagine tackling three songs. That’s three times as much time you can devote per song. It’s not an issue of studios trying to scam you into spending more money on more time; it’s about being realistic. How long do the big bands spend working on their albums? Six weeks to three months. What makes you think you can get something of that quality in a fraction of the time? Are you that great? Get your head out of the clouds and let’s record something great. That entails being able to spend enough time to get it there. Remember, it only takes one song to launch you. One great song will get you infinitely further than nine shitty ones.
2 – Micromanagement might work with a sock drawer, but it won’t work with people.
You can’t do everything. Impossible. You may have the grand vision, but to actually bring it to life, the contribution of many people will be involved. When it comes to being in a band, the closest circle of other people is, of course, your band members. It’s always helpful to hook up with band members that you believe will further the cause. If not, then why are they in the band in the first place? Friends? That’s not good enough. So assuming that your band members are experts at what they bring to the table, what do you think will happen if you micromanage them and don’t let them do their job? Eventually, mutiny will take place.
What about when dealing with web designers, producers, or visual artists? Say you know nothing about web design, production, or art. So you hire someone that does. Why on earth would you try to get in on every aspect of their work and tell them how to do their job? You hired an expert for a reason. All you’re going to do is distract and annoy them, which will lead to them not doing as well of a job as they would have. Not just that, but they’ll talk. Other people will find out through the grapevine that you are a nightmare to work with. Remember, this is a very small community, and word travels fast. Relax, and let people do what they know how to do best. If you can’t trust them to, then don’t work with them.
I’ll keep posting these as I come up with them. If you guys can think of any, feel free to share. The examples I stated above all come down to overinflated egos. When people overestimate their own abilities, or think that they are experts in everything they end up getting in their own way. Ultimately, it stems from their fear of failure. They are so scared that they feel they need to control everything in order to make sure it’s done right. It rarely ever works out that way.
Ever had a run in with that type?
You can sign up for the new Jumping Darkness Parade mailing list here! You can also keep up with Eyal by visiting the Audiohammer Studios official website, Dååth on Facebook, or the official Levi/Werstler website.