With over 1 million new tracks dropping every six weeks, it’s never been more crucial to stand out as an artist. Many artists upload their music and release it on all platforms without further steps to get their music heard.
Added in the mix now are independent artists, successfully maneuvering their way through the music industry without the help of a label. Staying independent has increased in popularity, as artists like the idea of keeping most of their money rather than signing a portion of their earnings away to a major record label.
Artists like Chance The Rapper, Macklemore and The Weeknd are just a few individuals who have been examples of what it looks like to take on the industry independently. In 2020, independent artists generated more than 1 billion dollars in earnings, marking the highest number ever reported in that category. DIY distribution platforms like CD Baby, Distrokid, Tunecore and United Masters, among others, have made it easier than ever for artists to share their music with the world.
Taking on the industry alone can seem overwhelming at first. There are so many variables that go into being an artist — everything from the actual music production to an independent marketing plan. Without the right resources, it can be challenging to make headway.
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I’ve put together a few tips on how to take on the music industry independently while also offering some key pointers on how to separate yourself from all the noise and over saturation of the music industry.
Tip 1: Concentrate on the music
Plain and simple: It doesn’t matter if millions of people listen to your track; if it’s not good, no one is going to want to listen to it again. Marketing is a powerful tool but only truly sticks when marketed to the right people. There are already so many different artists out there. Taking the time to find your unique sound and hone your craft will help you go a very long way in your career. No one wants to listen to the Walmart version of another artist. Be unique. Build your sound first. Worry about the marketing when you have an excellent product to push.
Tip 2: Collaborate with more prominent artists
One of the most successful ways artists can grow their fan base is by collaborating with artists who have already made a name for themselves. In this case, it’s best to collaborate with an artist who makes similar music or whose musical style aligns closely with yours. In addition, releasing a track with an artist who already has a following provides an opportunity for more exposure and might help you reach listeners you wouldn’t have before.
Tip 3: Concentrate on your image/branding as an artist
It’s been said before. People are buying into an image more than they are music. It’s been interesting to watch the industry over the last few years — seeing labels desperately looking to take back the market control they’ve lost to independent artists. What sells more than anything is image. This is why it is crucial to have a unique appearance and approach to the industry. People want the next new, best thing.
As an artist, you should embrace anything that makes you different or unique. Focus heavily on your appearance. This bleeds into social media and branding. It’s important to make sure all dots connect, all the way from the clothes to the Instagram posts. The overall branding of an artist should stay consistent and synonymous. Music videos and social media posts are great tools for painting a picture of an artist. Think about what would make someone recognize you among other people. How do you stand out?
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Tip 4: Make a marketing plan for every release and be prepared to invest in yourself
I’ve seen too many artists spend a lot of time and money making sure their song sounds perfect just to drop it without a marketing plan. This always confuses me because I’ve never understood why one would release a song just for no one to listen to it.
To make a song move, you need to be willing to invest in a marketing plan. The digital age has provided so many different platforms and tools to use for marketing. If you don’t understand how marketing works, you can always work with a partner who knows what they are doing.
While you might not have billions of dollars to put into your marketing plan, creating any push is better than none at all. Artists commonly market themselves through social media ads and pages, influencers, playlists and media attention. Asking your supporters to repost your music and share it with their followers can go a long way as well. It’s all about getting your music in front of people who might like it.
Tip 5: Take every performance opportunity you get
We’ve all seen videos of our favorite artists performing in front of small crowds early in their careers. Building a fan base doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does packing a stadium full of fans. Every opportunity to be heard in front of new listeners is the opportunity to make fans. Practicing performing in front of crowds is vital to any artist’s career. In most cases, a large chunk of an artist’s yearly income comes from playing shows. Artists aren’t making as much as you might think from their streaming royalties and merchandise sales. Each case is different, but you can never overlook the importance of getting up on stage.
Taking on the music industry independently can pose some challenges initially, but if you can gain traction on your terms, it will be well worth it in the end. Don’t rush the process. Making it as an artist has never been more challenging, with so many new songs being released each day. Focus on the things that set you apart and look for ways to push your music organically, even if it means investing some money to get the ball rolling.