Let’s be honest; London is overflowing with talent. Every busker on the Tube is good enough to win BGT. So what’s going to set you apart from the fellow covering ‘MacArthur Park’ outside of Charing Cross? Nothing but your own grit and ingenuity, pal.
To set yourself apart from the thousands of other musicians in the city, you need to figure out how to get your music into the hands of the people who can help you. These people, the fans, who purchase your music and keep you in business, they’re also the agents, the record label executives, and the mentors who can turn you from a talented performer into a true star.
Think of Adele; she would have remained an unknown talent until Nick Huggett of the record label XL Recordings spotted her tracks on MySpace and introduced her to manager Jonathan Dickins, who got her a first album deal and moulded her into the artist we know today.
Of course, you can’t sit around waiting for a famous music producer to stumble across your MySpace page or YouTube channel. That kind of opportunity happens to one in a million artists. Yes, Adele got plucked from MySpace and Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube, but you’re going to want to be a bit more proactive. This may require seeding your music onto other distribution sites. TuneCore, for example, puts your music on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, xBox music, Google Play, and other services. So start with the basics.
Practice every day, develop your act, and begin performing in the local pub circuit. Get a few good videos of your performances and post them to YouTube, just in case Justin Bieber’s manager is looking for a new star. Set up a website, so people can learn more about you and know which pub you’ll be playing on Thursdays. Then, start thinking about the next step: recording a demo and distributing music.
Recording a Demo:
First, the demo: it is possible to pay a recording studio to make your demo for you, but these days you probably have the same digital audio workstation built right into your laptop. Learn how to use a program like GarageBand or ProTools, invest in a few quality microphones such as the Shure SM57, and start setting down some tracks. If you want to send your demo out for professional mixing and mastering, that’s a good way to get that extra little bit of sparkle; otherwise, try to record as much of your demo as you can yourself, and let your talent shine through.
About that talent:
Make sure you choose material that showcases your strengths and makes you sound great. Don’t include that tricky piece where you’re a bit unclear on the notes. If you are a singer-songwriter, include some covers along with your original material; that way, reviewers have an opportunity to evaluate your voice and your songwriting separately. If you’re a band that plays original music, do at least one cover together for the same reason. Often, it takes years for people to develop their songwriting chops; performing a cover shows off your musical talent even if your songwriting skills are still in their nascent stage. Make sure you license the cover appropriately, so you can legally include it in your demo.
How to distribute your music:
Once you have your demo, upload it to an online music distribution service. That gives new fans numerous opportunities to find you online and start sharing your music. Then, you have to start getting your music into the hands of agents and record labels. Often, you need to get the agent first, as most record labels do not accept ‘unsolicited’ demos; instead, they work with agents directly to find the best new material. So create an electronic press kit, including your new demo and any statistics about how many fans have bought your music, and start sending it to agents. This process may take a while, but luckily there’s still something you can do in the meanwhile: practice, perform, and build your skills. This is what separates the professional from the amateur, and what will turn you into the full-time musician you hope to become. Some performers get agents and become huge stars. Others never sign an agent but make a living distributing and selling music online. Either way, you don’t know what will happen to you until you decide to do the work and distribute your music – and the rest is a mixture of talent and luck.
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