In commercial music, it is actually TRUE that emulating other artists can bring you success. There is a lot of copycat marketing going on, and you can hear it listening to any commercial radio station. All the bands really do sound THE SAME, for the most part.
However, most musicians (and we are talking 99.999%) are not going to make that super star cut. That is a DIRTY LITTLE SECRET about the music biz, which for some reason is still propagated by the industry (how many bands and artists still think the “RECORD DEAL” is the be all end all of a music career, even though the numbers clearly show otherwise…?). You may very well have the goods, musically. But do you have the business and marketing machinery to develop yourself and reach the people who would help you get that success? The answer is “probably.” But you are likely to go bankrupt getting there, and success in music is seldom defined by losing all your money.
You are better off doing it yourself on a shoestring. Nowadays that is SO EASY. And ironically, in doing that THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. As an independent artist, you actually need to do something that sets you apart from the generic sameness of commercial music. You need to stand out.
I go to a lot of shows, some of them small local bands or artists who say they are aiming for successful music careers. When I watch these amateur musicians copycatting their commercially viable idols, I get a little bit frustrated, I can’t deny it. They try to get the same sound and vibe going. I’m going to view that artist as an emulator and not a creative, original artist, even if they play their own songs. They are parroting their idols. I know I am not the only one whose attention is NOT captured by music that sounds the same as everything else out there. There is nothing wrong with having influences, but if you want to be successful as an independent artist, you need to find a different niche than the large commercial artists who have a corner on your market and potential fan base. You are never going to compete with them on their level. You need to sell something completely different to your fans, stuff they can’t get from the giants.
Simply BE DIFFERENT. Don’t emulate. It’s so easy. You can do almost anything your heart desires, as long as no one else has done it repeatedly and people like it. Even doing something different with COVER SONGS is better than emulating them.
It still needs to not suck, of course. Don’t bang on a dented wok, call it art, and expect a lot of fans. There are quality standards. But a dented wok incorporated into an industrial dance mix can be genius!
I encourage amateur artists with a goal of musical success to search their hearts and find their unique sound. Don’t look outward and emulate what has already been done. Look inward and find what you have to offer people that is different and will attract their attention. That is if you truly want to succeed at music as a career. If you just want to impress the ladies and perform for free beer, by all means EMULATE!