But, whilst almost everyone would agree that being original is a good thing, don't beat yourself up if you think you're lacking it. True originality may even be impossible given that every idea you have can be traced back to a hundred separate influences.
There are some people who would argue that there has never been an original idea in the history of the human species. As life evolves by mixing DNA over time, ideas evolve by mixing influences.
If we look back over history we find that many inventions were simply happy accidents, not the huge leaps of originality that we imagine. Even inventions that were not accidental would almost certainly have been built upon previous seed ideas. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb for example, he merely improved upon a concept that was already 50 years old.
Over on the Music Think Tank blog, this article suggests that being an original musician is harder than it once was because there are so many songs in circulation. It argues that originality gets harder when an environment is saturated.
If originality is so damn hard to achieve then what are musicians suppose to do? As we mentioned on our blog do you know who you are copying? the trick may be to steal from enough obscure sources to give the illusion of originality!
But let's not run away with ourselves. Perhaps originality is possible but we just aren't trying hard enough? I've heard people say that every possible combination of musical notes has been written already, leaving no room for originality. But, the video below puts this argument into mind blowing perspective.
Let's step back a bit. Whether or not true originality is a myth, some artists certainly do sound original and that's what counts, right?
Granted, they may be drawing from obscure influences and keeping schtum about it, but who cares, they present something in a new and fresh way.
So why don't more musicians do this and why do so few musicians sound unique?
A large part of the problem may be that it takes a great deal of confidence to commit to an 'unusual' idea. The life of a musician can be one of permanent uncertainty and self doubt so there is real comfort in making music which fits a current trend or accepted norm.
Being a musician means living in a world of subjective opinion. Unlike, say a snooker player, there is no way to know for sure if you are the best at what you do. You need to trust your own opinions which is very difficult, especially if you're creating something which has not been created before.
Trusting and loving your original ideas takes practice. We are so conditioned to do 'what works' that we slip into auto pilot too easily. Remember that your brain is pretty damn incredible and all ideas are out there waiting to be grabbed, you just have to believe in your own voice and have the confidence to go somewhere creatively - somewhere that no one else has gone before.
To make matters worse, on your journey of original expression you will certainly come up against people who reject your art because it's 'different'. This pressure to conform to an acceptable 'normal' sound can mean most musicians literally give up and 'regress to the mean', effectively become carbon copies of one another.