Turning Rejection Into Success: 5 Stories To Encourage You to Keep Singing

5 Famous Singers Who Failed Big Before They Made It

Dreaming about making it big as a singer? Developing a thick skin and learning how to persevere is key — the road ahead isn’t always easy! Even the most successful singers today had to start somewhere. In this guest post by Corona, CA teacher Milton J.learn how to become a famous singer by drawing inspiration from these success stories…


As a budding musician and singer myself, you and I have something in common – we both love to share our vocal gifts with those willing to listen. However, how do we feel when some people are just not willing to listen? How do we keep our confidence up and turn our audience into fans? We can draw our inspiration from some of the music industry’s most successful artists who, just like us, had similar setbacks on their road to stardom. Despite the setbacks, though, they all persevered to become the famous singers they are today!

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, was a child piano prodigy and began performing in New York jazz and supper clubs as a teenager. Initially signed by L.A. Reid for Def Jam, her subsequent demos from her debut album did not impress her new boss, who labeled her new music “disgusting.” Gaga spoke on this event, stating, “They would say, ‘This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It’s not marketable.’ And I would say, ‘My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.’ And look…I was right.” Lady Gaga clearly knew how to become a pop star, and after her prompt dismissal from the label, she lined up with Akon’s Konvict Music and had the freedom to write and perform to her heart’s content.



It seems as though Gaga is the apparent heir to Madonna’s pop trailblazing career, so it’s no coincidence that Madonna dealt with the same adversity decades earlier. After graduating from high school in Michigan, Madonna received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. After convincing her father to allow her to take ballet lessons, she was persuaded by her ballet teacher to pursue a career in dance, dropped out of college in 1978, and relocated to New York City. She worked as a Dunkin’ Donuts waitress and danced with modern dance troupes, continuing to perfect her craft while trying to make ends meet. “It was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, the first time I’d ever gotten a taxi cab,” she once said of her move to New York. “I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done.”

After collaborating with bands The Breakfast Club and Emmy, she eventually decided to market herself as a solo act and recorded demos to send to record labels in New York City. Madonna was famously rejected by Millennium Records President Jeremy Ienner, known for productions of such hits as “Dirty Dancing” and “Sister Act.” He stated that while he enjoyed some of her music, she was “not ready yet” and he would “pass for now.” This rejection motivated Madonna to continue making music with club DJ Mark Kamins, who at the time was working with Seymour Stein of Sire Records. Kamins gave Stein a demo of Madonna’s work while Stein was in the hospital, and he insisted Madonna come to the hospital immediately so he could sign her to his label.

In an interview, Stein remembered what it was like to meet Madonna: “I always believed in her, because not only did she have talent, but she had a burning desire, drive, ambition, and a work ethic that is incredible. So, she had everything and I saw that in my hospital room.”

And a whole list of others…

Some of our best recent vocalists and bands come from the reality singing competition reject lines. “American Idol,” “X Factor,” and “The Voice” may rule the ratings on television, but they do not necessarily dictate talent and success.

Hillary Scott, of Lady Antebellum fame, did not make it to the judges’ round to see Randy, Paula, and Simon. Colbie Caillat met the same fate while singing her future lead single “Bubbly” for the judges. Later, she would state, “I was shy. I was nervous. I didn’t look the greatest. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was glad, when I auditioned, that they said no.” Inevitably, she found success by channeling that rejection into a chance to get better and come into her own as an artist.

Jordin Sparks, winner of “American Idol’s” sixth season, was actually rejected in her first audition and won a radio station contest to re-audition in a different city. Additionally, just last year, she was dropped from her label RCA due to delays from the executive team and recently signed to Salaam Remi’s new label Louder Than Life, with her album coming in May 2015.

Even show winners have faced setbacks. “The Sing-Off” winners and reigning a cappella music leaders Pentatonix was dropped after Sony’s Epic Records folded and only came back to Sony – this time with Madison Gate, owned by Sony – after their covers began to go viral on YouTube. After their debut album, they would leave Madison Gate for RCA due to their desire to release more original music than merely covers.


This industry is indeed for the strong-willed and the bounce-back types, and these artists figured that out long before they were famous. What’s more, however, is learning from the sure-fire rejection that is bound to come. Not everyone will like your singing and your performance, but if you push forward and continue to work on getting better at singing every single day, you can turn your love for singing into a career. It is true our worst critics can be ourselves, but the right vocal teacher can help bring the absolute best out of you! With the right attitude, your potential is endless!

Readers, what other advice have you received about how to become a famous singer? Leave a comment below and share!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!



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4 replies
  1. Agustin Ramos
    Agustin Ramos says:

    Yes, those are very inspiruing experiences,just wanted say i never tried singing but for some reason since i was young threw out my life ive always had something telling me in my heart that i should get the talent that i have inside of me out there for people too see or hear when i say see i mean im trying acting too,yeah but for some reason iv’e always been interupted by work or other opsticals that cross my path till now i finally put my foot down and said “im doing it”cant wait too get started.

  2. anisha
    anisha says:

    such an inspiring article. it is true that sometimes one needs to fail in order to see such great success. failure makes us strong and motivated to do better. this is my takeaway from this..no matter how hard you fall you can and will always get up stronger.

  3. Tanisha Ln
    Tanisha Ln says:

    I can’t tell you how much you’ve inspired me…! Thats it! Iam coming to new York after a year and trying my hand at singing . this is it ..god bless you


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