Indie Birds – Keys to Success For Indie Artists
Although music sales are down and people continue to wait for a reasonable business model to emerge, I am confident that now is a great time to be an indie artist. There are more resources available to help you grow in your music career than ever before. The next phase is inevitable, as organization and funding are the only missing elements in all of the new development. So, what should you do as the pieces of the puzzle continue to fall into place? I suggest that you prepare, participate and build your arsenal. Only you can do the work necessary to prepare yourself, but I can possibly offer my own list of suggested keys to success.
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you are a performer, then it is necessary to practice and practice often. I have struggled to develop my skills as a guitarist but after 35 years, I can now see what worked and what did not work for me. Understand yourself and what motivates you. If you are motivated by Stevie Ray Vaughan, then aspire to play like Stevie Ray Vaughan, but not too much. Mix it up a little. That is, develop an appreciation for different artists and styles. If you are learning the more traditional sight reading approach, the same should be true. Play different pieces that may be difficult at first, but always challenge yourself to play the next level. Playing songs regularly can make them very easy, but it can also lock you into various bad habits. Develop a list of songs or techniques that you wish to learn and work on them. Always strive to improve.
Build Music Collateral
You should write songs and you should write a lot of them. I do not mean that you should sit down and try to write a song a day. However, I believe that practice can help you to develop as a songwriter. In the meantime, you are building a nice catalog of songs. I think the songwriting process is very personal. But, for me, it is writing songs as I go. I keep a notebook handy for writing down ideas as I receive them. That is, our lives are composed of a series of observations which we can record in the way of songs. Do you have all of these observations at once? I do not know about you, but I do not. I have observations that sometimes occurs to me in great abundance, and then I have observations that may occur to me more infrequently. I consider them all valuable, nonetheless. They are sometimes enough to inspire an entire song. Others are sometimes combined together to create nice lines within another song. It is my own process, but I do believe that we can all develop the habit of recording our observations that may be used at a later date.
Write Great Songs
OK, it is a good start to develop a habit of recording your observations and writing a lot of songs. However, it is also necessary to write great songs. This comes with time, I believe, so the practice of writing songs is a prerequisite for writing great songs for most of us. Of course, Bob Dylan may have written great songs from the start, but I believe that he devoted a lot of time studying his hero, Woody Guthrie. Studying the work of others is a great way to grow, and I would encourage anyone to spend some time dissecting the lyrics of those you admire most. Read as much as you can about the process of songwriting and also develop an understanding of what makes a song great. This, of course, is relative, as different people have different ideas of what makes a great song. However, you should have your own idea of what makes a great song, and let that become the standard to which you aspire.
Offer a Great Product
OK, you have now started writing songs on a regular basis and you have actually written a few great songs. So what? If you can not present the song in it’s best form, you may never be recognized for the genius that you are. Therefore, it is necessary to produce a great product. By that, I mean you should record a professional quality demo. If you need help, then try to find help. It is possible to learn the technology and record very high quality demos at home. However, this takes time to learn and you may not have the patience to learn software. Also, you may not have the skill level as a songwriter to sing or to play all of the instruments on your own song. That is fine, because there are other people who can help you. Sometimes, you can offer to pay them but you can also offer them an acknowledgment that will help them to boost their own careers.
Be Willing To Work With Others
This element should be second nature. Unfortunately, it is not. I would encourage everyone to find value in your fellow man, which I believe, is the largest hurdle that we face when trying to work with others. If you can appreciate a person and their level of skill, this should not be too difficult. Also, learn to respect others in conversation and take some time to understand people. Sometimes we fail to understand the motivations of potential friends and collections, which is a fundamental problem when looking to build lasting relationships.
Develop Personal Networking Skills
Personal networking skills are perhaps your greatest asset. You should always maintain good relations with people, even when you can not agree on everything. It is just good sense to have a solid circle of influence.
Develop Business Acumen
I believe it is necessary to develop an understanding of the fundamental business principles that you may apply to your own career. While you should always strive to network on a business level as well as a personal level, we are in a do-it-yourself environment that requires some diligence on your part to understand at least the basics of business. If nothing else, read about marketing, as it is likely to provide the most benefit for the time spent. Try to understand the legal aspects of the music business. You do not have to be a lawyer, but it helps to have an understanding of some of the contractual elements and some of the basic contracts. It also pays to understand a little about intellectual property, or copyright law. Having a good feel for accounting can be a good thing for an artist …. just ask Willie Nelson. Some understanding of finance can help you when you are ready to seek funding and investing principals may help you to protect your money when you finally get some …. just ask Willie Nelson.
Have An Online Presence
This one has become increasingly important with all of the new social sites. It can also be overwhelming as you find it difficult to maintain. I suggest that you find a site that is comfortable to you and then let it become your main source of information. You may build a presence on some of the other sites, but you should have one that provides all of your information and you should point all of your sites to the one that presents you in the best light. Keep a notebook with all of your screen names, user names, passwords, etc. Depending on the sensitivity of the information, you may use the same password, but most folks discourage it. Develop a habit of checking your sites and e-mail accounts on a regular basis. You can put them on your desktop for easy access.
Get A Lucky Break
This one is the most difficult of all. I do not know how to assist anyone with this element other than to say, be ready when it happens. Everyone has opportunities in life. They are not always immediately impressed when they happen, but we all have varying degrees of lucky breaks. So, learn to recognize a lucky break when it happens, not 6 years after it happens when you failed to act. Build all of your assets so that you can make the most of your lucky break when it happens. That is, have a nice catalog of songs with some great ones included.