If you are a singer or musician who has tried to 'make it' in the music industry in some way, shape or form, you are guaranteed to have been asked this question. I myself have been asked this question by everyone from smug A&R people leaning back in their chairs, sleazy journalist types, steely business investors, and even your average armchair critic in a casual conversation. It's a very confronting and uncomfortable question because essentially someone is asking you "What makes you think you're not a lemming?", "Why should I feign interest in you?" and "What is the point of your existence?". OK so I'm mildly exaggerating with those but it's definitely how you are made to feel when you are asked that question, and often it feels like your life depends on the answer.
Having a Unique Selling Point (USP) is of course a very important question across the board in all different fields. If you were to start up a business selling ironing boards for example, you would need to know if people really need your ironing boards in their life. What makes yours better than others? Do yours come with a theme tune or the ability to make you a cup of coffee at the same time? This is exactly the same in the music biz. You are not just an artist, you are a product, and anyone backing you will want to know if you provide enough value for people to want to buy into you and your career. In an industry teeming with bright eyed and bushy tailed artists trying to squeeze in and get a moment in the spotlight, people want to know what sets you apart enough from the others that will make you The Chosen One, the one that people will give 3 seconds of their time to in this 3 second world that we now live in.
What makes this question hard to answer when it comes to artists is that it is no longer good enough to just be good. Or even great. There has to be an angle. Something over and above your talent that will serve as a metaphorical vuvuzela, something that honks louder than every other horn that's being honked in the entertainment world. Telling the person about your beautiful vibrato, unique vocal timbre, poetic turn of phrase and overall sparkling personality is not going to cut it. The fact that each one of us are born completely unique and go on to be formed by our own different life events and experiences, does not my friend, make you unique. You write your own catchy music? Who doesn't nowadays. You have a weirdly interesting mixed ethnicity background? Don't we all. You overcame adversity to get where you are? Now we're getting somewhere... You were brought up by wolves and didn't start speaking until you were 15 and the first thing you did when you re-joined humans and were able to finally get that prosthetic limb you'd been waiting for was belt out Nessun Dorma? You my dear, have got yourself a record deal/financial investment/a viral hit/an article in the daily mail/reason for living.
There is hope though people, in case you had started packing your bags and booking yourself a flight to Antarctica. We live in a world where we can do everything for ourselves-you can put together your own music and videos with a team of creative people with a common goal and go out there and give it directly to the people who want it. You can find these people online, or at gigs, they could be anywhere. But we do have that power, so although it is still as important as ever to be able to say what your USP is, you have the freedom to do it through your art in your own way and let everyone catch up to how wonderful you are whenever they are ready. Believe in your own bad-assness and flaunt it. Don't worry if on paper your selling point doesn't seem controversial or salacious enough. Show people instead and let their senses decide. There is so much rubbish online that gets my attention because of those honking horns and flashing lights-but I'm also a genuine fan of things that are just GOOD and don't have ridiculous USP's. I'm not interested in attention grabbers, I'm interested in attention keepers. Toot Toot.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! xxxx