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Can progressive music be commercially successful?


uz3r

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My band is writing some new stuff at the moment and we are reaching further into the realm of progressive writing and structure. We have never been a band to strictly adhere to 'normal' song structures, we like to always mix it up in some way or another. However our last couple of songs have been extremely progressive, they have a chorus repeat once but thats it... everything is progressive, even 'verses' are heard only once.

 

We are not a radio band and never will be, but we do pride ourselves on being a heavy/energetic band that is accessible to a wide range of people.

 

I really like this new direction but I wonder if people outside the realm of 'technical appreciation' will like it.

 

Thoughts?

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The Mars Volta.

 

Puhleez... ;)

 

 

There's little telling what kind of sounds can be shaped into hit (or at least somewhat popular) material.

 

But there are some elements and approaches that are certainly helpful at giving listeners a framework to come to a new sound/song through.

 

"Hook" is a bit overused and perhaps a little under-understood (given its long use as a term and its centrality to our concerns) -- but the bottom line is that -- particularly with more abstract/demanding works -- you have to give the listener some kind of identifiable takeaway... something that will give them a handle in their mind for bring back more of the sense and feel of the song. ("It's that song with... you know, that thing at the end of the chorus... that slays me.")

 

If it's simply 7 or 8 minutes of what seems like free exploration or unguided improvisation, with no recurring themes or elements, then the only immediate takeaway for the listeners is gonna be that it's, you now, that 7 minute song...

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Certainly, you can achieve a certain amount of success with Progressive music. Silverchair (yes the band that used to be all grunged out in the 90s) now write highly progressive and entertaining works. They just had their fifth straight number one album in their homeland, Australia, and did well in the UK. My point being...there is an audience. Rush, Tool, the Mars Volta...and hello...Pink Floyd. They've all done fairly well, lol.

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Any music can go mainstream or commercial.you'll never know sometimes.Some say if you wanna go mainstream,make it simple as much as you can.Regarding progressive,it can be i guess.It depends on the arrangement and what kind of melody your going to apply.Try to experiment and add some familiar tunes in it while sticking to your own music.Just be honest on what you do,with a lot of determination it will take you there.Every person's music has its own time.

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I think progressive music not only can, but is profitable. The most notable example is Pink Floyd. Look at the sales for Dark Side of the Moon. On top of Floyd, and more recently, look at TooL. While they're not the most prolific, they've been very successful. There's also Dream Theater, and Rush. Both of which are still selling quite a few albums.

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This is a great topic. As for song structure, if inspiration points you in a certain direction and after going in that direction you turn around and realize "Hey, we never repeated any of the sections!" then that's fantastic! If you want to piece something together "strategically" without any inspiration driving it, then it will probably be boring.

 

Anyway, any conversation about "will people like it" starts (and ALMOST ends) with the quality of the vocalist and the vocal melodies and phrasing of that vocalist.

 

Rush is my favorite band, but I tell you, they really are not "prog rock" like Yes, ELP, Genesis, Dream Theater, or Porcupine Tree. Rush's fundamental inspiration and desire is to write songs that rock like The Who and Cream and their curiousity and adventurousness has led them to odd times and key changes and such, but they never lose that fundamental desire to write a great song. I would say Pink Floyd is similar in that, despite their adventurousness, writing a great song with something to say is their number one priority. Those traits make for very appealing music to non-musicians. Typical prog-rock seems to self-consciously go after the complexity as a priority over songs that have something to say. That will lead you to having audiences which are mostly musicians.

 

Now, I say we hear this song that you're talking about. is it posted anywhere?

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Prog-rockers Yes, ELO, Genesis, King Crimson and others found great success in the 1970s. The sound has kinda fallen out of favor since then, though. So I'd say chips are stacked against you. Who knows, it could be due for a resurgence.

 

But how are you defining success? Wanna quit your day job or just gig out? I'd say the latter is certainly a possibility. You might want to check out one of my favorite bands out of Conn. as a blueprint to this route: Rane. Very proggressive. These guys have been among the best live Notheastern bands since the late 1990s but never managed to score a record contract. So they started their own label and created a studio, which has become a popular place for other local acts to record their stuff.

 

http://tidesrecords.com

http://www.thesoundofrane.com

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Any music, as long as its good, can definitely be commercially successful. In fact, there is definitely a huge base of listeners who absolutely hate anything that's mainstream or on the radio. Some of the more loyal fan bases are from these underground bands that never get radio play.

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Prog-rockers Yes, ELO, Genesis, King Crimson and others found great success in the 1970s.

 

 

And it's no coincedence that those bands had some of the most iconic vocalists in rock history including John Anderson, Greg Lake, and Peter Gabriel (and later Phil Collins). King Crimson's vocalists were never slouches either including Lake, Anderson for a couple of tunes and John Wetton. So, I say find a great vocalist and things will be a lot easier.

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The advantage of hewing to a conventional structure is that listeners (especially first time listeners) get a place to 'land' each time a section is repeated. There are other ways to set-up landing places in a song, but those ways take a lot more work to write (I think) than simply following structure.

 

Worth it? Sometimes. A good song will tell you when it's time to stop adding stuff.

 

best,

 

john

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Obviously it's never going to be played on a major radio station or featured on a major music video channel (if those things still exist), but it certainly could have an audience.

 

However, bands like Tool and Pink Floyd still used choruses. Hell, to be honest, I don't think you could call something a chorus without using it more than once. Anyways, for *really* progressive music, like what you're talking about, it depends not only on structure but the melodies and harmonies themselves. Basically, what it comes down to is how accessible it is.

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i say, play whats in your heart. if you wanna write a 9 minute with no coda, then do it. i started a rock band 6 years ago, and we had a very strong local following. we pushed ourselves hard to write better material and we turned into a progressive rock band. when we started playing shows again, we had a massive following, given our local rock scene. so, it can be done. some of it may be geographic as well. we are in a location where that kind of music will draw a crowd.

 

my point is, i didnt listen to my heart when i was writing music with these guys all these years and i eventually quit out of necessity. i sold all my gear, and i discovered what makes me happy is playing tom petty tunes on my acoustic. i never was happy in my band and thats why. i you wanna be progressive do it and dont worry what anyone else thinks. if youre good, people will like you.

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i say, play whats in your heart. if you wanna write a 9 minute with no coda, then do it. i started a rock band 6 years ago, and we had a very strong local following. we pushed ourselves hard to write better material and we turned into a progressive rock band. when we started playing shows again, we had a massive following, given our local rock scene. so, it can be done. some of it may be geographic as well. we are in a location where that kind of music will draw a crowd.


my point is, i didnt listen to my heart when i was writing music with these guys all these years and i eventually quit out of necessity. i sold all my gear, and i discovered what makes me happy is playing tom petty tunes on my acoustic. i never was happy in my band and thats why. i you wanna be progressive do it and dont worry what anyone else thinks. if youre good, people will like you.

 

I quite agree. People enjoys music if the musicians enjoy it too. It shows. If it comes from your heart, you can easily connect to the people...and to answer this thread's question, of course progressive music cab be commercially successful. :)

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I'm with plurabelle, too.

 

A quarter century ago, when I was in a commercial music/recording program at a community college with a respected industry-savvy music department, I came to some sobering realizations: the music I made was outsider music that would never be popular -- and, in my late 20s, most labels would have next to zero interest in signing me, anyway. So I concentrated on fader pushing, learning skills that could help me make a living in the industry. (I later walked away from my nascent record engineering career after some small successes because I simply found that I detested most of the non-musicians in the industry -- who I view[ed] as vampires, sycophants, and opportunists. But that's for another thread, eh? ;) )

 

 

It's a great time to be an independent musician, now, because recording is no longer wildly expensive, and there are alternative modes of distribution that cut out some of the very people who drove me out of the biz in the first place.

 

And that gives musicians who don't want to try to sell out (it's a lot harder for most than it looks -- and the competition is still fierce) a way to continue their craft without having to compromise their creative energies, deal with the con men and sleazeballs who crowd the industry, or pay huge amounts to make demos that only their moms and GF/BFs will listen to all the way through...

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as vampires, sycophants, and opportunists. But
that's
for another thread, eh?
;)
)



It's a great time to be an independent musician, now, because recording is no longer wildly expensive, and there are alternative modes of distribution that cut out some of the very people who drove me out of the biz in the first place.


And that gives musicians who
don't
want to
try
to sell out (it's a
lot
harder for most than it looks -- and the competition is still fierce) a way to continue their craft without having to compromise their creative energies, deal with the con men and sleazeballs who crowd the industry, or pay huge amounts to make demos that only their moms and GF/BFs will listen to all the way through...

 

the part about a demo only your mom or gf will listen to all the way through...LOL thats so true i couldnt quite laughing at that for several minutes. ive been down that road way too many times.

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Yeah... I was lucky because I was working the other side of the glass (even while I was secretly nurturing some of the dreams so many of us secretly have stashed away)... a real wise-up.

 

 

But since I've been giving my music away online -- I got serious about it in the early days of the old Mp3.com (it started in Nov '97 and I put up my first tune in February of '98) and managed to rack up well over 50K DLs and listens before their first incarnation was closed (and the name sold to CNET in 2003 in the wake of a huge -- about $300M huge -- tactical error in believing the wrong "genius" IP lawyer).

 

Since then I've had around that many DLs and streams at Soundclick and some other sites and an uncounted [i'm not saying that 'cause it's such a huge number but rather because I don't have a convenient way of counting them] number of DLs/streams via my blog/podcast site, A Year of Songs. Extrapolating from the figures I do have for a bunch of the tracks, it's probably in the 10 to 20 thousand range.

 

Now whether anyone listened all the way through... I dunno. :D

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I would say that Porcupine Tree, Marillion, and Opeth are all great examples of this, in addition to what's already been mentioned. They all have prog-ish influences and instrumentation, but they're still about the song in the end.

 

I'd just add that this is something that I've always been fascinated with. All these bands have created some incredible albums. In my case, I discovered that Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has completed everything I'd dreamed of doing with music... having multiple outlets for different styles, as well as having a melting pot for everything he likes to do (PT). It's kind of disheartening sometimes, but I love everything he's ever touched...

 

Great thread, by the way.

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