Singer on stage

Music industry

What it takes to become a pop star

Some music careers happen overnight; however, most of them are the result of years of work. What this means.

Marlies Seifert
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A demo contains an artist’s first songs. They are recorded under simple conditions – in your own bedroom, for example. For newcomers, the demo is like a business card. They send it to music labels, often without ever receiving a reply. This is where the M4Music Demotape Clinic fills a gap – every year at the Migros Culture Percentage pop music festival, professional juries review 60 demos (from over 1,000 pre-judged entries) in front of a live audience.

Streaming and social media

Artists with the courage to go public with their music can now do so relatively easily via streaming platforms. So-called “aggregators” – like iGroove or iMusician in Switzerland, for example – distribute the songs simultaneously across several platforms. Talented young people are also taking matters into their own hands on social media – they can use Instagram, TikTok or YouTube to find their image, share their music and build up a fan base at low cost.

First gigs

Bands and solo acts come into contact with their audience during live performances. The perfect concert requires countless rehearsals, enough self-penned songs and a lot of stage experience. Showcase festivals such as M4Music are primarily played by newcomer bands wanting to be discovered by new fans and professionals from the music business.


During the creative phase, many musicians are dependent on financial support. Municipalities, cantons and the federal government use public funds for this purpose. Migros Culture Percentage funds projects in the phase where the finished product is to be shared with the public. “We support innovative approaches, in particular,” explains pop music manager Philipp Schnyder von Wartensee. A particularly sophisticated social media campaign, for example.


At some stage, the point is reached where artists can no longer do all the background work themselves. Managers assist them with strategic, financial and organisational matters. A booking agency takes over the planning of live performances.

Music label

Record company talent scouts – known as A&R managers – are constantly on the lookout for newcomers that they can sign and market commercially. The label supports its artists with producing music. This requires, for example, time in the recording studio, suitable producers and help with writing songs. The label is also responsible for marketing and public relations.

Album and tour

Once an album has been produced, it gets promoted through interviews, social media activities and concerts. In the past, tours were mainly used to boost album sales; however, they have now become the main source of income for many musicians. From here on, the game repeats itself – a tour is followed by work on the next album, which in turn gets toured.

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