While being an independent music artist is liberating it’s damn hard work. You might think your music is as good as your heroes. However, you don’t have an expensive marketing machine behind you.
All the successful artists that inspired you to make music came of age in the days when music was as industrial as making cars. Artists were free to be themselves, take drugs and then watch the money roll in. While label employees were paid to keep oiling the promotional cogs.
This world no longer exists. The best chance of succeeding as a music artist is by doing it yourself. This means you have to be good at marketing, production and be very thick skinned. You can’t afford to pay stylists and designers to create your world. DIY means literally doing everything.
Fans need more than just music
Music lovers gain positive value when there is an escape route, a fantasy world or respite from the daily grind. There’s a big market for mood music. And today it’s crucial to align with music genres because they relate closely to algorithms. Fans need to find you in the right places when they search. It’s also easier to build a brand through imagery and video.
You must learn how to build a brand. All your photos, logos and album covers need to feel connected. Your written language must be concise, readable and relatable. It all matters, your blog, social media posts and press releases. It matters less about the image you project and more about consistency. Music fans like to feel part of a club.
Quality and skill really matters
More music is being released than ever before, which also means good quality is harder to find. Production is easier so everything can sound great, which might also be misleading. What really counts is skill and composition. You need to make great tracks often and be a good musician. It’s important to sing or play in tune and if you can’t, take lessons.
Don’t release unfinished tracks or anything you are not comfortable with. When you release music in a hurry you quickly lose confidence. Work on perfecting your instrument or how to use your equipment properly. Judge your music not by your heroes but by your own standards. Would you buy your own music? Step back and be harsh, be objective.
Project a belief in what you do
Visibility is critically important even if you hate exposure. Be seen and be confident. Avoid arrogance or negativity. Social media is hard to navigate because its focus is on manipulation and advertising revenue. It can be easy to forget about your business aims. Don’t use robots to auto-post, post things manually. Get people onto a mailing list.
Operate as a genuine person and bring people with you. Value can also be projected through support or activism. Let people know that you support causes and have your own values. There are many music artists I enjoy, but don’t agree with their views. But I can still be invested in the musical world they have created. Because they believe in themselves.
Today, you are the music industry
It pays to be independent, because the labels stopped investing in talent long ago. Of course, music fans still have an affection for record labels because of their association with physical products. But it’s now possible to manufacture your own records with affordable short runs of CDs or Vinyl, with guaranteed sales.
Small, independent labels now focus their services on marketing and distribution without tying you down with a contract. Artists have full control over their output and business. DIY artists are the label. Fans feel even more connected to music artists.
Create your own ecosystem
It’s difficult for any creator to handle the business aspects. If you are a plumber or carpenter then you have a well defined sense of how to turn a profit. With music or art, there’s a fear of being seen to make money. But if you want to pay the bills through your artistic statements, you must also wear a business head. Be the producer and marketing department.
Juggling business and creativity is hard work. But the rewards are immense when it pays off. There’s a sense of being in control of your own destiny. You are making a living from something you enjoy doing. You’ve built a whole ecosystem around your music.