How To Be An Independent Artist in the Music Business - Part 1

1. Write great songs. Write every day. Set a schedule, you just need to get organized. Make sure your songs are unique. Speak your truth. Be original. But also, be relatable. Remember, you’re building your brand, so be consistent and recognizable. Stay in your style and genre. But don’t be predictable and boring. Challenge yourself! But stick to about 3 or 4 chords. Write alone so you keep your publishing rights, that’s where the money is. But try co-writing, get someone else invested in the material who will be incentivized to help push your music. It’s all about collaboration. How about a featured rapper for your single?

2. Don’t be a good singer/musician - be great. Practice. every. day. Invest in lessons and high-quality instruments. It’ll take years to get good. If you’re a singer, don’t drink or smoke, and get plenty of rest. Remember, your body is your instrument! Or, fuck it, use auto-tune or melodyne to fix your vox. No one will know. You can use a computer and virtual instruments - it’ll sound better than you’d be able to play anyway. Then use your recordings as backing tracks when you ‘play’ live too. But not for guitar music. That’s weird. Just for electronic pop. You should do electronic pop.

3. Speaking of recordings, make sure yours sound amazing. Do it at home, it’s practically free. Teach yourself Pro-tools, mic technique, signal pathways, bussing, compression, MIDI, EQ, and mixing, with YouTube tutorials. And make your own virtual sounds with digital processing - it’s so embarrassing to use stock samples the way you bought them with your DAW. Oops I didn’t lose you there with all that tech talk did I? Maybe you have ADD. You should get medication for that. And get the expensive plug-ins, and pro studio headphones…. The expensive mics are better too…. Honestly, you should - 

4. Have an alternate source of income, like a full-time job, an inheritance, driving uber, etc. It’s really hard to make money as an artist. But you can do crowdfunding, like kickstarter. For your crowdfunding campaign, make sure to produce a pro-quality intro video. Your page should look baller. Post lots of new content: updates, exclusive pics and videos. And beg - I mean, promote your campaign on social media, like, every day. (It’s nothing to be embarrassed about - Be confident! Who’s gonna believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself? And if people don’t support your campaign, don’t start thinking about, like, what’s the point of your existence. You don’t invest all that time and money in sharing your music because you care what anyone thinks, right?) Oh, don’t forget you’ll probably have to pay to ‘boost’ your social media posts so your family, friends, fans, and followers will actually see them. Which is fine because really, you’re a small business, even though your product is free. It’s just a marketing expense. Remember, you’re investing in your brand. It’ll pay off after you build your brand, don’t worry about it. But anyway, first come up with some really exciting perks to offer as reward levels for your crowdfunding campaign, like Skype guitar lessons, or, well, you’ll think of something. But def invest in some new and clever merchandise for the contributors.

5. Speaking of which, learn graphic design. Since you only get paid $0.000216 per stream you probably don’t want to spend $300 - $3000 for a professional. But your design can look just as good. Learn about transparency, translucency, layering, bleeds, fonts etc because you’ll need an eye-catching logo, and killer album and single ‘covers’, flyers, banners, profile pics, T-shirts, press releases, event pages, etc. Really, you should be fluent in Photoshop. Make horizontal, vertical, square, lo-res, and hi-res versions of each image because all the apps you use for promotion have different specs. But everything starts with a great photograph! You can probably get that quiet guy who always asks for a “media pass” to your local bar shows to take professional-looking pics for free. 

6. Because networking is everything. Get out there and meet people! Drinking - I know, I said don’t drink for your voice but this is important - drinking is a great way to bond with people in the industry who totally aren’t just hitting on you and are already thinking about working with you on that thing. But still, probably best not to post too publicly about your relationships, you want to seem available. People can just hear your music better that way. Because if you’re making music, you must be attractive, thin, and young. Unless you’re a guy, then you can pick just two out of three of those. Or you could go the other way and be reeeeally old or fat or something and own that shit. Make it your story, because -

7. Your brand needs a great, unique, compelling, inspiring, relatable story, so people will talk about you. Make sure it can be told in one sentence though. Like Jewel, remember? She lived in a van.

Lauren Hoffman