Are you doing your job as an artist? – (Main things to focus on as an indie artist)
Being an independent artist is a whole lot of work. It can get really hectic at times, especially if you are not sure what to focus on first. Every day I see artists spending hours tweeting their music to random people and celebrities on twitter, or posting their video to Facebook a million times where only their few hundred friends can see it. In this business time is money, so you need to spend your time wisely and come up with a way to spend less time with greater results. Promote with a purpose. As an artist, your goal is to make great music and get it heard by the masses, so it’s time to buckle down and focus on the right things to further your career. To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of some of the main things you should focus on and basic questions to ask yourself as an artist. The following are not in any specific order because they are all of equal importance:
1. The Art – Are you a master of your craft? Do you create singles? Do you have enough material for an album or mixtape? Do you have a steady recording studio? Has your music been mastered? What makes you stand out amongst the other hundreds of thousands of artist’s out there? (are you marketable?) Why should someone buy your music? (Remember, getting people to buy into your brand is the main goal). These are all things that you really need to think about and focus on before you make any other moves. Without your product you have nothing to promote and showcase. Make sure that your music is up to par before deciding to move onto the next agenda. Never get ahead of yourself, take it one step at a time. Think of your music/music video as your commercial – you want your music to make others want to buy your product. Make sure that you get the best quality possible for your budget. Quality over quantity. One hot original single, fully mastered, with a very professional video is better than a whole mixtape full of ‘bars’ on industry beats.
2. Your Brand – Getting your music out there also involves getting your brand out there. What do others think of you aside from your music? What do you stand for? You need to put forward a consistent public image that everyone can associate you with. Understand who you are as an artist, come up with a logo that properly represents you. Your brand is what you represent, it makes you stand out. Your Twitter avi, Facebook profile picture, logo, sound, image, personality, and beliefs are all a part of what makes up your brand. What do people associate you with? When you think of Wiz Khalifa what comes to mind? Most likely you think of his use if marijuana and his laid back personality. When you think of Michael Jackson, what do you think of? His white glove, high water pants, and shoes with white socks always stand out along with his over the top dance moves. Are you starting to get my point? Your brand is an all around image of you. This will help you with marketing and merchandising, and it will give fans a clear picture of who you are. Your brand should be developed and based on the real you, this will allow you to genuinely market yourself, instead of trying to portray an image of someone that you are not.
Overwhelmed yet?… Didn’t think so! Continue on…
3. Business/Marketing Plan – As an artist you are a business, and it is never a good idea to just ‘wing it’ when it comes to your career. So you have all this great music that’s ready for the world to hear, now what’s your plan to get it out there? It’s always better to be organized and have a goal. What single are you going to shoot a video for first? Who is your target audience? How many people do you know personally that would be willing to take a listen to your track and spread it around? What music blogs are you in contact with that will post your video? Have you written a press release for your single/mixtape/EP? Is all of your music copyrighted? Do you have money put aside for promotion? Do you have any performances lined up to showcase your new music? It’ seems like a lot to answer at first, but taking out the time to really answer all of those questions will end up saving you a bunch of time and money in the future. Come up with a marketing plan for your current single, and also have a broader plan for your career over the next 6 months to a year. What are your goals? Give yourself deadlines and do your best to abide by them. This industry is far from a nine-to-five job, so expect to make adjustments to your marketing plan along the way, but at least use your plan as a guide.
4. Budget – This is a word that most artists seem to be afraid of. The word ‘budget’ does not necessarily mean thousands of dollars (although eventually that’s what it takes) it is simply how much money you have put aside specifically for your music or for a certain project that you are working on. You know the saying – ‘It takes money to make money’. The reason why most artists want to get signed is because labels have the money to invest. Record Labels spend 6 figures and up launching new artists. Now, no one expects an indie artist to be able to pay that much money for promotion, but spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars is the minimal amount you should be spending if you are serious about your career. You might not have the money for huge marketing campaigns like labels do, but it does pay to invest in certain things like email blasts (depending on who it’s from), major magazine placements, promotional packages from marketing companies and websites – then let’s not forget that it costs money to post your music on iTunes, Amazon, etc – and before you can do all of this, you will be spending money on production, studio time, photo and video shoots etc. There’s a lot of money needed in order to really prosper from being an indie artist, but in order for others to invest in you, you must be willing to invest in yourself. Think of it this way, even if you do get a record deal, you STILL have to pay for promotion (but that’s a whole other blog in itself). Just remember, take your time. None of this is impossible; you just have to plan it out properly.
5. Presentation – This is definitely one of the most important things to focus on throughout your music career. Presentation can make you or break you. It can be the reason why someone follows you on twitter, the reason someone listens to your music, the reason why someone goes on to view another one of your videos – you get the point. How much effort do you put into looking as professional as possible? Presentation means everything from your name, your style, your website, the quality of your music (is it mastered?), your album cover and artwork for your singles, and the quality of your music videos – to how you conduct yourself during interviews, what you say in your tweets and Facebook statuses, and how you send and respond to emails (email etiquette). Is your website up to date? Are your tweets/statuses interesting? Is your twitter bio complete? Is the location listed? Does your music sound radio ready? Does your music video look professional or does it look like it was filmed on a phone? Are your emails professional? Do they say more than ‘yo check out my music’? If you want people to take you serious, you must be serious about what you do. Always make sure that you present yourself in a professional manner.
6. Proper Networking – Making valid connections is a crucial part of your success as an artist. Everyone knows that in the music industry it’s about who you know as well as what you know. Both play a major part – but what you know allows you to find those who can really play a big part in your success. When you know what you’re talking about people know you’re serious. When you know what you stand for and you have a firm grip on your marketing plan, people see you as a professional. Those who have already been there and done that don’t want to deal with amateurs (it takes too much work). Professionals in the industry want to deal with those artist’s that really know their stuff. You are what you attract – if you are professional you will attract those that have the same mindset.You must always be as professional as possible so that people will know you’re serious and they will either come to you, or at least be receptive when you approach them. It’s not about contacting every random person and trying to get everyone to listen to your music, it’s about being yourself so that others are genuinely interested in you as a whole. If people like you as a person, when you release music they will listen! Do you interact with fans or potential business clients or do you spend all day posting your music? Do you respond to everyone that responds to you? It’s all about your approach. Fans like to get to know you as a person, as someone they can relate to. It’s not always about the music. If your tweets/statuses/emails are interesting and can grab people’s attention, when you post your music you will have a much better chance of someone taking a listen.
So there you have it – what you as an independent artist should focus on in a nutshell.