Introduction: How to Be a Rock Star
First Prize in the
Burning Questions: Round 5
Becoming a bona fide rock star takes years of musical practice, a killer look and sound, a spellbinding personality, and a lot-- I repeat, a LOT-- of good luck. (Connections in the music industry also help.)
In this Instructable, I'll show you different ways to break into a music scene and to perfect your looks and talent in preparation for getting signed onto a label.
But readers beware: getting signed is only the beginning of the long road to rock stardom. The road will probably involve a lot of sacrifices before you get to the pinnacle of fame and fortune. You may even have to sell your own soul to get there. True story.
Step 1: Pick Your Poison
Think about what you want to do and be as a rock star before moving on. Here are a few sample questions to think about:
What kind of rock star do you want to be?
What genre of rock do you want to specialize in?
Right now, how good are you at what you want to be doing?
Do you want to be part of a band?
If so, what kind of band? What instruments will be in it?
Most importantly, do you get along well with other people?
What kind of personality do you have? (This is important if you want to be in a band.)
Do you like being the center of attention?
(Be the lead singer. Prerequisites: Must be able to carry a tune.)
Do you really suck at singing, but still want to get attention from fans?
(Be the lead guitarist. Prerequisites: Nimble fingers and the ability to jam on a guitar.)
Do you like being in the background without much to do?
(Be the bassist. Prerequisites: Tough fingers.)
Do you like being in the background, and are tone deaf?
(Be the drummer. Prerequisites: Hand-eye coordination and a great sense of rhythm.)
Not everyone can be in a band, and not all bands work out. Group harmony is difficult to achieve, especially if not all of you are hell-bent on becoming rock stars.
If you have the luxury to, choose your bandmates wisely. Ideally, they should all have the personal qualities we are going to be discussing here: Great sound, great look, great personality, particularly when working with others. (Shyness not allowed, unless it's the bassist.)
Step 2: Learn Your Instrument
...and for God's sake, learn it well!!!
If you don't already have your instrument, go out and get it ASAP if you really want to do this. I don't care if you got it secondhand from your dad or if you scrimped and saved for years just to buy it. You need to have it if you really want to use it.
As for learning...
Guitar, and other instruments
If you're going to play the guitar, then practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect is the motto here, especially if you never learned how to play your instrument as a child. Practice until your fingertips are calloused. Practice until your ears are bleeding. Practice until you can play whatever you're learning backwards and forwards and blindfolded.
If you're serious about this, SING AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. Learn exactly how to carry a tune, and develop your lungs so that you can carry a tune as far down the field as it can go. Learn how to scream and shout in key. (Unless you want to be in a screaming punk band, in which case... I'm not sure if screaming in key really matters.) And learn how to project confidence and emotion through your voice.
Note: You might be self-conscious of practicing within hearing range of roommates, next-door neighbors, etc. Don't be. The true first step to becoming a rock star is learning to lose your social inhibitions.
If you're still scared, plug some headphones into your amplifier or go find a soundproof room. But don't use your search for a soundproof room as an excuse to not practice.
The best way to learn is to DO
Write your own music. Add your own lyrics. If you don't know how to write music, just record it. People can become great musicians without knowing music theory-- even without knowing how to read music. The trick is to listen to a lot of it and just recognize the patterns. (If you're tone deaf, I'm really sorry, but you're probably screwed on this one...)
Step 3: Perfect Your Look
For this step, you'll need to bring forward the best-looking, best-dressed, most confident parts of yourself, and you'll need to polish them until they shine.
So: Who are you, really?
(Note: If you're a self-professed diehard geek, or if you refuse to conform to the majority's standards of beauty, you've come to the wrong place.)
I'm not gonna lie to you, the music industry is superficial. It's superficial because beauty sells.
If you want to be a star, you need to be a moneymaker. So if you need to be stick-thin, do it. If you need braces, get them (or move to the UK or Japan, where teeth aren't as big a deal... yet). If you've got flaws, cover them up.
If you're over the age of forty, good luck to you-- it might be too late to become a rock star already. Youth is the most precious commodity in the entertainment industry. You better either be a young-looking forty, or you better be damned good-looking and good at your instrument.
I told ya and I warned ya: You're gonna have to sell your soul.
If you've got the body already, find the clothes that you're most comfortable in, and pick out the styles that you love the most. You should get an idea of your personal style this way, but you need to glam it up for rock stardom. What kinds of clothes do you like looking at? What kind of image do you want to project? Do you like costumes?
Also-- don't dress to copy others; dress for authenticity. You can find 1970s-type ripped-up safety-pinned punk clothing anywhere, but the whole point was to do it yourself and get in touch with your own creativity. Retail punk is oxymoronic.
Not all of us are perfect, and we can hide minor flaws by using easy-breezy confidence to draw people's attention away from them.
Tips? Stand up straight and stop looking at the floor.
Learn how to talk about anything and everything.
Don't get too cocky; it's a turn-off.
If all else fails, use your relaxant of choice. But not too much of it.
You know how rappers get street cred when they get arrested? A compelling backstory may possibly help propel you to the heights of stardom.
If you didn't grow up poor or in an abusive family and didn't suffer from depression or self-mutilation or drug addiction, don't worry-- you'll have to rely only on your looks and confidence and talent, but a lot of stars have gotten famous even without a horrible past.
Like a politician, you have to make sure that you're fairly consistent once you get on the map. If you're getting popular doing Goth rock and you suddenly want to switch into Alternative punk, you're going to lose your fans. Pick one look and sound and try to stick with it. You can deviate a little bit, but you can't change too much (unless you're already famous and don't care about losing fans).
Step 4: Break Into the Local Scene
Two key questions for this step:
1. What kind of music do you want to play?
2. In which cities is that music the most popular?
If you're not in one of the cities that you wrote down for #2, I suggest moving there right quick, unless you plan on growing a following primarily through friends of friends and the Internet.
Once you're in one of those cities, start going to places that feature the music you want to play. Go to clubs. Go to bars. Go to your favorite boutiques or shops or tattoo and piercing parlors, and look at the flyers near the entrance that advertise nearby events. As you'll see, you can get into a lot of those events for free. Starving artists, take advantage of this.
Talk to people.
This is the perfect chance to build up your confidence, because you'll need it to become a star. Talk to groupies. Talk to the band members themselves. Talk to the bartenders and bouncers.
Listen to what they like to hear. Listen to their recommendations. If they're managers of a club, or other aspiring rock stars, so much the better. Keep in touch with them. Charm them. Show them your stage persona and what it can do.
Listen to TONS of music.
It should be in your genre, but it doesn't really matter as long as you're listening to as much music as you possibly can. You can't be a rock star if you aren't living and breathing music. Listen to whatever people recommend to you. Listen to and talk with street musicians. Go discover new bands online.
The goal is to be able to strike up a conversation about music with anyone, anytime, anywhere. If you're looking to network in the music business, this can and will come in handy, as it will in step 7.
Step 5: Advertise Wisely
There are two ways to advertise: in real life and on the Internet. Use both, but use them wisely.
The following are a few low-budget ways to advertise when you're starting to look for gigs and stuff.
Nowadays, no musician is on the map without
a MySpace Musician Page.
If you don't have one, make one now. Upload some of your music onto the music player for people to listen to. Network with and friend as many people as possible, but don't pester people for friend requests; have them come to you. Don't overload your page with crap. Keep it updated with venue information and your biography (and your bandmates' biographies, if you're in a band), and maybe a couple of pictures of you guys performing.
If you're more computer- and camera-savvy, make a YouTube video of you performing. Make it cute and pixel-clear and very memorable, and make sure everyone you show it to absolutely loves it before you post it on your MySpace page. Wait until people start forwarding it to their friends. Cross your fingers and hope it goes viral.
If you like the more traditional, low-tech way of doing things, then
make flyers to advertise upcoming events.
The point of making your own flyers is to show people that you're multitalented-- that you have taste in visual art as well as auditory art-- but hire an artist friend to do this if you really suck at it. Then plaster them wherever you can in the city. Ask if you can leave them in your favorite shops and parlors and boutiques. The prettier the flyers are, the more likely the shop/parlor/boutique will allow you to leave a handful there, and the more likely that random people will take them.
If you're lazy and are talented and a great people person already, then
If your city allows it, busking is a great way to advertise your skills AND to shed those layers of self-consciousness that you've still got wrapped around you (and you might even make a buck or two in the process). Just plop down and perform without expecting people to give you money. The lower the expectations, the more relaxed you should be, anyway.
Note: Don't busk if you still suck at your instrument. Ask your closest friends for their honest opinion. If you suck, PLEASE practice more before releasing yourself into the wild.
Step 6: A Note About Fans
If you've been working hard and putting only your best out there, you should start to see your fanbase form, slowly but surely. This can take anywhere from months to decades, so be patient.
When you get your first fan e-mails or messages, don't ignore them. Be as nice to them as you can; get them backstage passes or free albums or some other perk, or just hang out with them and talk about music. They'll stay fans for life, and they'll even spread the word for you. Keep this up for as long as humanly possible.
If they get nasty to you, apologize and try your damndest to make amends. Don't get nasty back at them; kill 'em with kindness.
The take-home message?
DON'T be mean to your fans. Their memories are very, very long.
Step 7: Get Ready, Get Set
If you've got all the other pieces in place, all you should need now is fame and fortune. If you've got actual talent and you networked effectively, this shouldn't be as hard as it looks.
Unfortunately, the music business is really, really hard to break into, so even if you have the talent, getting discovered can boil down to having the right connections, or being at the right place at the right time.
You can't really control those factors, so just be prepared and lie in wait.
You should be able to do your best at a moment's notice.
You should be able to pick up the phone, introduce yourself, and start belting out or jamming if there's a producer on the other end of the line. You should be able to listen to club managers and speak up if they've hinted at a timeslot in which they might like to book you. Perform impromptu at parties. Seize the opportunities presented to you.
Have your demo on hand at all times.
Have copies of your demo in every place imaginable: your car, your purse (or merse), your backpack, your mailbox, your bedroom (ha!). If you meet anyone even mildly important, you should be able to whip your CD or card out and hand it to them.
People that distinguish themselves (in a good way) are more likely to get called back for more. So, as I've hinted at before, I hope you have a powerful personality, or this entire Instructable is useless.
Don't be discouraged.
Nothing sours a crowd more than a performer who throws a tantrum or gets embarrassed if something goes wrong on stage. So if you don't have a microphone during your big moment, improvise. If you slip and fall, act coy and impishly grin it off. You need that winning attitude and confidence during the bad times more than anywhere else.
I can't tell you more past this-- it's all industry jargon and your manager's savvy from here on in.
But now that you've got the looks, personality, talent, and mindset, I wish you the best of luck. You're really all you need to make your dreams come true.
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.