Meet February's 'Emerging Headliner', Heather Youmans – a soulful Californian singer-songwriter with a great, forward-thinking attitude towards the music industry. She grew up in the recording studio and got the buzz for singing and songwriting in her early teens, and today, when she's not creating or performing, she is working with artists day in day out in her role at powerhouse guitar brand, Fender. It's been quite a journey for Youmans, but you can't help thinking she's only just getting started.
“I think that there's this misconception in the music industry that success comes overnight, when in reality a lot of these larger artists spent years as emerging artists just trying to get to the point that they're at,” opens Youmans. That certainly rings true.
“Like anything, being an artist and being in music takes a tremendous amount of work; and except for the few 'one in a million' scenarios, it requires a lot of hard work and a lot of years.”
The American Idol alum has been pursuing her music career since 2006 when she was still a teenager.
“That's when I released my first music, and then I continued to release songs and [music in] soundtracks – I was heading into the studio every weekend at that point,” she reveals. “I learned all about recording and songwriting, and I was honing my craft as a vocalist. Then when I was 17, I had a single that came out that did fairly well – it got top 40 radio airplay, so that was really great.”
Two major labels took interest, but as is so often the way with labels, it didn't quite work out.
“In hindsight, it was probably the best thing that could've happened to me as an artist at the time: I was 17, I really wanted to go to college, which I did; and I spent those years after just studying,” Youmans reflects.
“I studied music, but I also studied at a business school and that helped me with the music business side of things a lot. And I think for emerging artists it's really important that they understand how the music business works - even just simple concepts like how to network, how to make sure that the contract that you're signing isn't restrictive - even just how to send a professional email to someone. It's those skills that are so important.”
We chat a little about some of the important organisations in the UK such as BBC Introducing, who support new emerging artists, offering them a platform to showcase their skills on a national level. It seems the US has some equally impressive musical initiatives.
“There are all kinds of programs in the US through brands like Spotify, Tidal, and Fender,” Youmans explains. “There are so many different brands that have created these programs to help these artists take what they're doing to the next level - and I really applaud those brands for doing that, because there need to be more accelerator programs and more incubator programs that give these artists the resources that they need. That's the biggest obstacle for an emerging artist: getting resources. You have the control, but you need resources and you need to find the right people to surround yourself with.”