Today X Factor auditions are taking place in Belfast [Ireland]. Every year around this time people book in for singing lessons who haven’t had a lesson in years wanting me to tell them whether or not they’re good enough to audition… if you aren’t sure, you probably shouldn’t go!
X Factor audiences are hooked on the emotional moments when contestants don’t get through the audition or are asking for our votes saying, ‘this is my only chance of living my dream.’ No it isn’t, not by a long shot! Making a living from music, and a good one, may be a ‘dream’ but it also involves a lot of hard work. If you’re willing to put in that hard work, let me point you in an alternative direction to the TV talent instant success model (which is about making successful TV rather than successful music careers).
Ok, the first point on your journey (we all love the word ‘journey’ these days!) is music education. Actually learn your craft. Study voice, study instruments, study songwriting, study music history, study the music industry. And once you’re finished your studies, keep studying. In order to work in any field, you want to have a developed and diverse skillset in that field. I studied for a Master of Music in Songwriting at Bath Spa University and went from playing on my local scene to being recognized by the Nashville Songwriters Association International as ‘one to watch’ and making my living from music. Without having studied this would not have happened. If you are not at a point where you can undertake a formal course, organizations like Generator NI provide great training for free. There are also many dedicated, professional music educators working privately. Find an artist you really like in your local area and ask them who their teacher was, or is.
Next step, get out there and gig. Even if you sometimes play to a room of 3 you are refining your skills and seeing which of your songs and performance approaches work best. You’ll also be interacting with other artists, promoters, eventually press members. The X Factor may make it look like you can just sing in your living room then suddenly be ready to sign but you can’t get good at something you don’t do regularly. Don’t look down on performing in places like retirement homes and children’s functions. Provide a service for your community and your community will thank you for it by supporting your music. I also have a strong belief in the benefits of busking. If you can make a busy shopper stop to throw you 20p, you’ve got the ability to grab attention. Busking teaches you how to work a crowd. Before you aim to play the 02, aim to make at least 10 people stop for you on your local high street.
As in any industry, one of the important steps to success is networking. I highly recommend these organizations who provide workshops, gigging and networking opportunities.
When you’ve got a product that ready to pitch to the industry, there are a few great organizations who will help you do this. Before you do, though, seek professional advice about whether or not you are at that point. Getting regular professional feedback is the only way to become a commercially viable writer/artist. You can ask for feedback from services such as NSAI or ask a successful promoter, producer or music educator. I am happy to be sent songs/videos for evaluation. Just use the little contact box below.
Now, those organizations. To name 2 that I really like:
There are services out there where you can pay to pitch. Opinions differ on these services but I feel that if the only criteria for having your tracks listened to is that you can afford to pay, there’s no quality standard being enforced. [See COMBO’s stand on this under “Scams & Buyers Beware on our website.] On the other hand I know of someone who got a track in the OC and his writing career really took off by using these services. So if you find an opportunity and you think you’ll regret not going for it, go for it.
If you’ve got any comments or questions about anything in this article, you can post them below or use the box to send me a private message. I’d love to hear from you. All the very best with starting to live the dream!
Eve Williams | Songwriter/Vocalist/Music Educator