I love the idea of the independent musician. You don’t have to rely on anyone else to get your music career moving and you’re able to let as much of your creative side show as you want. But being a successful independent musicians is hard work. Signed artists usually have a team of people who know the business helping out. As an indie, you have to keep an eye on everything yourself and do much of the heavy lifting.
While there are courses that can teach you the business side of things, many musicians start their music career by just trying things out and seeing how they go. This method of trial and error can be very hit and miss. Considering the fact that many musicians learn from others (who are also in this trial and error stage), this can lead to a lot of bad information being shared.
Today, I’m going to look at three of the most common mistakes I see independent musicians making. If it’s new and helpful information to you, I’m glad. If you’ve already learned these lessons, I hope it acts as a good refresher for you.
So, let’s get into it.
1. Not Monetizing Live Shows
Many young artists are afraid to appear like they’re taking themselves too seriously. When you’re an up-and-coming talent, it’s easy to slip into casual mode– always playing for free, and not setting up your merch display or charging for CDs.
While you should aim to get paid directly from live shows, this isn’t always possible when you’re a fresh act. Having said that, there is still money to be made from your performances.
If you’ve piqued the crowd’s interest, a few people will want to buy merch. Make sure to mention from stage that you’ll be going around after your set to sell CDs. Don’t lose sales because you weren’t prepared!
A second way to make money from your shows is via royalties collection. While this won’t be huge amounts per show– it can add up. Many musicians don’t claim their performance royalties and essentially leave money on the table.
2. Focusing too much on getting signed
This point is pretty self explanatory. Yes, I know the thought of getting signed is alluring, but it shouldn’t be your main aim. You want to make the best music you can, and you want to build up as big a loyal fanbase as you can on your own. Whatever other goals you have (to get signed or stay indie) will flow from there.
There are two main problems you’ll face when aiming to sign a record deal:
1. You’ll target the wrong people. Instead of focusing on interacting with fans, Djs, and people that can broadcast your music on a wider scale than you can do yourself, you’ll be focusing on getting onto a label’s radar. In reality, the best way to get on a record label’s radar is to ALREADY be successful on your own. If you’ve created your own buzz, they’ll come to YOU.
2. You’ll lose motivation if it doesn’t come. If you’ve got your heart set on a record deal but you don’t get signed, this will only cause discouragement and make you lose the love for the music. I’ve seen this happen with many talented musicians, and it’s not a pretty site.
Focus on building up your brand, making your own fans, and earning your own money. If you go on to get a good record deal, that’s great. If not, you’ll still be making money and gaining new fans. And as you put more work in, you’re bound to get more rewards out.
3. Not treating your music as a business
Yes, music should be a fun venture, but you should still treat it like a business (even if you’re not making a full-time living from it at this very minute)!
If you want to make it past the ‘bedroom’ musician stage, you need to recognize that this is your career (or one of several careers– until you can ditch the day-gig). You need to keep relationships professional, network to set schedules, keep paperwork of what’s been happening, push yourself even when you don’t want to, and strategically invest time and money with the aim of making more back in the long run.
Your level of success won’t just rely on how talented you are. Record labels make hits with artists because they realize hitting big requires a lot of hard work. They do all of the things mentioned above, and a lot more. If you want even a slice of this success, you need to do the same.
So there you have it, three tips I feel could help a lot of indie musicians. It’s the small things that can mean the difference between success and failure.
If you want to learn more ways to push your music career forward, check out the IMA Music Business Academy. This is an online music business course that has already helped over 100 independent musician take things into their own hands and get their music careers moving faster then ever before. After all, why not save years in trial and error and get things right the first time around?
[Oops! picture from Shutterstock.]