HomeBlogsJonathanMinkoff's blogWhy A Cappella Groups Trump Bands and Then Lose the Advantage

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Youd think an a cappella group would have trouble competing with bands. The clowns were pretty sure we can take, but the bands... Theyre loud. They have more simultaneous notes. They have props. Youd think the bands would just crush the a cappella groups.

Its interesting that thats just not the case. People are pretty casual about bands they dont already know, but they perk up and pay attention to a cappella, at least pop funk a cappella.


A cappella is probably the least like anything that anyone in the audience regularly listens to. Is it that departure from the norm that people like?

Youd think that the clown would be an even bigger departure. I mean who regularly listens to clowns? Maybe Clowns-In-Training.

I think the magic response might derive from a mixture of things. The novelty of beatbox and vocal percussion. The ring of perfectly intonated harmony. The mystery of howd-he-get-so low, earth-shaking bass. And of course, the rarity of leads that can actually sing.

So why is a cappella so damn hard to market to radio? If the mass appeal is so overwhelming, why dont all major labels find themselves in a bidding war for Blue Jupiter, the House Jacks, Ball in the House and M-Pact?

Could it be that the impressiveness of the art form is inextricably rooted in the live experience? The hook is the immediate visual knowledge that that guy right there is making those sounds with his mouth.

Two conclusions may be drawn from this: (1) contemporary a cappella could be very popular on the radio if only the public could be educated about the incredible feats of aural dexterity that comprise the sounds; or (2) in an environment where listeners do not trust the sounds coming from the radio to have been created with even a bare minimum of authenticity, when common knowledge of studio trickery colors our experience, it is impossible for contemporary a cappella to achieve the head-turning amazement that gives it the ability to immediately "wow" live audiences.

If the second conclusion holds, and a cappella groups really want to achieve radio play, theyll have to do it the hard way: great writing and great leads. The howd-he-do-that factor wont be there to help.