When I grow up, I want to be one of two things. I either want to be CMO for a major multi-national corporation, or I want to be a rock star (though the fact that I am an average guitarist at best is irrelevant).
Many have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of the latter. Most will fail.
In the good ‘ol days of the music business, getting your song played wasn’t all that complicated. DJs and studio producers were easily accessible; you didn’t even have to look pretty to become a huge star. In the late 1950s, it seemed as though all you needed to was create a song with a fast beat, and you had a hit on your hands.
Elvis Presley was discovered after doing a cheap studio recording of “My Happiness” that included his voice and his guitar, nothing else. Buddy Holly played local clubs and talent competitions until he opened for Bill Haley and the Comets, upon which he was offered a sweet record contract. Little Richard made it big thanks to an impromptu rendition of “Tutti Frutti” at a local recording studio.
Today, it takes the right connections to make it in the music industry … or it takes creativity.
Realistically, few of you know ‘the right people.’ And in order to get noticed and actually sell your music in this vast pool of artists trying to hit it big, you’ve got to do something notably different from everyone else.
OK Go, a geek-rock group from Chicago, perfectly reflect the kind of creativity one needs in the music business. Veering far from the norm, the band went relatively unnoticed until it released the video for its first official single, “A Million Ways,” in 2005. But it didn’t release it via the typical music video avenues. Instead, they let it loose on YouTube, where it became a viral phenomenon. In 2006, OK Go created a video for the single “Here It Goes Again,” shot in one take as the members of the band performed synchronized moves on four treadmills. Insane, no? But it worked, and OK Go walked away with a Grammy and the number two album on iTunes.
Laura Warshauer, an acquaintance of mine from university, has been playing guitar and singing for ages on the road to musical success. Now signed to Island Records (the same label that deals with Fall Out Boy, Bon Jovi, and Melissa Etheridge), Laura is promoting her new album the grassroots way: by wandering around New York City on foot with her guitar, as seen below. The success of this has yet to be seen, as the campaign has just begun, but talk about getting yourself noticed!
The music industry has so many people trying to get into it that it’s virtually impossible for someone taking the ‘safe’ and ‘typical’ path to break through the walls if you aren’t friends with those already entrenched in the business. But by marketing yourself in a unique and creative way, chances are you’ll get people talking. And that’s the first step to greatness. Rock on.