The Rules Coldplay Live By and What Your Band Can Learn From Them


Coldplay.jpgAs the Grammy’s were getting going last night, you may have tuned into 60 Minutes a few minutes before showtime. If so, you were treated to
a comically badly done cliche-ridden story on a band that is on top of the
world right now. However, towards the end of the show there was a tour of the bands
recording studio. In this piece there was some invaluable advice for bands big
and small. Whether you find their music to be melancholy snooze rock or worship
their every move, they show how a band on top of their own game is doing it by obiding by a few key policies. After the jump we will watch the videos and discuss the importance of what was said.


Write Down EVERY Idea You Have

The piece shows lead singer Chris Martin as an aloof but organized idea machine, the man writes on his Piano with sharpies, they have a Dry Erase board in the practice space, his hands are covered in ink, etc. As much as he comes off as a bit of a slacker art student in this piece and can obviously afford to destroy his piano with ink, this is an essential practice for anyone looking to excel at what they do. A great idea lost can be a big difference in where you go in life. If you are really interested in this process how to organize this chaos, try picking up David Allen’s very office worker orientated book Getting Things Done.

The List

At one point the camera flashed to a list the band had made revealing the rules they have for making a record. Anyone experienced in the music industry knows a band who understands themselves is a huge asset. Martin states “These are things we have to remind ourselves all the time.” Many bands find themselves lost by album #4, while Coldplay keep making more converts and .

Below is the YouTube clip of the segment and my best transcription of the rules along with some commentary:

Rule #1
“ALBUMS MUST BE NO LONGER THAN 42 MINUTES, OR 9 TRACKS”

It is no secret that a long album is self indulgent. Years ago I noticed that I would find myself bored by most records over 35 minutes. Suprisingly, after looking at many of my favorite records of the past few years I noticed they were well over 42 minutes(and surely over 9 songs). Despite this rule being #1 the band has personally disobeyed on nearly every record, Viva La Vida
clocks in around 50 minutes with 11 tracks. In fact only Parachutes
clocks in around 42 minutes, while still exceeding the track limit by 1 track (and a hidden track). It is no coincidence that 42 minutes is where many vinyl houses claimed you would start to experience degradation in audio quality, subsequently many classic albums are under this length.

Rule#2
PRODUCTION MUST BE AMAZING, RICH, BUT WITH SPACE, NOT OVERLAYERED. LESS TRACKS, MORE QUALITY. GROOVE AND SWING Drums/rhythm are the most crucial thing to concentrate on; diff. between bittersweet and science of silence.

There is no question Coldplay learned from the poor fidelity of their debut. Since their sophomore recording they have been regarded as one of the few bands keeping up Audiophile standards in the mainstream. Despite the band having many layers, their arrangements always work, without being overly confusing. The emphasis on groove is obviously one of keys to the bands sound. Songs like “Clocks”, “Speed Of Sound”, and “Viva La Vida”
have hooks that are built around their upbeat rhythms. The last statement is a reference to the plague of Richard Ashcrofts solo work
as compared to how well “Bittersweet Symphony” works.

Rule #3
COMPUTERS ARE INSTRUMENTS, NOT RECORDING AIDS

While some would regard computers as AIDS to audio fidelity I don’t think that’s what they are referencing. This statement easily shows one of the reasons they have been working with Brian Eno of late (the other reason being their love of stealing from U2???). He was famous for stating the recording studio is an instrument. Coldplay does manage to always have an honest sound on their records that is not overly Pro Tooled and maintains the feeling of a band playing together while still keeping a pop gloss.

Rule #4
IMAGERY MUST BE CLASSIC. COLOURFUL AND DIFFERENT. COME BACK IN GLORIOUS TECHNICOLOR

Album art is important! DUH! You see here yet again Martin’s obsession with the term “Technicolor” which you can see in their lyrics as well.

Rule #5
MAKE SURE VIDEOS AND PICTURES ARE GREAT BEFORE SETTING RELEASE DATE.             And highly original.

Anyone who has ever been involved with a large scale project knows as release dates loom you start to settle on things that are a bit under par. As a Producer I see bands choosing artwork after the mastering date on a regular basis. If you are rushed on this it can be the life or death of your image. God only knows how it takes 10+ years to come up with this.

Rule #6
ALWAYS KEEP MYSTERY. Not Many Interviews.

Obviously they tried to steal that one from Radiohead. Doesn’t seem like that one has been working out to well of late, seeing as in 2008 you saw them on nearly every magazine cover.

Rule #7
GROOVE AND SWING. RHYTMS AND SOUNDS MUST ALWAYS BE AS ORIGINAL AS POSSIBLE.

Despite all the crap the band gets for being derivative of Buckely, U2, and Radiohead, they have crafted their own sound. We discussed above that one of the things that sets Coldplay apart from these groups is their strong emphasis on rhythmic hooks.

Rule #8
Promo/review copies to be on VINYL. Stops copying problem, sounds and looks better.

Another one they disobey! This was an old theory but now everyone and their mother knows how to rip a record on a USB turntable.

Rule #9
Jacqueline sabriado, ns p c c, face forward

Your guess is as good as mine! Though as long as the rule makes sense to the person who wrote it, it really doesn’t matter.

Rule #10
Think about what you do with charity account. Set up something small but really enabling and constructive. Ref j oliver fifteen

Obviously the charities you support when you make “love making rock” is really important to your “Green Fans”. It also makes for great tax write offs.

Do you guys have any insight? Did I miss anything?

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • Mark Kimmell

    From Wikipedia: Jacqueline “Jacqui” Saburido (b. December 20, 1978 in Caracas, Venezuela) is a burn victim who works tirelessly to raise awareness of the horror of drunk driving.
    Maybe a reference to forgiveness or perseverance, or maybe to their charity in rule 10

  • Anonymous

    was the interview done b4 or after Viva la Vida was released? if it was after then rule # 8 made me think of the unsound accusations they’ve had (eg by joe satriani) for copying riffs n chord progressions. so maybe vinyl has diff legal ramifications than cd? i duno, might be off base here, cos ur explanation sounds correct, but thats what i thought of.

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