The Difficulties That Independent Artists Face And How To Make Things Easier

Image credit: Kieran Webber

Being an independent artist allows for total creative control and freedom but this does come with difficulties.

The difficulties of independent musicians are widely known throughout the music world and beyond. The struggling artist is often a character in a lot of our favourite films and TV, it’s a stereotype but it’s certainly one that is rooted in reality. 

Recently we spoke to a wide array of independent and DIY artists and there were several reassuring issues that they faced, the most notable being funding. Within this article, we want to highlight the difficulties and offer some advice/guidance to help you, as an independent artist. 

Being Taken Seriously By Publications

“I’ve definitely found it hard to be taken seriously. When you’re an independent artist with no backing you can often get overlooked by people. They write you off before they even give you a listen” Milo Gore explained. Something that was mirrored by School Disco: “I think sometimes it’s difficult for people to take you seriously or it might come across that you’re not as serious.” One factor they mentioned was that “it seems like blogs are way more inclined to listen to well known and established PR agents as opposed from bands sending off emails themselves.” 

Having your band name attached to a reputable PR firm no doubt allows you to be taken more seriously, for fairly obvious reasons. It doesn’t take away from your art or creativity but having that recognisable name plugging your music will legitimise you to magazines/bloggers and content creators. 

Advice

Chasing down people and publications to cover your music is arguably one of the most stressful elements of being an independent musician. You know what you’ve created is good and deserves attention but not getting the time you deserve is incredibly frustrating. It’s fortunate but some people will write you off because you’re going it alone but worry not as there are ways to get heard and grab their attention. 

Tag them in your socials – When posting content on your socials consider tagging blogs, magazines, and journalists in the posts (particularly Instagram). However, don’t overdo it and do think about what the content is, so for example a good time to tag these people is on a single preview post or album announcement. 

Consider the content – Make your posts engaging and short to grab their attention and prickle their interest. 

Have a good attitude – Do not harass, bother or be rude if you don’t get a response. This will not help you and will have the opposite effect desired. You’ll likely find yourself being ignored and probably never getting coverage from said people or publications again. 

Make your pitch engaging – When emailing keep your subject short and engaging and make sure your pitch is to the point, has all the relevant information clearly placed, and links to the music and your social media. 

Funding

“Funding can often be an issue with being a DIY artist” Rory of School Disco explains. Generating enough income to sustain yourself whilst still being creative is a hard balance as an independent artist. It’s a cliche as old as time itself but one that remains still incredibly relevant. A lot of artists have creativity, passion, and dedication but the one factor holding them back and is money. As Jack Swing explains: “when you’re paying for everything out of pocket things add up quickly.” 

Unfortunately, making a sustainable amount of money from your music sales and streaming alone is a difficult task. However, around your music, there are a few ways you can generate income that will support you and hopefully help you pay the bills too! 

Advice

As a musician, in these modern times, you can be more than just that. You’re an artist and creative so use those skills to generate income on the side, or even in unison with your music. 

Branch out where you create content – As well as making music perhaps consider starting a YouTube channel. It doesn’t have to be based around your music but perhaps around your life, in time and if this becomes popular it will generate ad revenue. Also, as that gains more popularity your music should too, there are plenty of artists who have popular video channels and both outlets boost each-others reach, and hopefully sales. Another good outlet to use is TikTok, a short-form video app that is extremely popular at the moment and being used by musicians widely in addition to releasing music. 

Merch – Arguably the most common way artists will generate income. Traditionally merch will consist of T-shirts, posters, patches, and badges. However, consider branching out with lighters, zines, and art (just as examples it can really be whatever you want). Try upcycling too, you’d be surprised how much you can upcycle clothing. The cost is super cheap and you can screen print your band name/logo on the clothing. This way you can save money, make money (hopefully), and help the environment. Merch is a great way to start making some revenue, however, it will require a small investment. Be sure to as around for good printers (if you decide to go that route), like other bands, friends and remember to try to keep it local. 

Balance Of Work Life + Creativity

Lins of Magick Mountain explains that: “You really do need to do a lot of work yourself” Adding: “including a lot of admin, digital managing, speaking to people, production, artwork, videos, social media, etc on top of writing, recording and gigging.”

Being an independent musician in itself is a full-time job and most are juggling a retail/hospitality/office job as well. A lot of creatives will work 9-5 at various jobs then spend their free time creating, doing admin, and managing various social media channels. This can lead to burnouts and extreme mental and physical exhaustion, Jack Swing explains: “There’s a constant balance of working separate jobs to fund the band, while still making the music and art absolute top priority. Most musicians find themselves in this boat and it’s definitely exhausting. It’s crucial to find a balance so that you don’t burn yourself out.” 

It’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed, it’s a lot to juggle. Remember to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to relax. 

Advice

Set A Schedule – This is a great way for you to compartmentalise your tasks at hand and a great way to monitor and maintain workflow. Set a weekly schedule that is flexible and allows for you to have days off and time to relax. Make sure it is flexible too, this way you won’t get bogged down in the routine. 

Have days off – A tired brain is not a productive brain. When you have time off make sure you spend it doing a hobby, relaxing, and just generally taking time off. 

Music journalist and photojournalist based in Cornwall.

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