You’re only young once… after that, it’s almost as if your back is always hurting. My parents knew I’d end up doing something in music when I was very young. I probably didn’t realize it back then. It’s just one of those cliché cases where others see something in you that you haven’t been able to see quite yet. The good thing is that my folks were supportive. They knew I was the happiest spending time at the local music store. Back then, MySpace was quite a hit so I would paste images and videos of myself.
Today, you can start a career using social media (I kind of wish I was born a couple of years later), but yes, there’s a ton of competition out there too. In this guide, I’ll teach you how to tap into your real potential.
1. Narrow Down Your Options
Merely wanting a career in music isn’t enough. You’ll have to narrow down your options and ideally, and no, I’m not talking about randomly choosing a career, make a list of things that you’re actually good at. Are you good at singing or have you always been great behind the drums? Whatever it is, it’s time you find out. Once you have identified your area of expertise, you can focus on getting better and better.
If you have someone in your life who you can call a mentor, your task just got easier. Ask them to help guide you, if you’re still stuck, don’t hesitate to send me a message. I’ll be happy to help you out.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
I don’t care if you think you’re a musical prodigy at 16, you need to practice! When I was a kid, I played the keyboard like a miniature pro, but I still took piano lessons as a child (it’s one of the best instruments for kids) and practiced during the weekends. That’s the thing with music, or any other skill, you have to keep practicing, or you’ll reach a dead end. Trust me, you’re lucky to discover your true calling while you’re still a teen, most people go on their whole lives without finding their true passion. You know what you want in life so don’t waste your time.
3. Don’t Drop Out of School
I’m going to be honest with you, life is hard. Yeah, they might not show it like that in the movies but in the real world, it takes more than just once gig or video to get discovered. Perform decently at school, go to college. Or learn the arts professionally. There’s no guide that says that your education has to get in the way of your passion. My buddy Mike plays the drums like a genius but he’s also a fan of literature and enjoys going to the museum. If you’re smart enough, you’ll end up enjoying the best of both worlds and it’ll be a lot more fun for you.
4. Start Recording
Live music is great but if you plan on doing things professionally, you’ll need to start recording. Since you’re in this for the long run, it probably would be wise to set up your own home studio and start recording from your very own bedroom. Don’t worry, we all start somewhere and these days, it’s not quite as difficult if you have the right gear. In the beginning you won’t need much apart from a good mic for home studio recording, a laptop, maybe some guitar and keyboard and of course a software to put it all together.
5. Create a YouTube Account
It’s hard to imagine that YouTube stars such as Alex Goot or the band Boyce Avenue started off on the platform with only a couple of followers. That was a few years ago but look how far they’ve come now – it’s all a result of raw talent and perseverance. If you’re absolutely serious about starting a career in music, make your channel today. I’m serious. The sooner you’ll start, the sooner you’ll be able to promote your music.
But that’s not the only way YouTube will help you. It will help you connect with like-minded individuals such as yourself and that will open a number of doors for collaboration and learning. Heck, it might even play a pivotal factor in motivating you to keep pushing yourself and that’s incredibly important no matter what career you’re looking to break into.
6. Find Your Unique Selling Point
Anybody can sing in their garage but not a lot of people can make money out of it. If you want a career in music, you’ll have become a little business minded. Think for a moment, what can you possibly do to set yourself apart from others. Remember, you’re 16 right now. I’m sure a lot of teens would love to hear about the anguish that kids have to go through going up (bullying, drugs, you get the idea). Finding your USP should become easier once you analyze your target audience much closely.
If you really want to make money out of this, you’ll have to treat it like any old business. That means doing your market research, finding your target audience, improving your product and figuring out the distribution.
7. Market Yourself on Instagram
You’re probably spending a lot of time on social media anyway, might as well use it to do you some good. I’ve written a detailed guide on how you can promote and market yourself on Instagram. I highly recommend that you spend some time going through the guide and then implement those strategies to get the word out about your music.
The reason why I’m solely discussing Instagram here is that it’s a great medium for sharing visual content along with short videos. Plus, now you can also make the most out of IGTV. All this means that you have unlimited opportunities to grow. And the best part is, you don’t have to spend a dime in the beginning. All you have to do is start off with a business account and you then map out ways to gain followers organically. And if you’re interested in boosting your posts, you’ll be happy to know that it won’t cost you much.
8. Advertise Yourself
You can’t sit and wait for opportunities to knock on your door, even if you are just 16 years old. It’s a big world out there so go ahead and advertise yourself. If your neighborhood is having a fundraiser, volunteer to sing or play the guitar. You can also actively participate in school so that when it comes to music or singing, you eventually become the person everybody ends up going to.
And then of course, there’s social media. Whether it’s SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, there are plenty of ways to get the word out.
9. Think About Distribution
While YouTube and Instagram are great for becoming internet famous, it won’t necessarily help you sell CDs. You’ll have to focus on distribution for that. Register yourself on websites such as CDBaby and TuneCore. If you’re good, these platforms will help you get connected with online streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Play and much more.
Keep in mind that the fees and conditions for each platform will vary. But remember, it’s always a good idea not to keep all of your eggs in one basket.
10. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Remember, you’re only 16! And by that, I certainly don’t mean that you’re too young or incapable of achieving big things, all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t have to do it alone. Seek help from your parents, siblings, teachers, instructors, friends from the internet – anybody if you’re ever in need of support. Even if it’s just for a pep talk and you’ve been feeling a little alone. Although, if you try you can actually use these negative feelings constructively to make better music and write better songs. But yes, your wellbeing comes first so dismiss the way you’re feeling.
11. Copyright Your Music
Just because you’re a kid, doesn’t mean you won’t steal off you. Register your tracks to relevant organizations so that you rightfully have legal ownership for your songs. This is incredibly important as it will prevent others from using your work without illegally. It will also ensure that you’re able to get monetary benefits in case someone does like your work.
12. Keep Moving Forward
This is the only secret to success. You have to keep moving forward and that means getting on with a new day no matter how difficult it seems. And if you have any questions along the way or need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
I hope you’ve found this guide useful and that it helps you on your journey.
Have something to add? Let me know in the comments below.
Ps here is my in-depth comparison of the best laptops for music production.