Storytelling is an art. More than just a process, a method, or a technique, storytelling is the art of narration. As musicians, this consists of building a unique universe and telling a story in order to promote your project. In music, good storytelling can really be a powerful tool to connect with your audience and convey your message. Some of the most successful artists have curated entire worlds around their music. They are able to convey specific moods and conjure up cinematic atmospheres that go beyond their songs to tell a story. As a listener, when you find music that has a story behind it, you’re immediately drawn in.
One thing that is often criticized about streaming services is the difficulty of getting music fans to be interested in more than just a song- getting the audience to invest in the personality of an artist and his or her world.
Zane Lowe (Radio host from Apple Music)
Here are a few tips to make your musical project a unique experience so that fans will want to listen and keep coming back.
1. What is storytelling?
Storytelling is initially a process widely used in the commercial world. The purpose is to tell a story about a product instead of directly putting forward the product’s features. When applied to music, storytelling is a great tool to stand out from the crowd.
The art of storytelling allows you to capture the attention of your listeners beyond your music.
Getting your audience involved in your musical project is the most difficult step to take. What you have to keep in mind is that your world is just as important as your music. The art and power of storytelling is all about immersing your fans, touching them emotionally or involving them in the adventure you have decided to tell. It’s not about whats trending or how to get the most people to listen to your music. It’s about finding your authentic story to share with your fans and music lovers. Think back to when you first started playing music: what inspired you?
2. The power of storytelling
The most successful artists know the value of storytelling and know how to sell themselves. With around 100,000 songs being released on Spotify every day, you have to stand out from the crowd in order to exist. How do you get your music track onto the appropriate playlist or on radio stations? Think about when you discover new music while watching Youtube videos, for example. What makes you click subscribe or seek out music by the same artist? Apart from making a high-quality song, you need to use storytelling to entice listeners to invest more in your project. If you look at your music library, you probably know at least a little bit about the lives of your favorite artists.
Think of your musical world as a movie or a novel consisting of several hundred pages. Musicians are, after all, creators. Every action you take is a chance to move your story forward and make additional connections with your audience. Every concert you play, every video you create, every new song you release, every newsletter you send out, every article that is written about your project is part of your story. And that story stimulates imagination and passion and creates a sense of community between you and your fans. Some inspirational albums or favorite songs are just that because they tell a story.
For composers of film music, the images and storyline are there. The composer needs to find the right melody and rhythm that will make the story that much more powerful. Films wouldn’t be complete without their soundtracks and vice versa. As a musician, you’ve got the melody and rhythm. You just need to find the right images to bring your story to life.
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3. Knowing who you are to tell your story
Are you an avid David Bowie fan? Do you love the beats of Notorious B.I.G.? Maybe Mozart is more your style. Let it be known. By associating yourself with your music icons, you instantly give the listener other songs to reference before they listen to your tracks. The type of music you listen to can say a lot about the type of music you make. Making playlists that compile your favorite genres, from folk to funk, and then sharing them on your social networks can be a great way to connect with your subscribers.
Your heritage or even just the scene you’re in may be a characteristic of your music and what you represent. Take for example the hip-hop scene in Atlanta, which in 2009 was called the “center of gravity of hip-hop” by the New York Times as the city is home to many famous hip-hop, R&B and neo-soul musicians such as Childish Gambino, Migos, OutKast, T.I., Future and Gucci Mane.
If you choose to incorporate culture into your musical identity, it can bring a supportive audience directly to you.
Your story as an artist and/or individual can sometimes be enough on its own to find an audience. Your personal experiences are a part of your story and be motivational: listeners can become emotionally involved and contribute to your success.
4. Building a universe around your musical project
As “the art of narration”, storytelling requires creativity, vision, skills, and also practice. Whether you’re a director, painter, or writer, all artists follow a creative process of their own. This creative process helps them know where to start, how to develop their visions and how to perfect their practice over time. The same applies to storytelling.
In the digital age, artists need to get noticed on social networks. With Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, you have a multitude of platforms to express yourself and share your musical project. Building your music career doesn’t just happen on music sites or Soundcloud anymore. It happens across the Internet and on outlets that weren’t originally built for users to listen to music.
The challenge is learning how to juggle between these different platforms: your story can take many forms. Some elements can be read or watched and others listened to. Of course, music videos are a great way to tell your story. Nowadays, releasing music without a video, especially a single, is a wasted opportunity to entice new fans. The communication medium you choose depends essentially on how you want to express yourself, as well as on your resources such as time and money.
There are other forms of communicating with your audience that can really add depth to your project. Podcasts are a great way to maintain narrative control over your creations and give your fans something extra. Releasing exclusive demo recordings can also be a good way to intimately connect with your audience. Are you also a sound engineer or producer? Share short tutorials about how you work on your mixes or create your loops.
5. The transmedia strategy: the example of Gorillaz
Transmedia storytelling is a derivative of storytelling. It consists in creating a universe through various media. The pooling of all these narrative elements aims to create an artistic experience in its own right. This process has existed since the arrival of the Internet and was intended to develop the relationship between various artists and their respective communities. One of the pioneers of transmedia storytelling is of course, Gorillaz.
Band members Damon Albarn (also known with Blur and The Good, the Bad and the Queen) and Jamie Hewlett created a virtual band that lived in their own universe and led different lives. These cartoon characters produce a strong visual identity for Gorillaz. Throughout their clips, the two artists built a story around the lives of the characters. To promote one of their world tours, the group also organized an online treasure hunt. They were not only making music, but making an entirely new world.
More recently, Gorillaz launched an application for the release of their album “Humanz” (2017). This application allows fans to explore the space in “the sacred rooms of the Gorillaz house”, and to discover virtual reality experiments, playlists and a behind the scenes look at the new album. As you can see, their efforts around promoting their project went much further than just listening to music!
Among the best known examples of this technique is Daft Punk with the film Interstellar 5555 from the album Discovery (2001), whose universe is inspired by the famous Japanese manga and tells the story of several characters- not to mention the mystery surrounding the true identity of the band’s members.
In the same vein, you can develop your storytelling in the form of a web series, just like the psychedelic rock band Magon. In “Magon The Dragon”, they take you behind the scenes with exclusive footage from their life in Paris. Creating a web series like they did can also allow you to create music tracks specifically for these short videos. Why not experiment with composing instrumentals or soft background music?
6. The most important tip: stay authentic
Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Your audience and the media will see right through you. That being said, what sets you apart from other groups? What aspect of your life will connect emotionally with your listeners? How far can your creative potential go? Take the time to find your authentic self and the rest will follow. These are the elements that will attract fans and music critics alike. It’s all of these things that need to be at the center of your story. Don’t become background music.
In conclusion, storytelling in music is a powerful tool that can captivate and engage audiences. Some of the best music out there has a strong universe supporting it. By incorporating unique elements, building a universe, and telling a story, musicians can stand out from the crowd and create a loyal following. So, if you’re a composer and a music lover, storytelling in music can help you take your passion to the next level. And we hope our tips will help you bring out the uniqueness in yourself and your music!
| To stand out from the crowd, check out CMC Studio’s tips here 👈
– Article written by Amy Cimpaye in its original version, translated by Mackenzie Leighton –
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