I’ve been in the music business as an independent artist for almost a decade and I’ve learned a thing or two, and learned them the hard way. So I thought I’d share some important highlights that have been helpful to me.
It’s a huge accomplishment to be your own boss, manager, booking agent, PR person and create the music that is uniquely true to yourself, which is what being an independent artist means to me. Tough times will always arise and you may feel like giving up but that’s when you must continue to muscle through. Your music will not be the “right fit” for everyone.
I’ve been turned down left and right for reasons that don’t make any sense to me. I’m too rock for blues, too blues for rock, too country for blues, too blues for country, too original for some venues, and too diverse for record labels. I actually take this as a compliment. I say getting a major record deal these days is like getting a bad venereal disease. I try to steer clear of those. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Most times they don’t care much about the music, just how to make money off you. Know your worth.
Sure, getting signed has it’s perks. If that’s what you want, by all means go for it. Just make sure to read the fine print before you sign and make sure it all lines up with your ideals.
Manage yourself and learn all you can about the music business until it becomes absolutely unmanageable. I came close to signing a management deal recently because the business side is getting bigger than I can manage on my own. So many things sounded amazing but there were too many things that did not line up with my vision. My gut was telling me no and my brain was telling me yes because I am getting weary from dealing with the business side and feel like it’s taking from my creative side. What I discovered is that it’s so worth it to wait for the right fit to come along.
If you’re persistent, don’t give up and continue to make great music, it will happen. I believe the Universe is always working in our best interests. If you pay attention to your gut, you will know exactly when to make a move. Until then, keep on your path and focus on growing your audience.
For the industry folk and venues that do give me a chance, they always ask me back. The crowd always cheers, always asks for more and always buy my cds. One gig at a time I am building a fan base that loves me for me. You know, the ones who ask for a photo and your autograph at the end of the show and say things like “ I can say I knew you before you were famous”.
For me, it’s all about the connection with the audience. Plain and simple. It’s not about playing perfectly, lord knows I’m not perfect, and I’ve found perfect can be a bit boring. Yes, a proficient player is impressive but when you can express yourself in a way that the audience can actually feel what you’re dishin’ out, now that’s way more impressive than how many notes you play and how perfect you play them.
As a huge fan of live music, I always connect more with how a player makes me feel rather than how technical they are. I’m not saying don’t continue to hone your craft and strive for improvement, just don’t put all your eggs in that basket.
There are many other aspects to becoming successful like having a confident stage presence. The most important thing I’ve learned is to have fun. If you’re having fun the audience will have fun as well. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point? Nobody says let’s go “work music” they say “let’s play”. I can count too many times noticing “stank faces” between band members on stage and that always turns me off.
Everyone makes mistakes, and what I learned is that it’s not about the wrong note you hit, it’s more about what you do with the next one. Most times, unless your audience is full of professional musicians, they won’t notice it anyway; they will however, notice your “stank face”.
So in conclusion, don’t let the music industry “standard” get you down if you aren’t getting signed. There are no true overnight successes. Be a rotisserie chicken in a world of chicken nuggets.
Stay true to yourself, hone your craft and make music you love. In my experience you will always attract the best possible outcome if you stay focused, have fun, and don’t quit until the miracle happens. Now go play!!