Have you ever wondered how your favorite musical artists made it to the top? We’ve been led to believe that the best of the best were minding their own business when they got that one big break that propelled them to stardom. But reality rarely works that way. The road to musical stardom is often long and winding.
Who doesn’t dream of being discovered in a karaoke bar by a record producer who just happened to stumble in for a drink? Or how many of us just assume that the key to musical stardom is sending a demo to the right producer?
There are those exceptions whose musical careers go from 0 to 60 seemingly overnight. But for most of the world’s best musicians, success is a slow go. They start out at the bottom of the ladder and climb their way up.
From Jingle Writer to Star
Well-known crooner Barry Manilow, now approaching eighty, got his start in the 1960s as a New York College of Music student working at CBS to pay for his education. He was asked by a CBS director to arrange a few pieces for an upcoming off-Broadway production he was working on. Manilow ended up writing an entire score, which the director used for the production’s entire eight-year run.
From there, Manilow began writing commercial jingles and playing piano as a session musician. The jingles got his name out there. Meanwhile, big names like Bette Midler took notice of his skills on the piano. To make a long story short, Manilow worked as a writer, producer, and session musician until his breakout live album was recorded in 1977.
The producers behind New York’s Supreme Tracks say it is not unusual for big stars to work as session musicians for years before getting their own deals. And even with their own deals, some of them continue to do session work because they love it so much.
Paying Their Way to Fame
Another group whose success took a long time is the Four Seasons. You may know the basic story if you’ve seen the Broadway or film versions of Jersey Boys. To make a long story short, Frankie Valli and his three musical friends spent years playing local clubs in New Jersey and New York. They couldn’t seem to break out of the local scene.
Eventually, they ran into music producer Bob Crewe who signed them as session musicians for the label he was working for. After a year, Crewe still hadn’t recorded them as a standalone group. Then they realized the uncomfortable truth: if they wanted to be recorded, they would have to pay for it themselves.
Years of hard work finally paid off when their first album was released. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons shot straight to the top. Yet very few of their fans were aware of the many years they spent playing local light clubs and working as session musicians.
One Story After Another
This post could continue with one story after another. So many big-name artists have followed that long and winding road to success. From the Beatles to Frank Sinatra and James Taylor to Prince, musical stardom is rarely the result of overnight success.
All of this is to say one thing: do not give up. If you have dreams of being a star, your biggest enemy is you. Keep your chin up no matter how many times you fail. Believe in yourself and keep working until you make your own big break. Do not expect that break to come knocking on your door.