Things every musician should know about music career growth, creating opportunities, and competitive advantage
The music industry doesn’t look to sell great music or even great musicians They look for the most profitable image. It takes a long time. You may want to work a day job so you can afford your expenses and work on your music in the evenings.
Opportunities are never given, they are created. The primary focus of most musicians is getting your foot in the door.
The biggest secret to success as a musician is integrating all of your efforts (Ex- promoting your albums, getting people to your website, expanding your social media presence, promoting your live shows, seeking deals with labels, managers, promoters, etc.)
What do serious musicians do every single day?
Play their instrument(s)/record music to get better at their craft; set goals and have a plan to improve every day. Learn to critically listen to music, like, real, deep, critical listening. Treat your music career as a business: you identify your target audience and market yourself like crazy.
Build a team.
Surround yourself with people that can help you in the music industry.
Network. Form connections within your community, get into the music scene, stay on top of emails.
You’ll be busy, but if you’re serious, you’ll get it done. After all, when you’re new, who else is going to market for you as passionately? You need to get an audience first.
Grow your fanbase
One of the first things you can do to reach your desired audience is to establish an online presence--build a website so people can easily identify and distinguish you from other artists.
Check this out:
You can use services like Squarespace, Wix, Hostbaby, Bandzoogle, and WordPress to create your own website cheaply and quickly. When you’re just starting out, you need things to be simple and affordable.
Your site can host your music, HQ photos of you and your band, links to your social media accounts (gotta get those followers), videos, and anything else prospective fans would need or want to know about you.
Speaking of social media…
Instagram is a perfect way for musicians to grow their fanbase. With it, you’ll be able to tell your unique story, develop your look or theme, post samples of your music or shows to let people know what they’ve been missing.
It’s also the perfect way to connect with other artists and learn how they are promoting their music. Social media is a great tool for learning new marketing/branding techniques.
Struggling to find your angle?
Make your Profile a business profile! This will give you email access, and you can analyze the success of your posts, like what time is best to post, what does my audience like/not like, etc.
And if you’re embracing Instagram, you’ve gotta embrace the hashtag.
Hashtags represent your brand and what your fans are searching for.
Decide on Music Distribution Methods
When it comes to distribution, it boils down between analog and digital.
Analog methods of distribution would include vinyls, CDs, and cassette tapes--and yes, cassettes are still relevant as they’re a cheap way to DIY distribution. If you’re just starting out, your focus should be on exposure: whether it’s cheap and ugly is irrelevant as long as your music sounds great on it once someone hits the ‘play’ button.
In terms of digital there are plenty of options, including Fluence, CD Baby, and TuneCore.
These platforms will share your music with relevant influencers, producers, audiences, recommendations, connections, and more. There are costs and they vary between the platforms in regards to fees, tools, and the like, so just be sure to do your research before deciding.
But wait, there’s more!
In the age of self-releases, DIY, and digital downloads, there are even more platforms new musicians can check out for distribution purposes.
Like the others, these platforms will also have their own fees and expenses, but as a note: Bandcamp gives the largest percentage of earned sales back to the artist. If you’re looking to maximize your profit, that might be a good one to start with.
Developing Your Brand and Identity
What’s your story? Who are you? Where are you from? What’s the hook?
By telling people about yourself, your group, and your music, you’re setting them up to know what to expect from you. By learning about you, they’ll get a better idea of who the people are behind the music, which is essential when you are just starting out and trying to shape your audience.
But don’t worry:
You don’t have to write out your entire life story or the band’s journey from the garage to the local dive bar. Give them enough to be intrigued, and remember that your story can evolve and change as time goes on.
Part of your brand development is getting yourself out there.
That means performing live as often as you can. This is especially good to do within your local community who will, in time, become the basis of your core audience and fanbase.
Talk to bar and club owners about performing, even if it’s an unpaid gig. The more exposure you get early on, the more samples of your shows you can put on the Internet to let people know who the next big thing is.
How to Build a Lucrative and Long-Lasting Career
Part of building a sustainable career that grows is about evolving with the times.
Keep some of these questions in mind as your music career advances:
Where is your audience?
How old is your audience?
What music do they currently listen to?
What do they want to hear more of?
What do they hate?
Where do they listen to music?
Where do they buy their music?
You don’t necessarily want to change for the audience, but you’ve gotta keep your finger on the pulse of your fans. Tastes change and so will your music. Realize that can change who your fans are as well.
To really sustain your career, you need to protect yourself and your work. You can do this a few ways.
Licensing your music, for starters. That includes getting the necessary copyright protections.
The best part?
You can copyright your own music yourself at copyright.gov. This will help prevent others from stealing or using your work without your express permission. Another aspect of this is submitting your work to a music library.
You can also join a performance rights organization (PRO).
A PRO collects royalties generated from your music. It will collect your income streams so you don’t have to. This can be a time-saver and take one more thing off your plate.
For those in the United States, for PROs, you’d be looking at one of the following: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or SoundExchange (for digital performance royalties).
As you work on your music and grow your career, remember: Invest in yourself. Bet on yourself. Invest financially (buy a studio/recording software/etc.), and invest your time. Put the time, money, and work into your craft.
That’s your easiest ticket to success.
Be prepared for the long haul. You will get turned down, you won’t get responses, ignored, rejected, etc. It will be a challenging, up-and-down journey, but if you are determined, put yourself around the right people, and put in the work, you CAN be a successful musician.