The familiar refrain of “never having a second chance to make a first impression” is a well-worn cliché, but does hold true within many situations. One of those instances is when a musical artist is presenting their first song to potential producers.
The first song must convey what the artist stands for musically, and perhaps even socially. It needs to reflect who they are and should be the type of track that will resonate with the audience. The song should set the audience’s expectations about the artist and their work.
Here are some tips for artists that are perhaps meeting with a producer or label for the first time and therefore need to make an immediate impact.
Stand Out from the Crowd
When you play your song to an audience for the first time, you’ll ideally have identifiable influences alongside the unique “spin” you put on your work that makes it stand out. It’s important to expand your influences to a wide range of artists and styles, which will help you develop an increasingly eclectic voice. If your influences are only within your own niche, then you’ll be hard-pressed to develop an independent sound. Expanding your musical horizons allows you to unconsciously develop a unique voice, which is difficult to accomplish with only conscious actions.
The song you present in a first meeting needs to be catchy, but should not be a complete departure from your regular work. Do not try to present a version of Gangnam Style when you’re typically writing acoustic ballads. Test out your song with peers to ensure your sound doesn’t closely mirror other popular acts. Focus on quality musicianship and great vocals in order to ensure that you’re music will last longer than the viral hits that often fade into obscurity.
Get Them Hooked at the Start
The first 10 seconds of the song have to hook the audience’s attention. Whether it showcases your vocals or a haunting piano intro, you have to pour your very best efforts into the beginning of the song. For example, play the intros to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” or Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” and see how the band uses the intro to immediately capture the listener.
Think about browsing a new playlist and wanting to skip songs within a few seconds that simply don’t sound interesting. That’s the dynamic you want to avoid if you’re going to make an impact. You cannot save the strongest lyrics and sounds until the end because many listeners might have already checked out.
Consider the song “What Does the Fox Say”, which features lyrics and a video that captured attention mostly because they’re nonsensical, but also very catchy. You do not have to go to this extreme, but starting strong with something that commands attention and offers a preview of what to expect during the next two to four minutes is the ultimate goal.
Leverage your Uniqueness
Perhaps your drummer performs ridiculous solos, or your lead vocalist also plays the saxophone. Whatever it is that makes you unique in a positive way, you need to promote those attributes, especially during your first song. You also want to embrace creative sessions and experimenting with different musical flows and styles before finalizing your first track. Do not be afraid of showcasing your unique talents and ability to present a new type of sound.
The uniqueness doesn’t only have to encompass your musical sound. It can also be your style of dress. Maybe you’re in a ska band that performs only in three-piece suits. Or you only wear sports jerseys from your local teams. The key point is to ensure this “uniqueness” is 100 percent genuine. It should be an organic part of your personality, or it might come across as forced during your initial meetings.
Making a lasting first impression with your first track requires a mix of attitude, uniqueness, and talent. Put in the hours to expand your influences, craft a great intro, and embrace your hidden skills and the payoff will be songs that hold the audience’s attention and leave them wanting more.