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Building a successful career as an independent artist requires more than musical talent. Constructing a music career requires a strategic approach to the promotion of your music and artist brand and engagement with your audience. It’s the proverbial business side of the music business, and for indie artists, it’s every bit as important as creating incredible music when it comes to sustaining your career. Here are some strategies to grow as an independent artist.
1. Discover your artistic identity
Your fans, especially when you hit it big, won’t know you personally. They’ll know your music and your artist persona, which is why you have to actively construct and establish an artistic identity. This is what sets you apart from other musicians and connects you with your target audience. It’s not just your music and sound and genre — it’s also your image, your attitude, and message as conveyed in your promotions, interviews, and public-facing content.
Take some time to determine what’s authentic to your brand and what you want to communicate through your music. Authenticity will resonate with listeners.
2. Practice your performance skills
Even if you don’t have an upcoming live gig, continuous practice is key to honing your performance skills. Practice not only improves your technical abilities but also boosts your confidence on stage. Dedicate time each day to rehearsing your songs, perfecting your instrumental skills, and working on your stage presence. Play as often as you can and seek feedback from trusted mentors or fellow artists to help you refine your music abilities and performance.
3. Have CDs ready and network
If you want to make it in the music business, it’s imperative that you have music available, and having a professional CD allows you to showcase your music while serving as a tangible representation of your commitment to professionalism. Invest in audio mastering to ensure high-quality sound, work with talented graphic designers for appealing CD design, CD artwork and packaging, and have them ready to distribute at gigs and industry events.
Networking is crucial for any independent artist, so seize every opportunity to connect with other musicians, industry professionals, and potential collaborators. Attend local music events, join online communities, and be proactive in building relationships. You never know when a networking connection can lead to new opportunities.
4. Use social media to engage with fans
Social media has revolutionized music promotion and fan engagement. It’s essential to have a strong online presence and use platforms that resonate with your audience. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts offer opportunities to showcase your music through short-form video content.
Experiment with different types of videos, including behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions, new music teasers, backstage at live performances, and creative visuals. Engage with your followers, respond to comments, and get fans involved in your journey.
5. Join online musician communities
Collaboration is a powerful tool in the music industry and a great way to make friends and boost your creativity. Join local musician communities — online and off — and connect with musicians, producers, record label reps, and songwriters. Seek out communities that align with your genre or style and actively participate in discussions, offer feedback, and collaborate on projects. Working with other talented individuals can expand your creativity, expose you to new ideas, and help you grow as an artist.
6. Apply for copyrights and trademarks
Copyright registration ensures legal ownership of your compositions and recordings, granting you exclusive rights and protection against unauthorized use. Registering your copyrights provides a solid foundation for licensing opportunities, royalties, and pursuing legal action if needed. You might also consider establishing a music LLC (limited liability company) to further protect your personal assets and boost your professionalism in the music community.
Trademark registration can protect your band name and logo. This is key to your success, as you don’t want another band out there using your name once you’ve established yourself.
7. Create a budget for expenses
In any business, and especially an independent artist releasing music, it’s essential to manage your finances wisely. Creating a budget is the most effective way to help you track your expenses and allocate funds. Consider the costs associated with instruments, studio recording, music production and software, marketing, and digital distribution.
Additionally, consider how to create additional revenue streams to help you make more money with music. A well-planned budget and a creative approach to monetizing your talent and music will ensure that you invest in your music career strategically while staying financially responsible.
8. Create a schedule
Stay organized and professional by creating and maintaining a schedule. Be sure to include your upcoming gigs, practices, interviews, songwriting sessions, album releases, etc.
You are your own music business
Remember, the music industry is ever-evolving, so stay adaptable, continue to learn, and seize every opportunity to connect with your audience and industry professionals. Growing as an independent artist requires creativity, hard work, and a strategic mindset. By cultivating your artistic identity, constantly improving your music and performance skills, networking, managing your budget and schedule, and creatively monetizing your music, you can take control and grow your music career.
Philip Kinsher is a writer, editor, and musician with a predilection for YA Sci-fi Fantasy books and rock and roll. And golf and pickleball.