Photo of the band Black Light Discipline taken by Sabine Van Gameren at Tulliklubi-Tampere, Finland.

If you’re one of those artists who thinks it’s enough just to be a good musician, check out Pigeons and Planes’ recent article “Things Every Indie Artist Should Know How to Do.”

It’s a good kick-in-the-pants for anyone clinging to the very 20th-Century fiction (because it wasn’t true then either) that musicians can get by on talent alone.

Work ethic and attitude have always been important for success in the music industry (particularly for independent artists). They just might look a little different today than they did 15 years ago.

Check out Pigeons and Planes’ full article HERE, or check out my quick summary below.

What you should know how to do if you want to be a successful musician today:

1. Manage your expectations —

Amir Abbassy says,Set a goal. You want to be Kanye? Realize Kanye played the cut for over a decade before he became Mr. West. Then it took another decade to become Yeezus. Things take time. Get. That. Chip. Off. Your Shoulder. Anything that comes too easy, isn’t real. And anything you put time and effort into, will come back to you.”

2. Create memorable music videos —

Videos are IMPORTANT these days, not just to fans, but also to talent buyers who want to hear and SEE what your shows are like before they book you at their venue. Thankfully, videos don’t require a bunch of $$ to shoot anymore. You have a camera on your phone, and editing software is pretty affordable.

3. Submit your music to your favorite blogs and websites —

Don’t wait for a publicist to take you to the promised land. Be your own publicist.

 4. Stop trying to get a record deal —

The P&P article says: “Instead of rushing into a deal, develop yourself first. If it takes a couple of years, so be it—by the time you do sign with a major, you’ll be ready. And you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate for creative control, ownership, and whatever else you want from a partnership.”

5. Develop a sense of fashion —

This one always hurts, since I’m the type of person who’d rather just find a uniform, buy 7 of them, and wear the same thing every day. But alas…

P&P says, “We all had that golden moment freshmen year when we looked in a mirror and thought, “Oh God, I look awful.” As an artist, it’s best you have that moment sooner rather than later. Developing a unique style can help set the tone for your music by making for compelling press photos and visually pleasing live performances.”

6. Carefully consider your album artwork, posters, etc. —

Check out what’s out there today, what’s hitting, what’s hip. If your artwork looks shoddy, no one will want to listen to your music or check out your show.

This seems like it should be a no-brainer, but we see new albums every week with art that screams “amateur” or worse. We also see brilliant album art that catches us and makes us want to listen right away. Hopefully you’re in the second group. After putting so much time into the music, don’t skimp on the design.

7. Communicate via social media —

Facebook. Twitter. G+. Snapchat. Instagram. Meerkat. YouTube. Vine. Etc. Etc. Etc.

You do NOT need to be active on all of them. But find where your fans are and communicate with them effectively on at least one or two of those platforms.

8. Put together a marketing plan —

P&P says, “It should come as a surprise to none of you that if you want to make some money with your music, you need a business model. What are you selling? Who’s your target audience? Who’s your competition?”

Putting together a plan that considers these factors will make you better able to maneuver in your music marketplace, and to make career adjustments based on actual data.

9. Create interesting content —

I’ve been hesitant to embrace the notion of musician-as-content-creator because I feel like it shifts the attention away from what’s most important (the music).

But I I like how P&P puts it: “Take advantage of the internet—not just as a way of promoting your music, but as a way of creating a world for that music to live in.”

10. Be an effective public speaker —

Developing this skill will help you better describe your music when someone asks you what you sound like. It’ll help you give better interviews. It’ll help you when you’re networking with managers, labels, and agents. And it’ll help you become a better live performer with better in-between-song banter.

11. Code —

Basic HTML is pretty much required at this point, especially if you’re managing your own website, posting frequent blogs, etc.

But the P&P article takes it a step further: “For an artist, learning how to code early on will provide a distinct advantage. Remember when Raury released Indigo Child through an online video game? Or when Mac Miller made you make him a sandwich to download Faces? People love new and fun ways to interact with the internet. Code is just one more way you can reach them. Most artists eventually hire an expert to take over the tech, but being self-sufficient from the start can put you way ahead of the competition.”

12. Talk to your fans directly —

Megastars of yesteryear were all about living in the limelight beyond the reach of fans. Those days are over. The more direct, honest, and engaged you are with your audience (and with the individuals who comprise your audience), the more loyal your fanbase.

13. Make good music —

Here’s that bit of advice I hope is the assumed starting or ending point of any blog post or tutorial for musicians: you have to make good music! 

P&P says, “You can only get by on good looks, interesting content, and a fire social media strategy for so long. Eventually, it all comes down to whether or not you have compelling music.”

What else do you need to know how to do if you want to be a successful musician today? Let me know in the comments below.

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