What is Your Niche?

If you’ve made the tough decision to follow the advice in yesterday’s post, or at least be open to hearing more, you now have a big, important question to answer: what is your niche? What genre (style) or sub-genre do you/will you specialize in?

This may take some serious soul searching. I know some of you love to listen to one style, but are extremely adept at writing in a different style. For me, it’s Steely Dan. I love listening to their music. I would give anything to write music like that. But I don’t. I’ve tried. And I’ve
had lots of fun trying.

What pops out the easiest for me is country. (Did I say that out loud?) My voice is more suited to country. My natural inclination (as much as I fight it) is country. I confess, I’m a closet country fan. For years I thought it was cool to think country was uncool. Now, well, I just
may be starting to think that country is my niche, my future career. Why fight it?

Finding your niche: start by taking a close examination of your best songs. Ask yourself when writing, which genre feels most natural to you? Which songs were less of a struggle to write? If you still can’t find a niche, it may mean you need to keep writing. It will reveal itself.

Yes, you can fudge it some. If you really do write songs that incorporate two genres, i.e. mixing reggae and Celtic, and do it consistently, then you’ve invented a new genre, or at least a sub-genre. You might be able to get away with saying ‘my genre is reggae-Celtic,’ although the bin thing is still an issue. Creating your own genre can even work in your favor.

But don’t overdo it. Simply listing all the different genres in which you’ve ever written a song doesn’t mean you’ve found your niche. For example, Reggae-salsa-pop-emo-funk-easy listening is not a helpful
category and I don’t think this invented genre will communicate anything about your music.

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2 Responses to “What is Your Niche?”

  1. Lorelei Loveridge Says:

    This discussion comes up all the time in marketing circles with music. It’s good to start with a comparison. I’ve found it almost fastest way to hook a potential listener when asked, “What kind of music do you do?” It’s so easy to reply, “If you like Tracy Chapman, you’ll like me.” Implied in that is politically oriented roots folk with a world music spin on it. But that’s only some of the music. My manager in Canada has suggested that, for this album of 15 very diverse songs, it’s good to feed radio programmers and reviewers suggestions of three songs. We found that hard to do, and so have six to recommend that fall within a certain ‘songwriterly’ style. A storytelling style. I think I’m no closer to identifying my niche, come to think of it. So, the other strategy is to tell people that my music is laden with all sorts of ethnic instrumentation. That gets them going. If you can’t figure out your niche, then I suggest it’s critical to figure out what uniquely WILL hook a listener in…and the trick is to be authentic about it, not flowery or fake, as we know. My niche is travelling songs. Music to travel by. Ain’t it grand and open-ended, like a long highway!

  2. Dan Says:

    I think a comparison is an effective technique. It provides the listener with an immediate frame of reference that makes it quick and easy. The comparison doesn’t have to be 100% spot on for all of your music, but it should be true for most of your songs.

    And it can be entertaining. For my band Soulpajamas, I like to say ‘Imagine the musical DNA of Sergio Mendez & Brasil ’66 gene-spliced with the love child of Sting and Norah Jones.’ Then, if they are still engaged, I can elaborate: ‘jazzy, soulful, acoustic, with songs that celebrate life and explore personal and spiritual questions.’

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