Throughout history, there have been musicians who were dissatisfied with their previous work or refused to repeat it. These artists constantly tried to find new sounds and approaches to creating music. In jazz, trumpeter Miles Davis once remarked that he couldn’t play ballads anymore because he “loved them too much.”
This was after he had released several very successful albums of ballads but then all of a sudden stopped playing ballads. His cryptic comment, in reply to a Music Journalist who was interviewing him on the subject, was interpreted to mean that he was moving on to something new since he had already done his best work on ballads.
Indeed, Miles was never content to repeat himself, and in pushing the jazz idiom in new and exciting directions he continuously innovated new styles which then influenced countless musicians who followed him.
Other innovators in jazz: Thelonious Monk (piano, Composer), John Coltrane (saxophone), Charlie Parker (saxophone), Duke Ellington (piano, Composer), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), and Ella Fitzgerald (vocals).
Innovators are always breaking new ground and pushing past boundaries of style and form. In this way, they cement their status as legends and remain instantly recognizable when you hear them.
Not everyone can be an innovator. Styles must become established and refined through a natural course of development. Once an innovation has happened, we need others to interpret the new style and show its meaning in relation to what came before and what is happening now.
Frank Sinatra comes to mind as the consummate stylist, along with the other members of the Rat Pack: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Their singing style, sometimes called “crooners” defined the (male) vocal popular jazz idiom through the 1950s and 1960s. Sinatra had a career lasting many decades, yet early Sinatra doesn’t sound much different from late Sinatra.
He found a style that worked well for him and stuck with it. Other stylists: Oscar Pettiford (piano), Hoagy Carmichael (Songwriter), Nat King Cole (piano and vocals), Kenny Burrell (guitar), and Sarah Vaughan (Vocalist). Stylists contribute to the musical lexicon by growing the new music’s popularity and showing where the boundaries lie.
There are also artists who fall on a spectrum somewhere in between these extremes. I’ve used jazz as the idiom to illustrate my point about innovators and stylists, but this concept and criteria can readily be applied to pop, classical, or any other musical genre.
What education do you need to become a Recording Artist?
Most Recording Artists have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, either in Music, Business, or Communications. Some have Associate’s Degrees, a few have advanced degrees such as Master’s, and even fewer have only a High School Diploma. While it’s not always necessary to attend college, it’s recommended both because of the skills you can learn and the people you will meet.
Top schools for Recording Artists include Berklee College of Music in Boston, Full Sail University near Orlando, Florida, and Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. New York University (NYU) and Belmont University near Nashville are also frequent choices. Aspiring Recording Artists study basic music skills, study an instrument (Voice is considered an instrument), and learn about Songwriting, Production, and Music Business. If attending college isn’t in the cards, future Recording Artists can also take a few courses, often online.
Recording Artists traditionally start out by forming a group, choosing (or writing) songs to play, making recordings, assembling an Electronic Promo Kit (EPK), playing live shows, and shopping their music around to A&Rs, labels, Entertainment Attorneys, and Music Publishers. They can build a local following of fans and get exposure on social media sites to prove they have what it takes to succeed in the Music Business.
How much money does a Recording Artist make?
There’s a wide range of incomes reported for Recording Artists both in the US and internationally. According to our research, the low end of the range is around $17,000 annually, while the average is around $60,000 and the median comes in at about $49,000. This might not seem like much, but for those higher on the scale, it’s not uncommon to see incomes in the $150,000 range or higher.
Of course, major stars make much more. Entertainment is a huge business globally, and Recording Artists realize income from a wide variety of sources, from lucrative licensing deals for movies and advertising, to concerts and tours, merchandise, cross-branding for other products (i.e., clothing or perfume), and sale of their music via streaming services and subscriptions. Don’t let anyone ever tell you there’s no money in making music!
For someone who becomes a household name, the sky seems to be the limit. Paul McCartney and Rhianna are certified billionaires while Elton John has a reported net worth of $500 million. Adele earns a reported $30 million a year and Katy Perry earns over $175 million each year. Other super-rich singers include Dolly Parton, Madonna, Celine Dion, Beyonce, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, and Barbra Streisand.