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 for indie musicians 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.
Here’s strategies 1-5. (You can find part 2 right here).
1. Make a Plan from the Start
Making a great plan is one of the best ways to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.
Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.” Break down your lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.
From the start Karmin knew they wanted to be a pop duo targeting a young teen audience. Manager Nils Gums suggested the duo cover current popular songs to get in front of their target audience. They followed the charts and consistently covered the most popular songs every week. The important takeaway here is that Karmin knew their goal, they made a plan to get there, and they stuck with it. If they had given up on the cover strategy after only a few weeks, they would never have gotten to where they are today.
2. Leverage Your Copyrights
Your copyrights are your business. They are your assets and your products, so it makes sense to take some time to understand them. You don’t need to be on the same level as a big-shot entertainment attorney, but it helps to have a general understanding of copyright law.
There are two kinds of copyright: composition and sound recording. Copyright is created when a musical idea is put into tangible form. So when you write that song down (composition) or record it (sound recording) you own the rights! All those rights are exclusive, meaning you, and only you can leverage your song. Remember that copyrights are power! You own the copyrights, so you have the power. Think about it, without your copyrights would labels or publishers have anything to sell? Lots of musicians have been realizing this and have figured out cool ways to leverage their copyrights.
The Happen Ins are an Austin-based rock band that were featured in a catalog from the clothing company Free People, a corresponding video, many blog posts, and played at the catalog release party. In order to grow their fan base, the Happen Ins offered a free download to Free People’s customers. In many cases this exposure can be far more valuable than money.
3. Focus on Time Management
Today’s indie musician plays the part of the artist, and the business professional, and as a result, many find themselves juggling entirely too many tasks. It’s great that artists today can be 100% in control of their career, the problem comes when you can no longer find enough time for what matters most – your music!
If there’s anything you are doing that’s not bringing you closer to your goals, stop or take a closer look. If you’re spending hours each day on tasks that don’t have much benefit, eliminate, simplify, postpone, or delegate to your team members. Try to prioritize the list. More urgent matters and tasks that you keep putting off and putting off should have a high priority. AND REMEMBER, make time for your music!
Michael Shoup is a musician and entrepreneur who turned his career around and started making profit with time management. After graduating college with a Bachelors degree in music, Shoup started his career as a musician and effectively gigged himself into $6,000 of high interest credit card debt. Time management has helped Michael Shoup become debt free. On top of that, he’s managed to self-fund an album, started a music marketing agency, 12SouthMusic, and created a social media app, Visualive.
4. Build a Team that Grows with You
DIY may not be the best option for indie artists. There are a lot of artists out there with excellent business chops, but they’re still not experts. And that’s okay, because you have more important things to do like creating music! The key is to find a team who is motivated and passionate. Instead of DIY, move towards a do-it-with-others (DIWO) strategy.
Your team doesn’t even have to be seasoned pros. If you have a band you’re already way ahead of the game. Everyone has their own unique skills, so take advantage of that!
Pop singer/songwriter Betty Who was able to be really successful with a team made of college classmates. Producer Peter Thomas and manager Ethan Schiff attended Berklee College of Music with Betty Who. With Peter Thomas she was able to find and really latch onto her signature pop sound, and Schiff helped set her up on the business side of things. Betty Who’s “Somebody Loves You” began drawing the attention of the pop music world after the release of her first EP The Movement in spring of 2013. In September 2013 the song was featured in a viral gay marriage proposal video and just a few days later she was signed to RCA Records.
5. Get out There and Network!
Networking is really important to success in music, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with internal tasks and forget to take the time and introduce yourself. You don’t need a big speech or a prepared pitch. Just get into the habit of introducing yourself to one person at every show you play or at every studio you record in. Talk to the guy in charge of the soundboard, maybe he loved your show and wants to produce your next album.
Remember, networking is a two-way relationship, and collaboration is usually the best way to promote this win-win situation. If you collaborate on a show, a song, or a recording, both of you will be exposed to the other’s fanbase! Always remember to give before you ask. Do something for someone and they will remember you.
Vinyl Thief used their extended network to find success. The band released their first EP, Control, in 2010 but were disappointed in the results. They called on a former high school classmate, now music marketing graduate, Wes Davenport who started working on improving their marketing efforts. Davenport helped them grow their fanbase through the digital releases of single, White Light, and second EP, Rebel Hill. (Source)
To learn more strategies for indie musicians that you can be applying to your career RIGHT NOW, sign up to get a free copy of our most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business.