By Cari Cole
It’s an exciting time in music for indies. If you’ve got a team, some money and some muscle. But many indies don’t. And this is a big problem. It’s also a time of mounting frustrations. The record industry keeps getting hit. Streaming takes money out of songwriters pockets to the tune of millions, opening act spots on tours are mostly “buy on’s”, and even big acts are cutting them out altogether, decreasing the opportunity for exposure for newbies. Let alone that music is pretty much free out there, and musicians are being forced into innovative ways to make money. A hit songwriter compadre with talent of epic proportions ended up on The Voice which I hopes makes up for some of the money streams have literally “stolen” from her pocket.
But one thing about music is ever true. Music is hardy. It never dies. Musicians rise up from the ashes in homes across the world, every, single, day. Like a blade of grass pushing through the cracks in the cement in New York City, you can’t stop music from pushing through, no matter the cost. But speaking of cost, a music career is a costly one, sometimes with no or little return.
Here are the 5 things you must immediately stop doing so you can start turning a profit and owning your little corner of the world with more vim, vigor and victory.
The 5 Fatal Mistakes Musicians Must Stop Making, Right Now
1. Working in Isolation
No one gets there alone. While musicians may practice in private, sometimes for decades, you need to create in public. Today, artists are creating their work on the go with their fans. While a bit daunting, once you get in the saddle with it, it’s not such a big deal. Try including your fans on your next release. Use Twitter Polls or social posts to ask questions like “which cover do you like for my new single?” or “which songs do you like for my next release?” Do livestreams and show snippets of songs to get opinions. Let people be a part of your process ~ they love it and they’ll love you. Plus you’ll be top of mind and doing it together, not alone.
2. Following Generic Advice
One of my favorite quotes ever: “You were born an original, don’t die a copy”, says author and guru John Mason. Why should your path be the same as everyone else’s? One of the biggest mistakes I see artists make is to copy strategies that other artists used after the fact. Just because You Tube covers made some artists famous, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Just because Amanda Palmer found success with Twitter doesn’t mean the platform will work for you.
You are a unique snowflake. Your path is your own. Learn as much as you can, study other artists paths and try stuff. But don’t lock yourself into doing stuff that is not yielding results. Pay attention. It might not be your path. The best piece of advice I can give you on this is to find who you are and where you fit in this crazy business, and then make a plan, work up a strategy and carve a path that supports that.
3. Ignoring the Fact That Your Brand Matters More Than You Think
Your visuals are the first thing people see before they click to listen to your music. Be sure your brand:
- Is current
- Looks like your music sounds
- Has been thoroughly thought out and planned. Get art direction (and a stylist) pre-photo shoot.
4. Not Planning Ahead (for your record, for your release, for your year)
The most important thing you do on this list is to plan ahead. Indie artists, with less money and muscle in the industry, have to take the time to plan out their release.
My top tips for planning ahead for your next release:
- Shout out about your release coming. Pepper your social posts with “It’s coming” [insert date here] graphics for 2-3 weeks before your actual release. I can’t tell you how many artists I follow and I still don’t know when their releases are because they don’t shout out about them enough ahead of time. This builds anticipation, excitement, and gets people following you.
- Plan each release out 2 months ahead. This gives you time to create graphics, social posts, blogs and themes around each release.
- Release a single for 10-12 weeks. Yep. Indie artists need that kind of time to make a dent out there. And – you can always re-promote it again 6 months later. You have to think about how many people got exposed to it. Most indie artists have a reach somewhere between 1000 – 50,000. In the scope of the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants those numbers are not barely a dent. Go at it again and stretch that reach even more. You’re worth it ;).
5. Spending Hard Earned Cash on the Wrong Things
Being a musicpreneur is in no way an easy feat. Matter of fact, it’s wracked with riddles and misinformation. There’s no school that really teaches this stuff. That said, it’s easy to spend cash in the wrong places, but why try to reinvent the wheel? There’s hundreds of thousands of artists all trying to do this. It’s wise to learn from those who have gone before and save yourself a few of the common missteps. Here’s a few of ‘em:
- Don’t spend money on a radio campaign unless you have a serious 3-6 month tour to support it. And even then, it might be a drop in the bucket results wise. Your money might be better spent on social media ads where you can target cities and specific followers.
- Don’t spend money on a publicist until you have a big win to shout out about. Two artists in my camp are on The Voice right now, Elia Esparza and Courtney Harrell. Now would be a good time for hiring a publicist. But they may not have the pocket change. But the way to maximize the expense, is to be sure you have a reach or a public win before you spend that kind of cash. To grow your fanbase and socials stick to social advertising and fan engagement to grow organically. Get good at tending to your tribe and engaging them before you reach out further!!
Oh, and one really important, kinda critical thing:
6. Surrounding Yourself With Negative People
Like attracts like. Keep your circle small and smart – and positive. And if you really want to get ahead, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Ready to follow the steps above and grow your music and fanbase organically, as well as maximize your efforts and expenditures? Sometimes knowing the right things to do in the right order makes all the difference. Join us for a 12 weeks of musicpreneurship. Work smarter, not harder and — see results!