How I Found My Sweet Spot as a Musician

When I was a boy I loved magic. I learned to be a magician to perform tricks for kids.
I got a guitar for my 16th bday and music became my magic. I wrote songs and played at church. The song was sacred.

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Narrowing In On A Niche

I’m trying to ask all the hard business questions about where I fit  in the music world. I try to continually remind myself that the goal is to find a niche, and better yet, to define a niche.

The Only One

So here’s the current hypothesis: My niche is palm-tree poetry. Good lyrics, upbeat, laid-back song for enjoying warm weather outside, a sunny day by the water.

What is the need?

I am the anti-dote to fast, frenetic, noisy songs that leave you with nothing: no memorable lines, no sweet melodies. You can’t hear the singer, the lyrics are crap, and there’s too much going on. The need is for classic songwriting, easily heard and understood. The need is for music outside the box, outside noisy venues, outside on a gorgeous day.

What is my answer?

Laid-back literate reggae, roots, and soul music, with horns and backup singers. The message is mystical, thankful, thoughtful and loving.  The answer is for a break from the noise, the job, being inside, being busy. The need is for nature, celebration, community.

Who’s in this space?

  • The international laid-back reggae, soul, folk-rock scene:  Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson
  • The local reggae, soul, world/folk scene: Grimy Stiles, Suzanna Choffell, Killer Bees (Papa Mali), Dan Dyer?
  • The outside, outdoors, beach music feel: Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet,
  • The doodling poet: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jason Mraz, Hugh MacLeod, Austin Kleon
  • The local channels: Flamingo Cantina, KUT, KOOP, KGSR, The Chronicle, Flipside

Music Mapping

As Ian Rogers advises:

If you really dig your artists and you love his or her songs, then my advice here is to seek out at least ten people that each have ten years of solid music industry / music making experience and then challenge each music industry professional to point out, describe and contrast similar songs. Judgments aside, similar song/artist analysis – produced by people that regularly traffic in music – is going to give you the essential, comparative marketplace information you need to make an informed investment decision.

I’m after that “comparative marketplace” information.

I found Music Map this afternoon as I was investigating ways of determining artists I sound like or may be somehow sonically related to. It’s pretty limited, but it helps for making some connection suggestions. Here’s the map for Stevie Wonder.


Here are the folks I listed as somehow sharing characteristics:

  • Arto Lindsay
  • Ben Folds
  • Ben Harper
  • Bill Withers
  • Billy Bragg
  • Billy Joel
  • Bob Durough
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bob Marley
  • Cake
  • Cat Stevens
  • Culture
  • Damien Rice
  • David Gray
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Donovan
  • Gil Scott Heron
  • Jack Johnson
  • Jackson Brown
  • James Blunt
  • Jason Mraz
  • Jimmy Buffett
  • Jimmy Cliff
  • John Lennon
  • Manu Chao
  • Maroon 5
  • Michael Franti
  • Paul Simon
  • Peter Tosh
  • Prince
  • Rancid
  • Squeeze
  • Steely Dan
  • Stephen Stills
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Sublime
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Clash
  • The Gladiators
  • The Kinks
  • The Pixies
  • The Police
  • The Shins
  • Tom Waits
  • Toots and the Maytals
  • Van Morrison
  • Violent Femmes
  • Wyclef Jean
  • Ziggy Marley

Any other artists come to mind?