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7 Mistakes to Avoid as an Independent Artist

19th August 2022

Being a professional musician is an amazing job to have. Being able to make a living solely from making music is the ultimate dream. But there are some big pitfalls which must be avoided if you are to cut through the noise and achieve the dream of making a living from music. Here are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid as an independent artist. 

Not Branding Yourself

No, I don’t mean branding yourself with a hot poker - I highly recommend not doing that. What I mean is cultivating your artist image. The market is so saturated with people all aiming for the same goal. Having a strong artist image will help to make you memorable. Even if your music truly is the best of the best, not having a strong brand or artist image could be a big barrier to your success. Making sure that your artist image is consistent is also important. Cross channel promotion is super important these days so make sure you come across the same on Instagram as you do on TikTok for example. 

Targeting Everyone

I’ve got some bad news, I’m afraid: not everyone in the world is going to love your music. This goes for absolutely every artist in the world. Do you know how many people there are in the world? Like… loads. So no matter how good it is, your music just won’t resonate with everyone so don’t try and market yourself to everyone. You can start with little test audiences - find out what kind of people like your music. New music events can be good for this as you’ll be able to read the room and discover an audience. Thereafter you can calibrate your brand and make sure it appeals to your target audience. 

Not Planning Properly

Okay, so not everything will always go to plan… obviously. But you need to have at least the bare bones of what you want to achieve and on what timeline. Don’t freak out if it doesn’t go perfectly but having a plan can help you set goals and track your progress. Come up with goals, milestones and strategies for your career - putting extra thought into a release strategy is never a waste of time. Have an idea of when you’re going to start your promotion, when you’re going to release the track and what additional content you’re going to create after the release to keep your audience interested. Equally, your timing has to be good. Just because your latest single is picking up traction, doesn’t mean you should rush to make another and release it. Give every release time to breathe before launching into promotion for the next one. You also need to be releasing fairly consistently to make sure your audience remains engaged. 

Not Having a Website

It’s easy to think that social media is all you need these days. You can connect with fans and it’s where all artists and most people are. But having a website exudes professionalism and provides a nice one stop shot for potential fans and partners. You can showcase your work as well as providing additional content like a blog. Once you’ve reached a level where it makes sense, your official website is the perfect place to host your shop. Labels, publishers and even some distributors want to see that you have a website - it also shows that you’re committed to what you’re doing.

Not Utilising the Power of Email Marketing

I can’t count the number of times I’ve written the phrase ‘email marketing is not dead’. I’m not wrong though - email marketing is not dead. Building up a strong mailing list is crucial to engaging with your fans. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers on all the social platforms but you still need an effective way to contact them all efficiently. People look through emails in a very different way to how they scroll through social media. Checking your emails is a conscious effort and therefore your recipients are much more likely to click through to whatever it is you’ve emailed about. 

Being Afraid to Invest in Yourself

Confidence is key! No one is going to back you if you don’t first back yourself. So you can’t be afraid to spend some of your hard earned money behind you. A big mistake lots of independent artists make is to try and do things for free or super cheaply. Poor quality products are noticeable. It could be that you have to choose between a cheap producer or an especially good but expensive producer. Back yourself and go for the one who will do your music justice. They say don’t judge things by their cover, but poor quality cover art is a warning signal to consumers. If you want people to hear your music, make sure you’re putting out a quality product. 

Swearing to Never Sign to a Label

Being independent has its perks. An obvious one is that you’re not sharing revenue with anyone. You can accurately keep track of what you’re spending and how much you’re making. You also have total creative control over your output - we often hear stories of artists signed to labels who do not have this luxury. Hearing the horror stories of labels does leave you thinking that remaining independent forever is the way to go. However, not even considering signing would be a mistake. You can have a brilliant and lucrative career as an independent artist but only up to a point. Remember that labels have the capital, the know-how and the network to take your career to the next level. Remaining independent for a while could show labels that you know what you’re doing and you’re honing your craft on your own. This can only be beneficial for you if you do decide to take a record deal. So, all I’m saying is don’t write it off! 

It’s very frustrating that the admin of a career in music doesn’t just take care of itself. But all of these things are very important so make sure you avoid these mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to getting your music out there. Good luck!

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