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10 Things Independent Artists Should Always Remember in the Music Industry

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

There are plenty of things an independent artist, like yourself, has to think about in the music industry. I'm sure that three of the main things that you think about are:

  • How are you going to do all of this stuff by yourself?

  • How are you going to get more fans?

  • And how are you going to make money?

While you juggle those three questions in your next recording session, take a look at 10 Things You Should Always Remember in the Music Industry.

By the way, this is only part 1.

Follow me on Twitter for updates @TheMACoach - The Music Artist Coach)

1) It’s more about them than it is about you...

What I mean about this is, think more about your fans than just what you want to put out into the world. If you put something out and just think that people will magically gravitate toward it and you’ll become a megastar, you’ll be very disappointed. When you engage with your fans or potential fans, you’re solving a problem they didn’t know they had. You’re fulfilling something for them that’s missing in music or providing something new and imaginative or something passionate and revealing. What you put out should mean something to your fans. Make it matter and they will respond.

2) Fortune favors the bold…

You’ve heard this saying many times before that “fortune favors the bold.” Well, in music, it holds true in many cases as every top artist is unique and bold enough to be themselves. This has done well for them.

Being true to yourself, to your craft and delivering something unique as your gift, tends to relate much better than replicating trends that will eventually fade.

3) Build a list...

You must have a list. A list for you to leverage. The lists you could leverage are endless, but here are a few examples used in the music industry: Mailing list, email mailing list, subscribers, viewers, followers, performance attendees, etc...

Lists can be used for your own benefit as well for others such as sponsors, collaborators, talent buyers, and the like. Having a listing allows you to leverage something that only you can engage with. As these measured participants are attentive to you, you can direct them toward conversion for revenue generation. Build your list, no matter how small it is today, it can help you in your future as it grows.

4) Set measurable goals...

Set goals that you can measure and attain. Too many artists set super high or ambiguous goals that they have no actual plan to achieve. This can lead to self-doubt, discouragement, and eventually quitting. You’re already fighting an uphill battle by competing in an already ultra-competitive industry such as music. Why not get some wins and victories along the way by setting goals you can measure and attain? Measuring your goals allows you to create and perfect the systems that you can later leverage in deal negotiations and revenue opportunities.

5) Grow your goals and record your progress...

After you have consistently been hitting your goals, grow them a little more. Challenge yourself without dampening your stride. The new challenge will permit you to not become complacent. It will also reveal more opportunities in your journey, as you become resourceful to reach this new goal. Record your progress while it’s happening. Chart it, graph it, or just write it down. Track your growth. It’s right for you, so you know what you have done and can replicate. Growth is essential to others, such as investors, so showing where you were and where you are now could be a critical metric that is being examined.

6) Get everything in writing...

Whenever you’re negotiating a deal with someone, have it in writing. The reason you want it in writing is, so both parties know what they are to adhere to and have the responsibility of doing according to the contract. Verbal agreements can only be honored but so far.

You don’t want to be in a “he said, she said” situation...

You don’t want to be in a “he said, she said” situation where you’re responsible for an activity, but the scope of the work was not thoroughly explained or expressed in the agreement. Be clear about what you’re signing and hold the other party accountable for what they are to be doing in the deal as well. Get it in writing and consult an attorney for a better understanding. (I review music contracts as well… Click here for more info)

7) Always provide yourself with a way-out clause in the agreement...

This is another key for talent to look out for. Every agreement binds you to the duties and responsibilities provided in a contract, but not all of them offer you a way out. Some artists and even producers get stuck in long term or automatic renewal deals that do not benefit them as their careers evolve. Having a clause or way of determining how and when an agreement can be terminated is your way of protecting yourself.

Every arrangement issued to you, especially coming from a record label or production house, has the language set to benefit/protect the person/company issuing the contract. You need certain types of protections in the agreement yourself that you could activate in case a breach of contract or unfair circumstance occurs. Consult an attorney. (I review music contracts as well… Click here for more info)

8) Be honest with yourself and your fans...

This is important. Be true to yourself. Be true to who you are and to the quality of what you can deliver. Cutting corners eventually shows up in the final product.

Your fans deserve your absolute best every time out.

If at any time you can’t give your best, own up to it. Most loyal fans will understand and be patient. They want your best, that’s why they follow you. Your best is what got them there and they want to see you succeed. Don’t just put anything out there that doesn’t have your best in it, it will show and it’s the quickest way to lose a fan.

9) Leverage your assets...

Your entire music career is built with elements that you could leverage for opportunities and revenue. Your skill, your products, your creativity, your ownership, your following, your lists, your connections, your resources, your image, your brand, your location, your systems, etc. All of these and more that makeup who you are, are components you could leverage. How you do it is up to you. However, there are many examples to learn from on how to do it best. (To learn more on how to leverage your care, click here)

10) Know the difference between opportunities and distractions...

As you’re carving out a way for yourself in the music industry, you’ll come in contact with many different situations that will present themselves as opportunities. Some decisions will be easy and others will be more difficult for you to decide on right away. My suggestion is you take a good look at the situation and determine if it is a real opportunity or a distraction. Here’s something to help you. Take a look at the circumstances, then I want you to look at three things:

  • Your goals

  • Your personal values

  • Your time

This presumed opportunity should be in alignment with all three. Your goals, your own values, and your time.

For example, a situation may be in alignment with your goals but doesn’t honor your time or personal values. Or it may be aligned with your own values and the time you have available but has nothing to do with your goals. In these examples, to some, time may be the most important as it’s something you can’t get back. To others, your personal values are something that stays with you forever, so you don’t want to go against those things as well.

Take all three of these areas delicately into consideration when looking at an opportunity. If it isn’t in alignment, then place it in the distraction pile for another time to evaluate... if it’s still there. Be focused.

Wait.... there’s more…

BONUS: Copyright and OWN YOUR MASTERS...

File your trademarks. Do your copyrights for your songs. Connect them all with your performance rights organization and retain the majority or complete ownership of your masters for as long as you can. You’re the creator of your work, you should have something to show for it when you decide to retire.

DOUBLE BONUS: Network, Network, Network…

Always keep networking and recruiting. Either for fans or resources. When it comes to professionals in this business do remember this quote:

“It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.”

Need a coach to help keep you on task every week? Get to know your coach.

Shaheim Kellum | Music Coach & Leader

Shaheim Kellum is the author of

"No Record Label Needed"

(Amazon - Fall 2019).

A New York based, 14 year former independent music executive and the founder of the music biz advice blog

Music Coach Tips.

Follow him on Twitter: @TheMACoach and Instagram: @ShaheimBK

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