One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. I’ve compiled 10 great strategies with 10 real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians I’ve talked to think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.
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Here’s strategies 6-10. (You can find part 1 right here.)
6. Find Your Niche as an Indie Musician
The best way to get a really dedicated fan base is to start small. Start local and move up from there. Just focus on your town or city and build up a strong following. Stay after your gigs to get to know your fans. Give them something really valuable and unique. Once you’ve conquered your local scene, move on to the next city. Its a long process, but in the end you’ll have a lot of people who are very excited about your music.
In the same way, you should really focus in on a niche. This can be anything you want – a genre, a attitude, a belief. Aligning with a niche creates the opportunity for a connection – chances are there’s a lot of other people out there who are just as excited about that niche as you are!
Eileen Quinn, is a songwriter, indie musician, and sailing enthusiast who combines her two passions into one by writing sailing songs. She targeted a market that isn’t already saturated with music – the sailing market – and was able to really be the star. It may seem like she limited themselves in terms of audience, but in the mainstream music industry they would have been just another artist. In their specific niche, however she was able to really stand out!
7. Get Your Fans Talking
As an indie musician today, you’re most likely in charge of your own marketing. Music promotion can seem like a completely daunting task if its just you trying to get the word out, but you actually have a whole team of marketers just waiting to share your music – your fans!
With the constant presence of social media and the internet, most music fans today are bombarded with more information than they can possibly process. As a result, most music fans look to recommendations from trusted sources for new music. These trusted sources could be a good music blog but more times than not it comes from a friend.
The Wild Feathers were a group of indie musicians out of Nashville, TN. In the week leading up to the release of their self-titled debut album, The Wild Feathers made the album available early at their live shows. On top of that, the band gave their concert-goers a little surprize. Every album sold included two CDs – one to keep and one to share with a friend. (Source) By selling the album early they are specifically targeting their superfans – the ones who would travel hours just to get their hands on the album before everyone else. Because they are so passionate about the music, superfans are also most likely to tell their friends about The Wild Feathers. Giving them an extra CD to do just that really empowered their superfans to share.
8. Develop a Brand Strategy
“Branding” and “artist image” aren’t new concepts at all. Since the beginning of music artists have been defined by genre and personality attributes. Especially today, there are so many people out there trying to make it as a musician that you really need to consider why people would buy your album or go to your show instead of someone else’s.
There are two common approaches when it comes to defining a brand. Some indie musicians like to list every single genre they draw influence from. On the other end of the spectrum, some artists are afraid to even approach the task of labeling themselves. No brand is just as bad as a confusing one.
You don’t have to confine your brand to just musical style. Weave in elements of your personality, your beliefs, and your attitudes. Before Sum 41 made it big, they had a hard time getting a record deal because many labels thought they were just another Blink 182 imitation band. The labels only heard one dimension of the band – their sound. It was their image, personality and attitude that really set them apart and got them the deal in the end. The band took camcorder footage of them goofing around and edited it into an audio-visual EPK. The resulting seven-minute hilarious video showed the labels that they were more than just punk music. They were characters and they were very good at projecting their character through media.
9. Find a Balance Between Free and Paid Content
Your music is valuable, and you can ask people to pay for your music in a variety of ways! Remember that money isn’t the only form of payment that has value. Information can be just as valuable or more than cash in many instances. Free music is one of the most effective ways to grow your fanbase. Even big-time musicians like Radiohead and Trent Reznor have used free music to their advantage. The key is to have a reason for free.
When trying to navigate the realm of paid content don’t let yourself be restricted to the typical music products like the CD and tshirt. Services like BandPage Experiences allow you to sell unique products and experiences to your fans. The sky’s the limit, and the more personal the products and experiences, the better. Rock Camp used a BandPage Experience to host a contest, allowing guitarists to purchase entries to win a spot at the Ultimate Musician’s Camp. Anberlin used a BandPage Experience to sell all access passes to their tours.
10. React to Opportunity
In music, opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and it’s your job to be ready! These opportunities could be anything from a pick up gig, to a publishing deal to a chance to collaborate with a local musician. Either way, the indie musicians that can react quickly are the ones who succeed. While you want to take the time to weigh your options, remember that overthinking an opportunity can be just as bad as under thinking. There comes a point where you need to just decide to take the leap or not!
Amanda Palmer made $11k in two hours by jumping on an opportunity. (Source) Palmer was tweeting with her followers about how she was once again alone on her computer on a Friday night. Fans joined in the conversation and a group was quickly formed – “The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers.” Amanda Palmer created the hashtag #LOFNOTC and thousands joined the conversation. When a fan suggested a t-shirt be made for the group Palmer ran with the idea, sketched out a quick shirt design and threw up a website that night. The shirts were available for $25 and two hours later Palmer had made $11,000!