Let’s face it:
There are lots of ways to become a successful singer these days.
Now, countless musicians are being discovered and making their music on YouTube.
And without a record label, tour manager or agent, it’s easier than ever to upload a video and become a famous singer almost instantly.
Now here’s the beautiful part:
Almost anyone can do this!
In the past, you had to have a band, get an agent and sign a recording contract if you wanted to reach millions of fans.
But now, as long as you’re 13 or older and have your parents’ permission, you can upload a video and become the next pop star.
And if you’re offering something unique, entertaining and engaging, you can make a good amount of money doing this–especially if you land sponsorship.
In fact, according to Fortune, the number of YouTubers making over six figures is up 40% year after year.
As a vocal coach, I’ve had the fortune of coaching some YouTube celebrities who make their entire living from their videos.
And I’ve noticed they all have some things in common.
They’ve also shared some of their most common mistakes.
So today, I want to share what it takes to become a successful YouTube singer.
And if you master these fundamentals, you can be cashing checks in no time.
Ready to get started?
1. Learn to Sing Well
This may seem obvious, but learning how to sing is probably the most important factor in your success as a YouTube vocalist.
Most people can forgive bad lighting or a bit of background noise in your video if you have an amazing voice.
But if you think that you can just cover up your vocals with AutoTune or Melodyne, you are sorely mistaken.
While those are great tools to fix small errors here and there, they won’t cover up a bad performance.
So if you’re just starting out, learning how to sing properly is the best place to begin.
Luckily there are lots of great ways to learn to sing well.
You can take lessons from a singing teacher, purchase a singing course or practice with vocal exercises on YouTube.
But no matter how you decide to learn, here’s the bottom line:
Make sure you’re learning to sing on pitch and in time.
If you’re singing in tune and in rhythm, you will have an excellent foundation to build on the more complicated stuff like vocal tone, vibrato, and hitting high notes.
Now, let me say this:
Learning how to sing takes time, practice and expert coaching.
But learning to sing well on the front end will pay for itself when it comes time to shoot and edit your videos.
After all, if you’re not confident in your voice, how can you focus on making your performance the best it can be?
2. Have a Professional Camera and Lighting
Now that you’ve begun working on your voice, let’s talk about the tools of the YouTube trade.
The first thing you’ll need is a professional camera.
Luckily, professional-grade digital cameras are becoming more affordable.
Specifically, you’ll want a DSLR camera that shoots HD video.
YouTube recommends that you shoot the highest quality you can because they automatically create lower quality resolutions for you.
So find a camera that shoots with a resolution of at least 1080p.
I would also recommend that you get a camera with a ⅛” audio input for a microphone (we’ll talk about mikes in the next section).
This will make it easier to input your sound directly into the camera.
I like the Canon 6D because it has a great lens, shoots HD and has the ⅛” audio input.
The second tool you’ll need to invest in is great lighting.
I can’t tell you how many videos have been ruined by bad lighting.
But learning to properly light yourself is a cinch if you have good lights and a little time to experiment.
I would recommend getting a set of two softbox lights:
One will serve as your “key” light–or the primary light you shine on yourself.
The other will serve as the “rim” light–one that you aim to the side of your head to provide a “halo” glow effect around your head.
I use these two 24” x 24” PBL softbox lights.
But no matter which camera and lights you choose, here’s the bottom line:
Invest in the best and easiest to use equipment you can so that you can forget about them when you’re filming.
You don’t want to have to be constantly stopping and starting just to deal with your camera or readjust a flimsy light stand.
3. Have a Great Microphone
As a YouTube singer, it’s important that you focus on what really matters:
The way you sound.
In fact, according to several studies, if the audio production of the video is medium quality, then it doesn’t matter how great the video is.
So it’s important to get this right.
Now, there are a lot of singers out there that just use the microphones built into their cameras for sound.
This has the advantage of already being synced with the video you shoot.
But camera microphones are notorious for their poor quality since they pick up lots of ambient noise in the background when you shoot.
So if you don’t want a rogue air conditioner or police siren ruining your video, I would recommend picking up an external microphone.
Now, you have a couple of options here:
You can purchase an overhead mike where the microphone rests on a stand that can be placed over your head so that it doesn’t get in the shot.
Or you can purchase a studio microphone that you sing directly into that will stay in the shot.
An overhead mike gives the appearance of a more natural performance since the audience doesn’t see the microphone.
Plus, with an overhead mike, you can move around and you’ll still get crystal clear audio.
I use Audio-Technica 897 for my videos.
However, a good studio microphone will give you higher quality audio.
And a professional-looking studio mike can also give you the appearance of being a pro singer.
For studio mikes, I like the Schure SM7B.
But no matter which microphone you decide to invest in, just make sure you spend some time experimenting with it to get the best sound before you record.
4. Use Good Recording and Editing Software
Now that you’ve got a great camera and a microphone, you’ll need software to edit your content together.
I would recommend getting both audio recording software and video editing software when you’re creating your video.
Many singers will just take the audio from their camera and use it in the final video.
But if you just use the audio straight from the camera without adding any reverb or compression, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to make your audio sound spectacular!
And you can get close to this kind of studio-quality audio for next to nothing.
If you have a Mac, I highly recommend using GarageBand for audio editing.
It’s free and it has the reverb and compression you need to take your audio to the next level.
For video editing on Mac, I love iMovie.
iMovie is free, incredibly easy to use and you can export whatever quality you want directly to YouTube.
For PC users, I recommend using Audacity for audio editing.
While you don’t have all the same customizations as GarageBand, it will still help you cut and splice different audio clips together.
For video editing on PC, the Windows Photos app will allow you to edit your video to your heart’s content.
Whatever software you decide to use, the most important thing is that the software is easy to use and makes you look and sound great!
5. Choose Songs that Fit Your Voice
Now that you’ve got a great camera, mike, and editing software, let’s get into the heart of your content:
The songs you choose to sing in your videos will have a huge impact on your success as a YouTube singer.
We’ve all seen videos where the singer chooses a song that’s completely wrong for their voice.
Don’t make the same mistake!
Here’s what you need to know when choosing a song:
1) You need to know your vocal range (i.e. how low and high you can sing).
If you don’t know your vocal range, here’s a handy article on vocal range with a guide you can download (the guide is #1 under the “What is My Vocal Range?” section).
2) You need to know the highest and lowest note in the song you’re planning on singing.
To decide if a song is a good fit for you, try to think of your vocal range like weight lifting.
If the heaviest you can lift is 100 lbs, then lifting 50 lbs for 3 minutes is easy.
But, if the heaviest you can lift is 100 lbs, then lifting 99 lbs for 3 minutes would be incredibly difficult.
Apply the same concept when choosing songs.
Just because you can hit a high C, doesn’t mean that you should choose a song that’s all high Cs.
Instead, maybe choose a song that has a couple of high Cs but has more notes in the bottom and middle of your voice.
Now, if you feel that your range is a bit limited for what you want to sing, there’s good news:
With the right coaching, you can expand your vocal range.
All it takes is time and the right singing techniques.
But if you’re not working with a vocal coach right now, it’s best to play it safe and pick a song that fits your range in the first place.
6. Sing Songs that People Are Searching For
It’s no secret:
People are searching for music on YouTube all the time.
In fact, according to Forbes, YouTube is now the most popular site for on-demand music.
That means that every minute, people are searching for new singers and discovering new music.
Wouldn’t it be great if they discovered yours?
But since there’s so much content, it’s easy for your channel to get lost in the shuffle.
In fact, according to Tubular Insights, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
That’s why you want to ensure that you’re getting in front of as many people as possible.
One of the best ways to do get a jump in views is to sing songs that people are searching for.
That could mean covering the most recent song by your favorite pop star.
Or it could mean doing your interpretation of the new hit Broadway show.
But you don’t have to choose the newest, most popular song.
Instead, think of classic songs that people search for all the time.
Just imagine how many people are searching for “Hallelujah”, “Don’t Stop Believin’” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” every minute!
And if you can sing those songs and look good doing it, you’re guaranteed to get views!
7. Have a Unique Take
Here’s the bottom line:
In order to stand out from the competition, you must have a unique take on the songs that you’re singing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re singing your own music or covers, you have to do something different from everyone else to get noticed.
One tried and true approach is to perform a song in a different genre or style than the original.
Here’s a cool funk version of Radiohead’s Creep done by the group Scary Pockets:
What if you did that new Ariana Grande song in a jazz style?
Or what about a folk version of an 80s dance song?
The ideas are endless!
But you don’t have to do a popular song in a different style!
Your unique take could be that you just sing the song as well or better than the original.
This is especially true if the song is difficult to sing, or you do a great impression of the singer.
Check out Marc Martel’s beautiful cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody:
Whatever you do, just make sure that you are creating something that’s so unique that people have to talk about it!
8. Keep At It
The truth is there are very few overnight successes on YouTube.
And while ANYONE can hit record and become a meme-worthy celebrity, the reality is that the bar to get discovered is incredibly high.
So in order to have a real shot at being a successful YouTube singer, you need to be persistent and upload new videos regularly.
In addition to always putting out new content, it’s also important that you’re always improving on your singing and the quality of your videos.
In fact, many YouTube singers take years to break into the mainstream.
According to whyvideoisgreat.com, some channels take years to get to the 1,000 subscriber mark.
Others reach that mark much faster.
Just a few weeks ago, I was teaching a YouTube singer that just hit half a million subscribers.
When I congratulated her on reaching that many subscribers, she was gracious.
When I pried a little further, she told me that if I had asked her how things were going just one year ago, she would have given me a very different answer.
But because she stuck with it, she now has a half million people listening to her voice every time she puts out a video.
And who doesn’t want that?
The Bottom Line?
While it’s true that some YouTube singers seem to become famous overnight, for most creators out there, building a channel, growing your following and getting fans takes time.
But if you continue improving your vocals and the quality of your videos, you’re guaranteed to get views and your star will rise.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
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