This episode was previously published on the Profitable Musician Show.
Being an artist, it is important to find your own unique identity or sound. Gemma Sugrue is a voice and business coach. She runs Pro Vocal Artist, a program where vocal artists release their own music. Learn how to find your unique sound and how you can use social media as a creative outlet. She is also trained in Tiny Habits, which helps musicians become more productive.
Gemma started singing in school and was told it was something she was good at. She thought she was going to be a famous opera singer. For seven years, she sang opera. Eventually she set up a singing school in Ireland with her friend called Voiceworks Studio which they ran for ten years. She had a lot of singers coming to her to learn pop music. She had to go and figure things out for herself so she started traveling to different conferences around the world, trying to see how she can convert her voice from classical to contemporary style. She learned voice science, got into vocal coaching and helping singers. With music teaching, it ended up more holistic than she anticipated it would be. You become their therapist, encouraging them and being their manager. That was when she set up Pro Vocal Artist.
When she gets a singer who was serious and was going to turn it into a career, she took him or her as her student. It’s a privilege to get committed, serious singers. She’s always been good with personal brand. She used to be on Snapchat and she also got into TikTok. She loves helping people create an artist brand and turn their music into a legit career.
Gemma also handled Cian Ducrot who didn’t want to continue his degree in Flute but eventually got into her program in LA called VocalizeU, which is an artist retreat. He eventually dropped out of his degree and ended up couch surfing for a while. His two songs are on the charts now. He’s on Jimmy Fallon and everything is flying high for him. He’s fantastic on TikTok.
With regard to promotion, you have to be self-validated first because our job is to serve. As performers, our job is to get on stage and give the audience a good time.
Gemma also helps artists find their place throughout a song spectrum. She also likes to help them find their signature sound, one of the ways is to opt for primal sounds rather than stylistic sounds. You’ve got to find what’s normal and natural for you, firstly. Secondly, Gemma thinks that if there are limitations in the voice, you have a decision to make about whether or not you iron it out. If you can’t perfectly blend through the bridge of your voice, you’re going to come up with some cool flip thing that happens every time there. That’s interesting to hear. Know that that’s going to give birth to something creative.
The more you do something, the more you’re going to be doing that or wired to do that. You have to make choices with that. To simply answer your question, you always want to make sure that something that’s cool and quirky feels much more like a choice rather than a crutch or a default that sounds a little bit unstable. We want to find stability in those things we’re accessing.
Gemma helps artists tie in their special, unique vocal abilities and sound to their overall brand. You need to understand what your charisma and identifying your inner power. She has artists do some personality tests and some exercises to figure out who the artist is as a private person, a public person, who they are and their music.
Those exercises can be super helpful for tying it all together. Charisma, the musical tastes, musical direction, and like your taste and everything like my taste and sound design, my arrangement, and vocal aesthetic, everything like that, your vocal identity and then your image.
Sometimes the interrupting, the pattern of how you always do it, creating a lot of limitations around the composition. If the style you’re going for always uses this change in the chord structure, you have to use that change or you have to pull some limitation or boundary or exercise. Starting with drums or vocals can be the pattern interrupt that you need.
Gemma also likes to work around time management. She likes to use the plan tomorrow today. Also, get excited about the plan that’s in place for you. Have this real reason for waking up on time, getting out of bed, and getting onto that plan. Understanding what’s important and what’s urgent, the reason things are urgent is because you haven’t planned for what’s important. Time process is important, reflecting on things and seeing how things went and iterating all the time.
Artists can be perfectionistic about the content they put out. The important thing is to show up. What goes down, goes down and they can walk away again.
That’s such a brilliant thing for artists to take note of. The things that you have in your mind about certain content have to fit the wall’s aesthetic. Look at the has to bes and see if that entry point is you’ve made it off and it doesn’t have to be that. What has to bes can you take away from making that content?
Gemma has this advise for live performances: “Be truthful. If something goes wrong, if you’re like, “That went wrong there. I didn’t think that was going to go that way,” people love that. “Can I start that again?” You can start that again. People love to see that you’re a human being. The stress and anxiety happen when we start creating all these filters, like, “I’m perfect. I have this thing planned to do. I will say only this. I look this way. Nobody will know that I have a spot on my face.” Drop the filters and you will feel more relaxed.”