Misconceptions of the Independent Music Artist

– article by Jeremy Bongiorno of studiofrequencies.com

The climate of the music industry today is truly unprecedented. Never before have things been so competitive, volatile, and unpredictable. This is especially true for independent artists who are trying to make a name for themselves.

It’s a well known fact that the only avenue a budding indie artist has to get their stuff known is by utilizing modern music promotion methods. As everything has shifted online over the last decade or so, methods for promotion have shifted as well.

Not only that, but the faster pace of things has created some understandable misconceptions about how easy it is to get your music out there nowadays. Well, let me tell you, it’s actually harder than ever.

Platforms are overflowing with musicians’ content and standing out above the rest takes some work! With that, I want to talk about 5 of the most common misconceptions about independent music promotion that are floating around today. This will hopefully give you a leg up on the industry and help you understand the actual level of promotion it takes to grow a fanbase in the 2020’s.

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

“I don’t need to market myself, my music will speak for itself.”

Yes, any musician’s creations are great. Your music is amazing because it’s unique, it belongs to you, and it’s made with passion. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. It’s always been the case that musicians grind for years, even decades, before they grow a consecutive fanbase.

In today’s industry, you have a plethora of promotional tools at your fingertips (literally!) and you absolutely have to use them. The chances of a music marketing professional at some major corporation stumbling across your music are slim. Even more so are the chances that that person will reach out to you on the spot.

Most musicians today are better off taking things into their own hands and going through the long, grueling grind. The best way to do this is to alter your mindset on promoting and marketing your music.

Think of it as a necessity, because it is. One half of being an indie artist is making music, the other half is getting out there and showing it to people.. You might think it’s tough, but with the right mindset, it can be a fun and fulfilling process to take on.

As they say, “with hard work comes great reward,” and that couldn’t be more true with promoting your own music the right way.

“I don’t need to learn about the business side of music.”

Again, in today’s music world, it’s somewhat of a prerequisite to learn about the finer details of the industry. Actually, it’s quite fascinating to broaden your knowledge on how everything functions in music marketing, but I’m a bit of a nerd in that regard.

Anyway, if you plan on growing any sort of fanbase, you’ll do well to learn at least a little bit about how the music business works. There’s a lot that you can learn from how agents and managers operate that you can apply to your own day to day.

I mean, say you hit it big one day. Then you can hire all the managers you want, but until then you can find resources and connections to learn about how to do it yourself. Plus, if you already sharpen your skills before you potentially make it big, then you won’t even need to hire anyone.

How many independent musicians do you know that know the ins and outs of the business side of music? That’s my point, you can set yourself apart from the crowd and be prepared for anything that comes in the future.

On top of that, you’ll know how to fix any problems that appear all on your own. It’s simply a great way to succeed as a true independent musician.

“I just need to make one hit song and I’ll be set.”

This is a huge one, and it’s been a misconception for a long, long time. We all know about those “one hit wonders” throughout the years. Have you heard anything from them since?

The truth is, music promotion and marketing is a lifelong grind. This is especially the reality in today’s digital age where everything becomes obsolete almost instantaneously. Sure, one big song that gets 500,000 – 1,000,000 streams will do wonders for your reach for a time, but it’ll undoubtedly fizzle out at some point if you don’t keep up with it.

That doesn’t mean that the rest of the music you put out will be bad in comparison to your one big hit, it just means that people will lose their attention to you. That’s why marketing and promotion are so important. 

Being yourself, branding yourself, and marketing yourself will lead to a loyal following. From there, you have to keep setting goals and stick with your promotion. That right there is how you avoid being a “one hit wonder” like all the others. Again, one big song won’t be enough.

“I don’t need to play live shows, I’ll just do everything online.”

Playing gigs at coffee shops or dive bars seems like such an old-school way of promoting yourself to some folks, but it’s still the best way to do it. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire in the world of music and the physical aspect is still vital.

Some musicians think that all they need to do is post their songs on social media and upload them on Spotify and they’re off to the races. While it’s true that utilizing the internet is extremely effective, showing off your music at live shows and making in-person connections are still the life-blood of music promotion.

It’s no secret that part of getting ahead in the music industry requires good connections. With good connections comes a solid fanbase and self-confidence in your music. Getting out there and showing your face is just another branch of self-branding, and people love that about musicians.

Nothing resonates with people more than an independent artist sticking their neck out there for their craft. You can certainly do that online in some ways, but don’t forget about making that person-to-person touch a part of your routine.

“I won’t get ahead without a record label.”

Promoting yourself the right way is a wildy daunting task. There’s nothing easy about it. It takes a lot of time, and even more hard work, but with it comes a great deal of gratification. Unfortunately, for most independent musicians, it feels impossible to make a living playing and creating their music.

Well I’m here to tell you that you can do virtually everything promotion-wise by yourself and with hired help when you need it. Not only will this save you tons of money in the long run, but it will also save you from the major headache that comes with record labels.

It has been an age old misconception that signing with a record label will help with everything. Folks have this idea that labels are the all-in-one answer to promotion, audio quality, and marketing. That’s simply not true anymore.

In a world where everything is more accessible than it’s ever been, the last thing you need as a creator is someone else sticking their hand in your cookie jar.

Again, there are plenty of resources online that you can use to broaden your knowledge and skill set. Not to mention the fact that there are a number of helpful professionals out there that offer great services to aid independent artists on their journey.

There are a bunch of independent artists out there that have made a name for themselves without a label. Chance The Rapper, Nipsey Hussle, and Trash Talk are a few examples that come to mind. Those artists’ success sums this misconception up quite nicely if you ask me!

Closing Thoughts

One more piece of advice is that you shouldn’t listen to everyone else’s promotion or marketing tips. There’s no rulebook or “golden binder of guidelines” to follow here. Every musician’s journey is different, and what might work for you will differ from others.

The whole point of this article is to encourage you, not deter you. You can do this! The music industry is complicated and hard to navigate. As long as you don’t fall into any of these misconceptions, then you’re already better off than most artists.

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