The music business of today is a different kind of beast from just 15 or 20 years ago. Before the mid-2000s, you needed to get signed by a record label, the bigger the better.
Today, musicians have a choice between the traditional record label route and going in on their own. For the traditional route, the recipe is the same as ever – get a band together, get onto the local bar scene, cut some demos and send them to record labels that publish music similar to what you’re making.
On the other hand, the start might look a bit different for the musicians who decide to take matters into their own hands. It is the more accessible of the two options, perhaps at the cost of taking up all your time, but it also gives you more freedom and control over your music and career path.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the basic skills and knowledge an independent artist might need to kick off their career.
You Need a Source of Steady Income
While your music career is still in its early stages, keeping your job is probably the best and the smartest financial tactic you can employ. After all, the money for bills and food has to come from somewhere until you start making enough from streaming fees and royalties. Besides, a steady income will enable you to buy the equipment and software needed, as well as invest in the promotion of your work.
It will be time-consuming and challenging but more than worth it once your career takes off. In the meantime, try and learn as much as you can about the ways you can earn money from branding, publishing, and touring. If you need help, check out the Music Business Accelerator program and learn all the ins and outs of the music business.
Create a Game Plan
Having a clearly defined goal and knowing how to achieve it is of the utmost importance if you want to stay in the music business. Take some time, do your research, and decide what it is that you really want from your music career. Once you’ve got that figured out, divide it into smaller, more achievable goals.
Have in mind that there is no right or wrong answer here. It is equally noble to want to tour the world, write music for movies and TV, and be a teacher or recording engineer. It is ok to not know exactly what you want in the beginning, as it is ok to change your goal down the road. The most important thing here is to choose your game and come up with a game plan.
Adopt a Business Mindset
Once you’ve got the game plan laid out, you should start working towards fulfilling it. The best way to go about it is to adopt a business mindset. Even if you are reluctant to do so, you should start treating your nascent career as a business. Consider yourself a brand and the music your product.
Start learning how to best promote your product and your brand, how to register and protect them, and how to monetize them. Also, every bit of marketing knowledge will be of great value, as you’ll probably have to do it yourself in the beginning.
It is also important to decide early on which duties and segments of your business to delegate to others and form your team accordingly. Your best bet is to hire people based on both their ability and personality traits.
Get Your Stuff Out There
All the planning and preparation in the world can’t make you successful if you don’t start making music on a regular basis and getting it out there. It is useless to have a good marketing strategy if there’s nothing to sell. Create a publishing schedule and make sure to stick to it.
Forget perfection, as consistency is the name of the game here. This doesn’t mean that you should be satisfied with anything less than your best effort, but once the song is done, publish it. Also, make it a point to learn from your mistakes and expand your composition, songwriting, and recording skills.
YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes are currently the biggest and most influential online streaming services around. Pandora, Last.fm, and Slacker have sizable audiences, too. Consider making your music available on Shazam for even more potential exposure. If you want to sell your music along with streaming, Amazon and similar sites are your best bet.
Online Presence and Branding
Along with getting the music recorded and published, you will need to build up your online presence and your brand. The best way to start building your online presence is to get an artist website. It is recommended to keep the same name as your artist profiles on social media. Having a well-made site will make you look more serious in business circles.
As for building a brand, find what’s unique about you and your music and build from there. Find out who you are, what your story is, and what makes you stand out. Formulate that into a short and catchy statement that accurately portrays what you and your music are all about.
In the early stages of your career, you will have to rely on social media for promotion. Set up your professional profiles on all social networks that are relevant to your target audience. If they hang out on Twitter, create a profile there. If they’re MySpace fans, make sure to sign up.
However, choose wisely and make sure to not spread yourself too thin as managing multiple social networks on a daily basis can be very demanding. That being said, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are the biggest players in the game and it would be good to have profiles/channels there.
Protect Your Music
The importance of protecting your music can’t be overstated. Learn how to register your music with the US Copyright Office to prevent your music from being stolen from you. Producers and DJs who use samples and beats should learn the dos and don’ts of sampling to stay safe. On the other hand, bands will have to decide how song ownership is distributed among the members.
Getting started in the music business is serious business right from the start, so having a good, detailed game plan is a must. Sticking to that plan and putting new music out on a regular basis is even more important.
Once the wheels start rolling, you’ll need to advertise and protect your work. You will also need a strong online presence, as well as a clearly defined brand. Navigating the seas of the music business can be hard and confusing at times. Make sure to look up Music Business Accelerator to help yourself weather all the storms ahead and get on the right course.