[This article was written by Dave Kusek, founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music book, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.]
Today, you can build your own music career from the ground up. You can record your own music, you can distribute it on your own, and you can grow and connect with your fanbase.
While, this is a huge freedom for indie musicians, it’s also a pretty big barrier. There’s just so much to learn.
If you want to learn, you need to find experienced people in the industry to share their knowledge and act as a mentor. Unfortunately, most musicians don’t have direct access to these people, but I do. Rick Barker, former manager of Taylor Swift and founder of the Music Industry Blueprint, and I recently held our first ever Indie Artist Summit event in Nashville. We brought together the most innovative people in the industry to share their knowledge and experiences, and indie musicians flew in from all over the world to learn from them.
We were completely blown away from the amount of information our speakers shared, so we decided to record the entire Summit and make it available to indie musicians everywhere. In this article, I’ll break down some key points our speakers discussed, but you can get the entire Summit and two days’ worth of teachings from the industry’s best right here.
1. “I’m a real believer in talent. You want me to believe in you. You don’t want to have to pay me to believe in you.” – Michael Knox, Producer of Jason Aldean
There are more tools than ever before to make your music sound great. We’ve gotten to the point where technology can level bad mixes and even fix wrong notes. On top of that, mass marketing can literally get music in front of tens of millions of music fans if you’re willing to pay the premium.
But if you really want to be successful in today’s crowded music industry, talent is more important than ever. You need to take the time to hone your skills as a songwriter, a performer, and a musician when you’re just starting out and every step along the way. There are thousands of people competing for that producer’s attention or that publisher’s support and if you want to to stand out, you need to prove that you’re already worth investing in.
Granted, there are probably some people in the industry who will work with you as an artist if you pay them enough, but that’s not a healthy relationship. Whether a manager is helping your grow your fanbase or a publisher is working to get your music recorded, if you want them to help you grow your music career, they need to believe in you as an artist. Focus on your skills and make them believe. (Click here to learn more from Michael Knox.)
2. “Fans don’t need more ways to buy or consume music. They need reasons to.” – Benji Rogers, Co-Founder and President of Pledge Music
As artists, we know that there are more ways than ever to get our music to fans, to the point where it can be really confusing as to which tool or service to use. You can sell physical CDs, vinyl, digital downloads, and now instant subscription services, videos, and streamed concerts. However, as music fans, we also know that a new way to collect our money won’t necessarily make us buy more music. We buy music we like and support artists we love. Yes, easy access helps, especially when we’re talking about more casual listeners, but if a fan is set on buying a song or a CD they will buy it no matter how difficult.
The key is not to introduce hundreds of ways to collect money and distribute music, but to give fans more reasons to buy music they like and to support the artists they love. Of course, a new track or album is a reason to buy, but that only comes around every once and a while, and if you want to increase your revenue, you need to give them more reasons to buy more often.
Access, limited quantities, and involvement are some great reasons that could motivate fans to buy. Some fans will buy a signed CD or vinyl even if they already have the album just because it’s deeper access to you as an artist. You could go even further and offer your fans private concerts, house concerts, or Google Hangouts. Limited edition prints, band photos, posters, or art are also valuable to your die-hard fans. (Click here to learn more from Benji Rogers.)
3. “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.” – Jay Frank
With all the changes the music industry has been going through, people are looking for the saving model. Well, here it is. Every single industry changes. And that change is accelerating with the increasing capabilities of technology. Fighting to keep the old models is pointless and is keeping us from realizing the full potential of this age in the music industry. Never before has there been this level of access to music fans. You can upload music and reach thousands of people all over the world in a few minutes, you can talk directly with you fans, and you can collaborate with musicians from across the world.
Jay Frank has built an extremely successful business around something most people in the industry rally against – Spotify. Ask most musicians out there and you’ll hear stories about small payouts and limited reach, but many people view Spotify in the old industry standards instead of looking at it with a fresh perspective. Jay’s label, DigSin, uses the immense influence of Spotify playlists and playlist curators to get in front of huge audiences and develop fanbases from those impressions. His presentation at the Summit blew everyone’s thoughts about Spotify out of the water.
Keep in mind, though, that this mindset isn’t just limited to Spotify. For anything, be it streamed concerts, crowdfunding, or online marketing; try not to restrict yourself by comparing to old mindsets and models. Focus your energies on building the new model. (Click here to learn more from Jay Frank.)
This is literally just a fraction of the information that was shared at the Indie Artist Summit. We’re talking about two day’s worth of real, actionable advice that indie musicians can start using immediately, and we filmed all of it. If you want to watch the entire Summit and learn more from the industry’s best, check out the full video series.
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