The long and winding road to musical stardom

Nov 12, 2021 | Arts, Et Cetera

For Toronto-based singer Ashavari Joshi, getting recognized in the music industry is hard, even with the power of social media.

She said a musician’s success doesn’t depend on the number of followers or activity. Those are just tools for exposure.

“Success isn’t defined by how popular you are on social media,” Joshi said. “A musician can only have a couple thousand followers and are verified because they have a real group of listeners.”

Still, independent artists don’t often have the resources to invest in promotion and social media is the only way for them to get out there.

“The only thing we really have is paid ads, and even then, everybody is seeing a different paid ad every day,” Joshi said. “It’s like you’re screaming into a void.”

Thomas McKercher, Humber’s music business program coordinator, said he believes music promotion to be an integral part of musicians getting their music out there.

“Promoting music online is essential for a musician to succeed, there’s no way around it, ” Mckercher said. “They should get help from someone they trust if they aren’t social media savvy.”

Social media serves as a launching pad for musicians, so they need to embrace using it to promote their music.

“If an artist thinks they don’t need social media to promote, they shouldn’t be in the music industry at all,” McKercher said. “They might as well go sell shoes for a living.”

However, musicians can’t just upload their songs onto social media platforms hoping to get noticed.

“There are over 60,000 songs uploaded to streaming platforms daily,” McKercher said. “If you upload it and don’t promote it, who’s going to find it and listen to it?”

Getting recognition in the industry is tough, even with promotions.

“In the past, people would hear songs on the radio, look into the artist and become a fan,” Joshi said. “Now, it’s like so what? You were on the radio. Did it convert any fans? No. How do people measure that? By followers?”

Andrew Scott, program coordinator of Humber’s music program, notes that genre plays a big part in being successful.

“Jazz, classical, or folk music is considered more niche,” he said. “You don’t hear them on the radio a lot because they are only attracting a certain percentage of sales and streaming.”

More than 50 per cent of music sold and streamed in the past year was hip hop.

“It’s the best-selling genre,” McKercher said. “It’s called popular music for a reason, it’s just what’s current.”

Musicians shouldn’t chase a trend they aren’t passionate about in hopes of reaching more people.

“An artist should always ask themselves if they would listen to their own music,” Joshi said. “If you hate your own music, then why would anyone else like it?”

Scott said while musicians can focus on one genre, being flexible is the key to succeeding in the industry.

“If you’re set on being a classical piano player, you need the dedication and work ethic to learn the language,” he said. “But at the same time, there are lots of opportunities to learn a bunch of other things. There’s a richness of opportunity that comes with it.”

Having a decent career in the music industry is difficult, and requires a tremendous amount of work because it’s all trial and error.

“Failures are the midwives of success,” Scott said. “Part of becoming successful at something is being rejected and failing.”