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Feed Your Head
by Don Reed - source Singer Magazine

Singer MagazineFor budding artists, the sky's the limit.

All your life you've been told that you're a great singer. You sang in the high school chorus, church choir, and now you have three or four karaoke hot spots that you frequent on a regular basis. Everywhere you go, your friends and peers tell you that you ought to move to Nashville and try to make it big. You hear things like "You should record an album," and "Why aren't you singing professionally?"

Well, we already know it's not quite that simple. And the reality is, Nashville is full of starving artists. The music business resembles the NBA (National Basketball Association). There are thousands of high school basketball teams and hundreds of college teams, but there are only twenty-nine pro basketball teams, each with only fifteen to twenty players. That's it. Out of the 50,000 plus individuals playing basketball every year at the high school and college level, less than 500 make it to the big time. That's less than one percent.

You Can Make It
The reality is, landing a big recording contract or number one hit presents a similar scenario. But, this in no way means that pursuing your dream of becoming a professional,successful vocalist is hopeless. In fact, quite the opposite. The key is setting your goals, determining your strengths and then beginning to capitalize on them.

There are so many venues and opportunities for you to exercise your talents. Jobs like demo and back-up singers, radio and TV commercial artists, voice-over talent for ad agencies, and casinos and cruise ships all employ vocalists professionally, and pay fairly well. The important thing to remember is no matter weather you are pursuing a major label recording contract or the lead singer position in a New York musical, there are certain basic criteria that you'll need to know and understand.

Be A Good Sport
Your approach to the executive branches of the music industry must impress decision-makers. In many cases, your first impression could be your last. It is important to follow the industry guidelines for submission of your demo in order for it to be labeled as solicited material. The following guidelines do not insure success, however, they will helpyou impress the people you are trying to reach, thus placing you further up the industryladder.

Consider these traits:
You must have talent. This is a given, and by now you know in your heart if you truly have the talent to be working professionally.
You must have a positive attitude. This industry is full of bumps in the road. You must always keep your chin up.

Be determined. You know the cliche, If at first you don't succeed . . . Very few artists make it without paying their dues. Tenacity earns respect.
You must be able to take rejection. You may have to knock on a thousand doors before anyone will even care to know your name. Know that going into it. And when you're turned down, always thank the executive for the opportunity. Never leave someone with a bad last impression. You never know when you might see them again.

Develop a style of your own. Watch others and borrow certain aspects, but create your own image. Unless you're serious about impersonating Elvis professionally, stop acting like him.

There's No Free Lunch
You must have an airplay quality demo and press kit for presenting yourself to industry executives. They both require money, and almost always out of your pocket. Don’t believe the statement, "if you’re good enough, you don’t have to pay." It is a complete myth that a record company will pay your way. True, once you've signed a deal, things become a little different. However as an unknown, becoming known is up to you. One way or another, you will be responsible for the money it takes to get started. Set up a budget to begin saving money. The less you go into debt to promote yourself, the better off you'll be. The people who make decisions regarding signing new talent put their jobs on the line when they sign and commit resources to an unknown artist. From their perspective, it is much safer to invest in an artist who already has some sort of track record and following. One good example is Country recording artist Chris LeDoux. He sold 250,000 copies of his music from the back of his pickup truck long before any major label was involved. You must be willing to work for yourself if you expect others to help you! There is no substitute for honest, consistent effort on your own behalf.

Tap Into Other Resources
Through the use of the Internet, your audio or video performance can be e-mailed to every branch of the music industry. This type of promotion is very affordable and increases your chance of being seen and heard by decision-makers.

Employ the advice of legal council trained in the music business. Learn the laws pertaining to the music business. Understand copyrite and royalties issues. Especially if you're writing original material, you'll want to know how to protect your work and gain full credit if you ever try to sell it.

Seek employment with companies related to the music business. Many jobs related to the music business will give you a better understanding of the industry and possibly put you in a position to get to know someone who can help you further your career. Jobs like audio or video engineering, working for booking agents and management companies, and working with advertising agencies for radio and television commercials, are just some of the possibilities. Contact the convention bureau nearest you and inquire about a membership in the bureau. This could give you access to names and addresses of the contact persons in charge of hiring entertainment for the corporate functions coming into the area. You may be able to gain some additional exposure by getting to know these people.

Heads Up
Learn how to recognize companies that are only interested in your money, not your career. Know exactly what these companies are going to do for you and get it all in writing. Consult a music attorney before signing anything. It's very easy to spend $3,500 for a poorly produced cassette tape demo and a black and white photo. Ask lots of questions. Ask for referrals. Talk to others who have used their service. Thousands of talented singers and songwriters audition each year for the music and recording Industry. Their goal is to become a recording artist. Not having the proper education about the recording and entertainment industry, many fall prey to companies charging thousands of dollars for useless demos.

I think you get the picture. Education is the key to success in the music industry. Become an expert on every aspect of the field. Your future as a singing professional depends on it.

Consider it an investment into you dreams. It won't always be an easy task, but in the end, whatever the outcome, you can have a real sense of knowing you did your best. And after all, that's all we can ever ask of anyone.

Don Reed is a music consultant.
Contact him at: donreed@affinitymusic.com
Visit his web site at www.yourmusiccareer.com.

(reprinted with the kind permission of Singer Magazine)

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