Copy Cats

When I was studying music at Columbia in 2002, one of my professors told me the best way to “make it” as a songwriter was to listen to the songwriters who are popular, and then try to write like them.

When I was living in Nashville in 2007, all the reps from the Music Row told me the best way to “make it” was to listen to popular country music, and then try to write like songs like that.

Now here I am in 2023, and the A & R company I work with told me the best way to “make it” when pitching songs to TV and film is to listen to popular singer-songwriters, and then try to sound similar.

Perhaps the lesson here is that I should heed the advice of people who’ve earned money in the music industry and just copy what’s in style.  But the more I think about it, I’d rather keep on being commercial unviable than write what’s already been written. “Making it” just doesn’t feel worth compromising originality.  Never did, and it never will.  I may never have much money in the bank, but I get to sleep at night knowing I’m being myself.

Reader, there’s only one life.  And this week, I hope you’re being the very best you that you can be.  There’s no time to be someone else.  I leave you with a picture from a concert I went to last night.  The band is the James Hunter Six. They play old-timey original soul tunes to a reggae beat with a two-saxophone horn section. And they’re “making it.”  Let’s just keep being ourselves, and let the chips fall where they may.  See you next Monday. -Em

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