The Makings Of A Music Superstar

© 2010 Vinny Ribasdark concert

Superstar status is only given to a select few out of the millions of entertainers and sports figures in the world. I am not talking about the flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonder artist. I am not talking about the artist that jumps on the latest trend and rides the wave as long as the trend lasts. I am referring to the people or (bands) who will be forever remembered for their work in and contribution to the music industry. I am talking about those artists who have a long list of credits, and who have crossed multiple age, gender and ethnic boundaries.

So what is the magic formula that that gets blended together to create a true superstar in the music business? Here is an honest look at many of the key characteristics that might eventually make you worthy of ‘Superstar’, or ‘Icon’ status. [private_pro]

    1. Marketable Talent: Sports figures become superstars by outperforming everyone else. Actors become superstars by acting in more than one film or TV show and illustrating their obvious ability to move or affect viewers. It is only in music that musical talent does not reign supreme. You do not need to be the very best at what you do, though that is a tremendous plus. Obviously there are extremely talented singers and musicians who never see any major success in the industry, let alone superstardom. What you do need to have is a marketable talent, whether that is your vocals, instrumental ability or skill as an entertainer. What that means is that, if presented right, your talent(s) will be accepted and appreciated by a large group of music-buying fans over a long period of time.
    2. Significant Contribution: All musical superstars are recognized as such for their significant contribution to the industry. That may result from many years of performing, releasing quality records and being on the Billboard charts, or it may come from what they have done behind the scenes as a producer, manager, label executive etc. In order to reach this level, you need to be innovative. You need to be a trend setter, not a follower. Your influence on the industry must be substantial and widespread. And most of all, your contribution must have resulted in a positive change, not a negative one.
    3. Uniqueness: There needs to be something, and preferably a combination of things, that sets you apart from the masses. That uniqueness can come in any number of forms. For example, your voice should be distinctly identifiable and your look should be easily recognizable (or maybe just your smile). Your sound, or the instrumentation you use in your band should have an identifying quality. The topics of your songs could set you apart. It is these differences that enable you to stand out from the masses. Without them, you are simply a musical clone.
    4. Staying Power: Your talent and image must be able to stand the test of time. That means retaining the quality of your voice and your sound, adapting within reason to changing musical trends, morphing your image just enough to remain contemporary etc. In many cases you need to be accepted by more than one generation, and possibly more than one genre of music. Your relevance must be tested over time. Of course, there are those artists who take the world by storm for a short perid of time and are temporarily given the superstar tag. But those artists lose their status as soon as they are not the ‘next big thing.’
    5. Willingness To Take Risks: Reward comes as a result of taking chances. You need to be willing to put yourself and your music/songs out there for the masses to judge. You need to dare to things that will draw attention to you. You need to invest 100% of your time and energy into making things happen. You also need to invest money, whether it is yours or someone else’s.
    6. Strength of Character: You need to be a person of good character and integrity. I know that there are people who claw their way to the top, stepping all over people along the way. However, you can’t endear yourself to audiences over the long haul with that kind of moral fiber. Once word leaks out of your lack of character, you’ll lose a large portion of your fan base, as well as sponsors. You might limit the venues you can play and even limit the TV shows you’re invited to be on. You might also find that some radio stations are no longer willing to play your music. You soon become a ‘could have been!’
    7. Money: Let’s face it – music is a business. It takes money to build any kind of business. A musician or record label has development costs, recording costs, marketing and promotion costs, tour support, management, a booking agent, staff, coaches and much, much more. Now, more than ever, both the major record labels and independent labels are looking for artists who have a bankroll (either personal money or investor capital). It costs $1M – $2M to break a major label artist, and the labels no longer want to carry that burden themselves. And if you’re not looking for the support of a label, then you need to have some way to pay all of the expenses yourself. And in order to earn the label of superstar, you’ll need to keep reinvesting your earnings back into your business for a very long time.
    8. Marketing: Most contemporary music superstars have been the product of at least one, and most likely many mass marketing campaigns. It might begin with something as basic and grass roots as a YouTube video that takes off virally. But in order to generate complete mass appeal and establish longevity, you need to be in repeatedly in the public eye. That usually only happens with the extensive, ongoing marketing of your shows and your music. After all, out of sight, out of mind.
    9. Publicity: Much of an artist’s superstar status is driven by a lifelong barrage of publicity. This might include newspaper and magazine articles, TV game show appearances, TV and radio talk show appearances, music reviews, public appearances, press regarding charity work and on and on. All celebrities have a publicist who insures not only ample great publicity, but also squashes or minimizes bad publicity.
    10. Image: Many superstars have an easily definable image. Although their look and looks may change over the years, there is something consistent and enduring about them. It could be their million-dollar smile, the instrument they play, their hairstyle etc. It could be just the opposite, such as their refusal to conform and always surprising and possibly even shocking the public. It might be the images on their album covers, or the look and feel of their stage show. Whatever it is, it sets them apart from the rest of the pack.
    11. Reputation: Anyone who has attained superstar status has done so one or more long-developed and well-earned reputations. Those reputations can be related to one or all of the characteristics in this article, and are what define that person in the public eye. For example, some artists have a reputation for being amazing entertainers. Some are known for being sexy, quiet and shy or even wild and crazy partygoers. Reputations are hard to change once they are generally accepted, so most superstars have spent considerable time not just developing, but also molding, shaping and protecting their reputations. It’s important to keep in mind that a reputation can be either real or developed for show only. However, in this digital age of Facebook, Twitter etc., it is getting harder and harder to separate an artist’s public and private lives. That means it is more difficult to try to develop a reputation that is not genuine.
    12. Repetition: Superstars are not one-hit wonders. They have proven their ability to deliver quality music over and over again. Their music as well as their careers have been put on the line many times, and they have passed most of those tests with flying colors.
    13. Song choice: It all begins with a song. In order to have the longevity and the mass public acceptance required to become a superstar, superstars are unbelievable selective and picky about the songs they record. There is no room for egos when it comes to picking the right songs for a CD. The songs must be the absolute best songs available, regardless of who wrote them. Of course, some superstars are as well known for their ability to write amazing songs as they are singing them. But those who are not song masters will sort through thousands of songs to find just the right combination for a CD. They look for well-crafted, standout potential radio hits. They find songs that reflect their personal beliefs or feelings, songs they can sing well, songs that fit their image and songs that their fans will enjoy and appreciate. They may even write their own songs, and then throw them into the pool to see if they are better than the other songs that they have found.
    14. Production: How a record sounds, regardless of the quality of the songwriting, is a very critical issue. That is why very few superstars produce all of their own music. Instead, they rely on proven producers who can deliver top quality, radio-friendly production. Quite often, when an artist finds the producer that works perfectly for and with them, they will use him for most or all of their recordings over a long period of time. Of course, there are always exceptions, but the majority would rather concentrate on being the best singer and entertainer they can be and leave the production to the masters.
    15. Work ethic: No one can become a superstar without having an amazing work ethic. It takes a special person to write songs, record, rehearse a band to perfection, tour for months at a time, do radio, TV, newspaper and magazine interviews, deal with the business side of their career etc. There is no room for laziness or procrastination. Superstars know that their careers depend on constantly putting out new, high-quality material and staying in the public eye. After all, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
    16. Perseverance: No career is immune from downturns. Those artists who have earned the right to be called superstars have seen more than their fair share of disappointments, downturns, obstacles and derailments. But somehow they were strong enough to find a way to either get past them, climb over them or bowl through them. And, in many cases, they found a way to turn those challenges into opportunities rather than threats. It takes undeniable persistence and perseverance to rebound time and time again and climb back up to the top.
    17. Team: No superstar has ever done it alone. Great artists know that it is imperative to assemble a team of people who are smarter or more talented than they are. This includes band members, their agent, publicist, booking agency, coaches, set designers, business manager, technicians, attorneys and everyone else needed to run their business effectively and profitably. They are aware of their own personal limitations and capabilities, strengths and weakness, and seek out people who fill in the gaps and complete the team. They have also insured that the team works together like a well-oiled machine. The role of the team is to make the superstar shine.
    18. Attitude: Most superstars are very humble and have an attitude of gratitude. They are well aware that their careers are not completely of their own making. They know they are a product of the work of hundreds of thousands of people, and they are thankful for each and every one of them. They appreciate their team, the people who have opened doors for them along the way, the fans who attended their show or bought their music, the radio stations that played their music, the press, the venues who have booked them and everyone else who has played a part in their success, and they show their appreciation every chance they get. This is one of the primary things that enables them to remain so popular for so long.
    19. Confidence: All superstars have confidence (but not overconfidence) in themselves and their ability to please their fans. They are continuously striving to get better so that they don’t get stagnant. They are not afraid to show their vulnerability. They also have confidence in their team. They know that they will always somehow find a way to overcome any challenges they face. Their confidence is evident in the way they carry themselves, answer tough questions, deal with adversity and react to critics.
    20. Passion: Music is not just a job for those that become superstars. It is a passion. They do what they love and love what they do. They can’t help but give 110% all of the time. The music and the music industry are in their heart and soul. They are often addicted to the creative process and the challenge of always coming up with something new. They will do anything to ‘keep the music alive’.
    21. Purpose: All superstars have a purpose in life that is bigger than themselves. It is the only way that they can persevere when the going gets tough. There is at least one reason why they can’t quit, or even slack off. It’s not the money; though it may be what the money can enable them to do. It’s not the notoriety. They may enjoy that, but there is always something deeper that drives them. It might be spiritual. It may be related to their family. It may have something to do with their past. But whatever it is, it is the one thing that helps them get up every morning and hit it again. It’s what enables them to do the necessary things that they really don’t like to do. Just wanting success is never enough. Having a purpose driving your actions to achieve success is the only way anyone has ever made it.