Photo by Daniel Robert on Unsplash 600×300
Will taking charge of your own career, DIY style, turn you into a well-paid music star overnight?
Probably not. Yet, it is possible. It takes a lot of motivation and sticktoitiveness. Most people don’t have that much, do you?
We’re going to look at two current musical stars. One gained his stardom online before landing a contract. The other traveled the traditional path with a contract. We will also recap what it takes, on a personal level, to achieve stardom.
According to Nielsen’s rating, Ed Sheeran is in the top 10 musicians in 2018. According to Biography.com, Ed started playing the guitar at a very early age. When he was 11, he met Damien Rice backstage at a Rice concert. Damien advised him to begin writing his own music. That night he wrote several songs, one entitled “Typical Average Teen.” At age 14, Sheeran, with a backpack of clothes in one hand and his guitar in the other, headed for London to gig for the summer.
At age 16 he moved to London, he began singing on the local circuit, while recording his music. He began to tour relentlessly, sleeping on fans’ sofas every night after his gigs. His first album, self-titled, was released in 2006 and a second album, Want Some, in 2007. It wasn’t long until Ed was opening for more established acts. In 2009 he performed more than 300+ live shows while recording his third album, You Need Me.
In 2010 Sheeran’s career took a big leap online. He knew how to use online media to his advantage by posting videos of his performances. For example, a rapper saw his videos and asked Sheeran to go on tour with him as his opening act, resulting in an even bigger online fanbase. Ed also produced 3 more albums in 2010.
Taylor Swift, one of the worlds leading contemporary recording artists, is also in the top 10 musicians in 2018. At age nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions. She also traveled regularly to New York City for vocal and acting lessons. At age 11, Swift and her mother went to Nashville and pitched cover songs to music producers but was rejected.
When Taylor was 12 she learned to play the guitar and began writing her own songs. At age 14, she moved to Nashville to pursue a music career. In Nashville, she began working with Music Row songwriters. She began meeting with one, Liz Rose, on a regular basis. Rose commented the sessions were “some of the easiest I’ve ever done. Basically, I was just her editor. She’d write about what happened in school that day. She had such a clear vision of what she was trying to say. And she’d come in with the most incredible hooks”. Taylor was the youngest ever to sign with Sony/ATV Music publishing house. Her self-titled debut album was released in 2006.
Different Paths To The Same End – Music Star
Let’s do a little recap. In comparison, both artists started working on their careers at about the same age. They both have arrived as well-paid superstars.
Taylor Swift had the backing of professional lessons and participating in musicals from a very early age. Her family moved to Nashville to give her the opportunities provided in music city.
Ed Sheeran, with a backpack thrown over one shoulder and his guitar case in hand, set out for London to dip his toe in the water to see if he could get any interest in his music. At age 16 he was gigging in London on almost a nightly basis, sleeping on fan’s sofas.
Taylor got the attention of the songwriters on Music Row, which, I’m sure, gave her a substantial leg-up in the music business.
Sheeran got his biggest break in his music career by putting videos of his performances online and opening for more established musicians.
Today in the Music Industry
The Music Industry in 2018 has changed substantially. There are hundreds of musicians in Nashville and LA gigging on a nightly basis trying to get signed as the next big star in the making. The Music Industry is being very picky. The recording company puts a lot of money upfront to launch a musician into stardom. If you listen to American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice you’ll hear many stories about a musician getting a recording contract, but for one reason or another, it never comes to fruition.
I met a musician who plays on a regular basis in restaurants and bars around Knoxville, TN. He’s really good. He had a recording contract in Nashville years ago. But, before his album was finished his agent died, which ended the contract. Now years later, he’s still gigging on a weekly basis to make a little extra cash.
Noah Guthrie, who competed on Americas Got Talent in 2018, performed in the television cast of Glee, until the show closed in 2015. Now Guthrie is starting over. But, with 400k+ fans from America’s Got Talent, Guthrie is taking his music online. Check out his Facebook page.
Making it as a Musician Today
Above I mentioned that to succeed as a musician in today’s world you must have Motivation and Sticktoitiveness.
Motivation: the state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.
Both Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift had the motivation to succeed in the music industry. Their minds were set at an early age to succeed as a singer/songwriter. In all I’ve read about both artists, their minds never wavered about what they wanted in life. Their goals were firmly set. I didn’t read anything about a time when either of them decided to forget music and do something different.
Sticktoitiveness: meaning dogged perseverance, tenacity, holding fast.
Both Sheeran and Swift held fast to their goals, of being a musician. The gentleman in Knoxville who still plays on a nightly or weekly basis and Noah Guthrie are still holding fast.
For many musicians, though, life has gotten in the way and the music has fallen by the wayside, but the desire never goes away.
Others may feel they aren’t good enough so why try.
Some musicians feel they’re too old and the music becomes just a hobby or something they do in their community or church.
It’s not too late
Consequently, the gentleman mentioned above is older and still gigs, but hasn’t become a star. For the older musicians, remember, the largest population is the Baby Boomers who still like their music.
Here are a few basic steps that we will be expounding on in later posts.
1. Hone your craft. May your music as good as you can possibly make it – practice.
2. Record your songs. If you perform video your performances.
3. Get a website and logins on all social media platforms. If you don’t know how to create your own website, get help.
4. Do like Ed Sheeran did, put your videos online. Use Social Media Marketing to tell others about your music.
Are you motivated? Do you want to get your music heard? Do you still have the sticktoitiveness to make it happen? Then let’s do it!!!
by Dena Warfield
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash
You will find that how to start a music career today is different. It can still be done, but it does require a lot of work and thinking outside the box.
Ben, a better than an average musician, singer-songwriter, had always dreamed of having a music career, performing on stage for thousands of people. Maybe we should say, he always dreamed of being a star, a big-time entertainer. He was doing everything and getting no place with his music career.
Like many other musicians, Ben didn’t handle rejection well. Every time he’d get close enough to see that he might have a chance at a music career, his fear and sense of rejection would surface causing him to back down.
After many years of putting his songs on the shelf, Ben decided to take a risk and pitch his songs to some music execs. Living in Southern California provided the opportunity to personally go to Pitch Sessions in Los Angeles. Every week for months, he’d spend an hour or two on the busy freeway to get to the weekly pitch. Every week it went the same.
Ben was positive he would have a record deal soon. He just knew he was on his way to stardom.
Image by Markus Krebs from Pixabay
In days past, there were many like Ben. Songwriters and musicians who thought if they could just get their music before the right person they could launch their successful music careers.
The music moguls would post a time and place where singer/songwriters and musicians could pitch their music.
The musician would walk and hand their precious CD to the music mogul’s assistant who would play the CD for the whole room. The music exec would write out a simple critique, present it to everyone in the room, then hand it and the CD back.
Occasionally, a song would be taken back with the music exec to be reviewed later. Rarely, would you be told ahead of time what the music exec was looking for.
This process would go on week after week and month after month.
Ben and most others never really got a chance. Their music was not picked up or if it was, it was never used.
That Was Then – This Is Now
Photo by Tallie Robinson on Unsplash
As you well know, music is around us all the time. Every commercial on television or radio is accompanied by music.
I noticed the other day when I pulled up to Walmart that music was playing outside in the parking lot for customers coming and going. Why?
Music sets a person’s mood. Think about it. Music can make a person excited. It can trigger someone to be more aggressive or agitated. Music can also be calming, helping a person relax and de-stress after a hard day. Music allows us to feel and experience all emotions.
In the case of music outside Walmart, they were playing lively, fun retro music that got the customers prepared to have a fun shopping experience.
Music is mentally stimulating. For older adults, it can stimulate favorite memories of when they were teenagers or young adults. When my husband, Larry Warfield, hears certain songs from the past he begins singing them. Believe it or not, I think he knows all the words to all the songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It’s amazing. I recognize the melodies and some of the words. He can actually sing them.
The melodies, harmonies, color of the sounds, the activity of the song help us to get lost in the music.
The Pitch Today
With all the music around us, you would think that it would be easier to get your songs published or used in some way.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. You still have to pitch your music to the powers that be. In days passed, you would take one song in to have it reviewed. Danny Berrios, Creative Manager, A&R at Downtown Music Publishing Group stated, “I think a good number of songs for a writer to play in a meeting would be three to five. As far as when I pitch—I try to stick to around five, give or take a couple.”
It also seems like you don’t pitch directly to a music mogul exec, but to an A&R rep, who then pitches your music to the music companies. Taxi (Taxi.com) is an example of an A&R music placement service company that pitches your music for you.
A&R Services Help You Start A Music Career
Taxi, founded in 1992 by Michael Laskow, specializes in soliciting music for recording artists and companies needing music for commercials, movies, television, or anyone else needing music. They then become the middleman. Yes, there is a $300 fee (unless it’s on sale like it is now) to even pitch your music to Taxi.
The staff at Taxi, then review the submission to see if it is suitable for the requests made by the companies. You, as the artist, always receive a constructive review back from Taxi.
If Taxi submits your song to a person or company and they chose to use your song, the company or artist will get in touch with you directly.
Taxi publishes a list of several hundred song placement opportunities every year. If you look at Taxi’s listings you will notice that they do not reveal who the artist or company. Some people try to bypass Taxi and go directly to artists or companies needing music, but it is much harder today because of all the people writing music.
You can bypass an A&R middleman by sending your CD to other companies, but you will need to follow their guidelines if you want your music heard. Companies have been known to put submissions into the circular file (the trash) if guidelines are not followed.
Pitching To Publishers
There are several websites that give you information about submitting songs to music moguls. For example, https://www.texascountrymusicchart.com/music-submission has a form to be filled out to be submitted with your song submission. Here’s a brief list:
- Make sure your song fits closely with what the artist or company is looking for.
- It must sound professional; otherwise, it probably will get the circular file.
- Keep your submissions to 1 or 2 songs. Do not send in 20 songs. They won’t listen.
- Create a professional-looking CD label – NO handwritten labels.
- If you’ve never had a song picked up your chances are slim, so go for a less known artist.
- Never pitch unsolicited music to artists or publishers.
- Don’t continuously harass the publisher or artist. Mail or drop-off the CD. If you have followed the guidelines they will let you know. Often they ask for an addressed return envelope. Don’t email or call them. If they are interested they will get in touch with you.
- No name dropping.
- No complaining or whining to those you are pitching to.
- A MUST – make sure your song is the best it can be.
Starting A Music Career Has Changed
I just picked up a book from Amazon entitled, “Stop Selling Music: Career Changing Lessons For Musicians,” by Damian Keyes, DK Publishing.
Damian Keyes, a Musician, Educator, and award-winning Entrepreneur has always been on the cutting edge in the music industry. People who have worked with Damian state that he is a solid, straight-talking, down-to-earth guy with a wealth of information about the music industry. He is willing to pass his wealth of information along to the struggling musician to help them succeed.
Damian states that back in the day it was possible to actually make a living selling physical copies of your music. You would gig and tour and sell CDs. It was possible then. In those days if people liked what they heard they would buy your CD. They may not ever play it, putting it away in a safe place as a memento of an awesome experience or evening out.
Everything Is Different Now
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Wow!!! How things ever changed, especially with Covid raking havoc world-wide.
Remember when all this started back in March 2020. Restaurants and bars were shut down. Concerts were canceled. Tours were canceled. Music shut down.
I remember, one of the first scenes on the nightly news was musicians playing from their balconies or in their driveways.
Damian states the change began back before Covid in 1999 when Napster allowed people to illegally download music. Then Spotify and Apple took music listening to the digital realm. Buying physical CDs soon became passé.
It seems that people who buy CDs or vinyl records are collectors.
Today, people think that spending money on music is paying $10 per month for streaming on Spotify or another streaming service. If they don’t mind the ads, they get their music for free.
So where does that leave the current day musician?
Remember!!! Music is all around us, television, movies, radio (yes, we still have the radio), streaming stations. Musicians just have to think about things differently. They still have to develop a fan-base. The restaurants and bars are starting to open back up, but things are still different. Be creative. Some musicians like to play on the streets or in malls. Gigging, playing in restaurants, is still trying to “sell your music.” Start a music career by doing something different. Think outside the box.
Where People Hang Out
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay SM
You have to go where the people hang out – Social Media. Is it easy? No, nothing is easy. But it’s worth doing. It’s worth learning how to do it well.
Here are some options:
- If you are computer savvy, figure how to get your music out in front of people on social media. Create an online fan-base.
- Get Damian Keyes’ book or check out his online classes – people are raving about it.
- If you have the money, hire someone to set up and maintain your social media.
- Go where the fans are, online.
This is what I am doing. I write about music. I created a website for my husband’s music. I’m trying to find creative ways to put his music out in front of potential fans. Is it easy? Heck, no. But at the same time, it’s fun. It’s challenging. I learn something new every day.
Here’s a statement from Damian Keyes’ Music Business website:
“ARE YOU NOT GETTING YOUR MUSIC HEARD?
Is this a familiar scenario?
You’ve slaved over getting your music JUST right and you’re excited to get it out into the world. You set a release date, put a few posts up on socials. Then release day comes and your music gets some traction and friends and family are loving it…
…But after a couple of days, it’s fallen to the music graveyard. No Spotify playlists, no one replaying… Nothing. And now you’re panicking that you’ve just spent a lot of money on something that hasn’t worked.
There’s got to be a way to actually get your music to the next level right?
It’s not an easy ride in 2020 being a musician. As well as having to be amazing at the actual music, you also need to become an entrepreneur to really succeed.” Damian Keyes https://www.dk-mba.com/
As I went through Damian Keyes’ websites and other information it looked like it would be really expensive. But after much digging, I discovered it’s not expensive to take the courses on how to maneuver your way through the social media maze to get your music heard, create a fan-base, and make a living from your music.
The classes and mentoring programs are very reasonable.
Just so you know, I am not an affiliate for Damian Keyes. As I began reading the book and browsing through the jungle of material online I became more impressed with what he had to offer and, seemingly, for a reasonable price. Don’t hold me to the price comment, but it appears to be reasonable.
If any of you check it out let me know what you find.
If you are like Ben still trying to get your music heard the old fashioned way, think again.
Learn how to get your music heard ONLINE.
Don’t give up!!!
Find out how to do MUSIC in 2020!!
Join my email list to stay in touch and get your FREE MP3.
Digital Audio WorkstationWhat are DAWs? And what is the Best DAW for beginners?
I got that strange look from my wife when she read the title. DAWs are Digital Audio Workstations (DAW). DAWs range from the massive, very expensive recording equipment to the FREE and simple that offer the basic recording and editing capabilities of multiple tracks. My first DAWs was Audacity, which I still use. In this post, I’ll cover some of the equipment used in the Best DAW For Beginners and some of the equipment I used in the beginning.
My Musical Beginning
I have been a singer-songwriter since the ’60s and have had various experiences with multi-track recording. My first attempt was a cover of the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man”.
Impressed with the elegant simplicity and power of the vocal harmonies and the eloquence of the lyrics, I recorded my own tribute version in the bathroom of my freshman dorm room at Mackinac College on Mackinac Island, Michigan in the fall of 1966. The acoustics were perfect.
I played a Sunburst Gibson Acoustic Guitar my mother had bought me new in 1963 when she saw I was finally serious about learning to play a musical instrument. I had thoroughly calloused my fingers learning on my first guitar, a gray and black acoustic Silvertone with high strings, and a split almost all the way around the bottom of the shell and no case or strap. But I could strum out a recognizable version of almost any song I heard that had less than seven or eight different chords.
We lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan, so Gibson was the guitar of choice. My first wife smashed it in the driveway one day while I was at work in the late ’70s. She told me she felt I loved it more than her. She was probably right. It was that day I realized the fact that we were not destined for a long future together.
Best DAW for Beginners
My version of “Nowhere Man” was recorded on an AMPEX (Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording) suitcase stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder with a small hand-held black plastic microphone. I sang the melody to the rhythm guitar, then bounced the first harmony, then the second and lead guitar using the sound-on-sound feature. I thought it sounded great and I was really proud of it, but I was too shy to play it for anyone, except maybe my friend, Tom Houghton, our resident photographer geek. We were geeks way before being geeks was cool. Tom, who is now a famous cinematographer for the TV show Elementary and others.
My later adventures included recording my first composition… “I’ll keep trusting you, Lord”… In my cousin, David (Keys) Johnson’s 16-track studio in Austin, Texas. My baby sister, Anita, sang harmony. She couldn’t carry a tune when we were little but grew up to sing like Phoebe Snow… (Knocked me out!)
The Early DAWs for Beginners
When I started trying to sound sketch demos of my songs, I set up a home recording studio with a 4-track TASCAM PortoStudio Cassette Recorder. I still like to listen to those recordings so I have managed to keep a cassette deck that still plays, barely. I captured many original songs and a few cherished covers. In the ensuing years, I upgraded to an 8-track Tascam recorder, (at that time cassette recorder) then a Roland VS-880 hardware digital recording workstation before I temporarily burned out my enthusiasm for songwriting and recording and just focused on building a sales and marketing career.
My first personal experience with Digital Audio Workstations – recording software was when, after not playing music for about fifteen years, I got the bug again, when I recorded a couple of cover CDs as rehearsal demos for a talent contest our marketing company sponsored as a team-building exercise. I asked my new friend, who was a Guitarist and Bass Singer at Country Tonite in Pigeon Forge to help me record a demo of a song I had written named, “Hiding In Plain Sight”, which you can now get on iTunes.
He used ProTools and it was fascinating to watch him teaching the soundboard operator, how to use it. In my attempt to remix the raw demo at home, I downloaded a free version of AUDACITY, a Digital Audio Workstation ProTools clone. With a considerable learning curve, I found I could make the edits and additions I wanted, along with the mixed demo. My friend had graciously provided me with all the individual tracks of WAV files on a CD. Including the Bass and Rhythm guitar tracks, a stereo drum track, the keyboard tracks, the vocal lead and harmony tracks, and a lead guitar track he, himself, had played. The ProTools featured here is about $600, but they have several other versions as low as $100.
Digital Audio Workstations
After learning to create or download drum tracks to build my demos in my FREE DAW, Audacity, I began to increase my songwriting output. This hit a snag when I tried to use my AT3035 Cardioid Condenser microphone I got for my Roland VS880 on my laptop computer, so now I use an MXL Mics 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone. I needed a USB Sound Card Interface. I decided on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, another DAW, but not FREE, largely because it came with a free trial version of ABLETON Live 9, which has been upgraded to ABLETON LIVE 10. WOW… WHAT A BEAST – that DAW!!!… I mean the ABLETON LIVE 10.
Check out this Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Suite
I have barely scratched the surface of what it can do… Non-Destructive editing (time-stretch a cut clip to include what you accidentally cut off)… tuning individual notes by pitch-shifting by semitones or cents… warping wave file speeds without changing pitch… auto-syncing wave files of different speeds… Digital effect manipulation. Just to mention some of the capabilities.
AND in addition to the “normal” ARRANGEMENT mode that looks like ProTools with horizontal time-scale synced wave or digital signals stacked like tracks of long recording tape that scrolls by on the screen… there is a SESSIONS mode of the same tracks arranged like a soundboard… tracks vertical and side by side. They don’t scroll while they play. They just sit there with gauges and controls and switches for you to monitor, adjust, mix, start or stop as they play or loop as a recording or live performance… Phenomenal!!!
Not to even mention the mind-blowing level of access to digital sources of sounds and controls…
Sometimes, I have to struggle to shut it down to go to sleep…
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software has revolutionized the music production and recording process. It has made the recording available to the home studio owners. No matter what type of recording you are doing there is a digital audio workstation perfectly suited to your requirements. There are many different types of recording software to choose from for Mac-, PC- and Linux and in any price range and functionality.
by Larry S. Warfield, LarrySWarfieldMusic.com