I am a horrible singer and I want to audition for the X Factor. I really want to become a great singer and turn it into a lifelong career. ~ Marius
I think shows like X-Factor create a wonderful outlet for certain singers to break through, but it’s certainly not the only path for a singer to make it. Matter of fact, I’d argue that it’s kind of like entering the lottery… there’s 1 big winner once a year or so, and a lot of hype built around it besides that.
So while I’d never discourage someone from auditioning for this type of show, I wouldn’t invest all of my hopes and efforts of becoming a singer on something like that.
To be a singer is relatively easy. All you have to do is open your mouth and let the sound come out. But, to become the type of singer that “makes it” and spends their nights performing in front of crowds of thousands of people… well, that takes a heck of a lot of effort and it certainly isn’t an easy road.
To do that, here is just a super short, by no means all inclusive list of things that either you’re going to have to do, or people working with you are going to have to do: have a solid technique that will allow you to perform night after night, develop an edge that people can relate to branding wise, produce a unique sound (both vocally and musically), learn to perform with so much charisma that the crowd erupts with energy, build a fan base so that you can grow to where record companies want to take you on (or learn how to promote yourself and find capital to make your music, run a tour, etc)…
But before you do all that, you have to develop your talent to a point that band members believe in you and want to play with you, grow a fan base locally, convince bars and other events to let you play at there (and hopefully pay you money), write or collaborate on writing your own music so that you don’t get stuck as a cover artist, etc.
If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is! There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people out there that want to sing, but 99.999% of them will never think of the things I listed above.
But here’s the deal… if you want to make it in a profession, don’t you have to learn the formula for success? Any job you do comes along with some type of training, and being a singer isn’t any different. But it’s not just about singing.
Now, all that being said, you could skip all those steps and audition for X-Factor or American Idol and make it and be tied into a contract that you know nothing about and potentially make money doing what you love “the easy way.” But the truth is, that comes with a cost.
Ok, I’m making this so much longer than it needs to be, but I guess to sum up, anything you decide you want to do is going to require sacrifice, whether it’s driving to the gas station and buying a 20oz Dr. Pepper, or deciding to become a singer. The smartest people in the world sit back and assess the costs (in time, money, etc) and decide whether or not they’re willing to make the sacrifice.
If you are willing to make that sacrifice, develop a magnificent obsession with singing and the music industry. Latch onto your dream like a bull dog, and don’t let anyone persuade you to do otherwise. Study people that have made it (either via X-Factor, or something else) and see what patterns you can find (astonishing young singer, older person in random occupation that just discovered they could sing, etc). What “part” that they typically have can you fill in… what’s your angle… what’s your edge?
Of course, you can do this with performers you like as well. How did they make it? What was their path like? No two will be the same, but there will be certain things they all had in common. What of that can help you?
Ok, I’ve rambled on for an hour. This may or may not have been what you were looking for, but I hope it encourages you to take action in a big way, even if it somewhat overwhelms you. Regardless, I wish you the best of luck in you X-Factor auditions and in whatever direction you choose to take along in your singing journey.
Vocal Coach Ken Taylor