How does an artist move forward in the music business without the support of business professionals backing their career? How does an artist get noticed by the business professionals and get them to promote the artist’s music? Whether your objective is to have a personal manager, a booking agent, a publicist or be signed to a record label, there is only one way to do it. And that is doing it all yourself first. Taking care of all the business behind your career so that if, and when, the business professional comes on board, they use your progress and can take it to the next level.
This means- you are your own manager, booking agent, record label, distributor, marketing director, publicist, street team and more. Do each to the best of your ability. When you invest your time and money into your career, you learn the ropes of the music business and get a better perspective and appreciation for the work the professionals do. In addition, when you invest in yourself, it inspires others to invest in you as well. Think of yourself as an octopus. One central body, but multiple arms all working at the same time.
The first arm of your business will be THE MUSIC. This is the part of your business that is the least business-like, but the most critical to moving forward as a business. Talent & Songs are what drive this business. Work on musicianship, songwriting, and production. Write and record great songs. The quality of your sound should be able to compete with commercial tracks on the Billboard charts. Figure out how to classify your genre and write a clear description of your musical style.
The second arm is MANAGEMENT. This is where you truly use the business side of your brain. Get outside of your music (and your ego) and try to evaluate your music and its ability to compete in the music industry. Evaluation and career planning need to take place. There are multiple books and online articles on Artist Management. Start by getting career do’s and don’ts and direction by looking at acts that have come before you and have achieved the success you would like to get. What did they do that you can emulate? Then determine who your fans are and how you will reach them. Attend workshops on the music business and read online articles to get more career advice. Managers love to work with an artist who was previously self-managed. The artist can make business decisions, and will appreciate and respect the manager’s tutelage.
The third is the RECORD LABEL/ DISTRIBUTION arm. If you have songs and product, you want to get it out to the public, to as many people as possible. It is never wise for an artist to wait to get signed to do this, as labels take notice now when you, Mr. Independent, are making a buzz selling a large number of albums. Plus you can start making some money from your music. Sell your CDs on your website, from a local store who will take you on consignment, to all your friends and family, at your live shows, etc…Think about where you buy music, and then get your music to those places. Distribution? Thanks to the Internet you can have worldwide distribution. Get that CD up on CDBaby, and be sure to select Digital Distribution. Yes, you, Mr. Local Guy, will soon be getting song sales in faraway places like Bangladesh!
The fourth arm is BOOKING/TOURING. Most artists I know want a booking agent. It’s a hard job, which includes obtaining a talent agency license, so there are not an abundance of agents waiting to sign a new act that has no obvious fan base and touring history. You will need to secure your own bookings. Your goal is to book yourself at shows so you can share your music, build your fan base, and make money from your music. Again, the best way to learn how to do this is to find books and online articles that tell you step-by-step how to get bookings at clubs, festivals, and national tours. Strengthen your “sales pitch” about not only what a great live show you have, but mainly how you plan to get a large audience to come see your show. Once you have consistent shows and fans are coming out steadily, you’re much more attractive to a booking agent to begin working with you. You will be so happy to give up that job, and the agent will be happy to take on the mayhem. A win-win.
The last octopus arm is the MARKETING arm. Whether you are working with no budget, a small budget or unlimited resources, you can begin your marketing campaign as soon as you have either 1) a live show or 2) an album. Your goal is to reach your target audience, and to use effective ways to excite them about what you are promoting. Make a list of where your audience is, and ways to reach them. Think outside the box, get creative! What is your story- what makes you unique- why should people care about you or your music? Answer those and you can start to promote. No money? Use the internet to spread the word, make flyers and distribute them yourself, put on a free show, reach out to music reviewers for CD reviews and newspaper & magazine writers for stories and reviews. Small budget: consider advertisement or printing merchandise to sell while touring. Getting a publicist interested in working with you is possible after you have identified yourself as a “newsworthy” act. Having an interesting story, being a tremendous talent, having a buzz….will get a buzz in their ear and make them take notice in you.
Many artists feel unsure of how to work the music business alone. They will, unfortunately, wait on moving forward in hopes a music professional will come along and steer them, promote them and support them. But the music industry of today is a truly DIY industry. The number of independent acts releasing material daily far outweighs the number of qualified music professionals in the business. It is best for the artist to get started in all the above areas, hopefully inspiring enthusiastic fans to become the artists street team and after some progress inspiring music professionals to get involved. While the artist gets business savvy and builds their momentum, they also put themselves in a more powerful position for negotiating with the music professionals/ companies. Not only will the artist have launched their career, but when a music professional joins forces with the artist, the career can really truly thrive.
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