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Comment of the week - can you achieve success by being 'discovered'?

An RP visitor suggests that everyone who has ever made it in music has started by being 'discovered'. So do you just have to sit and wait?

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It's a comment on a comment actually, on an article about how to get into music with no musical ability. Brian of Willow Tree, Australia comments thus...

"Most famous entertainers today have got where they are today because they have been discovered. Not because of all the hard work that they have done, but because they have been in the right place at the right time.

"I know a woman that has been singing for 15 years constantly, never out of work, with a five octave vocal range, and can sing any style of song from waltzes to rock and roll and sound different between the singing styles. She can do Unchained Melody like the original and stop the house every time she performs that song. But she has never been discovered.

"So don't tell me it is a lot of hard work because it is not - it is all good luck"

I've had the interesting experience of meeting many young people who are interested in working in music.

A significant proportion have no musical talent, are not striving to acquire any and have no demonstrable achievements.

Yet they want to become successful in music!

The only conclusion I have ever been able to come to is that they expect at some stage to be 'discovered'.

Well yes, this could happen. They could take part in a reality TV show, find through sheer chance that they are popular with the audience and do well or possibly win. After that they could become a 'celebrity', which these days means being famous for being famous, not for any talent or achievement.

So the fact that a very few people with no talent nor achievement have become celebrities encourages very many people in their teens and early twenties that they can do the same.

But this is so not the right thing to do. This kind of success comes to very few people and generally it is not long lasting. Nor satisfying, I should imagine.

So what about the hard work route?

How about practicing your vocal technique for hour after hour, year after year? If you become the best singer in town, will this guarantee success?

Probably not. There a lots of good singers. And you only have to listen to big-selling CDs to realize that being the best singer in the world is commonly not a requirement for success.

So waiting to be discovered won't work. Being a wonderful musician won't work either.

So what will?

There are actually two factors that both need to be in place before success will be achieved.

The first is that you have to be able to deliver exactly what it is that people want. People mostly don't want great singers these days. They can buy Sinatra re-releases if that's what they want.

Defining what it is that people want is incredibly difficult. And you can't ask them because a) they can't articulate their desires, and b) they mostly don't know what they want until they hear it.

So that's difficult, but it has to be done. You have to develop the ability to give the audience what they want.

But you're still not there. There's still one thing you need...

You need to be discovered!

Yes, all the ability in the world is useless unless you can meet someone in the industry with access to the market - a publisher or A&R exec for instance. Or a manager who has access to these people.

But it's no use being discovered if you don't have anything to offer, so you have to be ready.

The odd thing about this is that it is all so simple.

So why do so many go so wrong?

By David Mellor Monday August 14, 2006
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