Be determined and persistent :There’s a lot of competition out there – thousands of people want the fame and fortune of a successful singing career. Most successful singers spend years working on their voices and playing low-paying gigs before they make it big. Don’t lose sight of your goal, and resolve to be patient.
Conquer your fears: Contrary to what you might think, a lot of performers struggle with severe stage fright. If this is a problem for you, or if you’re too hung up on getting the approval of others, find ways to confront your fears and increase your confidence. Sing in front of others often, whether it’s in the car with friends or on a stage, and remember that others’ opinions of you are not what’s important – what matters is that you’re working toward your dream.
Start with one good song that you sing great. Once you got that work on your next best song. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole night covered, a gig of good stuff.
Breathe, breathe deep, more air than you will possibly ever need to do the song. Don’t run out of breath or power.
If you don’t write your own songs, pick good covers. A lot of singers don’t write their own songs, and that’s OK. Particularly when you’re first starting out, you want people to pay more attention to the quality of your voice than the quality of your songwriting. Build up a “set list” of 10 to 15 covers you know you can really knock out of the park, and practice getting better at them.
Choose a good mix of popular and obscure songs. Just as you don’t want to focus on only Top 40 hits, you also don’t want to be singing only songs that no one recognizes.
Provide a fresh take on a classic. A good way to get a cover noticed is drastically altering the tone, tempo or instrumentation of a popular song. Compare the several different versions of “Hallelujah,” or listen to the Civil Wars’ cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Sing in public whenever possible. Book as many gigs as you can to get your voice out there – you never know who will be listening in the audience. Sing at private parties, county fairs, store openings, rodeos, sporting events, talent shows, karaoke nights, and anywhere else that will have you, paid or not. Even if you don’t get spotted by a talent agent right away, you’re practicing your stage presence and getting used to being in front of a crowd.
Start a YouTube channel. Some people have actually managed to become famous through posting videos of themselves singing on YouTube. (See Charice Pempengco, Austin Mahone, Greyson Chance and, most importantly, Justin Bieber.)
Remember: the Internet isn’t always a kind place. If you’re not sure your voice is great, it might be wise to hold off until you have some more training. You might get accolades online, but you also might encounter people who are out to tear you down.
Additionally, it’s wise to keep in mind that the things you post online will, in a way, live forever. Only post work you’d be proud to have anyone see, and that you think you’ll still be proud of in 10 years.
Do not post on YouTube if you’re underage. If you’re a minor, ask one of your parents to help you post content
Become a publicity hound. Eat, breathe, and sleep attention. Look for photo ops. Speak up. Swipe up any chance to shake up the spotlight. Make yourself known.
Network. Be in the places where successful musicians/producers meet (clubs, dance halls) and act like you’re part of the industry, even if they don’t know who you are. Go to a city known for music (such as Nashville, Memphis, NYC, LA, New Orleans, Austin or Las Vegas) and mix it up with the local musicians.
Make connections with other musicians. You never know who might want to collaborate with you in the future, or introduce you to an agent. Take the time to be friendly and interested in the other person’s career.
Always show your best. When you’re on-stage or networking with industry professionals, turn on the charm. Smile big, answer questions, and sing with enthusiasm, even if you’re feeling terrible. Part of working in entertainment is being able to create an atmosphere of fun and energy, as if you’re flipping a light switch.
Don’t pull any diva antics on people who become your fans. Remember that fans can propel you from obscurity to fame. Sign autographs, answer questions, and take pictures after the show.
Learn how to handle criticism. Hey, it happens – no matter how great you are, some people just won’t like your voice. Even world-famous singers have people who dislike them. Only listen to constructive criticism if it can actually help you improve your talent; otherwise, ignore it. Don’t get into arguments or fights regarding your dreams, and walk away from any hecklers – odds are, they’re just jealous.
Accept rejection and move on. It’s not common knowledge, but a lot of great musical acts were turned down several times before signing to a label, including the Beatles. If someone doesn’t want to work with you, it’s his or her loss – move on to the next opportunity and keep your chin up.
Know how to recognize a scam. Once word gets out that you’re interested in pursuing a musical career, you might find yourself being targeted by scammers with bad contracts. Keep these things in mind:
If an agent or a label wants to sign you, it shouldn’t cost you any money – you’re being signed because the agent thinks you can make money for him or her, as well as for yourself. Don’t consent to any contracts that require you to pay for demos, vocal training, or anything else. Remember: a good agent gets paid when you’re successful, not before you’ve even done anything.
If you do get offered a contract, read it carefully. It might be worth it to pay a lawyer to go over it with you. It might cost you a few hundred dollars up-front, but it could save you thousands in the long run.
Never settle for a verbal agreement. Always demand a written contract where money or rights are concerned.
Consider joining forces with a band (optional). If you don’t play an instrument, it might be wise to join a band that can provide instrumentation for you. Be aware, though, that once you’re part of a band, you’re honor-bound to share some level of your success – you can’t pursue a career as selfishly as you would if you were a solo act. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision.
Keep improving. Whether you keep taking vocal lessons or practice on your own, never stop trying to get better at singing. Practice as often as you can, and challenge yourself with new material. Doing this will help you feel confident that when you do get noticed, you’ll be at your best.