Do you want to sing on stage but don’t have the confidence or know-how? Here are some pointers to get you started – says Diane Hughes.
Associate Professor Diane Hughes is an expert in popular music performance and has an extensive background in artist development, collaboration and recording.
She shares some advice on how to find a band, promote yourself and face your fears.
1. Find musicians to collaborate with
For any singer who feels isolated and wants to collaborate with others, engaging in online opportunities is a great place to begin.
There are sites that enable virtual collaboration with other musicians from around the world.
If a singer wants to find real time collaborators, then word-of-mouth, putting ads on music noticeboards or attending local music events may prove useful in providing networking opportunities.
2. Learn to be a great band leader
If a singer has good musicality skills and an artistic vision, then it’s much easier to act as musical director and leader.
While it’s important for singers to be open to other ideas in the band context in listening to and discussing the musical ideas offered by band members, it’s also important that singers are not ‘intimidated’ by others or by other opinions.
Therefore, being able to communicate song structure to band members is just one aspect of musical direction and leadership. Being able to communicate an understanding of the musical features and the desired ‘feel’ of any song is also incredibly important.
So I think respect stems from a combination of good vocal and musical skills, an ability to communicate an artistic vision and to always, always be professional. Mutual respect!
3. Promote your ‘brand’ on social media
There are several prime factors that assist in navigating the often ‘saturated’ pathways in the music industry.
Having a continual presence in social media is a way of communicating with both existing and potential audiences. This is crucial to building interest in the artist and to growing an audience.
However, underpinning these strategies is consistency in an artistic identity or brand, as is having ‘that song’ as the vehicle to be heard or listened to.
So it requires a combination of strategies and a huge time investment typically by the early career DIY artist.
4. Work with your anxieties
I think it’s rare for singers not to feel some level of insecurity, particularly early on in their careers. I think the main thing is to gain as much experience as possible and to create your own opportunities where possible. This helps to alleviate the ‘fight or flight’ response that often holds singers back.
However, ‘feeling the fear’ can manifest in lots of ways and at different career stages. There have been even ‘successful’ artists who have suffered from what can be, for some, crippling stage fright.
For most though, you learn to work with adrenaline to a performance advantage. And it often adds spontaneity to a performance.
It’s important to remember that many artists, like Ed Sheeran, do it ‘tough’ before they become established.
I’ve worked with several artists who have couch surfed for extended periods, who invest any money they earn back into their music and others who live very simply so that their music is heard.
I guess it’s all about ‘hunger’ and commitment.
Associate Professor Diane Hughes teaches in Vocal Studies and Music at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Di has an extensive background in contemporary popular singing pedagogy, and has been an invited speaker at conferences and seminars. Her work within the industry has involved artist development and recording. Di’s research interests include vocal artistry, vocal pedagogy, vocal recording, vocal performance and singing in schools; current research projects include vocal health, emotion and voice, the singer-songwriter, cultural musicology, and collaborative producing in recording. Research on singing in schools led her to become an advocate for the development of cross-curriculum voice studies in school education. She is currently the National President of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing Ltd (ANATS). Find out more about Diane Hughes.