Notes for Young Recording Artists
It is very important for you to be as active as your class schedule permits in your school's band, orchestral and/or choral departments. Besides learning how to sight read music, try to learn how to play an instrument (preferably guitar, keyboards, or any other instrument used in pop music). The more you volunteer to assist those people at your school who teach music (staying after school, assisting with music and/or drama productions), then the greater chance you'll have to take full advantage of their experience and guidance.
Another way to get experience playing music is by becoming active in the music at your local community center and/or church. For example, in Austin, there are 30 nonprofit, volunteer-driven musical ensembles who are always looking for volunteers. You can gain valuable experience there, as well as the chance to interact with professional and semi-professional musicians.
Perform as much as you can. However, singing along with a popular recording is not a good idea because you will tend to imitate their style of singing rather than find your own voice and style. It's better to form your own band and learn how to sing and perform in a group setting. With a group it is much easier to get gigs and easier to write your own songs. Singing songs for other people is more fun and more impressive when they are yours. When you have six or more songs of your own that you think are good enough for the public to hear, arrange to perform first for friends and family. Get their feedback.
Getting comfortable performing for an audience can take awhile. If you start with familiar faces, it will build confidence and make it easier when you begin playing for strangers.
So where else can you play? Until you are old enough to play at nightclubs, gigging may take some creativity. Go to local music events (ex. concerts, music festivals, county fairs -- places with live music) as much as possible. This will give you a better idea of what to do (and what not to do) in a live performance. Pay attention to the band and the audience. See what works and what doesn't. Try to see if there are opportunities for you to perform at these events. Each time you perform, make sure there's someone at the door taking down names and addresses of those people who want to be on your mailing list. That way you can send announcements of future gigs to people who are already interested in your music.
When you are ready to put your songs on tape or CD, consider using a 4-track recorder. You can purchase one through local instrument stores or rent one at a rehearsal studio. Some advantages to alternative recording methods are: a) You can tape your rehearsals or rehearse on your own without the rest of the band present. b) You can practice certain guitar chords, figure out arrangements, or play with harmonies. c) You can hear how you and your group really sound instead of how you think you sound. d) For unsigned talent, it costs less than studio time and can still help you obtain gigs.
A question almost everyone asks is "How do I get a manager or a booking agent?"
To get a manager you will need an impressive mailing list and a lot of fans. You also have to be making money by performing because an agent will take 15-20 percent of what you make as an artist. Ideally, you want an agent to have heard about you from the buzz generated by your shows, announcements sent through your mailing list, and press from local newspapers. After awhile, your hard work will start to show results. Once that buzz is big enough, agents will come to you.
There are several educational resources available online and in print:
Getting Started in the Music Business provides a short-answer reference to the basic legal and business practices associated with the music industry.
Grammy in the Schools profiles several people in the music industry who "have followed their hearts and seen their musical dreams come true".
You may want to consult our list of Music Business Guides.