As we all know, unlike ‘normal’ jobs, there is no direct path to financial independence (aka ‘a job’) as a singer in the commercial music industry. I’ve always been curious about how so-and-so ‘made it’, meaning what was a particular artist’s path to his/her first hit song. This is my first article of a planned ten hoping to share the highlights of each singer’s journey with some take-away lessons at the end.
Katy Perry was born as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson on October 25, 1984, in Santa Barbara, California, the daughter of two Evangelical pastors. She grew up listening to gospel music and only discovered pop music secretly through her friends. Her parents suggested that she take vocal lessons which she did from age 9-16. Katheryn began singing at her parents’ church at age 9.
After receiving her first guitar at 13, she began publicly performing songs she wrote. Katy completed and left high school early at age 15 to pursue a musical career. She briefly studied opera before catching the attention of Nashville rock artists who invited her to hone her writing skills there.
Katy signed with Red Hill Records and released a gospel album title “Katy Hudson” released in 2001 which sold only 200 albums before the label went bankrupt.
After moving to LA at age 17, she signed with Island Def Jam as the female vocalist of the group The Matrix though the label cancelled the album before it was completed. She was dropped by the label and her solo album project with producer Glen Ballard was shelved. Perry was also signed and dropped by Columbia Records and eventually went to work for Taxi, a song pitching service.
While Katy had some minor success as a backup singer, it wasn’t until 2007 when Columbia Records Publicity Executive Angelica Cob-Baehler recommended her to Virgin Records chairman Jason Flom (who was convinced that she had star qualities and signed her to the new Capitol Music Group) that her musical career began to really take hold. Her debut album, One of the Boys, was released in 2008 and generated three top-ten songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Perry’s third album produced five #1 singles.
1.What you start musically may not be where you end up. (Started gospel, ended up pop)
2.One can still be successful after tremendous disappointment and rejection. (Signed and dropped three times)
3.It only takes one person who believes in you to change your career trajectory. (Thank you, Angelica and Jason… OK, that’s two people, but you get the gist.)
Next: How did Lady Gaga make it?