​Ten Tips for an Independent Music Artist to be Successful

Ten Tips for an Independent Music Artist to be Successful in the Music Business

by Craig Hanson – Singer/songwriter/guitarist –ARR Bandwww.allrightsreservedband.com

The vast music industry has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.  The changes in technology have drastically altered the shape of the music business landscape.  Gone are the days of recording a semi-hit, getting signed to a major label, and cashing in on a volley of album sales.  With the addition of high-speed internet, file sharing, You-Tube, and online radio streaming, album sales have plummeted and so has the profitability of major labels, artist managers, A & R people, and artists alike.  Not that there aren’t avenues for music industry folks to be successful in, but the album sale cash-cow has been significantly under-fed and malnourished. 
Once upon a time an artists needed the graces of a major label to get their music heard.  Now, one catchy You-Tube video sensation can reveal an emerging artist overnight.  With the abundance of artist services websites like Reverbnation.com and Tunecore.com, independent artists have the ability to showcase, manage, and distribute their music to millions of users without the aid of an expensive major label package.  A comprehensive marketing strategy still needs to be implemented by the artists, but with all of the tools the internet provides, success with a DIY approach is still attainable.
There are many steps that an independent artist can take in order to achieve some level of success.   In the end, the sky is the limit for an independent artist in the new technologically driven world, but success still ultimately hinges on a few key factors such as having a great music product, and working hard week-in and week-out by completing tasks necessary to implement an effective marketing strategy.
There are many challenges for independent artists that are trying to carve their niche in the music industry.  Indie artists are typically working with a small budget and are overwhelmed by workload that it takes to be successful in getting music heard.  It is important for artists to be focused and complete necessary tasks one at a time.  As the horse has been beaten 1,000 times, “Rome was not built overnight.”  It is extremely important for the artist to map out a plan for success and set major goals in writing.  It is important to have something to shoot for. The overall plan may change over time, but that is ok, as it is all part of the learning process. After “big-picture” goals are realized, it is equally important to start setting weekly mini-goals that conform to the overall plan.
Oftentimes the artists feel overwhelmed by seemingly infinite amount of hurdles they must jump in order to achieve the level of success they dream about.  Dedication, persistence, and consistently following through with necessary mini-goals will eventually bring clarity to the realization of the artist’s primary objectives.  Below is a list of 10 tasks that any artist can complete to inch closer to their goals.  
  1. Create Great Songs and Great music.  Easier said than done but this is key.  Most people know a great song when they hear it, at least when it is in a genre that intrigues them.  This is where mastering instruments and performance skills comes in handy.  It can also be helpful to study other influential artists, and recognizing what elements of the music make it great.  Listening and studying things like dynamics, song arrangement, instrumentation, and production styles can go a long way.
  2. Treat your Art like a Business.  Artists are very passionate about the music they create and it serves as a medium to express their inner souls to the listeners.  It is often difficult for artists to create 2 separate channels: One for the creative artistic side, and one for the X’s and O’s Business side.  In order to monetize artistic expression, an artist needs to come up with a business plan and execute it.  The Music business is a very creative industry and artists can make use of their creative ability on the business side, but they must also make use of conventional business practices such as marketing analytics, accounting principles, creating a business structure or entity, understanding copyright laws, sticking to deadlines and commitments, and budgeting to name a few.  If an artist is not treating their musical venture like a business, it is unlikely they will make much money.
  3. Professionally Record your music.  This one is also a must for listeners to take an artist seriously, and usually requires a reasonable amount of capital.  Find out who the best music producers and engineers are in your area and choose one that understands your vision and can help you make that sound you hear in your head into a reality.  Professional, radio-ready recordings are not cheap but are worth their weight in gold.
  4. Get your Recording Mastered.  Check out the difference between mastered, and un-mastered music.  There are many Mastering Studio websites that showcase a before and after sample.  This will make your sound bigger, and is necessary to get music played on online streaming radio stations, or accepted for licensing deals.  Just Do it!
  5. Design a professional Website.  There are so many options when it comes to creating a user-friendly, custom website that it is almost dizzying.  You can start with a website like bandzoogle.com.  The templates on this site are very user friendly and no HTML or other programming skills are needed.  The end result is a well-functioning, sharp, professional looking website.  This is important for an artist’s image and ability to generate a loyal, online following.
  6. Social Media.  We all use it, and we are all still amazed with how much time we spend on it.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Reverbnation to name a few – and link them all to the official artist website.  Not everybody uses all of them, but entertaining the idea of using all of them in your marketing plan will cast a much wider net for you to zero in on the people that may love to hear your music.
  7. Create Artwork or a Logo for your music.  Coming up with an eye-catching logo or artwork for your brand can bring more weight to an artist’s marketing efforts.  Whether it is being spotted in a flyer, at a show, or online, a great piece of art can capture the attention of the listener and increase the likely-hood they click on your link, therefore increasing the chance that they hear a song.
  8. Release a Single or an Album.  Once you have all of the above, release your music for sale through online digital distribution sites such as Tunecore.com. Make it easy for people that like your music to be able to purchase it.  A site like Tunecore.com can release it to multiple online stores such as Amazon and ITunes for a small fee.  A UPC code will be issued and Tunecore can track all of your streams and purchase at the online stores.  It is strongly recommended you register copyrights to your music before doing this.   
  9. Playing Shows and networking with the Locals.  This is not only a good way to improve your live act and performance, but also a great way to market your music locally and network with other musicians and music people in your community.  It is always a plus to have a local following and be one of the artists that people think of when they talk about local music.  
  10. Don’t Listen to the Haters and Stay Positive and Productive.  This isn’t so much about what you should do as it is about what you should NOT do.  It is important to get feedback from other musicians, listeners, and music industry people, but an artist should block out all of the negative energy and doubters.  Completely block out the people that tell you that “you can’t do it.”  Stay positive and constantly look for ways to improve and strive to learn new things.  
There are many, many things an artist can do to get their music out there.  Each and every Artist is uniquely different, hence every plan of attack will be different for each artist.  It is up to each artist to tailor a marketing strategy that fits their business and their artistic style tin order to maximize exposure and success.  Although it is no-where near comprehensive enough, the tips above provide a solid starting point to open the doors of opportunity in the music business.  Once you have completed these objectives, you are well on your way to carving out your niche in the vast Music Industry.  Work Hard, be persistent, stay positive, learn with every mistake and at every opportunity, have fun, and NEVER give up!
Good Luck and Thanks for Reading!
Craig Hanson is the lead singer/guitar player for All Rights Reserved Band, an independent band from Phoenix, Arizona.