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How To Become A Pop Star In 10 Easy Steps
By Tor Hyams
© 1999 Tor Hyams. All rights reserved.

Every day, I hear from another band. The questions are piling up and, although I am not the authority, I have definitely been through the wringer in this business as a musician, record label representative, and music critic.

Step 1.) Mindset: Know what you are doing and where you want it to go. Ask yourself the following questions. Am I a singer/ songwriter? What style of music do I play and where would my CD sit in Tower Records? How will I get exposure? Don't worry if you are good or if you have talent. These factors are arbitrary and almost impossible to quantify.

Step 2.) Goals: Do what you have to do to be happy in your music. The rest is really up to fate. This is not to say that you shouldn't pursue the ever popular record deal, but it can not be your final aim. It's way too easy to get caught up in an idea and never pursue the action.

Step 3.) The demo (demonstration) tape. If you don't have one already, this is absolutely crucial. This tape will be the base from which everything else will spring. Not too many artists have made it too far without one. You will need this for club bookers as well. Playing live is and always has been the best way to gain exposure. This tape can also be used for soliciting record labels, but I don't suggest doing so until you and/ or your band have really flushed out a sound - one that is truly your own. So, don't spend too much money on the first tape. Reason: You will make a second tape and you just need the first to get some gigs.

Step 4.) Love Thyself: This is a basic required tier in all multi-step programs. If you canąt do this, you still might become a pop star (see Curt Cobain, etc.), but it wonąt be as much fun.

Step 5.) Playing Live: If you're lucky, you won't have to forge an image. One will be there already, based on the personas in the band. However, if you have hired a band or you just don't know the other guys/ gals too well, think about an image. Don't get me wrong. This could be anything, but there should be a common thread between the players that is separate from the music; a reason why the audience thinks you're cool. In this case, the more far out, the better.

Step 6.) Promotion: This is where things get tricky. The best option one has, with regard to self hype, is to get someone else to do it. Do you have a friend who has always wanted to manage and promote a band? Why not start out with yours? Remember, this area of the biz is the lowest, hardest and scummiest part of the whole shebang. Don't do it yourself or at all, if possible, but whatever you do, don't hire a lawyer. They're the lowest on the record industry scum scale.

Step 7.) The mailing list: This is so crucial, it merits a whole step. Develop a mailing list. Enter the addresses of everyone you know into your favorite file maker program and start with your mother. Then, be sure to get the address of everyone you ever meet anywhere and for whatever reason. You can't talk about your band enough. Repeat after me: "Under no circumstances will I ever delete anyone from the mailing list."

Step 8.) Persistence: Remember, it is not possible to run out of pursuits or contacts. If, at first, you don't succeed try and try and try again. Call that A&R rep time and time again. Annoy and charm that club owner until he books you a gig just to get you off his/her back. Never toss a contact and don't burn any bridges. Everything goes in this business.

Step 9.) Management: Under no circumstances should you ever pay anyone to manage, represent or shop your music. If they're charging you for their contacts, they're sleaze. I would wait until someone approaches you that, because of sincere liking for your music, asks if he/she could act as your liaison to record companies, club bookers and the rest of the hipsters. If this works out, then you will find your job as a musician much easier. If it doesn't, manage your own band life until you absolutely can't take it anymore.

Step 10.) Luck: When it comes right down to it, you have got to be in the right place at the right time. So, don't worry. If it's in the cards, you'll make it. If not, we're probably all better off.


Tor Hyams is a singer/ songwriter living in Los Angeles and sometimes, New York. He has written over two hundred popular, jazz and R&B songs. Tor has licensed material to NBC's Homicide, scored and packaged a show for Lifetime Television called New Attitudes and has composed score for two Shooting Gallery feature Productions, "Niagra, Niagra" and "Hudson River Blues." Currently, his latest demo CD project, Vultures (http://www.influx.com/vultures), is being shopped for a label deal.

Previous to doing music 'full-time', Tor has held positions in the record industry as a radio promoter, publicist and record producer. He has produced numerous indy demos and played for several New York theatrical productions as a piano player. For the last three years, he has acted as a consultant for a number of Internet companies including Infoseek, Sonicnet and Buzz Magazine.

At the twenty-fifth hour of the day, Tor somehow manages to update his surprisingly popular and obnoxious website called Fierce (http://www.fierce.com), the site for Web Elitists.

 
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