1. Assess yourself:
Take a good look at successful musicians from your genre: new as well as seasoned. Make sure you stand somewhere in terms of the quality of your music. The music business like sports- is talent driven, if you’re good you’ll make it. Sure if you’ve got Jimmy Nevis’ looks or Shakira’s moves it’ll help but eventually talent matters. A good way to assess yourself: upload some of your tracks on music sharing sites and create awareness about it. If people other than your friends and cronies like it, you have potential.
2. Start early:
Don’t waste time thinking you’ll make an alternative career, save up money and then get into music to become a raging success…life isn’t the Rock On movie and you aren’t Farhan Akhtar (and thank god for that for he can’t sing to save his life!) If money is an issue then take a job associated with the music industry or work part time/freelance so you can invest time in music. If you’re a student then study music, or be a part of a band or a music project in case you’re undertaking higher studies in some other field. Join a college which is big on the music scene.
Before you decide to go live with your act, make sure you are ready. Performing live isn’t easy. Sure the motto goes “learn from your mistakes”, however one bad gig can mean death for your band/act. Performing in front of an audience with a professional sound system and restless audience can be daunting for the best of musicians. It may be a good idea to start by performing at small private gatherings to begin with (even if you have to do it for free). Record that performance and analyze yourself post the event.
4. Get a manager:
Once you feel you are ready, hire a manager. You may not be able to afford someone in the big league to begin with. Look for someone new and enthusiastic; possibly a musician or someone with good contacts in the industry, who’ll help you book shows, send out demos, set up some digital distribution, etc. Get recommendations from fellow musicians and find out who manages your favourite acts.
5. Stay Sober:
Don’t show up stoned or drunk ecause not only will they call security on you, you’ll also get written off by the whole media house for unprofessional behaviour. You can’t afford to get into the bad books of the media! Also getting stoned is not equal to creativity or coolness or whatever else it is that people think. Some of the best musicians I know are teetotalers.
6. Be professional:
Arrive on time for a gig, stay in touch with the managers, be disciplined and professional. Unless you’re Iron Maiden or some huge name, no one is going to tolerate latecomers.Don’t be that guy that arrives to a show half an hour after it’s done!
7. Work on originals:
Gone are the days when bands played only covers to appease the audience and gain acceptance. While it is safe to play a few covers to get the crowd going, to be really memorable, throw in a few originals. Needless to say, make sure they’re pretty darn good!
Go to as many concerts as you can, shake as many hands and flash as many smiles as possible. Meeting people from the music fraternity is important and informing them about your existence even more. Virtual networking (through social media) is almost as essential as the former. You are probably already all over YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud etc. What you need to do is make the right noises. Respond to appreciation and questions about your work. Take criticism positively, don’t say anything offensive. Post pictures, upload videos and new songs regularly; keep the engagement levels high and consistent.
9. You aren’t going to becoming a star overnight:
Ok, so you’ve got 1000 likes on your Facebook page but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be raking in the moolah! Patience and consistency is the key. Any business has a gestation period. Which means it will take 2-3 years to start yielding profits. So don’t expect anything different from your music. Music too needs investment of time, energy and some amount of money for sure.
10. Being famous isn’t crucial:
Everyone dreams of becoming famous. However, don’t let that guide your actions. Becoming a star is like winning the lottery. Also fame is not the only measure of success, the biggest stars often fade out after that one ‘hit’ song. Focus on making good music and putting yourself out there. If you’re a killer combination of smart and talented, nothing can keep you from becoming famous eventually.
Develop knowledge of the industry, have a plan of action, market yourself, manage your money well and stay focused. Above all, If you love music and are willing to work hard, you can make it.