3 Paths to Make It in the Commercial Recording Industry

3 Paths to Make It in the Commercial Recording Industry
Vocal coach to the stars, Ron Browning, urges singers to maximize their chances of being discovered.

One would think that talent would be the main ingredient in Music Industry success, yet I’ve heard many top professionals in the music business say that talent accounts for only 10 to 15 percent in making it.

The rest hangs on the artist’s knowledge of marketing, motivation, persistence, determination, the artist’s team, a master plan, and luck.


Producing vocals at Oceanway Recording Studio for Wynonna for her recent CD, “Wynonna and the Big Noise”

The new artist must be in charge of not only bringing his or her artistry up to a masterful level, but they must find all of these key players – manager, producer, band members, PR firm, lawyer, road manager, image consultants, and any other services that the artist might need.

All involved must be in agreement and dedicated to the master plan!

The commercial recording industry is an ever-evolving creative business – so there will always be new ways to be discovered as an up-and-coming artist – YouTube is a fine example of this.

It is a good idea to walk down each of the three paths below. These aren’t the only paths, but they are the main categories that most artists fall into.

    1. Grow a Big Fan Base

    You don’t need to begin as a regional star necessarily. The main thing is to build your fan base where you are and branch out from there. Concentrate on developing a following – a grass roots fan base. Collect their emails and ask fans to join you on all the social media, especially the ones that all the smart little divas and divos follow, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

    Record companies will be interested in your large fan base as it means buyers for your merchandise as soon as your new product comes out on the market. Social media is great for keeping your fans up-to-date about your events and special offers. Becoming well known is easier these days with YouTube and all the other social media being so available.

    Lots of big artists have been discovered on YouTube, such as Justin Bieber, Lana Del Rey, and Katy Perry, to name a few. A large fan base gives you leverage once you start to negotiate for a record, production, or writer’s deal.

    1. Get In The Back Door

    Be the king or queen of networking. Skip the long line of singers with their latest recorded projects and photoshoots, all lined up in front of the record labels, waiting for their 5 minutes to drop off packages.

    Instead, network your patooty off until you meet somebody who knows somebody, who works for somebody, who owns the record label or who is a big decision maker there. This is easier to do these days since you can send almost anyone a direct message on Twitter and certainly on Facebook.

    Who do you want to meet? Follow them and figure out a cool way to develop a friendly relationship first before striking up a conversation about you being an artist. At least press their Like buttons a few times first.

    Hopefully, you can find a common interest between the two of you besides music. This can be a good buffer when building a relationship and help make you memorable.

    1. Be Unique!

    Be so unusual and so great that the record label or production company would be afraid to pass you by.

    If what you do and what you look like is pretty close in comparison to someone else already out there, then it will be easier for the production team or label to say no. But, if you have unusual sounds and looks that no one else has, then they will be attracted and tempted to grab you before someone else lays claims to you.

    Unique acts – such as Lady Gaga, the Beatles, James Blunt, Elvis, Keb Mo, Chris Stapleton, and ZZ Top, to name only a few – will always create more excitement than your regular great act, and will give the artist more clout on the negotiating table.

    Many factors enter into what makes a performer unique – everything from the sound of the voice, the physical image, the raw off-stage or on-stage personality, or the type of songs they choose to write and/or record. Wherever the uniqueness lies, the artist must come to know it well and move out on that. It is their brand, their commodity.

It would be smart to work on all three of these approaches. Which of these best describes where you are at this point in your artistic development?

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Sibylline Sibylline - Moon Over Bourbon Street

A very soothing voice that creates a fun, dark mood that is appropriate for this song. It’s hypnotic, relaxing. You might want to explore raising the key to get the voice up off the floor of the chest so that it has more energy throughout. A half or a whole step should do it. Breath and support would be easier for you, and the over-all groove would be better. The last couple of phrases tell me you have a good middle voice just waiting for something more challenging, so a higher key could be fun. I’d also step out of the mood entirely and just tell the story. Don’t be afraid of losing the emotional fabric of the song. There is so much emotional DNA in the lyric—as well as in the melody, the chords, the tempo, and definitely the black and white video! It just needs a clear channel to ride out on—which is you! Come through the entire song on one syllable, like “blah blah blah,” to free the voice, the pitch, and the rhythm. Technically, I’d work on the low register on a 5-note scale. Use the syllable, “hee hee hee”, and sing with staccato attacks. That will bring more energy and natural support to those lower tones.

Rob Browning Bio

Ron Browning is internationally known as the “Voice Coach to the Stars.” His clients include all levels of singers from beginners to Grammy-winning celebrities in all genres of music. Ron works with the major record labels producing vocals and preparing artists for radio, concert tours, and special television appearances. He is a voting member of the Grammy Foundation and the CMA Awards. Ron has been seen and heard on Entertainment Tonight, The Voice, Oprah Network, and BBC’s Simply Classics, to name a few. He is a successful songwriter, jazz pianist, painter, and is currently writing a series of voice and performance manuals, which will include interviews with many of his students and celebrated clientele. His solo jazz piano CD, In a Sentimental Mood, is available on iTunes and CD Baby.

Website | CD Baby