April 28, 2017 Anna Russell

Guest blog: A season in the life of an independent Artist

It’s been 7 months since I quit my day job to work as a full-time artist. And I have not regretted this step for a single minute. The level of fulfillment from knowing that I’m working on developing my talents is the highest I could wish for!

There are challenges though, and that’s what I want to share with you. Not because I want to whine, but because this stage of any music artist’s journey of following their bliss is often not visible, communicated or celebrated. Yes, celebrated because, without this stage, you can’t pass onto the next one. It is one of the building blocks, and it’s an essential part of the foundations.

 

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Mainly the feeling that I do all of this for nothing… Wait, what? You just said you found the work fulfilling! And yes, I did say it and yes, I do find it fulfilling. What is hard to overcome is seeing that many of the activities I did over the last few months are rather a long-term return on investment (such as building an audience from scratch, recording songs, being paid to perform) – something I didn’t foresee when I set out to do them.

So if I can share something with another ‘new’ independent artist out there, when you set out on this journey, work on your craft, your brand, build your audience and determine your short term and long term goals and income streams. And don’t be shy to put dates next to them. It might look disappointing/impossible at first but it will also give you a better handle on things.

 

SHORTLIST OF THE THINGS I’VE DONE OVER THE LAST 7 MONTHS:

So here’s a short list of things I’ve done over the last 7 months, most of which haven’t added much income to my wallet – mostly because they tend to have a long-term return on investment:

  • Studied and got a certificate from a songwriting course with Berklee online.
  • Written my first custom song for a lady who won it as a prize at an Xmas House Concert I gave. This was a gift since I wanted to gain experience of writing for someone else. The song is in its final production stage (mixing/mastering) and will be released as a single soon. I want to offer writing custom songs for others, too and I thought I would have started this earlier but I set no deadline for myself and so here I am… Did I mention that setting deadlines for yourself is important?
  • I’ve developed the concept of a donation based private concert tour in support of the Rainforest Fund and offered it to my audience via social media and my mailing list. I got a few likes and replies but that’s it… Why? I have yet to find out, but it probably needs more campaigning and a bigger audience than I have at the moment.
  • I’ve created a cover song program called “Pop Gone Jazz”, which meant learning circa 20 new songs. I’ve called about 50 – 60 hotels and event companies to offer them this program, often hearing ‘we like your music and we’ll get back to you when an opportunity arises” – well, so far no one got back to me… Why? It might need more following up, maybe my brand is not developed enough yet, maybe something else…
  • I’ve had one of my songs remixed for “Ibiza Beats Volume 10” Compilation CD (for a very modest flat fee). Nice to know my voice will be floating somewhere in Ibiza beach clubs… yet it probably won’t pay my bills. But hey, it’s a small success to celebrate!
  • I’ve played a number of open mics with a very positive response from the audience, often asking me to come back. It’s great to be wanted but these are all free gigs or they pay tips only. In addition to nominal payment, the challenge I often face is that I’m a piano/keyboard player and if no piano is provided, I would have to rent a car to bring mine… which costs money, while the gig pay won’t cover it. Hmmm, not a good investment strategy. Therefore, you don’t see me performing as often as guitar players do.
  • I’ve updated my website and have kept my social media up to date… While this is fun, it does take up a significant amount of time. And I’ve learned that I have a lot of tweaking ahead of me yet!
  • I’ve spent a good amount of time learning about and researching legal questions concerning copyright/songwriting etc. – which I needed for the contracts for the remix and the custom song. This has been very helpful and revealing. Definitely a good investment of time and money! But it’s still an investment, not a return on it.
  • I’ve done Facebook Live performances of my songs where listeners have a chance to support my music by contributing into a virtual tip jar. This is a great way to perform for people from the comfort of my own home, and gives my online audience a chance to support my music… this needs consistency and development on my part. I hereby pledge to work on it!
  • I’ve attended songwriting workshops and a Musicfair where I made new contacts in the music industry. This has proven to be a very worthwhile step, especially because I am now working on a new single with a producer I met there!

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ve quickly realised that I need help in determining how best to move forward, and develop my music career. The first step in this has been booking one-to-one consultation sessions with Anna Russell of AR Artist Management.

This is a very exciting step with quite lots of growth and new realisations completed in just a couple of sessions already. As I’ve found out, it can sometimes take much longer (3 years and over) than I hoped to ‘break an artist’ – i.e. get them to a point of a sustainable music career. And that’s provided that things go well, developing the right strategy and being consistent and disciplined in applying it.

Knowing this is both liberating and challenging. Liberating because I no longer hold myself to unrealistic expectations to get it all done within 6 months, and challenging because I realise I somehow need to support myself financially while working on the longer-term goals, alongside my short term goals. That will probably include doing work that is not directly related to my music, which often makes me sad. But giving up is not an option, as the alternative would mean becoming a bitter and disappointed person, and that’s not good for this world. And so I continue to look into my heart when making decisions at each intersection, while the beat goes on

This blog was sent to us by independent music artist Petra Jordan, who is based in Amsterdam. You can follow her development here at her own blog.

 

Learn More

If you would like support in your journey as an independent music artist from AR Artist Management, please register your interest in our ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career‘ online course here.

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