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How to Make it as an Indie Musician in 2016 and Beyond


You might complain that it’s so hard being a musician today but the opposite is true. It’s actually much easier than the previous decades. For instance, if you want to learn how to play the guitar, you can simply go to Youtube or hire an online music tutor instead of ordering Learn Guitar on VCR. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. But then, of course, if what you meant is the music business, as in making a career and becoming a rockstar, then the answer is that it’s as hard today as it was back then. You still have to hustle like a miner digging for gold. To guide you in your slow but hopefully steady climb towards success, here are the things you should bear in mind and work on in order to make it as a modern-day musician:

  1. Don’t quit your day job. Unless you get more than enough money from your gigs and sales, unless your music desperately needs your full devotion (18 hours a day) in order for you to make a big career leap, unless you win the lottery, don’t quit your day job. You can’t love your music career if you’re always worried about money. This will put a strain to your supposedly joyful endeavor towards your dream. It’s better to be physically exhausted than to always feel anxious how you’re going to feed your kids or pay your bills. This is true now as it was true before. Just don’t think “everything will work out on it’s own” because it may not…ever. So hold on to it like your life depends on it, until a cushion is waiting for you on the ground. Build that cushion first. Learn how to achieve balance between money and passion.
  2. Get Worldwide Distribution. In the previous decades, it was impossible to be known and send your music to different parts of the world. Now, anyone in the world can have access to your stuff the moment you launch your album.  There’s ITunes, eMusic, Amazon, and many other ways to sell your music. With just a click of the mouse, your fans can listen to your latest releases. Don’t complain that it’s hard being an artist nowadays, there’s no better time than being an indie artist than today!
  3. Market to College Radio. Getting your music to big radio stations require a ridiculous amount of money.  If you’re an indie musician, the next best thing is to tap college radio stations and internet stations. There are many of them but there are many musicians begging for their attention too? How do you stand out? Come up with a good story- about your band or your music. That way, you add value to their program. If you’re lucky to be featured in an interview, you will have plenty of things to talk about. Or, you know if you know a friend who has a friend in radio, that could help too. Which brings us to our fourth tip…
  4. Make friends, remain kind. You’re not a scientist wherein you can afford to be obnoxious an antisocial as long as you come up with a useful invention. Musicians aren’t just people who play music, they are bearers of culture. If you are kind and humble, people around you will notice it. Know the right people who can help you and maintain your integrity and good reputation. If you’re the shy type, don’t worry. There are many ways to network even if you’re an introvert.
  5. Release an EP. On ITunes, no matter what album you look at, there are only two or maybe three songs on the album that get all the sales while the rest of the tracks get almost no sales at all. Yet, in order to get on ITunes, you have to have an ‘album’. So you are wasting in a sense a lot of recording time and energy to fill an entire album just to sell those two or three ‘hits. [via]
  6. Be active in social media. Because you can’t afford not to. Don’t just post stuff when you have an album about to be released, post every single day. Don’t just post about music, post about funny stuff, about the silly things you do, about things that could help them remember you. But never ever be spammy. Don’t message people you don’t know to go to your gig. Although it seems like a good shortcut, but it can be pretty annoying to some. It’s much better if you create an event page. If you want to promote something really bad, boost your visibility by paying Facebook and contacting all possible influencers you know.
  7. Be very frugal. If you’re just starting out, save every penny you can. Do not pamper yourself too much as a reward for doing your work. Hey, you’re doing this because you love it remember? It’s not a life sentence. Spending big bucks on night outs and other wants will do you no good. Eyes on the prize, yo. No distractions as much as possible.
  8. Be memorable. How? Not just by making kick-arse music, you must have the personality and the story, too. You don’t have to invent anything. Just find your story and what makes you unique. If you’re siblings, then market yourself like Hanson and Corrs and Beegees did. If you’re all girls, then go for women empowerment. Whatever you think will make you stick, that’s still true of course. In marketing terms, this is called branding. Find your story, your unique selling point…then show it in your social media, your fashion, your CD packaging, your vinyl record, your business card, your merch, your website, and everywhere else.

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