For any artist trying to ‘make it’ in music, the dream might be to focus exclusively on your passion – that is, the creation and performance of the music – for a living. The reality of course is that you will have found yourself wearing many hats, busy all the time with numerous tasks demanding your attention (from invoicing and managing your social media, to attending industry events and marketing), often whilst juggling a part time job or music studies.
Often this creates a sense of busy-ness without much sense of progression. It can be very difficult to know exactly which things you should be focusing on to move your music career forward.
As a result, many of the independent artists I meet are looking for the exact steps they should be taking in order to succeed. The truth is that this is almost impossible to provide because every artist is unique. They are different in style from one another, with different aspirations, different strengths and appeal to different audiences. The exact steps that may work for one artist can be completely wrong for another.
There are many variables and nuances to be considered, and it is only with full visibility and understanding of each of my artists unique set of circumstances that I can help them successfully navigate these. It is not surprising that every established artist’s route to success is so individual.
However, while there may not be a steps-to-success formula for artists, there are 4 things you need to focus on to succeed (whatever that looks like for you, because again this is also different for each artist or musician).
You should find that each of the individual tasks you undertake as an artist fit within one of these 4 key focus areas. If they don’t, ask yourself if they are essential or is it simply work without a return on its investment?
1.Create a brand
Having a strong brand as an artist is key – it is what represents you and your music to the world. If it doesn’t sound, look and feel aligned with the artist you are, you will find it hard to connect with both potential fans and the music industry.
So, what constitutes your brand as an artist? At the very core of your brand is of course your product (the music you create or perform), surrounded by your brand assets (for example your logo, website & social networks, your singles/EP’s artwork, your live show, your image etc).
Understanding exactly who you are as an artist, and making sure that your brand reflects this, will be a large part of your focus in the early stages of your career.
2.Build an audience
There is a misconception that you don’t start building an audience until you have the perfect body of musical work, which you release via a record label, to an unsuspecting public who then become ardent fans. This is rarely, if ever, the case. In my opinion audience building begins as soon as you have some music and a brand you feel is as strong as it can be at this current point in time.
It is having an engaged audience which gives you your leverage (and people to play to!) so you want to be building this continuously, starting as early as possible. When you do release music, it will fall flat if there is not an audience already in place ready to receive it.
You should be spending a little time on building your audience every day. A simple way of doing this is to document your day-to-day musical journey – why not share a snapshot from today’s rehearsal, songwriting, recording session or gig on your artist social networks? It is the behind the scenes that will always be most captivating to an audience.
3.Implement a strategy
You need to have a strategy – a plan – if you are going to achieve your career goals. It should detail your objectives, the actions you need to take to achieve those, and set clear deadlines for each action step. This gives you the roadmap to where you want to go as an Artist, and can also provide more structure and routine to your working week (very helpful as an independent artist).
No Artist Manager would work without a clear strategy for their artist, so as an independent artist you should be putting this in place for yourself. It will let you to see exactly which activities work for you and which don’t, allowing you to change tactics and direction when needed. More importantly, it allows you to track your progression and ensure you are in fact moving forward.
Without this, you can end up stuck in the rut of doing things as you’ve always done them – which may not actually be working for you.
4.Monetising your music
This is often the last thing that artists think about, much less focus on consistently. However, if your wish is to make a full-time living from music, at some point the questions of how and when you can monetise what you do must be considered. There are a few key income streams in music at present, namely live performance, songwriting, brand partnerships and record sales/streams. However, for most artists these are medium-long term methods of monetisation.
It is in creating a strong brand, building an audience, and following a strategy that you can eventually monetise your music. And the more your audience grows, the quicker you can get there. After all, it is your fans who will stream and download your music and buy tickets to see you perform.
This is not to say that making money early on in your career or as an independent artist isn’t possible, but it is difficult without consistently focusing on the four areas detailed here.
There’s no roadmap to success in the music industry
Ok, so each of these 4 areas are broad – this is not an article encouraging less activity, but rather encouraging you to focus on the right activities.
I stated at the beginning of this blog that there were no exact steps you can take to succeed in music. However, I believe each of these four focus areas can be broken down into a series of exact steps artists can take to ensure they create a strong brand, build an audience, implement a strategy (one that is tailored to them) and monetise their music effectively. This is the closest thing you can get to a roadmap to success in music, and it’s a journey you can take independently.
Here at AR Artist Management I am in the process of developing an online course, which will allow you to work through each of these four focus areas in detail, ensuring you are focusing on the right things, in the right order. To learn more about this you can register your interest here.