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How to Start a Singing Career: In Contemporary Music

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So you’ve taken years of voice lessons but want to sing for someone other than your parents and your voice teacher? This entry will discuss how to start a singing career in contemporary music. The route to performing pop music, particularly for kids, is a less obvious one than the route to singing choral and musical theatre performance, but there are more opportunities than there used to be. Read on to discover 10 ways you can take your singing out of your teacher’s studio and onto the stage.

1. Learn to play an accompaniment instrument.

While dance and acting are important skills to have for musical theatre, the single best additional skill to have if you want to sing contemporary music is the ability to play an accompanying instrument (usually piano or guitar). Being able to accompany yourself will allow you to sing your music without relying on an accompanist or backing track, even if you simply learn chords and never try reading music. You’ll have much more freedom to interpret songs your own way and may even pick up some songwriting skills without needing anyone else to play the instrument.

2. Join a glee ensemble

For kids in particular, glee ensembles based on ABC’s hit show Glee are popping up all over the place. Ones that offer solos are an especially good way to get used to performing contemporary music in front of people.

3. Join an adult glee group or a cappella group.

If you’re in a cosmopolitan area, like New York City, you can sometimes find glee or a cappella groups for adults, or even choruses devoted to popular music. A quick google search may help you find out what types of opportunities there are in your area. Many locations don’t offer these performance opportunities though.

4.Sing at an open-mic night.

If you play the keyboard or guitar, take it along to an open-mic night at a local coffee house or bar, and sing a song or two. If you don’t play an instrument, this may take a little more planning, but with a pre-arranged backing track or the help of a friend who plays an instrument, you can make it work! If you happened to be in the Orange County area, here are 6 open mic nights you can check out.

5.Record a demo.

There are tons of recording studios out there, but make sure you look for a quality one if you’re planning on trying to make singing your career. You can sometimes assess quality a little more easily by listening to song samples on their site or asking for a client list.

Having a well-made demo will open a lot of doors for you if you’re talented and motivated. Send it out to places looking for a featured performer. Coffee houses frequently offer this opportunity. You can also just pound the pavement with your demo and ask local restaurants, bars, and the like whether they’d be interested in having an entertainer. You may need to start out singing for free, but eventually you may find places willing to pay you.

6. Sell your demo locally.

Even if you’re performing for free, you can often make some extra money and get your name out by selling your demo at the events you play.

7. Send your demo to record labels, talent agencies, and A&R consultants.

More and more, musicians are bypassing this process by selling their music directly at concerts and online, but the opportunity to get a large deal is still out there for a lucky few.

You can try sending your demo to record labels or to reputable talent agents or A&R consultants. There are many crooks out there, so make sure you do your research. If you’re asked to pay a bunch of money to be seen, or if they have exciting promises that sound way too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.

8. Sing in a competition.

Large-scale competitions include The Voice and American Idol, but there are smaller-scale local ones as well. These competitions can give you some performance experience and help get you seen, but they aren’t for the faint of heart. If you’re going to go this route, make sure you have a thick skin, and know that rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t talented. Often, televised singing competitions look for singers with interesting back stories (it is reality TV after all). Local competitions frequently look for audience participation on the votes, meaning that singers who sell the most tickets have a better shot at winning. If you’re comfortable dealing with these skewed results, singing in a competition can be a great way to get exposure.

9. Collaborate with other musicians.

No glee group in your area? Start your own! You can also look in local ads, like craigslist. Often, bands are looking for a new singer. Better yet, go to shows and network with local talent! Not only will you meet some people you can get together and sing with, but some may have connections, songwriting ability, or something else that could help you move in the right direction.

10. Take advantage of social media.

In the past, most artists needed to get signed by a major record label to get any real publicity, and for that to happen, they had to make lots of connections and get extremely lucky. Nowadays, with sites like YouTube and Facebook, artists have countless avenues to getting heard. Colbie Caillat and Birdy were both discovered online (Myspace and YouTube, respectively). So be creative! Start a YouTube channel; tell people about your music through Facebook and Twitter. Play as many local venues as you can. Sell your music on iTunes. If you’re persistent, people will take notice.

Are you trying to start a singing career in contemporary music? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section!

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Molly Webb

Molly is the founder of Molly’s Music. She is a dedicated singer and pianist whose musical journey spans 2.5 decades, with stops along the way to sing for the pope, pass Certificate of Merit at the highest level, study with Gwen Verdon and Ben Vereen, and record an original album.

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1 Comment

  1. Great Post!! I liked the option to sign in in the singing competitions as it helps people to gain recognition in front of the audience around the globe. Thanks a lot!!


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