Being an independent artist takes a lot of grit. You have to push through the rejection and the negativity and show up to work. Whether it’s your shows or business meetings, or passing out flyers on the street, you have to show up every time in spite of how you feel.
I didn’t realize what kind of workload I was getting myself into when I decided to pursue music full-time. One of the challenges I had was to focus my efforts and be effective while working with a minimum amount of time and resources. The problem is, there’s not enough time to do everything. We are pulled in so many different directions that it’s hard to stay focused. The good news is that you can learn to target your efforts and maximize your results no matter how much time and resources you have.
To be successful as an independent artist, all you have to do is master these 5 Rules:
1. Set quantifiable goals and tactics.
If you don’t have any goals, how will you gauge your success? Every artist has a different goal. Some might want to become famous and land a huge record deal. Some might want to play in a premier music hall, while others may want to simply earn a living from their music. The first step in becoming a successful artist is to identify what your individual goals are. What do you ultimately want to do with your music? In your mind, what must happen in order for you to be confident saying “I Made It?” What does that phrase mean to you? After you identify what that is, your next step is to decide what tactics will help you achieve that goal. For example, if your goal is to land a major record deal, your set of tasks might be to establish a loyal wide-ranging fan base in your city, network with the media, and perform at showcases that would put you in front of label executives.
Much like a business plan, your goals should guide you in deciding how to best spend your time and resources. Someone who ultimately wants to play in Carnegie Hall would not spend their time playing at label showcases. They would engage in activities that would help them get closer to their goals. What tactics would you engage in to get you closer to your goal?
2. Market, Promote, and Advertise
If no one knows who you are, how do you expect him or her to support you? Independent artists must promote themselves consistently. There’s no getting around this task. If you want people to know about you and come to your shows, you have to tell them who you are and when you are playing. Promote your shows, videos, and albums. Dedicate a monthly budget to advertising. If you can’t afford it, figure out a way. It needs to be done. Think of it as a funnel. As a musician, you are constantly funneling people through in order to ultimately make money from them being a fan. They start at the top where they hear about you from a friend, listen to a free song, or see your name somewhere on a poster or advertisement. They travel through the funnel by coming to see you perform and signing up to your mailing list. Eventually, they will make their way to the bottom of the funnel and buy something from you, a t-shirt, an album, a concert ticket, or a sticker. This is your sales cycle. In order for this to work there must be a constant flow of new people coming in from the top. Your marketing and advertising efforts bring people into your funnel.
3. Build Your Mailing List
Each time you perform you should actively encourage your audience to sign up to your mailing list. Your mailing list is your power. This is how you get people to buy from you and come to your shows. Your fans want to hear from you and the only stable way to reach them at large is through their personal e-mails. I like to run a giveaway contest and have each person sign up on a drawing card in the middle of my sets. I put all the cards together and draw one lucky winner from the pile. It’s fun, suspenseful and it allows me to collect e-mails in a non-obtrusive way.
4. Build and Engage Relationships with Fans
Once you get their e-mails, send them messages. Update them on what you’re doing, your next album, any charity work you’ve been doing, and let them know when you are playing in their town. Get as much detail from them as possible like where they live, their phone numbers, addresses, and birthdays. Segment your list and send personalized birthday messages and e-mails based on their location. Answer them when they post, call, or e-mail. Figure out ways to get deeper and engage with them. People will support you when you make them feel heard and important. If they never hear from you, they will forget all about you. Not because you’re not a great artist, but because they have lives, responsibilities, and worries. It’s so easy for them to get caught up in their own world. Your job is to make them forget all about their worries by escaping into your awesome music.
5. Be Consistent
Finally, in order for people to take you seriously as a professional artist, you must be consistent. Keep your online presence active and current. Make sure you have current shows listed on your website. It would be terrible if someone was interested in hiring you for their private function but when they went to your website they quickly got turned away because it didn’t look like you were active.
Also, keep up with your social media. If you can’t seem to find time to post regularly to your Facebook page, hire someone to do it for you or shut it down. The last thing you want to do is appear as though you’re not doing music anymore. Play out regularly. And always follow through with what you said you would do. Be reliable and consistent.
Don’t be discouraged! There are a lot of ways to do music and the path can be uncertain at times. But, if you stick to the 5 rules listed above, you will eventually get to your desired destination. We’ve all heard of the saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Well, this will be the case in your career. Be steady no matter how slow of a pace you are going. If you continue identifying goals, marketing and advertising yourself, building your mailing list, engaging with your fans, and remain consistent you will eventually reach your goals.