6 Things Musicians Don’t Actually Need to Be Successful
Do What Yourself?
How to be successful in a music career is totally different.
Parts of the old music industry have become obsolete. And not just little things either…
The definition of DIY has changed. Obviously it still means ‘do it yourself.’ But in the last 10 years, DIY has been redefined by independent musicians taking control of their own music distribution, and promotion.
Artists can now reach and distribute their music to huge audiences right from their bedrooms. Social media has made it easy to organize shows, get involved in communities, and share music with collaborators.
The rise of streaming and digital distribution has also made it easier than ever for artists to get paid for their music.
That means parts of the old music system are becoming obsolete for new artists…
Here’s everything independent musicians DON’T need to be successful.
A Million Dollar Studio
Expensive studios don’t make good music. Musicians do.
It’s easy to think that a bazillion dollar state-of-the-art studio is going to make your music infinity times better. But when you’re starting out studio limitations are actually a huge benefit to your learning process.
Finding your own sound early on is absolutely crucial for your success later. And finding your own sound means using and knowing your own space and tools.
Making a huge state of the art studio work takes skill. Even if you hire a producer or engineer that knows how to use the studio, your sound will end up being influenced by their decisions.
Developing your own unique sound is way more important (and cheaper) early in your career.
So skip the million dollar studio until you have a million dollars—then just build your own.
We’ve all heard the never ending debate about Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000 hour rule. I agree that if you do anything for 10,000 hours you’ll probably be pretty darn good at it by the end.
But what about all that interesting stuff that happened in the 456th hour? or the 9232nd hour? Or even the 1st hour!
“You have this 10,000-hour rule whereby you can’t be great at something without putting in this much time… but in a way your first hour of creating is equally powerful” said producer Peder Mannerfelt.
The new successful musician is the one that shares their process, publishes sketches and demos, collaborates on ideas, and documents their process in a transparent way.
There’s value in the organic and raw music you make on day 1. So tell your story immediately, and let your fans grow with you.
Waiting around to be “perfect” is boring.
Use live video to show yourself building a track. Teach your fans how to write a song. Use your social media to document your next recording. Fans don’t just want your music. They want your story.
So share hour 1. Share hour 9,999. And share every hour in between.
If you’re looking for a manager to kickstart your music career you’re doing it wrong.
The truth is, most managers usually won’t come near a project until it’s already successful.
So when you’re getting started a manager is something you don’t need. In fact being personally available to your fans and anyone else you might be speaking to about your project is actually a huge asset.
Keep in mind that managers typically take a 10-20% cut of what your project is making. No manager is going to be interested in taking 20% of nothing.
You don’t find a manager, a manager finds you.
And even when a manager does contact you about representing your project make sure you actually need one…
If you’ve already launched your project successfully on your own you may never need a manager. Why pay out 15% (or more) when you know you can do it yourself.
This is another cost that new artists simply don’t need at the start of a project. The most important outreach you can do early in your project is grassroots. That means YOU talking to people one-on-one.
And I’m not talking about just magazines, blogs, and press. I’m talking about your fans too. Building relationships on a personal level can do wonders early on.
Getting past the red tape to get your music into the right ears can be tough at first. But a message with a personal touch can go a long way for getting your foot in the door.
Of course publicists can help later on. But making it work on your own is way easier than it used to be.
So self-promote and do it yourself. Besides, no one knows how to talk about your music better than you.
A Record Label
There’s many reasons why you don’t need a record label at certain stages of your career. But it’s pretty similar to why you don’t need a manager. Record labels don’t gamble on un-proven projects anymore.
Keep in mind that labels are fighting for space and revenue in the exact industry that you are. The truth is, getting signed isn’t a golden ticket. Artists on labels are often prioritized within the label even after getting signed.
There’s no grace period for artists to develop on labels anymore. Either your first release succeeds, or you get sent to the bottom of the pile and forgotten about.
Until your music is already successful, you certainly don’t need a label to get you going.
So even if you’re on a label you’ll still be fighting to get heard. Save yourself the anxiety and just do it yourself. It’s not hard these days to use your savvy music promotion skills to launch a project on your own.
Or better yet why not just start your own label and self-release? Here’s everything you need to know about how to start a record label and distribute your music.
When in doubt, do it yourself!
Bags of Money
In case you haven’t noticed yet, most of the things on this list cost money. The best part about doing it yourself is you only have to pay YOURSELF!
The #1 reason parts of the old music industry are becoming obsolete is because there are online tools that allow artists to do it themselves. And here’s the best part: Most of them are free.
There’s so many free and inexpensive platforms out there. A combination of these resources:
…are pretty much everything you need to hit the ground running with your music and make your project successful with a little hard work.
Save your band fund for the stuff that really matters at the beginning. Like booking a small DIY tour, setting up a gig, hiring a photographer for your press-kit, or even making merch to offer something else to your super-fans.
If you limit your spending to the things YOU control you’ll end up spending way less and getting more out of it than you would paying someone.
If it’s not working ditch it
Any successful project needs constant brainstorming, re-thinking and growth. If something isn’t working then cut it out. The opposite is true too. If something is working, amplify it.
Once your project is off the ground you might need to think about a manager, a publicist or other resources that aren’t important in the beginning.
But be smart right from the start and leave all the stuff you don’t need on the shelf.
You’ll thank yourself when your project takes off.
If you want to learn more about promoting your music on your own be sure to download our complete guide on how to promote your music. Get Started with own Music Distribution today, and build the perfect release on your own.
Rory Seydel is a musician, writer and father who takes pleasure in touring the world and making records. Creative Director at LANDR.
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