balance in music careerHow Do You Add Value To Your (Potential) Fans’ Lives?

So many indie artists struggle to break through with their music that we now have the following near-synonyms:

  • Indie = broke
  • Indie = hopeless
  • Indie = unknown
  • Indie = poor quality

But as most of you know, “indie” simply means “independent”. And that can be a very good thing indeed. Former superstars are almost all “indie” now. A slowly growing number of successful artists don’t have major-label contracts either. The above epithets couldn’t be more misplaced.

And what about you? Yeah, I know. Broke, hopeless, unknown. But not poor quality. Right?

So, if at least 3 out of those 4 terms describe your musical career, what are you doing about it? If, as a result of whatever-it-is-you-do you’re still broke, hopeless and unknown – what’s your plan?

If you’re like some 99% of all the indies out there, you’re just doing more of the same. And after so many times around the track, you will proceed to join the let’s-bitch-about-the-music-industry club. In that case, let’s just face it: you don’t have a chance in hell and you can stop reading now.

Reading still? That potentially puts you in the top 1%. You DO have a real chance. Much better than 50-50 in fact!

Wanna join the top 1% if not there already? Then ask yourself: am I career-building or just playing around? Do I throw away opportunities or do I embrace them? Did I create a thousand average songs or 20 masterpieces? Do I promote my music to the best of my ability, or do I wait to be discovered? Do I always do the best I can with my music business – or do I say “Business? What business! This is art?

All too often artists don’t treat their music like a business, but rather as a life’s vocation. A calling. That’s cool, and essential in fact. But they all too often forget that everything in life must have balance. Why shouldn’t your art also be a business? Are you a lone Messiah who doesn’t stoop to practicalities in your noble quest? Well, if you are, then I trust you won’t stoop to bitching about the industry when it’s all over.

Don’t get me wrong. The industry is sick and corrupted and it deserves all the bitching it can get. But… not from YOU. Not until you have crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s and persistently and patiently put up a good (and clever) fight.

A talented independent artist can indeed achieve his or her dreams, if they go about it the right way. With this in mind, here are your three basic rules to stick to at all costs.

  1. Rule #1 – Get Your music right. Quality is paramount. Don’t brag about the dozen divinely-inspired songs you’re able to write in one sitting. ALL good writers/artists are capable of doing exactly that. Arrogance and ignorance are blood-thirsty sisters. They’ll eat you and your career. Avoid feeding either of them!
    1. When writing, be yourself
    2. Feel it – understand it – execute it well – perfect it, even if it takes you weeks. And ask yourself: does it have the best quality I’m capable of?
    3. Know what your music means and how it adds value to the lives of its listeners. If you set out to make meaningless music, you will have a meaningless career. This doesn’t mean you can’t make “light” music.
    4. Ask yourself: how exactly does your music add value to your listener’s life?
    5. Does it entertain, uplift, empower, inspire? Or does it bore?
    6. Will  people travel for miles just to hear you?
  2. Rule #2 – Get your music business right. Music Art is linked to Music Business. Always has always will be. Without the two, you would never have heard of Leonardo. Or The Beatles. Or any of your idols. Neglect one and the other suffers.
    1. Be an idealist – but also be a pragmatist. You don’t have to be the alpha and omega in your business. But you have to have enough vision to be able to build an organization around you and have your team members do things for you which you can’t do as well – or don’t have the time to do. You need a team – don’t do everything yourself.
    2. Think in the long term first. Then medium term. Finally, in the short-term.
    3. Build a complete support team (who does what, how will they be rewarded (profit shares?), etc).
    4. Build honest relationships with everyone you meet.
    5. Organize your company (make a budget for 1 year, keep costs down, set achievable goals, and remember that you will have to invest in your future – just decide how much).
    6. Plan your first year (know what you would like to see happen and when – don’t dream: plan, use solid techniques to achieve goals).
    7. Prepare for success (dont get caught without promo materials or cds, ensure your website i great, have business cards printed).
    8. Recognize opportunities and learn the rules of the jungle – both the web and the real world. And plan who will do what.
    9. Always think: how do you and your business add value to people’s lives.
    10. Get to know your fans and followers
  3. Rule #3 – Stick to these Do’s and Dont’s:
    1. Don’t
      1. Don’t be a bloody naive fool.
      2. Don’t dream – plan.
      3. Don’t be sloppy or lazy.
      4. Don’t be impatient – you’re in this for the long haul.
      5. Don’t be shallow – educate yourself.
      6. Don’t be careless – be meticulous.
      7. Don’t complain – ever. It just drains you and redirects your precious energy to wasteful things.
      8. Don’t be long-winded and boring in your presentations (be it your music, or your business).
      9. Dont party too much 😉
      10. Don’t boast, over-promise, under-deliver. If you talk the talk then walk the walk.
      11. Don’t push your music on people.
      12. Don’t claim you’re unique or don’t fit any genre.
    2. Do
      1. Do enjoy the ride. Love the whole process.
      2. Do focus: don’t try to be 50 different things!
      3. Do know who you are as an artist – what do you sound like? What is your niche?
      4. Do understand your niche thoroughly. BE your niche!
      5. Do have a grand vision (not a wet dream, but an actionable plan).
      6. Do learn all you need to learn about the resources available to you.
      7. Do learn to leverage your talents in exchange for business deals.
      8. Do make friends – always be courteous, be considerate. Always give credit to others, even when it’s less-than-deserved.
      9. Do always put your best foot forward. Write good copy on your website and always offer great value.
      10. Do be humble, but also supremely confident.
      11. Do associate yourself with winners, people who are better than you – you can’t expect to fly with the eagles if you peck with the turkeys!
      12. Do follow people who are relevant, emulate them but don’t copy.
      13. Do get reviews and learn from them – accept critiques graciously and gratefully, even if they’re negative.
      14. Do play live as often as possible, even for free.
      15. Do look after your health.
    3. You agree? Is this helpful? Then “LIKE” it. Re-Tweet it. Facebook it. Social Bookmark it.