In this edition, our focus is on communicating your identity.
There are plenty of differences between the band that plays the local bar scene and the band that tours nationally and plays sold out shows in front of diverse audiences. Musical proficiency, marketing, and budget are all part of what allow big acts to take flight. But there’s also the matter of identity.
You won’t hear U2 go from “New Year’s Day” to a cover of “What Makes You Beautiful.” Nor will Florence and the Machine follow “Shake It Out” with medley of Beyonce songs. Or if one of these acts do make such a radical transition, it will be for very conscious dramatic effect, or they’ll be in they’ll do something to reinvent the cover song and make it more distinctively their own.
And that’s the thing about serious musical acts: they know who they are. Yes, they can have songs with elements of pop and elements of rock; they can record a song with a hint of country twang and they can put out a piano ballad as a single, but for all of that range, they come back to a core identity, shaped by a combination of genre, song selection, and all of the largely intangible elements that contribute to a signature sound.
When an a cappella group records, identity should be a key consideration. Group members, or at least group leadership, should talk about it ever stage, from song selection, to arranging, to picking soloists, to deciding which producers to work with, to placing the tracks in order. Not every album can or should be a “concept album” (one that communicates an overarching cohesive story or theme), but figuring out what your group is or what it aspires to be is key to cultivating a coherent sound. It rarely happens via dumb luck. Identity depends upon taking inventory of your group and making conscious decisions.