Over the years I have had many conversations with music artists about commercial music, which usually leads to them disclosing their disdain and hatred of it. Some refer to pop music (pop, as in what’s popular now) as commercial music. Others think of anything that is receiving heavy rotation on radio as commercial music. Whatever their definition, one thing is often overlooked: commercial music is the heart of the music industry which pumps the blood that keeps it alive.
So why then are so many music artists resistant to making commercial music? The answer that I’m often given is because they don’t want to “sell-out” their creative integrity by conforming to some industry version of what’s ...view middle of the document...
There are those artists who do a masterful job of observing their own artistic values while delicately balancing the demands for commercial music by industry professionals.
Artists such as Prince, Sting and Bjork, have pushed the envelope of creativity for years. But artists of their caliber who possess such sublime talent and vision are rare.
For the sake of clarification and argument, I will offer my explanation and industry definition of what commercial music is; based on 25 years of listening to recordings as a music lover, music industry professional, and music critic in what I will call, “The 6 Rules of Commercial Music Success.”
They are songs that have the following:
1.) A strong hook/memorable chorus. If no one knows what your song is called, they can’t request it when they hear it on the radio. More importantly, they can’t buy it at retail…or track it down on the Internet to illegally download a copy of it.
2.) Good melody. Commercial music is characterized by good melodies (i.e. verses, choruses, and sometimes bridges that get stuck in your head and make you want to sing-along). What can the top selling hip-hop acts of the last 10 years (Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Eminem, and 50 Cent) attribute their success to? Good melodies (not cool beats) that increase the commercial value of their music...thanks largely in part to the king of modern hip-hop melody, Dr. Dre.
3.) Well-Produced. Coming from an r&b background where producers are a pivotal part of commercial music success, I did not realize until I became a consultant that many rock bands don’t utilize, nor value producers like r&b music acts. Perhaps they should since the record company often assigns producers to enhance the performance of songs (through their musical expertise) and enrich the records (through...