Recently the parent of a young singer asked me what I though of their child’s voice. Was it “good”? Could they have a career in the music industry?
Like anyone, I have opinions. But I have learned that my opinion in cases like this isn’t really what matters.
Even if I were a music producer or label executive, my opinion on someone’s voice/talent would just be my opinion. The world is filled with incredibly successful, iconic artists of every kind who were told by various people in the industry that they had no talent. To name a few: Sir Laurence Olivier, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, and more recently, Jennifer Lawrence, Lady Gaga, Shakira, and Pink were all told they should forget about pursuing a career in their chosen field.
What actually matters in terms of success in music these days is that a young artist can develop a sound that enough people want to listen to that they are willing to spend money to do so.
Music is art but it is also a business, and people being willing to spend money on that art is the ultimate test of whether an artist can be successful.
I am not saying that the only good art is art that sells. On the contrary: the world is full of glorious art and important creative work of all kinds that will never see commercial success. All poetry probably falls into this category. And I love poetry! But if an artist wants to be successful in the music INDUSTRY—sales are the way that success is measured.
The music industry has changed dramatically the past few years.
Basically, an artist needs to already have a platform and large following before a label or producer will be interested in getting involved. They don’t want to start from scratch because they don’t have to– there are so many artists out there to choose to work with who DO have large followings/fan bases/platforms.
If you, or someone you know, are interested in pursuing a career as a singer, I would recommend what most other successful young singers do– study voice with a good teacher, learn how to play at least one instrument well, and listen to a wide variety of music to broaden musical references. Consider posting videos on YouTube, and playing in local places where that is possible– maybe open mics at coffee houses, etc. These things will at least lead in the right direction.
The music industry is actually a harder field these days to succeed in than acting, which I say not to discourage, but for some perspective. Now that we have GarageBand, SoundCloud, YouTube, and so many ways for artists to produce and get their sound out into the world, it is a very “noisy” field. There are just so many artists competing for the attention of listeners.
And because of the economics of digital streaming, it’s harder than ever for even a “successful” musical artist to actually make a living.
On the other hand, it’s also an exciting time because artists have never had so much opportunity to be seen and heard on a global scale.
To anyone interested in a career in the music industry—or any kind of art—I would say to pursue it.
Pursue it with all the love and passion you have, and work hard to get as good as you possibly can. Passion and hard work can take you a long way. Even the artists who seem to have just been “born that way” have put in their 10,000+ hours, educated themselves, and done the tedious, repetitive work that true excellence requires. If you’re not “good enough” to succeed right now, you might be with some effort!
If you love it, it doesn’t feel like work—and it’s worth it.
Are you thinking about how to help your child become an actor?
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