Are Memphis Bands, Artists and Musicians in a Slump?
Ineffective and Boring.
They record the same sound, in the same studios, with the same musicians and engineers. Then have the same local photographers take the same-dated-looking promotional photos and have the same graphics people design the cover. Then they "market" (and I use that term sarcastically) the music in the same way they always have. In each of these instances by "the same way" I mean the same ways they have for the past God Only Knows how many years. It's just not going to work. Sure if your goal is to continue playing regional gigs in cafes and bars for a few hundred a night and sell a CD and maybe a Tee Shirt or two every now and then it's OK. I'm a HUGE fan of grassroots and gorilla marketing but friends times have changed. Innovation and Social Media are the key to success at almost everything, especially music. I can just hear the angry folks now saying, "I am using Social Media. I have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter". OK, how's that working for ya? Could you stand to be doing better? I thought so. Me too. I'm positive you have heard the saying, "If you want a different result than you've been getting you have to something you haven't been doing." There is much more to Social Media Marketing than just posting links to your profiles and accepting friend requests as they come in randomly.
Your Image Is Growing Mold.
Memphis is so full of amazing talent. We should be turning out artists in the top ten of various genres every week. Don't Tell me that's too much to ask! Nashville does it and with multiple Nashville artists charting simultaneously every single week. So does Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. In the past fifteen years I can count on ONE HAND all of the big artists who are from Memphis and to be honest, they left here to do it. They record in other cities. They live in other cities. They spend their financial success in other cities. Yeah, I know Justin Timberlake is a devoted Grizzlies fan and I drive past Miramichi Golf Course often. So what? I am certain even JT would tell you that Memphis could do better and SHOULD do better.
So if we want to really be honest and make this city as musically successful as it can be we have to ask ourselves a few painful questions.
- Do Memphis recording studios, engineers and producers really have what it takes to create the ultra high quality sound that dominates the charts?
- Are the successes of Timberlake and Juicy J really enough for us to ride on for this many years?
There are a handful of creatives doing it right.
Brad Blackwood, who started Euphonic Masters , his fantastic mastering facility, has multiple Mastering Grammys the past few years including Maroon 5 and Alison Krauss.
Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk was recorded over at Royal Studios right here in Memphis.
Pete Matthews over at High Low Recording Studios is a great engineer and all around nice dude who I love working with as often as I can. His credits are extensive including the great Stevie Wonder.
Kevin Nix, son of one of Memphis' go to mastering engineers, took over the reigns to his father's mastering company and has recently started mastering some big records including Juicy J.
Juicy J. formerly of Triple Six Mafia is all over the charts nowadays as well.
Last, but hopefully not least, at 45 years, as of the date of this article, I have done around 400 full length albums that have a combined sales of over 14 million units and ten top ten singles.
Do I believe Memphis doesn't have the talent or the skill to do it here, ourselves locally?
Of course we do. The question is not can we. The question is why aren't we right now? I'm not taking anything away from Boo Mitchell and his cool vibey studio facility but, and here is a HUGE Kim Kardashian-sized butt, it was mixed elsewhere by Serban Ghenea the top mixing engineer on the planet (and Serban's my current favorite mix guy). He consistently has 6 or more of the Top Ten songs on the charts anytime you look, every week. If you don't believe me check out Serbanghenea.com. it will blow your mind. The song was also produced by heavyweight producer Mark Ronson.
The Memphis Sound.
First of all, if I hear one more person say "the Memphis sound" I think I will throw up. For the most part, if what I'm hearing is "the Memphis sound" I am not surprised that we are failing musically. This funk, blues, old school, folksy, singer-songwriter demo-sounding stuff is just not going to succeed. I love all styles of music. ALL styles, if done well. Again, I've heard Uptown Funk and Bruno's follow up album with the old school vibe. Don't Tell me it's the same as the tired sound people keep referring to as "the Memphis sound". It's not. It's an extremely polished version of it.
What Memphis Music Is Missing.
It's the polish that Memphis productions are usually missing. Remember, it's the polish that makes it shine. Stop making a slightly modernized version of your daddy's music. It will always fail. Same old same old = same old same old every single time. Passion, innovation plus Polish = a chance at success.
You say, "i don't play to a click track in the studio because it loses the feel". I say your production sounds sloppy and loose and amature. You say, "I never auto-tune. I want to be natural". I say, you sound pitchy and not like a radio ready record at all.
You say, "I don't care about being commercial. I do my music for myself". I say, You sure do. You say, "my song is six minutes but it needs every part". I say, yeah and I bet your poop don't stink either.
It's things like that that make or break a song. It's things like that and so many more I could mention that keep many Memphis artists from success.
Fear of losing a dollar.
Though this is not the only reason I believe we aren't at the top of the superstar-creation game I do believe this reason has held, and continues to hold, us back. What I mean by "The Fear Of Losing A Dollar" is this. Our local Studios, producers, engineers, musicians, songwriters and artists, for the most part, are terrified to give someone they consider competition a compliment, a referral and much less a collaboration. This is the BIGGEST difference I see between the Memphis Music and Creative scene and places I go like Nashville. In Nashville, the top session musicians speak well of each other. Heck, if they think a different musician would fit the track far better than themselves they are not afraid to refer them instead. Is this because the have enough money and don't want anymore? No, it's because they know that it will come back to them when the guy they referred does the same for them one day. They know that the producer or studio the referred the other guy to will not ditch them for the other guy. They will still call them because they were pro enough to try to help the producer/studio out like that.
A Cure For Cancer.
This refusal to network, colab with and promote each other is like a cancer inside the heart of the Memphis Music scene. Fortunately, there is already a cure for this type of cancer. It is simple and doesn't cost much. It's called being good people to not only your inner circle but to the whole Memphis Music community.
What are some ways you can think of to help take Memphis Music to the top of the Music Industry game?
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Joey is a Music Producer | Songwriter | Cinematographer | Photographer | Graphic Designer | YouTuber | Blogger located in Memphis, Tn.
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