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If you want to make it in music and especially if you’re an independent artist doing it on your own terms then you’re going to have to go beyond the music and look at it like a business.
They’re not the words many musicians want to associate with their work. Music is a personal and special thing for many, and to associate it with the very non-creative and not-inspiring world of good business feels like undermining the art. But to make it big time, you have to understand the business of music.
Music is very close to our hearts and an expression of our selves and if you don’t want to have to think in terms of commodifying that, keep it as something that you do for fun – don’t look to make it in music. But if finding the balance is worth it for you to pursue a career in music, here are some tips for getting your business hat on to help push your music further.
Organise Your Music
Whether your music is all you, or whether you have numerous bandmates in tow; organising your music output and time is vital but difficult. If you’re looking to take it full-time then organisation is key.
Gigs: For many artists gigging is their life-blood; their income comes from live performances. Reaching out to venues, connecting with events organisers, and linking up with other bands you can play with either to support or vice versa is hugely important.
You want to have the next 3 months of live shows arranged at minimum, ideally the next year in live performances. You will need to be spending a lot of time reaching out and filling that calendar. Having a great Artist Press Release will allow you to send out your interest to venues and organisers wherever you’re looking to visit and give them the best chance to see what they think of you.
With gigging comes other issues. You have to arrange transport, accommodation, you have to be ready for the mental and physical toll that being in the road will take from you. It is number one in doing music full time, but it really isn’t for everyone. Make sure you can afford to commit before putting all your cards into the tour.
Making a plan beforehand considering the maximum potential budget you’ll need (not minimum!) and the shows you’ll need to afford all you need with enough to sustain yourself beyond the tour too is crucial. Basically, it’s really hard – so be ready to think about it and do lots of planning.
Make sure you are also promoting those gigs! Of course, depending on when you’re reading this – gigging is difficult right now. Whilst nothing will quite compare to the potential of in-person shows, livestreaming is only getting bigger and is an amazing solution when the venues just can’t have you.
Music releases: Lots of artists seem to think you should just record/produce tracks and then release them when they’re done. Whilst this can work for some, having a strategy for your music releases can increase your audience far more by building hype and showing that you’re serious about releasing finalised music rather than just pushing out your latest piece.
Whilst you can’t necessarily plan your creativity and how/when you’re going to have songs recorded and finished by, you can definitely control when they go out. If you’re planning a single don’t release it straight away, make it an event and build up to it so that fans have something to look forward to and you can create some excitement on your social media.
If you have multiple songs then an EP or an album is a great idea. It allows you to take your single strategy and enhance it, using them as teasers for the big album. You can promote upcoming albums for months building really big hype and they are significant releases enough to be worth spending out on promotion to ensure as many eyes are on your release as possible and waiting for release day.
Building a buzz is huge for building excitement, energy, and sharing around your music. Having an organised calendar of releases and how you will be releasing your releases allows you to make the most of each one. Think of your music releases as if you were that most dastardly of person – a marketer.
Market Your Music
Speaking of which, if you want to make it in music you’re going to have to get the word out there about your name. Gigging is a great way of doing that, as you never know who will end up hearing you at gigs – you can guarantee that your concerts won’t only be attended by big time fans.
Beyond gigs though, you’re going to have to think of ways in which you can get people to know your name, recognise your face, and to hear your music.
Playlists: In the modern music industry where streaming is king, playlists are the new radio for discovery by millions of hungry ears looking for the best in new and unheard music. You can offer up your upcoming release to Spotify’s curators directly for consideration. Generally sharing your music around to as many places as possible whether it’s influencers, playlisters, radio DJs, or anyone in the industry who can help you get out there.
Paid Promotion: No-one wants to hear it but yes, paying for promotion does work and you’ll likely need to do it somewhere down the line. You can advertise your music on social media websites simply. Facebook has a great advertising platform to take advantage of that allows you to create posts with links, photos, videos, and captions which you can promote to specific demographics to ensure you’re reaching the right audiences. Most social media sites have a similar advertising platform.
Run a PR campaign to get the word out in as many places as possible. We have a guide to running your very own PR campaign to spread your reach far and wide and make connections and find new listeners.
Guerilla Promotion: The traditional routes are tried and tested, but being different can make you stand out from the crowd in a way that will engage with audiences much more vibrantly and deeply. This can be as simple as posting stickers around town that lead people to wonder what they’re all about.
You can make an ambiguous website and share it around with some intriguing features that eventually wind up leading to your music. You can also try and build a social presence that isn’t necessarily built around your music at all, making use of the huge social platforms and then directing people towards your music.
Treat It Like a Business
It’s not cool, or sexy, or artistic to think of your music as if it is a business that needs profits and customers and planning – but it is sensible and needs to be done to make it a career. You should constantly be looking at how you can maximise your reach, expand your income, and market your business. If it’s your source of income then you are in some ways a small business owner and you have to act like a CEO – if the company fails, you fail.
The truth is that doing it independently and making your own career in music is incredibly difficult. You may feel that signing off the “bullshit” onto managers, agents, or even labels in record contracts is the way to go. Perhaps it is, but that comes at a cost of signing away a large amount of the income that comes from your music.
If you are willing to work hard and treat your music as a full-time job – and importantly, don’t feel that will ruin music for you – then there are options to stay independent.
Using the tips above and being constantly active, you can ensure a steady flow of activity and hopefully income. You don’t need to sign to an independent record label to get your music out there either – or even pay a thing.
RouteNote offers artists free distribution to all of the world’s top streaming services and download stores including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, TIDAL, Tencent, Kanjian, JioSaavn, and many more. Artists and labels can release their music completely on their own terms, choosing exactly which stores they want to be on and earning with every play.
We value the flexibility that allows artists to thrive on the conditions that best suit them. We offer unlimited free distribution, with 85% of all revenue going to the user. For those who expect to make a lot from their music, we offer Premium distribution for a small upfront cost which gives 100% of all streaming revenue to the artist.