Even the most talented of singers must pay dues to get discovered. Paying dues means a singer must put himself out there day after day, playing live gigs and having a strong online presence. Record companies and agents will not consider an act that doesn't already have fans. The days of the talent scout searching for unknown talent in uncrowded, smoky dive bars is long gone, if it ever existed in the first place. Bob Dylan may have been discovered in the subterranean clubs of Greenwich Village in New York City, but it's only because he had the ambition and the initiative to put himself in the middle of the burgeoning folk movement of the early 1960s. Though Dylan may be more known as a great songwriter than a great singer, his first album had only one song written by him. He was originally discovered and signed to a major record label as a singer of folk songs. He did this by paying his dues at amateur nights, open mics and hootenannys for little to no money.
Music is a business and, like all job searches, networking is involved. This means going to clubs to see other singers' shows and meeting the people who can help forward a singer's career. Talent alone doesn't make a career. In order for a singer to be discovered, she must meet the people who can help her achieve this goal. Great singers who are shy rarely get discovered. Mediocre singers with lots of friends in the business stand a greater chance of discovery than a more talented wallflower.
Acting the Part to Get the Part
If a singer wants to be a star, she must think and act like a star. It's like running for office. Singing is a passion, but in order to be discovered a singer has to walk the walk and talk the talk, as well as sing the song. Like a politician, the successful singer must have dynamic stage presence and act the part of a star before she is a star. Sometimes this comes naturally and sometimes it is learned, but without charm and charisma to match the talent, a singer's chances of being discovered are slim.
A talented singer who is in the right place at the right time can strike gold. The trick is creating the opportunity to be lucky, or, as the saying goes, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." A singer could get her lucky break from an amateur talent show audition or an open mic night at a local coffeehouse. As long as a singer keeps putting himself out there, the opportunities for that lucky break increase. Singer Lisa Loeb was discovered by her neighbor, who just happened to be a famous movie star who lived next door and heard her singing all the time. Rocker David Cook was teased by his friends to try out for "American Idol" and did it as a lark, only to end up with a successful music career.
Singers are discovered all the time online. From social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to YouTube video clips, an online presence is a must for a singer to be discovered. Mega-platinum selling band Journey discovered an anonymous new lead singer from a clip posted on YouTube. Music websites Ourstage.com and Garageband.com allow ordinary people to pick who the stars of tomorrow will be by an anonymous user rating and judging system. Web 2.0 has broken down the traditional barriers and bypassed the gatekeepers of the old-school music industry. A singer can now be discovered without a manager or a publicist, thanks to the internet.
- photo by Blake Guthrie