An interview with Manicdown Music Writer/Producer/Musician Dan Swinimer

Photo credit: Rebecca Ross

Jason Wilkinson sits down with CCMA Country Producer of the year nominee Dan Swinimer and gets some inspiring insights on today's music industry and what aspiring artists need to do to stand out in today’s musical climate.

What are your thoughts on the state of the industry?

It’s an industry that’s still transitioning. I feel like the music industry has been a bit slow adjusting to new conditions, but I do think the Major Labels, who really struggled at first to adjust, are finding new ways to re-assert their monopoly in the current market. They used to have a massive influence on radio play-lists and that allowed them to really sculpt what we listened to. Now they understand the impact that streaming playlists have on building artists. We are at a tipping point where those playlists are becoming just as important as the terrestrial radio playlists. In some cases, labels are building their strategies around getting the Spotify and  Apple Music playlists to build their streaming numbers, under the assumption that once they hit a certain level, terrestrial radio will follow. It’s all still about well rounded talent and a hit song. CDs have run their course and now its digital streaming and the resurgence of vinyl.

What advice would you give new artists looking to develop and be discovered?

A lot has changed over the last few years but the one thing that hasn’t is just being better than everyone else. If you are, I truly believe that someone is going to find you. If you’re out there doing your thing and no one is knocking on your door, you’re just not ready yet.

I find that artists get so caught up in the politics, and there is politics. However, an artist that has all of the checkmarks, every box checked; there is nothing political about that scenario. You’re going to have everyone converging on you if people believe that you’re good enough to make a run in this business. It’s a matter of getting yourself out there in order to master your art…to become good enough to generate interest. You’re not getting yourself out there to jam your “not ready for prime time” product down the industry’s throat. A lot of artists don’t listen to that advice. They think they are good enough but often they are lacking perspective. I’ve always said that a songwriter doesn’t become a professional until they can realize that some of the stuff they write is…well, not good. The first time you can listen to something that you did and tell that it’s not good enough, that’s the sign that you’re becoming a professional. You don’t necessarily have that personal, emotional connection to every idea you come up with. You just want the song to be the best it can be. Most songwriters start out writing songs that they like, if you want to make a career out of it you need to write songs that people buying music like. Of course there is a disconnect there because artists are artists, creatively, they have a much higher musical IQ if you will, than the average listener. Reality is, it doesn’t matter how good YOU think it is. If nobody else wants to listen to it you’re going to struggle making it in this business. Finding a balance between music that represents you as an artist, and music that the average music lover will connect to – that is the challenge.

To sum it up, don’t waste time trying to convince people that you’re good enough. Spend your time making sure that you ARE good enough and then it will be shocking how easy it is. When you’re good enough they come to you. You can just keep throwing stuff out there to make sure people don’t forget who you are, but I find people will forget who you are faster if you continually put out mediocre music. Work, learn, be patient, evaluate and realize when it’s good enough – in ALL areas, then blow people away with your music and talent. It’s amazing how fast the balloon gets deflated when an artist can’t back up the studio recordings with the live presentation. Be great, not just good.

Dan is a writer / producer and founder of Manicdown Music Inc. During his 5 years in country music, he discovered and developed Canadian Country stars Madeline Merlo and Jojo Mason, and has written / produced upwards of 20 hit songs.