I’m Betty Moon, Artist, and owner of Evolver Music and this is 2020. In all seriousness though, there is something very special about the uttering of the year we are now in. Perhaps it makes artists of all types, including myself, think about where we’ve been as a musician and what we can do to make the best of a new decade. Any great artist should be looking for avenues to be the best at what they do, and every day is a chance to grab the bull by the horns.
The responsibility of an independent artist goes far beyond writing and making great songs. While the song may be the key ingredient, harnessing and growing your skills on the business and marketing side of things is integral to making your hobby or career noticeable to anyone outside of your immediate friends and family. In my 20 years plus of making music professionally, and being signed to both major labels and running my own company, I find these five elements are key points to focus on for being successful and more importantly effective.
Master the art of streaming:
While streaming appears to be everything to an artist and music fan these days, it’s not the absolute route to success. However, it’s important to fully understand the key streaming sources and how to best navigate distributing your songs to each outlet and how to maximize streams. Many platforms, including Spotify, Youtube and Apple Music, allow artists to setup backend profiles to view their metrics and even to submit songs for official playlisting opportunities.
There are many companies out there that will help pitch your music to independent playlists, but if the budget isn’t possible it’s very much realistic to spend time weekly researching and pitching your song to playlist gatekeepers for your genre. In addition, be sure to share your streaming music links on social media, on your website and through any media opportunities you secure online. Once you get your fans to follow your streaming destinations, it immediately becomes easier to deliver new music to them directly since they are familiar with where to go.
Get your merch game down:
I can’t even count how many shows in Hollywood I’ve been to where I saw a great band play, but couldn’t find a single piece of merch for sale. The same thing applies online, someone may fall in love with your music, but want something tangible like a hoodie, shirt or even vinyl release to sport proudly in their collection. They were at a great show and want to not only remember the experience and the music but are also proud to share with their friends. Creating a merch that is desirable, well-designed and available online and in-person is an obligation as an artist (not an option).
Most cringe when they picture spending $200-300 on a small arsenal of merch, yet will head into Hollywood that weekend and drop $150 on food and drinks. While a good time is just that, go look in your closet and you may see some of the bands that did it the right way. Making merch available to your fanbase is something that will never lose steam, and in this digital age is likely more desirable than ever. Heck, you can own a great T and wear it for years. Hence great promotion for the artist and their music.
License your music:
Next time you flip on Netflix or switch on the Xbox, you may just hear some familiar and independent music that you absolutely love. Now imagine having YOUR music in those types of media. It’s a very attainable thing to pursue, and often it’s one of the most lucrative parts of being an artist. I know what you’re thinking, “another thing I don’t have time for!”. However, this article is written for those who want to take the time to build a music hobby or career that is sustainable. This is not just a 1-2 hour a week thing, but maybe even with a handful more, you can achieve progress on much of what this list suggests.
Licensing your music requires researching and finding music supervisors, who typically hold the responsibility of licensing and placing music into movies, TV, sports events and even video games. It’s very much a game of taste, but equally of genre needs for the specific medium or project. Taking the time to get to know these people and pitching them music for upcoming projects may just be the best decision you ever made as an artist. There are also websites that will do this for you and shop your music to TV and film for a cut or reasonably small fee.
Figure out radio:
Radio? Who listens to the radio? Well, millions of people still do. While most enjoy a good Spotify playlist, anyone with a car or a Sirius XM subscription still listens to the platform while driving. From major stations to satellite, online and college platforms, there are a plethora of stations out there that accept submissions of music. There are indeed major companies that specialize in radio, and often charge enough money to buy a home to break down those barriers. But, it’s still worth it to find the best stations on the independent level, and major stations that have shows playing regional artists.
You may hear about a friends band that broke onto a local station, and more often than not it didn’t happen naturally. It took the hard work of building a relationship, sending the right pitch and of course sending the right song that was perfect for that time. Sirius XM plays lots of indie music and there are specialty shows on the radio that can spin your current song.
Play more shows:
Unless you strike gold as a Soundcloud rapper, chances are you spend most of your time behind the keyboard promoting yourself on social media and maybe even through advertising. As people and music fans are continually distracted by their busy lives, multiple mobile apps and other important (or not important) commitments it becomes more difficult to break through and capture new fans. Gone are the days of controlled music media by the record labels and their politically controlled placement in music shops, and today stands as the “wild west” of being an artist or a band.
Many artists rely on the internet to strictly build their audience and have forgotten about the human connection that happens at a live show. That is one element that cannot be streamed, downloaded or reproduced by watching on Youtube. When an artist plays a live show, they connect with potential fans on stage, and with other people and bands while hanging out throughout the night. This is where your codebase is built, and for 99% of the artists out there, this is still the most important and organic way to build a base of loyal customers. Studies have shown that once you have 100 loyal customers (fans) that will buy anything from you, your life becomes much easier for growth. Give it a try, you may just have a good time.
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