Talent, charisma and determination are undeniably assets required by anyone who wants to be successful in the music industry. That being said, the hand of luck has been known to favourably guide the paths of many musicians’ careers. It doesn’t matter who or how good you are, if you want to get to the top you’re likely to need some luck. As it is, many of the best loved artists of all time were at one stage simply musicians who were in the right place at the right time. How their careers would’ve panned out without the slices of fortune they were served is impossible to say. It should also be said that the lucky break they got should not detract at all from their achievements. These cases do make for some pretty great stories though.
Marshall Mathers, as Eminem was then known, was in a dark and difficult place back in 1997, prior to meeting Dr. Dre. Having been fired from several menial jobs, struggling to support his young family and his debut album ‘Infinite’ having sunk without trace, Eminem felt he only had one roll of the dice left. As it was, this last chance came in the form of the Rap Olympics in Los Angeles. Eminem travelled from Detroit for the battling competition and wound up finishing second.
Following his performance at the Rap Olympics, a copy of the ‘Slim Shady EP’ found its way to Interscope Records and, by extension, Dre. The NWA rapper was initially sceptical. He told Rolling Stone that “in my entire career in the music industry, I have never found anything from a demo tape or a CD.” That was before he heard Mathers’ work, after that, according to Dre, I said, ‘Find him. Now.'” It all happened very quickly after that, Mathers was gone and Eminem was born. The talented young rapper got his lucky break, and the rest is history.
All musicians who get discovered are lucky to be so. Oasis are no different, but they were particularly lucky to be discovered by Alan McGee. McGee, the head of Creation Records, is a legend in the British recording business. He also happened to be present at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow in the mid-nineties as the Gallaghers & co. took to the stage. McGee’s presence was obviously fortunate for the band, in terms of what it meant for their future. Yet, it was very nearly all so different. As McGee himself told the NME, “I was up in Glasgow seeing my dad and I wasn’t sure I’d even go to the gig. I got there early by mistake. Oasis were on first, before most people arrived.”
Oasis playing that gig at all is also due an accumulation of convenient circumstances. The Manchester lads piled into the back of a van belonging to another band who were on the bill for the Glasgow show. At that point Oasis weren’t scheduled to play but were promised if they came along they’d get some stage time. They were then allowed to open, before most of the audience arrived. They had time to tear through four tracks, including an early version of ‘Rock N’ Roll Star’ and a cover of The Beatles’ classic ‘I Am the Walrus.’ It was their performance of the latter that caught McGee’s attention and a verbal ‘signing agreement’ was made on the spot that night in Scotland.
Less that one year later Oasis’ debut single ‘Supersonic’ was released, soon followed by their album, ‘Definitely Maybe.’
Adele is almost certainly the greatest of the MySpace musicians success stories. In 2006, Adele, fresh from the Brit School, was unknown, with only some demo reels to show for her voice. A friend took these demos and posted them on MySpace to gauge public opinion. Ripples of interest and excitement began to spread on the social media site about Adele’s demos. Soon enough XL Recordings came calling to sign up Adele. So fortuitous did this turn of events seem, Adele initially believed the offer to be a kind of hoax.
Once the deal was made official, Adele was provided the environment in which she could craft her debut record, 19. All of that, and all her subsequent, record-breaking successes, because a friend thought to post Adele’s demos on a now forgotten social media platform.
Hard work and talent have their place, clearly though, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of good luck. There are very, very few success stories out there in any industry – not just for musicians – in which luck has no part to play. There is of course the theory that we make our own luck though. So, keep chasing your dream and you never know, the harder you chase the luckier you might find you get.
Also published on Medium.