How to Get Noticed as a Singer
By Brett Manning
The social media posts read:
“I’m releasing my new EP.”
“I’m releasing my single. Pre-save or pre-purchase for download now.”
“Please come and see me live at Country Community Coffee Shop.”
But the problem is…. you’re just another brick in the wall. Y’all remember that Pink Floyd song? It’s not necessarily about getting noticed as a singer songwriter, solo artist, vocalist or musician. Even the best singers in the industry know that it takes WAY more than talent.
Most song releases are just wishful thinking, hoping to ‘get noticed’ or ‘get discovered’ by a flooded music industry that has no reason to notice you.
If you have no plan in place, no fan base and no recognizable face…. you are ‘gulp’ invisible!
There’s a “rule of thumb” I created years ago, while judging on a TV show (try not to laugh at the crazy hair….they styled me up on that show) called “Can You Duet”. I warned some artists that had gone on to the next round that ………
“Either You’re Distinct or Extinct”
Is your singing voice strained, shaky, or just unreliable?
But if you’re still wondering how to get noticed as a singer, realize that it’s NOT just one thing. I’ll explain these challenges of distinction or being different in this blog.
I’ll also share success stories from various artists at different levels who’ve not waited on anyone to ‘give them a shot’ in the music industry. I’ll share their steps and strategies. Also, stories of those who supposedly lucked out and weren’t even trying to make it. But first, let’s talk about….
Building Your Brand
For you to have a brand, you have to have one particular characteristic. This is a description of singers that record labels, music industry consultants, managers and music attorneys always demand. It’s this…….
If you’ve trained your vocals, exhausted all the possible knowledge from your vocal coach or vocal coaches, mastered your vocal exercises, found a distinct style that makes you stand out and finally, you possess what OTHERS (not your friends and families…sorry….strangers) see as undeniable talent, then you are ready to build your brand!!!!
As I’ve mentioned in my more extensive blog titled “How to Start a Singing Career,” I go into depth about image and fitness. But in this blog, I think it’s important to talk about getting noticed by record labels and other significant music industry people, by being distinct.
Here are several things to consider:
The Fitness Factor
Most artists have personal trainers that they meet up with once or twice a week. But if you’re solid in this area—pun definitely intended—then you’ll save a few bucks. But a trainer can help challenge you to look and feel your best.
The fitness factor doesn’t merely help you attract an audience. That’s just the superficial exterior which many artists could care less about and have managed WITHOUT having bodies that could grace the cover of Fitness magazine. But…. nothing wrong with being in fantastic physical fitness. EVERYTHING and ANYTHING in your power to affect should be considered.
The more important part of fitness is your overall health, diet, energy levels for the stage and keeping your immune system up so you don’t have to cancel shows.
You Got Style
Prince, Taylor Swift, Steven Tyler, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, Lana Del Rey and Elvis!
What did they all have in common? Swag for days. Instantly recognizable. Distinct! But a few things they had in common was how they dressed. None of them were copycats of any other artists. They took GREAT fashion risks. Many of them had professional stylists (I’ve had several for various events throughout the years) who were paid a lot to separate the ‘Brick in the Wall” from all the other plain bricks.
A simple ‘image search’ of Prince and you’ll see a master of risk. His hair and dress changed so drastically from each album to the next, that you were always thinking “What crazy style is he gonna come up with next?”
He had the attention of the music industry from the beginning. The fans saw him as almost odd at times, but he also was a musical genius with VERY FEW rivals. So, style was a level of claiming his authority.
it’s all about the song baby
It’s often been said that Celine Dion could sing the phone book and slay her audience. That’s a bonus reserved for those whose vocal quality possesses a shimmer quality that moves you from the very first note.
But….. for the rest of us who aren’t as gifted, we need a song that is worthy of our voice and a voice that is worthy of the song.
A home run song—with a few exceptions—can be described as a song that captures your attention when ONLY hearing the lyrics or ONLY hearing the melody (and possibly the produced track or at least the chords). If you happen to have both of these, then that is a home run!
Hit songs are rare, but many great songs are still being written and record labels will help you find these songs (particularly if you’re not a songwriter or haven’t written a great song….yet) but this doesn’t mean you should sing dumb, average or boring songs, trusting that they’ll hear your voice and fall in love with your tone!
Or… Is It All About The Production?
I remember writing a song with Keith Urban after our vocal lesson. He was feeling inspired and so was I. During our writing, I’d made a comment about a song being great…only if… it can be sung a cappella and still be considered great.
He quickly corrected me with 2 words: Bohemian Rhapsody. My mind instantly corrected course and I began to consider all the songs, artists, bands whose production made them great!
Bands like STYX, Britney Spears, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, Eagles, U2 and classical music that utilizes multiple instruments to define the epic nature of a particular piece of music.
Hiring the right music producer can often be THE biggest reason a viable artist will find success. You can contact us at our studio for a recommendation. If we don’t have the right person for you, we know a few people who know virtually EVERY important producer that can be brought on board to give you a fighting chance.
Social Media Accounts Filled To The Brink
This is the one thing every artist needs to grasp early on. Especially if you plan on being an independent artist. Your Youtube channel, Facebook, Instagram and possibly Twitter need to be rocking.
Remember this–only a small portion of followers will be fans. So, getting fans who truly “like you” or even love you is often dependent upon having a large number of followers.
To get your music noticed online, you have to coordinate all your social media accounts to feature upcoming music in a way that is intriguing. You have to develop strategy and my dear friends: Leah McHenry and Rick Barker are two of the best in the industry to help independent artists* get noticed.
Important realization is to understand that getting your music heard is FAR more important than getting your music released. Better to hold on to your songs until your brand is cooking, then release your own music with confidence!
*Every artist is independent up until the time that a record label signs them. Marketing your music online doesn’t require a record label. It requires basic knowledge of the music industry!
What Is ‘Noise To Signal Ratio’ And How Have Countless Artists Used This?
Honestly, most artists have never heard the principle of ‘noise to signal’ but each recording artist I know has utilized this principle to build a lasting music career.
Whether you’re posting homemade videos, a new music project or one demo song, you need to know this principle. What is it??
‘Noise to Signal’ in marketing (not in science…though that’s interesting to know about) refers to rising above the noise with your signal. Thinking differently will get you noticed. Sounding differently will get you heard. Saying shocking things will get you repeated. All of these have positive and negative connotations.
But everything you do and say matters if you’re not going to just be noise. Like a noisy coffee shop, a whining, crying or screaming toddler will be heard above the noise. Be the positive signal to rise above.
Your signal includes:
- Your nutty, pretty, quirky, silly, sage-like, shocking image. This means your hairstyle, make-up or lack of make-up, clothing (Michael Jackson and Prince were the biggest chameleons in this area), props, color of your guitar (think Taylor Swift and Prince), the car you drive, your name or band logo, color of your records, artwork and music and/or lyric videos. Post videos of your practice sessions with your band during special moments. And finally, social media artwork can draw someone in faster than your music, because they haven’t HEARD you yet. It’s all surfers have.
- The written word! This one is huge. Industry insiders know that the pen is mightier than the sword. This is why they carefully word every press pack or press release when promoting their artists. Words that don’t ‘rise above the noise’ are wasted words. This is also why so many music industry rising stars are often the ‘unseen’ writers crafting clever headlines. The effective publicist showcasing upcoming artists must appeal to individual user’s music taste using images and words!
- Your sound or music production depends on originality. A producer may only have hand claps or a kick drum and selective harmonies with a single guitar chord sparingly throughout the verses (think Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Princes “Kiss”). The singer should do vocal exercises regularly to stay consistent and to be consistent with the musical project that rises above the noise. This may include super high notes, falsetto flips, staccato phrasing, punchy articulation, slurred words or the quirks of the most impersonable artists. Amazing technique is great, but not enough! Distinction is crucial!
You wanna get noticed, you need to be noticeable. Learn from your predecessors and significant industry people who’ve spread awareness of their artist and know how to build personal relationships with record labels and most importantly… a dedicated fan base online!
*Don’t forget to build a personal web site that is congruent or basically similar to your social media site or sites.
Networking and Promotion
The age of talent scouts coming out to see a random artist is almost past us. For example, Justin Bieber had such a huge audience on the web. With the help of his father he would upload music online and get noticed as a singer from a young age.
Here’s some simple helpful tips to get your music noticed by a record label or by a wide audience randomly surfing for someone so compelling that paying attention to them is NOT a chore. It’s an intrigue.
Get Noticed on the Local Scene
Once you’ve trained your voice—I mean really challenged yourself—you’re ready to sing out. Start humble by getting visibility locally. In every community, people love music and crave the live experience. If you have stage fright, learning breath control will help keep your voice from shaking, quivering or tensing up live.
- Live permanence is NOT a must to get noticed as a singer. But MOST singers who make a good living will perform live and their fans will connect deeper with them as a result.
- Perform at local events: Look for opportunities to perform at local concerts, festivals, or other events. This can help you build your reputation as a performer and connect with other musicians and industry professionals.
- Also, small local radio stations love their local artists. They are a great way to get noticed!
- Smaller community magazines are easier to contact and form personal relationships with their writers. This is a simple way to rapidly gain local support. But first….build your skills! Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by putting yourself in the public too soon.
In the traditional sense, we used to have to first record an expensive demo CD. (This is still useful if you’re ready to produce a serious project).
But now…..we’ve never had it so easy to get noticed as a singer songwriter, or a just covering a hit song by your favorite artist and posting it in the comfort of your own home!
HOWEVER…. it’s also NEVER been so competitive. Getting your music noticed on YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook and Instagram AND hacking the algorithm on the search engines is an ever changing industry.
So here’s a few important starter hacks:
- Display pictures- Until someone takes the time to click on your link and listen, they have NO idea who you are and if you’re worth listening to. Your pics MUST show you in the best, or at least, most interesting light. This is usually independent artist’s LAST concern when it should be viewed as crucial. The same display pictures should be shared to all platforms. Image is everything.
- Post your best music- The music industry has interns and even paid positions for people who scour the internet looking for singers with great “socials” (strong social media presence). If the music, image, voice and interaction is strong, record labels will often end up in a bidding war for an singer whose music is connecting with fans.
- Collaborate with other artists- Meeting people online is a lot of fun because you can find artists all over the world willing to do collaborations/duets/or just background vocals on a fun song project. Smule is an app that featured me as a guest vocal coach for their 100’s of 1000’s of artists. It is an inexpensive, extremely user-friendly way to collaborate and you don’t even need permission. And if you are good, it’s easy to share these to other platforms. Also, you get to share your fans with your collaboration partner and they will be sharing their fans with you. This is an automatic result.
- Write blogs– Just like the one you’re reading. The most respected people in music are the ones who share their experiences, knowledge, unique real life perspectives that show their humanity. When they KNOW you, they’re more likely to LOVE you! Also, you can reach out to other bloggers who may be interested in the STORY behind your music! Online blogs are a great niche that your competitors may not have considered.
- Paid ads- This one takes a ton of savvy. If you want professional help, contact us at the studio and we can make several recommendations for hiring someone to do this or even training courses to do this for yourself.
Landing a Record Label and Working with Record Labels
The American dream…. excuse me… the INTERNATIONAL dream for singers is to get your music heard. This dream typically calls for a record label signing you and spending 100’s of 1000’s of dollars to launch you.
The pluses and minuses will be featured in another blog, so watch for it.
But for now, recognize that the benefits are a great chance of being a superstar. (Though this can be done independently as well). If you get the right deal, you can maintain creative control. But typically a label means a loss of decision making about your music, image and future.
If you want to be a famous singer, you’re more likely to do this with a label because they have the connections, the name, the producers, the radio stations in their back pocket–big teams pushing you!
If you’d rather have the freedom to do it your way, you can still build slow and have an amazing and prosperous career!
Reaching Out to Local Community Radio Stations
As mentioned earlier, local radio stations aren’t that hard to connect with. You can attract them these 5 ways:
- Killer music- Great melodies will never be ignored by record labels, radio stations and tour promoters. Don’t skimp in this area!
- Live presence- When you give memorable performances, your audience will talk about you. Your good reputation should precede you.
- Work towards mutual following on social media- Following your favorite local stations and having a strong social media presence is a great way to build intrigue.
- Do your research- Read up on the radio station and then be the person they looking for. But don’t be fake. You need to find a good match and then show them why you are IT!
- Get the best producer you can find- Everyone eats. If you’re talented, these producers will let you buy them lunch or dinner. Don’t flash big money. Be modest, but not fast food modest. Build a relationship and if y’all vibe well, move that direction!
Improving Your Skills
Say It With Me “I’m Not Good Enough”
blah blah. blah…. right? This is a tough confession. But I’ve coached Grammy award winners who believed that they had a ton of growth left in them. NO ONE ever achieves full potential! Every singer I’ve ever coached—1000’s and 1000’s—have all needed something.
The notes in our voice may lack full tonal spectrum and could be improved in quality and texture. Licks, trill and runs are often repetitive because we get in habits (let’s just say–a rut) and don’t know that we are doing the same thing over and over again.
Sometimes we really are ‘good enough’ and everyone around us affirms our talent. But music is FAR too endless in possibilities to tap out early!
Even more important is to not merely be ‘good enough,’ but to step up and….
say it out loud “I’m not as good as I could be”
I remember playing basketball with a somewhat known rock artist in Nashville, about 20 years ago. After we were done playing he told me that he’d heard that I was a well known vocal coach but never really needed a coach.
I sat and looked quietly at him…. then said, “Could you use more high notes?”
He rapidly replied, “Duh… that’s like asking me I could use more money.”
We both lived near the gym, so I told him that I could GIVE him another 3 or 4 notes in 10 minutes. And that I would also GIVE him 10 minutes of my time free.
10 minutes into our session, he was shocked. He was soaring about the male high C, after complaining that a G was pretty difficult for him. So he got really excited and asked me if he could pay me and we could complete an hour with me.
Then he called his producer and told him to hold off on production, because he wanted to raise the keys!
He bought a 10 lesson package with me and found the other half of his undiscovered voice. He realized that that he was settling for ‘good enough’ to get noticed, but not great! All that changed and his team and fans noticed immediately!!
can you only play one instrument?
Perhaps that number is even lower than I’ve suggested. If the number is zero, it’s time to consider how much time you’ve wasted on things that simply do NOT matter!
If you have physical limitations, then you get a pass. In fact, the audience often sees you as heroic for rising to the occasion without all your faculties to even the playing field.
Focusing on disabilities (I’m legally blind in my right eye) takes away from your focus on your abilities.
Stevie Wonder is one of the most influential people in the music industry. We often forget that he’s blind and most of us never pity him, due to his perpetual positive mental outlook. In fact, he masterfully uses visual imagery in a ton of his songs, i.e.
“I look out the window…”
“Lately, I’ve been staring in the mirror….Very slowly picking me apart…”
“A faded photograph…”
“Looking back on when I…”
Stevie has mastered many instruments because…. he’s a musician, and that’s just what musicians do.
Staying Motivated in the Music Industry
Every year 1000’s of aspiring singers move to Nashville, LA, New York and other smaller music meccas like Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.
But guess what!?!?!
Every year 1000’s of aspiring singers exit these cities with the realization that they don’t have the stomach to…just…..keep….going.
If you have music on streaming platforms, a talented team or at least a music attorney or manager that believes in you and people who love your music, DON’T QUIT. If you are shorter than the artist Prince and are trying to play professional basketball, you really need a wake up call.
In other words, find honest people who will tell you if you have it or not. If there’s significant, recognized talent and….. you love music….. DON’T QUIT. But it’s ok to hang it up. My dreams of being in the NBA are far gone. I’m not really college age, height, speed or skill level. I’m ok with playing at the YMCA.
BUT I CAN DO MUSIC FOR REST OF MY LIFE. Singing, songwriting, getting better on guitar and piano, learning really tough Chopin pieces, making cool tracks for myself and other artists.
And to say I’m more motivated than ever is not an overstatement.
Do what you love and you’ll love what you do!
The lone wolf hunts alone, defends himself alone, has no family, no friends, no help.
Don’t be a lone wolf. Join a community of like minded “successors” in the Singing Success VIP community and get the tools, inspiration, community, ground breaking techniques and tricks to put you ahead of the competition. By the way–YOU ARE THE COMPETITION. Be better than you were. Become better than you are.
Progress—not perfection—builds confidence.
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