[This article was written by Jonathan from Music Gateway, an online platform that allows musicians to collaborate across the globe on studio session work, remixes, and much more.]

What’s that NEW sound?! 

You want to stand out. Be the hottest band or artist on the industry’s lips. You have a vision for success but don’t quite know how to go about this. You need to find your ground and start from the bottom up. So the first question you need to ask yourself is: how do I find my niche?

There are two options…

Create your own niche market.

See what doesn’t exist and become it (provided it makes sense, of course). Music fans love something new and unexpected. It creates excitement! Be that new sound or start that new movement. One piece of advice I would give however is to not be TOO different. Music fans do like some degree of familiarity. So while it’s great to be strange and edgy, you don’t want to stray too far from the norm — as it is more likely to put music fans off. Be clever about it.

Put your own spin on an emerging niche market  

You may not have your own niche market to create — so the next best thing is to follow the music you like and what happens to be popular at the time. But remember, your own unique contribution to this niche is crucial. Please don’t try to emulate an existing band too closely. Major labels tried this with Oasis back in the 90s; we already had Oasis and we didn’t need another one. My advice is to see what the trend is; take elements from it and let it influence you; but come up with something new and edgier to set you apart from the herd.

Once you have found your market you have to work on the following things:

Your Sound – It is crucial that you stand out in your niche. You must have you own special take on things.

Your Image – Look the part. If there is a certain fashion trend in that niche — you probably need to get on it. However, just as you don’t want to sound like every other band out there, you don’t want to look like every other band/artist in that market either.

Take elements of the trend and mix it with something new so to your potential fans you look like the kind of band they idealise and want to dress like but you offer them something a little new to feast their eyes on. Do you want to be like the all the other plain hot dogs in the factory or do you want to add some mustard? Bad example, but you get the point.

Your Attitude – Excite your audience. Don’t play it safe; make an impact. Make your live shows amazing. Do something visually memorable. It’s not usually the music that fans talk about after the gig but more when the bassist does a flip over the guitarist. Now I’m guessing not all of you are gymnasts but it’s the kind of unexpected thing that people remember — so think of what you can do in your live shows or anywhere else for that matter to stand out and be remembered; positively I might add.

Broadening beyond your niche

So you’re making yourself known in your niche market. You’re gaining fans, touring around your home country and making a name for yourselves. Great! But maybe now you want to aim a little bigger. Sometimes a niche market can only take you so far. Depending on the kind of success you’re aiming at in your career, you may need to appeal to other niche markets too.

Now this must be approached in a clever way that isn’t going to alienate your existing fan base. You don’t want to be labelled as ‘sell outs’. You need to remain ‘cool’ essentially. Now I’m not suggesting that you change your style at all. Many bands try to become something they’re not just to appeal more to the mainstream — and few succeed. The option I present to you lets you keep your credibility and not scare off your fans.

Offering  your songs to be covered and remixed

Find an artist/band in a completely different genre and get them to cover your song with their own unique twist. If you’re a folk band, let a pop-punk band cover your song. It exposes your song to a new genre of music which provides exposure for your band and their band at the same time. New fans will listen to that other band’s cover of your song, want to know what the original sounds like and find you. It’s also a great way of helping out other bands if your song happens to be a big hit.

For example, the song ‘Little Lion Man’ by Mumford & Sons was covered by Australian pop-punk sensations ‘Tonight Alive’ on the compilation album ‘Pop goes Punk 4’. The song brought Tonight Alive much exposure through the cover and boosted their career.

So this approach can be done in two ways, actually. Have your songs covered by other artists and bands with their own take on it, or cover a popular song yourself by another band or artist and put your own twist on it.

Gain a wider audience with a song that is well known, but make it even better.

A specific approach if you want to appeal to a dance audience would be to get your song remixed and released in clubs. This can boost your song into the mainstream and possibly make it even more popular than the original; not always possible, but it does happen.

A recent example of a remix of a song that has done better than the original is the remix by Cedric Gervais of ‘Summertime Sadness’ by Lana Del Ray. This had much more success through its remix in August 2013 than it did through the original release in June 2012 and exposed Lana Del Ray to a wider audience in more territories. The remix charted at No.4 in the U.K.

Finding and succeeding in a niche market isn’t such a daunting task as long as you keep true to yourself and provide that ‘edge’ to boost you above the competition. Allow yourself ways of diversifying as well. Many niche genres hit popularity but die down quickly and have to adapt and change slightly to survive in the long term. Take punk at its height in 1977, it was loved by that specific niche but soon people got bored and it had to change, which brought on the new wave of bands; post-punk.

So remember to work hard at defining yourself within your niche, but don’t limit your options.

To end this off, just remember these following things:

* find your niche

* succeed in it (easier said than done, of course)

* diversify to new markets but stay true to yourselves

In order to stand out in an emerging niche you need to be innovative —  and hopefully you’ll keep that innovative spirit alive throughout your entire music career.

Once you’ve created your unique sound, learn how to get press coverage for your band:

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