The Christopher Nolan Principle of Creativity
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Some people think good, artistic music needs to be advanced, inaccessible, and more pretentious than Kanye West with a Cigar and French Accent.
Others think music needs to be soulless, recycled garbage to have any level of popularity.
I’m here to tell you that both are completely wrong.
And Christopher Nolan is living Proof.
If you don’t know who Christopher Nolan is, get out from under that rock and join us in the 21st century.
Christopher Nolan is known for movies like The Prestige, Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception, and the Dark Knight Trilogy.
In total, he has directed 10 feature-length films, grossing a total of $4.75 billion dollars worldwide.
Since you graduated middle school, you know that’s an average of $475 million per movie.
But his first movie was a small self-funded movie that somehow still took in $84k. So if we remove that from the equation, we’re left with 9 movies making $4.75 billion.
That averages to a whopping $528,000,000 per movie.
And where did each of his last 7 films rank for “top movie of the year” as measured by gross income?
19, 10, 3, 4, 1, 55, and 9.
5/7 top 10’s.
I don’t know about you, but I’d say he is a pretty good poster-child for popularity success.
But wait. What if critics pan him as just another blockbuster creator?
His movies have a combined 34 oscar nominations and 10 wins.
Even including his first self-funded film, that averages to 3.4 Oscar nominations per movie and 1 win per movie.
He personally has been nominated for 5 Oscars, 5 British Academy Film Awards and 6 Golden Globes.
How does Rotten Tomatoes see him? Of his 10 movies, all 10 are fresh. And 9 out of the 10 certified fresh. Percentages? 4 in the 90’s, 4 in the 80’s and 2 in the 70’s.
Looks like the critics and awards love him too.
So what’s the point of all this?
Don’t tell me you need to sell out to do well.
You don’t need to write another garbage pop song about how you’re young, dumb, and don’t give a rip. The world needs about -94,308 more of those.
On the other side, you don’t need to write pretentious music that is in 11/9 time signature and is 13 minutes long to make quality, artistic music.
You can write songs that listeners will enjoy AND is of a high quality.
No need to be pretentious. No need to be a sellout.
Be unapologetically true to yourself and your art. Write from the heart. Work on your craft. Dive into your thoughts, emotions, and deepest parts of yourself to write something great.
And yes, that great song can be in 4/4 time and be done in 4 minutes. It can even follow a song structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.
Your unique voice, perspective, and experiences will contribute to writing quality music. Not your ability to play in 9/7 time and the ability to solo for 6 minutes before the 5 minute B section of your song.