The 10 Characteristics Of A Compelling Musician

by Cari Cole

Every artist wants to be beloved by the world. To get their music heard, to have the opportunity to play big festivals, reach egad of people and get their music out there. It’s just what makes us tick.  And I tell artists all the time, that if you make the end goal, not how many people you reach, but on reaching and touching people, you will be successful. No matter how far you get in the music business or how far your music reaches, the fact that it’s touching lives is the goal. There are almost 8 billion people on the planet — a mere 100,000 will do quite nicely to create a career you can live off of. With direct connection to fans these days, you don’t have to reach millions anymore to create a viable income producing career.

And even more importantly, the reason you make music is not really to be a big star (even if you secretly wish for it), it’s most likely because making music makes you happy, and connected to yourself and your world. It enlivens you and turns you on – and it should – music is the spirit of life. It’s the greatest thing ever. The world would be a dull place without it.

So I wanted to talk about the characteristics of artists that compel us. That capture our hearts and ears and make us fall in love with them. What is the intangible thing that makes us glam on and become hard core fans. What bonds us to them and how can you incorporate some of those qualities into your artist brand?

  1. Authenticity. This one is top pick. It’s across the board of artists that have big followings. They are authentically themselves. They have managed to find (and this is not easy) – a way to communicate from who they really are – they don’t fight it.
  2. Transparency.  Also across the board, they are transparent. They don’t hide what themselves and they do that tastefully. They do not stand behind a veil of mystery (so 1990’s!!) and are not afraid to reveal themselves.
  3. Compelling. Compelling artists create music that is compelling. That includes all of the master artistry that goes along with that – great songs, great productions, great branding that makes your ears and eyes salivate. Hint – this is not easy.
  4. Clarity. They are clear about who they are and who they’re not. Look, you can’t please everybody and if you try to you will dilute your brand and run the risk of losing your real core following.
  5. Conviction. They are in it for the long haul. You can tell by their website and branding materials that they have the conviction and dedication to go the distance. They are not fly-by-nighters and see-if-it-sticks wanna be’s.
  6. Connection. They have an ability to connect with people about what’s going on in the world and tapping into the pulse of what we’re thinking and feeling.
  7. Warmth.  Most artists that really touch us have a warmth about them. They are inviting and welcoming, not removed and distant (again, that is so 1990’s!!) Don’t be afraid to welcome people. Everyone likes a personal touch.
  8. Bravery. Every artist who has pierced the veil and become a household name (or local name) has a quality of bravery. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there, and you have to admire the power and stamina it takes. Don’t hold back.
  9. Uniqueness. Piercing the veil definitely requires not being afraid to be different. I tell artists all the time that you want to stand out, not fit in. Although the industry will mostly push you to do the opposite because they want to turn a profit.
  10. Humility. Well, ok, not everybody has this, but the great ones do. I notice it in my studio. The artists that are humble and not full of themselves are the ones we fall in love with. No one loves someone who believes their own hype!

What characteristics of the list above do you want to integrate? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

©2014 Cari Cole, Vocal Mag, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  • Love this topic and article, thank you! It’s when I can fully “be” the music with them, and believe what they’re communicating – the music singing the singer, as opposed to the other way around.

    Though an artist may have a compelling look and impressive technique, it’s only when that “form” is congruent with the depth of the musical inspiration that I am truly moved. These days, I have a challenging time discovering current artists with this quality, but there are a few. 🙂 Laura Marling comes to mind.

    Of course, music can serve many purposes, and has its own life regardless of evaluation.

    • Cari Cole

      You’re welcome Carol! Yes, it’s important that artists continue to strive and struggle to put out their best work. There’s a lot out there but you have to search a bit under the radar to find it. Try — look at the Emerging and Unearthed artists – some good stuff there!

  • Steve Turnbull

    Hopefully I embody at least some of these qualities. I certainly aspire to embody all of them!

    • Cari Cole

      I hope so too Steve! 😉 A great quick list to aspire to for us all!

  • Beautifully said, I do see some points I need to work on.
    Thank you for the gentle reminder, you are awesome 🙂

    Shukran & Much Love

    • Cari Cole

      Thank you Mosno for your dedication and drive to be the best you can be. It’s artists like you that inspire me to continue my work. #Proudmamalion. Big love, Cari

  • Ozem Goldwire

    Excellent article, Cari!
    Please keep it up. 😉

    • Cari Cole

      Thank you Ozem!! Keep up the good work too!! I know how dedicated you are!

  • Excellent article. “Connection” is the most important characteristic, in my opinion.

    Have you read the book, “Everyone communicates – few connect?”

    • Cari Cole

      Thanks Mike! Yes, great book. How true! We can all use help with our communication and connection skills!!