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Vocalist Survival Guide in the Music Industry

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Vocalist Survival Guide in the Music Industry- By Caren Jackson

A lot of singers would agree, nothing’s better than performing on stage. Walking up to the mic under a warm spotlight, and letting your vocals soar to a sea of people can be an adrenaline rush even euphoric.  Being able to work every day as a Professional Singer is the pinnacle of any vocalist’s career.  The road to breaking in the music industry can be tricky, and every artist experience is unique.   Some say its who you know, luck and some say it’s your talent that will get you to the other side.  Competition is tough, there are always new artist vying for a chance to break into the music Industry.  For me I find the more I put myself out there, the more I get exposed to the industry and industry players.  There are some ways to get noticed some of them include making a professional demo/ep, live performances, finding management, and networking.

Having a professional  portfolio/ demo made was essential for me to be seen. I prepared four of my strongest songs that would show range, versatility and power. The goal for me when recording was to make the first 30 seconds in my songs count.  Industry heads have so many submissions they don’t have time to listen to every 5 minute song. I decided I wanted to have an acoustic and electric version of my songs. So, I recorded myself singing and accompanied myself with piano.  This is so the recipient can hear my voice without too much over production. That said, I decided that I needed a variety of sounds so I included some electronic tracks. I went to an engineer to master my tracks for a more professional overall sound.

 As a singer, performing solo accompanying myself with piano has always been second nature. Interestingly, I found joining a band (or collective) enhanced my ability to perform, by pushing boundaries in my voice.  Music Gateway and other media music sites are great for finding other like-minded musicians and creatives. Bands are often looking for lead and back-up vocalists to join their group.  With the brassy powerful punch a band can give, it’s easy to produce a more powerful sound.  I found that singing with a band polished up my voice so much, I was ready for anything! Going back to solo performances I felt that I sounded stronger and confident.  So it is not a bad idea if the opportunity presented itself.

When I got my solo act/band together it was time to get out there performing live.  The more we performed the more we got a buzz, which was great for promotion and industry attention. Showing that you’re a solid group with social media attention is key. Industry professionals nowadays want to know that you have a following before their interest is peaked.  Starting out in smaller clubs and bars is ok.  However, often times you won’t be compensated and more importantly will not be scouted, discovered. On the other hand, it’s great to play often, so the band gains confidence playing together. I find it’s better to start scoping out which event(s) where their industry players like A & R reps may look for new talent. Some ways to find out more about these players and where they may scout are; looking in music publication magazines like Variety, or networking at music festivals and conferences.

Finding out where industry players roll is not all that easy. Like a lot of the entertainment business it’s who you know that counts. One person that can broker the industry players and myself/band is the manager.  This step was when I was confident with my demo, had social media following, and a polished press kit. These days managers/agency are thought to handle artist on the six-figure level. Artists like myself found out I could be my own management up to a point. One can be discovered grassroots way such as YouTube or performing live, but is hard and it takes time because of saturation in the industry. A manager can sometimes get one work like background singing, broker a songwriter contract, and a multitude of other work one might not get on their own.

Networking and social networking are key to bridging connections with the music industry.  As stated before, music festivals are a great way of performing for and meeting representatives from the industry and other musicians and bands.  Social media I found, can expose you  to a mass of people and potential fans. Developing a strong online presence like a You Tube page or a Website is also key. One has to keep posting current content often to stay relevant and acquire more subscribers and online fans.

The career of a professional vocalist in the music industry can be a rewarding journey. One must be ready to handle some rejection before having a break through. Surviving in the music industry as a vocalist is a skill and  one must have the tools to navigate through it.  Starting with a high-quality demo/portfolio and press kit is the first step in conveying professionalism and talent. Joining a band or collective, may mould the vocalist into a stronger singer and can aid in the promotion and popularity of the group/soloist.  Finding management is not always necessary, especially at  beginning stages of one’s career. However, when popularity is gained and contracts need to be signed, a manager/attorney is critical to broker some of these agreements.  Learning where industry heads and representatives scout is key, one can be “discovered”, (or at least have a conversation), without having a big team behind them. Networking at music events such as music conferences and social networking are excellent ways to meet these industry players face to face and on the web.  Being a professional vocalist is a gratifying, soul-searching art form. In this fierce landscape of the music industry it’s survival of the fittest, only the striving survive.

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