What do Justin Bieber, Zayn Malik and Adele have in common? They are what every musician dreams to be like one day. Fame, success, power, money and music, they are the complete golden package.
Every year the Music industry sees many new artists flock from all over the world in hope to score their one sweet chance to be the next musical sensation. Some of them grow up listening music and dream of becoming like their idols, some wish to live the life of fame and have their moment in limelight, some feel it is their calling because music is the way they want to express their life’s story. They spend most of their life training for music, learning their instruments, performing, some even pursue music in their college degrees in hopes of improving their success chances. Seven in every 10 children (69%) in the UK say that they currently play a musical instrument with adults at 74%.
And these people come in all shapes and sizes with vast diversity in their ideologies. Yet the one thing they profess that unites them is their passion, inclination and inherent talent for music.
But then why is it that when we observe the working lives of these people, only a very few manage to break big in the industry? What is the difference between the artists who become famous and those who don’t? Are they more talented? Or did they have any special connections that most don’t? Or were they just plain-and-simple lucky?
The answer is as simple as it is frustrating, for all of the above reasons are true, but one. For people who do manage to climb their way to the top of the pyramid, being talented is a given thing. Because really without talent why would they even consider pursuing this career. This super competitive industry with more supply than demand for new musicians. It’s not like the musicians have the ‘fake it till they make it’ kind of liberties. Nowadays big record labels mostly want those artists who already have established themselves up to a certain level, who have their fan base, have already performed many gigs, and even better if they can write their own songs too. They practically want people who already have their plans figured out down to the last detail and are halfway done in executing it.
Now imagine the kind of distress a newbie but a wannabe feels when he first decides to go down this path. All the planning, making the right connections, discovering their ‘unique’ style and finding a way to sell it as ‘new and original’ to their audience, putting themselves out in the open and creating a fan base, finding the right people to help in the PR and production of their music and connecting with other artists to get a chance to perform in big gigs. So much work to do in so little time, because if we are being real, the music industry is notoriously ageist when it comes to accepting new artists. And unless you are an already established celebrity or a super-rich individual trying your hand at music, there is not much room for entry in the music industry at a ‘late’ age.
But still every year the music industry sees more and more artists coming into it. It is a huge business, with it contributing £4.4 billion to the UK’s economy as recorded in the UK Music “Measuring Music 2017” report with about 142,208 jobs sustained by the music industry. And now with the growth in the online streaming platforms, the industry is experiencing a resurgence in its profits.
And one such newbie artist, looking to make it big in this industry, is Leonard Nedelcu. There are many things that he shares with other talented musicians, like his love for romantic songs, playing the piano, penning his own songs, and being born with the looks of a superstar. But the things that make him stand out in the crowd are his deep appreciation of music by John Legend, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith, his approach to music as his way to include the LGBTQ+ communities and share his story in a way that is relatable to all.
In this interview of his confessional musings, he shares his story, aims, and the beginning of his musical journey. He talks about how a person, a child of two economist parents gets into music, his struggles. And how despite them all he managed to create and release his first single, “Start with you”, while working on an extended playlist which he hopes to release by end of this years’ summer. All the while being a student at the University of Westminster, pursuing a Commercial Music bachelors’ degree.
Here’s a snippet of ‘Start with you’
He seems to have tapped into the ‘success formula’ of pursuing formal musical education to work on his talents, learn to create his music, find and make industry contacts and finally get discovered. It’s almost like he is trying to pull an Adele (success story) here.
You see, even though every artists’ success story is different, the basic formula of approach to things remains the same. And the six main success formulas are:
- Using YouTube to break big
- Performing at the biggest, most popular music clubs to get discovered
- Participating in Musical Contest show, and with any luck, winning it
- Becoming a part of a band, and when/if it goes big, using that exposure and experience to fuel solo act
- Formally studying music and training to be the best through schools
- Self-releasing music until discovered by big record labels or celebs to endorse music deals
Some of the very well-known celebs got their starts using these very formulas.
Justin Bieber – the YouTube star before becoming the Global star
Like most things relating to him, even his start in music has a story. Even from a young age, Bieber had an affinity for music, and he narrates himself that when his mom gifted him his first set of drums he was “basically banging on everything I could get my hands on.” But it was an obscure talent contest in his hometown, in which the 12-year-old Bieber finished second that put him on the road to superstardom. Although, his YouTube journey did not begin with the purpose of becoming the next pop sensation. As a way to share his singing with family, Justin and his mom began posting clips of Bieber performing covers of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Ne-Yo on YouTube. And the next thing you know, Justin was an Internet sensation, with a large following of fans and an eager manager arranging for the teenager to fly to Atlanta to consider a record deal. There, Bieber had a chance meeting with Usher, who eventually signed the young singer to a contract.
Taylor Swift – from performing small gigs at the Country music capital to performing globally at her sold-out concerts
Inspired by her grandmother, a professional opera singer, Taylor Swift soon followed in her footsteps. By the age of 10, Taylor was singing at a variety of local events, including fairs and contests. She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Philadelphia (where she lived at the time) 76ers basketball game at the age of 11, and began writing her own songs and learning guitar at 12 years old. And to further pursue her music career, Taylor often visited Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital. There she co-wrote songs and tried to land a recording contract. Noting her dedication, Taylor and her family moved to nearby Hendersonville, Tennessee, in an attempt to further Taylor’s career. Then a stellar performance at The Bluebird Café in Nashville helped Swift score a contract with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records. She released her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in 2006, and the song went on to become one of the Top 10 hits on the country charts. It also appeared on her self-titled debut album in October in 2006, which went on to sell more than 5 million copies. With that, more popular singles soon followed, including “Our Song,” a No. 1 country music hit. “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Picture to Burn” and “Should’ve Said No” were also successful tracks. And once she firmly established her roots in the music industry, the sky became her limit.
Zayn Malik – gone from contest show to being part of famous boy-band to finally becoming the solo music star
A triple threat of music in terms of utilizing the success formulas if you say so, he began as a teen taking performing arts courses and appearing in school productions. Then in year 2010, he auditioned for the seventh season of the reality TV music contest show The X Factor. He sang “Let Me Love You” by rhythm-and-blues vocalist Mario as his audition song and was accepted into the next round. Then he was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell grouped him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to form a new act for the remainder of the show. And thus, the global sensational boy-band One Direction was born. They finished the competition in third place and they were immediately signed to Cowell’s Syco music label. Then came the One Direction with their first single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” which topped the pop music charts with when it was released in September 2011 in the United Kingdom. And their debut album, Up All Night, proved a best-seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 2012. After that Malik toured extensively with One Direction, meeting the band’s young female fans around the world. But in March 2015, Malik surprised fans by dropping out of the group’s world tour. On March 25 then, Malik announced that he was leaving One Direction for good. And soon after leaving One Direction, Malik launched his solo music career with a demo version of “I Don’t Mind,” which was leaked online by producer Naughty Boy. Then official singles followed, including “Pillowtalk” and “It’s You.” And both of these tracks were featured on his first album, Mind of Mine, which debuted in March 2016.
Adele – the modern-day champion of classical and old-school-style music
“There was no musical heritage in our family,” Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. “Chart music was all I ever knew. So, when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the ’40s.” And it soon became apparent that while clearly bright, Adele wasn’t oriented towards traditional classroom settings. So, her mother enrolled her in the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, which has the likes of Amy Winehouse as its alum. Then while she was at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project that was eventually posted on her MySpace page. And when executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal.
Ed Sheeran – from street-smart artist to king of the global music charts
Even from a very young age, Ed had been as quick and smart at learning things as he had been active at working on his dreams. He studied at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham. Then he also studied music with the help of ‘Access to Music’, a UK-based independent training provider. And he also joined the National Youth Theatre when he was a teenager. So, it was no surprise when he had started recording CDs and selling them from his teenage days. At the age of 14, he released songs ‘The Orange Room’ and also ‘Spinning Man’, both he regarded as important works of his early years. And it wasn’t long before Sheeran was recording CDs and selling them, and he soon put together his first official EP, The Orange Room. With that accomplishment and his abiding ambition driving him, at only 14 years of age, Sheeran headed to London for the summer. Thinking he could find gigs in the big city, Sheeran left home with his guitar and a backpack full of clothes, and his musical career took flight. And once in London, Sheeran got busy recording and playing the local singer/songwriter circuit and quickly released two albums: a self-titled record in 2006 and Want Some? in 2007. He also began opening for more established acts, such as Nizlopi, the Noisettes and Jay Sean and released another EP, You Need Me, in 2009, a year that found Sheeran playing more than 300 live shows. Then in 2010 Sheeran posted a video online that got the attention of Example, a rapper, and Sheeran was asked to go on the road with him as his opening act. This led to establishing an even larger online fan base and gaining inspiration for many more songs, which later ended up filling three new EPs, all in 2010. Next Sheeran headed to the U.S. that year and found a new fan in Jamie Foxx, who asked Sheeran to appear on his Sirius radio show. Soon after, in January 2011, Sheeran released yet another EP, his last as an independent artist. Without any promotion, the record reached No. 2 on the iTunes chart, and he signed on with Atlantic Records. With Atlantic, Sheeran released his major debut studio album, + (called Plus) which became an instant hit, and the album sold more than a million copies in the U.K. in the first six months alone. Then Sheeran began co-writing songs with bigger artists, such as One Direction and Taylor Swift and supported Swift on her 2013 arena tour. And quickly and steadily he became the huge global star that he is today.
Still out of all the artists who pursue music as their career, 95% of them fail to make a proper living out of it, let alone become huge successes (results from a survery of 200 musicians in UK). The artists we celebrate as our champions, as the main faces of the music industry are only a handful of people out of the millions that get into this industry with dreams of making it big.
And every person wanting to make a career in music looks for a success formula, but life doesn’t work that way, especially in music. For every successful artist following a set mould to enter music industry, there are thousands who failed at it. That is the harsh truth about this industry. And no amount of wishing, dreaming or googling for tips and tricks can change that. The only thing sure about a success formula is that it only works for a few people. At the end of the day, the only way one can make progress towards becoming a musical success is through genuine talent, unending hard work and determination, and with loads of luck and good timing.