I’m making this list for two reasons: 1). To make you laugh, and 2). I see waaaay too many of these lists that have the most basic, stupid answers. “You have good taste in music” might be an important quality, but it is in no way a guarantee you’ll make it big. Lists like these are popular in every industry. I see them for female entrepreneurs as well. If one of the signs I’ll make six figures next year is “I have a good heart,” well then awesome, I’m all set! Time to buy that convertible because my good heart will pay for it next quarter!
I’m going to be overly real with you here, but also try to give helpful advice throughout. The reality is that nothing is a guarantee that you’ll succeed in the music industry. That being said, let’s look at a few ways to make it easier on yourself:
How to Know if You’ll Make it Big
1). You’re Signed to a Major Label
The easiest and quickest way to succeed in the music industry is to get signed to a label. Yes, you can do it on your own and yes, it’s not easy even with a label, but if you want to make Justin Bieber money, you’ll need Justin Bieber funding, promotion and management. If you can provide that all to yourself, awesome! If not, you’ll want to go after major labels.
What if you’re not signed to a label?
You can either a). try to get signed to a label, or b). research what a label does, then do all of those things for yourself. Indie artists can definitely be successful. You might not be a ‘household name,’ but if that isn’t your goal, there’s no reason you can’t have a steady and successful career as an indie artist. You’ll have to put in a ton of work (and probably hire a few people as well), but it’s definitely possible!
2). You’re 14 Years Old
Labels love young people (that’s not necessarily meant to be creepy, but hey, there are rumors all over…). The fact is, the younger you are, the more likely a label is to take interest in you. I know, a lot of your favorites are in their late 30s or older, but when were they signed? How long have they been famous? Longevity is important to labels, and they want you around for a long time.
What if you’re not 14?
Well, can you use your age as an advantage? Jeff Blue has a good video on this very topic:
Although age definitely does matter to labels, it doesn’t matter nearly as much to fans. Just try to always be real and honest in your music (unless you really are going to the club at age 68, which is cool and honest).
3). You’re Super Attractive
Looks matter, I’m sorry to say. Labels definitely care about how attractive someone is, and while fans might care a lot less, they definitely have opinions on looks. For an example, look how unhappy Alicia Key’s fans were about her decision to stop wearing makeup. These criticisms were coming from her fans, not her label. So looks definitely matter to most people.
What if you aren’t conventionally attractive?
Looks are subjective (I mean, not to start an argument here, but look at the strong opinions about 2017’s sexiest man, who happens to be a musician). It’s more important to make sure you have “a look” than to be attractive. Meaning, have a distinct sense of style, a certain flair, something that people can immediately associate with you. This is more important than being ‘attractive’ and labels will appreciate that you’ve already done the image work for them. Just don’t be surprised if they sign you based on a look, then want you to completely change it. It happens.
4). Your Dad is a Millionaire
Very few celebrities like to talk about this, but a great deal of them were already rich before they ever made it in music. They came from powerful, influential families with connections. Some had direct connections to the music industry, others had the money and influence to promote themselves and fund their dreams until they got noticed.
What if you don’t have a rich, powerful family?
You’ll have to work with what you’ve got. You might not have a million dollars, but do you have a spare thousand? Use it for marketing. A few extra hundred? Make a great music video. Put what you have to work for you.
5). Your Childhood Friends Are Already Famous
It’s true, celebrities tend to know each other and grow up together. Look at Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, or half of the Mickey Mouse Club (including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera). Now, having a famous friend does not mean you’ll automatically get famous. But you know the old saying, “you are the 5 people you hang out with most?” It sort of applies here. Even if you don’t become famous, you can always accuse your famous friend of something bizarre, like Mila Kunis’s old childhood friend.
What if you don’t have famous friends?
Make friends with anyone who can help you (genuine friendships, here. Don’t try to be fake friends with people just for their help, that’s mean). Meet other musicians, talent agents, photographers, anyone who might like you enough to help you out. I definitely don’t mean “expect your friends to do free work for you,” because that’s a big problem in creative industries, but meet people who are within the same realm of your business who might give you tips or talk strategy with you over a coffee meeting. You don’t need famous friends! Just make sure the five people you hang out with the most are shaping your life in a positive way.
6). You’re in the Right Place at the Right Time
How many of these stories have we heard? Famous Person A was standing on a street corner humming a song, when Famous Person B discovered them and made them famous. Famous Person C was performing at a coffee house when a news crew happened to be shooting something, and ‘the rest is history.’ Your best bet is to just make sure you’re an extremely lucky person and always happen to be standing in a spot where you’re likely to get discovered.
What if you’re not lucky?
That’s fine, because these stories often gloss over the hard work the artists had to put in before being discovered. They don’t tell you that Famous Person A was standing on a street corner because they couldn’t pay the rent with their music money, or that Famous Person C is actually related to the director of the news station. No one can control the truly random chances of stardom, so your best bet is to ignore these stories and acknowledge that the true story is often much more complicated.
Hopefully this list wasn’t a downer, but instead a hard look at the truth of the industry. You absolutely can be successful in music, but your “great musical tastes” won’t help in any way. Put in the hard work and tough it out and you can get there. Let me know when you do!