Now we’ve all heard it before, and might even be guilty of saying it “This year is it. This year I’m gonna take my career seriously” but really… what’s your plan to make this happen? I’ve decided to write this article to help hungry artists accomplish their mission of taking their career to the next level in 2013. Below are just a few things to focus on that will give you a jump start to the year. Remember its not always about working harder, it’s about working smarter.
Say BYE to Mixtapes, Focus on Singles – I’ve discussed this before and have had many debates about it with artists that are stuck in the ‘I must put out a mixtape’ mindset. But lets just get this out of the way…The reason why you need to focus on creating catchy singles instead of giving everyone a whole mixtape is very simple: YOU NEED TO BUILD AN AUDIENCE. As an indie artist, your main focus should be to do things that will help you gain new fans and make new connections. If you release a great single with a video, and get that posted to blogs and really start spreading it around, it will have much more of an impact than a mixtape. Why would you release a mixtape if you don’t have people checking for it? A single will make much more of an impact. People don’t like to search through 14 songs from an artist that they haven’t heard of, but they will check out a single (especially if it’s referred by someone they know, or posted on popular blogs). Once people start to catch onto your single, they will anticipate more of your work and they will even go back to check out records that you’ve released in the past. So while most artists like to take the time out to record tons of music but then only spend 5% of that time actually promoting it, this year you should spend less time recording and more time marketing. Record 5 singles instead of 14 mediocre records – and all that extra time that you would have spent on the rest of your mixtape, spend it heavily marketing and promoting your singles. So are we clear? No mixtapes until people are asking for it (and I don’t mean your circle of friends).
Create A Demo – This is almost a no-brainer, but still so many indie artists would rather create a mixtape instead of a professional demo. Using those singles that we talked about in the previous paragraph, create a DEMO that’s 3-5 tracks long. So then you will have 3-5 strong records that you can use to promote yourself and build your fan base. Your demo will also help when booking shows and finding other major opportunities for your career.
Brand Yourself – Know who you are and be able to describe who you sound like and what you stand for. Use one name for all of your social networking sites (so that it’s easy to find you), get professional photos with a few different looks that make you stand out, get your own personal website, and make sure your bio is up to date. All of these things matter more than you think (and that is actually the least you can do). You are not selling your music, you are selling your brand. Artists that have a clear branded image stand out from the crowd and look a lot more professional.
Get Your Paperwork in Order – This can be the annoying part, but it is all very necessary. Paperwork makes the world go round and sets apart those who are only pursuing music as a hobby from those who are pursuing this as a career. Once you create your demo, you need to get all of your music copyrighted and registered with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI). If you are expecting radio play this might also be a good time to get your songs BDS registered. I am not going to go into all of this here because we have already discussed this in previous articles on this site. But if you do your research, you will find all of the details you need. Which leads me to my next point…
RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH! – Everything that you don’t know, someone else has mastered. If you don’t know something, be sure to look it up! The more you learn the more you earn. This music industry is rough, so why would you blindly go into a business like this and expect to be successful? Make it a point to research something new everyday. You’re reading this article (so salute to you!), but make sure you are reading articles like this all the time. Also, there are many books on the industry that are inexpensive but extremely useful. You can start by downloading an amazing book by Wendy Day (@RapCoalition) entitled “How to Get a Record Deal” (click here to buy it on Amazon).
Get Your Mingle On – with DJs, artists, managers, venue owners, promoters, producers, music execs and most importantly, your FANS. This industry is all about relationships, so artists need to do a better job at making those connections. Instead of spamming everyone with your music link, start conversations with people and ease your music in later. Make it a point to engage with people. Don’t talk at them talk with them, and I promise you will see a big difference in the outcome of your networking.
Stay Consistent With Your Content – Instead of solely focusing on gaining followers and fans, focus on keeping everyone entertained with great content. From music videos to behind the scenes footage, live performances and in-studio vlogs etc, there are so many ways to provide great content which will not only please your fans but attract new ones as well. And while you’re keeping us updated with great content, be sure to keep all of your social networks and websites updated. When you have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reverbnation, plus your own website, it can be easy to slack in the updating department so be sure to keep a close eye on this.
Identify Your Sound – This is another part of branding. As an artist it is always great to be diverse when it comes to the type of records you can make, but it is also important to develop your own sound. For example: when you hear a Timbaland beat, you usually know it’s a Timbaland beat. You know a Kanye record when you hear one. Singers from Rihanna to Alicia Keys to Mariah Carey, all have their own distinct sound. This also plays a part in the longevity of your career. A great way to get started is to find a producer (or a select few) that really understand and are able to deliver the sound that you’re aiming for. This will also benefit you in the promotion department because you can now cross market each other, or maybe even become a team.
Utilize All of the Tools Given to You – Reverbnation has so many resources for artists to utilize – from a mailing list program, to a gig finder, to press kits and great tools for promotion – but artists are only using a small percentage of those resources. YouTube has a feature that allows you to make money off your videos. TuneCore allows you to post your music on iTunes, amazon, etc but yet you’re still giving every little thing away for free right? Which leads us to the final point…
Figure Out A Way to Make Money – I’m sure that by now you have realized that pursuing a career in music is expensive. You might want to think about finding a sponsor or investor, freelancing, fund raising, or how about using your knowledge and promotional skills to SELL OUT SHOWS?! Whatever you do, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are many ways to make money, find your niche’ and run with it.
True artists live and breathe what they do. If you are choosing a career in music, treat it as such. When you wake up think, ‘What am I going to do today to move my career forward?’ When you go out, put your game face on and make those connections. If you ever find yourself getting bored during the day, pick up the pen and start writing; think about your current plan and make sure its working for you. Whatever you do, don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Longevity usually means creating great music and a strong brand that stands out, so focus on creating the best product you can. This year, make it a point to DO THINGS WITH A PURPOSE. Do things that will help your career progress.