Forging a Headliner: The Brutal Path to "Stardom"

Written by Mike Ruggiero

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We've all heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child." While it seems cliche with no context, it universally applies to unsigned artists who are looking to bring their careers to national and international stages. Artists in the music industry who churn out charting hits left and right are usually equipped with top-tier teams to bring them to the next level.


While these resources are usually provided through a contract with a record label or management agency, the landscape has started to change. Many of the resources labels provide to artists nowadays can be independently sourced at a lower cost without entering into a contract. When it comes to artist development, booking, audio, marketing, and good business practices, hiring an independent team keeps artists on pace to reach their goals and enter the next stage of their careers, without entering risky contracts that can put everything on the line. Outside of having the "X Factor" in your talent, here's everything you'll need from a professional team to help you forge your path to stardom.


The Product

We get it, you're talented, and you want the world to realize it. However, the way in which you present your talent controls how the public receives it. That's why it's important to make sure your music matches your brand and vice versa. Make sure to collaborate with other songwriters to help you figure out what you like and don't like. Spend time making things your own without falling out of style. Sometimes, having other sets of ears on the music you write can bring on a new perspective and help you bring out your best. Let's be real - it's rare to see any charting hit that doesn't have multiple writers in the song credits. Combine your skills with the right people and your best work will manifest itself. The same goes for how your music is recorded, mixed, mastered, and distributed. You'll want to spend time finding an audio professional with a top-tier recording studio who keeps their work true to your brand. They should also be someone you want to with throughout your career. Many artists have a characteristic and branded sound in their records, and a huge part of it goes back to the fact that they chose to work with the same mixing and mastering engineer for several records in a row. It's not rocket science why certain artists' records sound consistent with others every time there's a new release. Find your brand and stick to it in every aspect of your career, but especially with your sound.


A Co-Pilot

Just like any business, artists need managers if they truly want to achieve their goals. Though many artists independently watch over their day-to-day development in the early phases, focusing on your music becomes difficult when you have to deal with everything BUT your music. That's why it's important to hire an artist manager to help you - but, you'll have to be ready for that first. If you're not already laying the groundwork for your extended career and don't have a long-term vision with short-term steps you can take to get there, you might want to organize your plan of attack before you ask an artist manager for assistance. Remember that one person cannot save the world for you, but they can help you get pretty damn close to it if you're prepared. If you find yourself being your own business manager as an artist, and it's clear that you're in over your head navigating opportunities, hiring an artist manager is a great idea to help you get to the next level.


Social Media Madness

In 2022, being a good marketer is just as important as having music that people relate to. In addition, most of the most successful marketing strategies musicians can use are embedded in the use of social media. Using the internet as your microphone is vital, and it's key to use it in such a way that your content is well received by the audience. If you're unfamiliar with how to grow and engage an audience on platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and many others, it might be time to consider hiring a social media manager or marketing consultant to advise you in strategy, help build content, and keep your marketing tactics ahead of schedule. Let's face it - artists and management companies alike are sick of coming up with caption and reel ideas when there's music to be written and venues to be played. Get a grip and outsource your marketing before you're in over your head. You will thank us later.


Did Someone Say World Tour?

Touring is an unavoidable part of the equation when it comes to growing your act, and it's a necessity if you eventually want to reach audiences around the world. However, developing the clout to play large venues and festivals can take decades. But, it's important not to be discouraged. If you make a plan to tour every few months and keep people's ears filled with new releases, you'll start to grow your audience and work your way into larger venues. Your manager can help you navigate opportunities and find booking managers who can help you secure them. That's why it's important to tour consistently each year - nobody wants to book an artist if they aren't actively playing shows and demonstrating their ability to draw crowds to large venues. Obviously, establishing yourself can take time, and it can feel like an eternity before certain venues and booking managers actually start to pay attention. But, everyone needs to start somewhere, and having a small show is better than having no show. Just make sure your calendar is full, and do your best to seek out higher-quality performance opportunities.


Seek Sponsorships and Partnerships

If you've reached a point where you have a large, international audience, seeking partnerships and sponsorships is essential for helping your artistry grow as a business. Especially if you've developed a large online fanbase with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, seeking sponsorship or partnership with a brand, product, or service can bring you additional revenue and help you to build your fanbase. Navigating these opportunities can be tough, so it's important to have your artist manager step in here. You should not enter any agreements without leaning into the advice of your professional team, and you'll want to make sure anything you associate yourself with as an artist is truly in your best interest. However, this step usually doesn't come until you're recognized on an incredibly large scale, so don't get too far ahead of yourself.


The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, reaching your dream of becoming an international-recognized artist is probably one of the hardest things you could have signed yourself up for. However, having the right team on your back and making the right moves for your career can make the path easier and bring you a lot closer to success. Stay motivated and surround yourself with the right people and you're guaranteed to be further along than you were yesterday. Reaching your ideal goal of success can take decades, and it's important to make sure that you're on the right track with the right people.





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