7 Singers Who Got Their Name Out There Unconventionally

7 Singers Who Got Their Name Out There Unconventionally + What We Can Learn From Them

Written by: Donna Maurer
Singers sometimes have a difficult time getting themselves out there, when there seems to be so much talent throughout the world accessible to anyone online. However, good marketing and social skills are essential as a singer, because it’s not just about your talent but how well you can promote to the public. Sometimes, it’s not even about “who” you know, which many singers feel is important to make their names heard, but it’s actually about just being in the right place at the right time.
There are some innovative and creative ways that singers have put their stamp into the eyes of their audience and been discovered. You should take note of each of these singers and how they got noticed in unconventional ways, and also what can be learned from their methods.
Lady Gaga
While most people believe that Stefani Germanotta was discovered because she attended the Tisch School for the Arts in New York City, she actually came upon her fame in a different way, because she stopped attending the school to focus on her music. She headlined her own drag show (much like the one you saw her singing at in A Star is Born) performing a burlesque show that she created, called “Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue.” The well-known rapper and producer Akon was the one who saw her perform there and eventually signed her onto his record label.
Though it may seem a little out there, performing in slightly “off” locations is not a bad idea as a singer. You should be open to performing in places because you never know who might be watching. Some people may think that they shouldn’t take small gigs, or work in a place that seems “dirty” – remember if you’re working hard to get your name out there, no place should be too big, small, or even dirty!
Justin Beiber
Everyone pretty much knows at this point how Justin got his name well known. He was discovered on YouTube, and though it’s not technically unconventional, it’s still a different way of getting your name out there. Did you know that he actually initially was found by accident, though? The person was actually searching for videos of a different artist and stumbled upon one by Justin Beiber by mistake, but liked him so much that he signed him. Most people try to audition for specific labels or send in demos. But YouTube has its own platform where you can create your own music and show off in an almost professional way without having to audition.
There are similar, more “out of the box” self-upload options, like YouTube, where you can submit your music directly to get your work out there. You never know when your original song or recording might find itself in front of the right person. For example, agencies like Marmoset provide custom clearance for music licensing, and they are always accepting original song submissions that companies can use for videos or advertisements. Just like with Youtube, singers can upload their original tracks to a music licensing agency’s library for brands to find and use as needed – which can actually turn into a great launching pad to help singers get their first big break!
Nina Simone
Nina Simone recorded and performed George Gershwin’s ‘I Loves You, Porgy,’ a song she learned from a Billie Holiday album as a favor for a good friend. A great friend, it turns out, because the single went on to become a Billboard top 20 hit. This just goes to show that you never really know who is listening to your recordings or performances, so be sure to take up all your friends on their song requests.
Avril Lavigne
Avril got her name out there by performing in bookstores. Yes, you read that correctly – bookstores. She was actually singing country music in a Chapters bookstore in Canada when a manager heard her and then recommended her to a producer in New York City. Performing in unconventional locations that you normally wouldn’t think of, like Lady Gaga, really seems to pay off in helping establish your name in public. As a singer, you should look at any place as a potential venue in which to perform, so that you never limit yourself.
The Postal Service
Ben Gibbard, the lead singer of this very unconventionally made band, first began getting their name recognized when he contributed vocals to Jimmy Tamborello for a cover song, and then they began to collaborate. The way that they made their songs was what was truly different and also attributed to how they came up with their name – by way of the US Postal Service. Ben would send his vocals to Jimmy, who would then put music to it. Very clever, and innovative – social distancing certainly didn’t stop them from creating music, and it’s a great way to make a spin on the traditional way of making music, and a way to collaborate with someone who lives far away.
Cover songs are another way to get your name recognized, and how The Postal Service also got their start. Though it is important as a singer to establish your name as your own, it doesn’t hurt to sing songs that people will recognize, too, so don’t forget to add those into your performances.
Ed Sheeran
Talk about hard work. This performer threw all logic out the window and bought himself a one-way ticket to L.A.. Once he landed, Sheeran simply started to perform wherever he could, getting his name in the open mic circuit just so that he could always have a stage to play on. Open mics are a great way to get your name out there and to secure constant gigs on a stage as well. He eventually caught the attention of none other than Jamie Foxx, crashing on his couch and utilizing his recording studio to work his name to fame. Though this may not seem so unconventional, it’s a showcase to singers that you can’t just expect things to happen even if you are good – you have to consistently work hard, practice, and get your name out there in as many places as possible.
Toni Braxton
Last but definitely not least, this singer was discovered doing something that we all do from time to time. She was singing her heart out to no one but herself while pumping gas at an Amco station, having been a singer trying to make it but not having much luck and was working her way towards a teaching degree in case things didn’t pan out – it’s never a bad idea as a singer to have a backup plan.
Fortunately for her, she was heard singing to herself that day by William E. Pettaway Jr., and got started in her music career by filling in vocals on a soundtrack for a movie. Being a back-up singer and/or putting your vocals on an album for a movie are GREAT methods to getting yourself known, and getting your stamp in the music business, so as singers if you get that opportunity you should always take it.
What We Can Learn
One of the most essential things you can take away from all of these big-name singers is their humble beginnings because none of them just came into fame by doing nothing. They all practiced and worked hard, and it took time for them to get their names out there.
Constantly working on the craft, finding your best music style and genre, and making sure to showcase in performances in any way is great exposure as an artist. Social media platforms and video platforms like YouTube, or even more unconventional submission platforms, are a great way to start, but also making sure to perform in live shows (even at little places like bookstores), and singing all the time if you’ve got a song in your head, can help get you known in some very different and creative ways.

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