Back to basics: If you’re a new unsigned artist, this is where to start

‘New’ – I think this might be the broadest term in the music industry. It can mean writing your very first songs, or perhaps taking your earliest steps into performing live. These would certainly define you as a ‘new’ artist. However, equally you can be a ‘new’ artist if you are newly signed to a major record label (and perhaps not even for the first time), at least by the wider music industry and most definitely by the media.

There is of course huge disparity between this first type of new unsigned artist and the type of artist that the media and mainstream often refer to as new; artists who are signed to a major record label, and have gone through years of development with a manager to get to that stage. And that’s not including the many years of early development they had to do by themselves first.

For the purposes of this blog, I am referring to the former of these two differing stages of ‘new’. The newest of new artists – unsigned and unmanaged. If this is the stage you identify yourself as being at right now, keep reading.


Where to start?

This stage of newness can last quite a long time. Throughout your musical career (where development never really ends), this is often the most intensive period of growth you will go through. It’s also often the most bewildering because everything is, well, new.

So when you’re feeling a bit uncertain and at times overwhelmed, where do you start to build a successful music career?


1. Musical Development

The very first thing you should be focused on is your musical development – mastering your craft as much as you can. With that in mind, investing in lessons for your instrument or a vocal coach is never a bad idea. You might want to attend songwriting courses, or learn how to record and produce your own music – anything you can do to challenge yourself and expand your music skills.

Regular practise and performance will also help to get (and keep) you match fit, as well as increasing your comfort and confidence on stage. If you’re also a songwriter, attend open mic nights to help you test out new songs, and ensure the final arrangements are right before committing them to recordings.

NB You may find some local open mic nights herehere and here.

Go to gigs and see other artists play. Connect with them whenever you can, and ask them about their career experiences so far – peer support is vital as a new, unsigned artist and will make you feel less isolated.

Better yet, collaborate with other musicians, songwriters and music producers whenever you can – of all types and genres. Experiment, become adept at styles you’re not yet familiar with, adopt versatility. Again, not only does this help further hone your craft, but it also helps you to form your musical identity as an artist.

Doing so is a process and you may find your musical identity jumping around quite a bit during this time. But that’s what this stage of musical development is all about – learning who you are as an artist, what your musical strengths are, and where on the musical spectrum you feel most comfortable.

Crucially, for the day when record labels do come knocking, you want to become crystal clear on who you are as an artist and able to stay confidently rooted in that.


2. Business Development

If you’re a regular to AR Artist Management content, you’ll know that I am a strong advocate for artists learning as much as they can about the music industry and it’s business aspects. Empowering yourself with knowledge is essential to give you the best possible chance to succeed, and sustain, in music.

This is especially true when you are a new artist and are working alone, without mentorship or guidance from music industry experts. This book is the perfect place to start learning (make sure to get the most up to date edition – the music industry changes frequently and quickly).

Over time, this knowledge will prove invaluable once you are a more established artist, so you can make informed business decisions alongside any managers, labels, lawyers, agents or publishers you work with.

Make sure to look up music industry networking events in your area too, and attend when you can. These are the perfect place to make contacts (whom you may need to call on a little further down the career track) and pick industry brains.

And while you’re at it, learn as much as you can about how best to use social media…

Even as a new artist, you can begin building and growing a substantial audience if you know how to use social media effectively. It’s an area the music industry, even very established artists, often don’t get quite right. With that in mind I’d like to direct you to business, digital marketing, and social media do-it-all Gary Vaynerchuk for guidance. What he teaches is absolutely applicable to music artists.

The more you know about how to manage social media as an artist and utilise it to reach an audience, the better position you’ll be in. Start today.


3. Say yes to all opportunities

Yes, all. Ok, almost all. But basically, if you get the opportunity to practise/play/perform/sing/songwrite/collaborate/network/learn/meet/grow – take it. Don’t worry too much whether or not they are the ‘right’ opportunities yet. At this early stage of your career you’re unlikely to be able to clearly identify which opportunities are ‘right’ for you as an Artist, because who you are as an Artist is still forming. You will take many detours along the way to discovering that.

Instead, challenge yourself to learn and improve consistently for the time being. How else will you gain the experience you need to progress to the next stage of your career? And with that, I reach my final point – make sure you don’t plateau or get stuck at any one stage of development. Look to set yourself goals to strive towards so you can ensure that your development is actually moving you forward, rather than becoming a place of procrastination.

Keep learning, keep investing in your musical craft and industry knowledge, and keep taking steps forward. Be patient but don’t get comfortable with being ‘new’ for too long.

All of this is simply preparation for your future music career.

Learn more

Want to learn more? Enrol on our FREE 5-day email course ‘How To Get A Manager (Or Be A Successful Independent Artist)’ here!



Here Are The 4 Things You Should Focus On As A Music Artist

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 key things you need to focus on to succeed.

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. Creating A Brand

Having a strong brand as an artist is key – it is what represents you and your music to the world. It is your identity as an artist.

If your brand 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. Building 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. Implementing A Strategy

You need to have a strategy – a plan – if you are going to achieve your career goals.

You strategy 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.

Learn more

Want to know exactly which steps you should take to create a brand, build an audience, implement a strategy and monetise your music?

If so, the Self-Manage Your Music Career online course does exactly that!

Self-Manage Your Music Career shows you step-by-step how to set goals and get clear on your vision as an Artistcreate your brandbuild an audienceimplement a strategy and monetise your music.

It is also packed full of additional resources and tools for new artists. Check it out here now.

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