R. Cavalier asks:
This summer I have an internship with Sony Pictures in their creative music affairs department. This mostly deals with putting music in films, and also discovering new artists who sound like more famous artists. How do you suggest I begin searching for the next great group to put in films? What elements of an artist should be magnified? Minimized?
The fundamental activity in the entertainment industry is the discovery of talent. A great performance is as easy to recognize as it is difficult to describe. When a talented vocalist sings a great song there is a physical and cerebral reaction ignited in each member of the audience. The combined emotional charge envelops both artist and patron in a binding cathartic experience. The energy is geometrically increased with the arithmetic progression in the size of the crowd.
Originally the word talent described an ancient unit of weight or money. The evolved meaning relates directly to the ability to demonstrate performing skills for remuneration. There are a number of contributing factors required to generate the perception that talent is present. The ability to reveal superior, artistic power and technical skill, on demand, is the essential ingredient
The great stars shine in their shoes. They project an aura of beauty, grace, style, and confidence before they open their mouth to sing. These elements, in combination with other key ingredients, contribute to the public image of the act. The first to recognize the star factors are the mothers of musicians who sacrifice to buy instruments and eventually surrender the garage to the band.
As artists venture into the professional activities of showbiz, their "attraction" remains constant. The fan base grows as the public turns toward the artist and sees the light emanating from him. If talent is present the people see it, they revere the artists and reward them with fame and fortune. As each new member joins the fan base, he is assumed into the discovery process.
The discovery of the act is generally attributed to a member of each of the primary professions of manager, agent and producer. The personal manager generally gets credit for being the first to see his clients potential. By declaring the artist a star, and proceeding on that basis, a manager risks his reputation and career on that acts success. Agents and producers compete with their peer group. The challenge is to build a team to expose the act to the widest possible audience.
Music industry professionals, seeking to discover the next big thing, must utilize the Internet search mechanics to track singers and bands. it is also the primary tool for promotion and marketing. However, the low barrier to entry and the absence of quality control allows anybody with a Mac a mic and a tune in his head to put a song up on the myspace.com or youtube.com.
With millions of artists competing a hungry entrepreneur could surf the web years and never find an act that gives him goosebumps. There is an infinite number of artists, but only ten percent have commercially viable talent. Of those, many will have fatal flaws and some will lack the character and drive required to overcome the gravity in the elevator to The Big Top.
Singers need songs a band needs a stage. The practical arena for discovering talent is the extant night club scene. There is one in every market and it is the organic filter of talent in each community. A&R and management entrepreneurs conduct their quest in this world. Conversely, the band that envisions itself one day playing to sold out arenas, starts here at Rock Bottom.
The road to success is never easy. A band must have talent, know how to play the game of showbiz, have a strong player at each position, play perfectly well and, just to survive, they still have to get lucky. Ten percent of the survivors will compete for all the money. The ones who make their livings from music, and don't need a day job, are the true professionals. One percent of them will reach The Big Top. The discovery process begins when the great star discovers himself.