How to Have An Independent Career in Music

How to, Infinite Vibrations, Launch, Uncategorized

Independent musicians generated over $600 million in 2018. It’s time for you to join the fold. 

Ever since the dawn of commercial music, the only way to pursue a career in the music industry is to look up to record labels and hope that someone invests. However, with the digital revolution, an independent career in music has become a more attractive route to success. According to Forbes, the independent music market rose by 35% in 2018, generating over $600 million. 

Many artists have taken to this new model of music business including the likes of Hands Off Gretel, Funke and the Two-Tone Baby and Lady Leshurr. Now is the time for you to follow in their footsteps. 

However, this can be a scary venture and there are lots of elements to consider. In this article, we offer an insight into this new model of music business; educating you on the benefits of being an independent musician and how this can lead to a more fruitful and fulfilling career in music. 

So, what does it mean to be an independent artist?  

These two career paths are entirely different, and you must appropriately choose what works for you. Here are the differences between a non-independent musician and an independent one.  

Independent artist Non-independent artist 

1. 100% creative control. When you go independent you retain 100% creative control over your music. This is usually an incremental factor to most musicians as the reason they started a career in music is to release their own music and not somebody else’s. 
1. Little to no creative control. When you become a non-independent artist you do not have as much creative control as you would if you were independent. This is because you have corporate demands to meet and the record label needs to ensure that its investors meet a return on their investment. This means they may want to change aspects of your music to become more marketable and generate more of a revenue for the record label and not yourself. 
2. Keep 100% of your profits. Being an independent artist means that you have complete control over your finances and where your expenses are being spent. This may take some adaptation and a period of learning. However, you may potentially generate a much larger income because of this. 
2. Fewer earnings. Being signed to a record label means that a percentage of your profits will be taken and given to investors of that record label. They will take a rather large cut of your music sales, streams, licensing deals and other revenue streams. As well as this, some record labels use your remaining percentage of your profits to pay for recording time, mixing and mastering and other expenses related to your release – Leaving you with little remaining earnings. 

3. Retain copyright of your work. If you are an independent artist you can retain the copyright over the work you have created. This means you have the freedom to negotiate licensing and publishing deals and you can do with your music what you like, instead of having to answer to a corporate body.  
3. No copyright over your work. If you are signed to a record label you do not own your own music, they do. This means that they have the ability to negotiate licensing and publishing deals without your consent and can reap a higher sum of profits generated from this.  

4. Online network, services and resources. With the dawn of the digital age comes some incredible benefits for the independent artist. You have instant access to a plethora of services and resources. Including independent distribution channels, e-learning resources, marketing, merchandise creation and a vast online network. You can fulfil exactly what a record label does but for yourself, and on a much lower cost. 
4. Industry contacts, resources and budget. In return for signing your music away, you will receive connections to industry contacts, resources and a budget for your releases. However, this will be kept on a tight string, with the record label deciding when, where and how you have access to these services. 

5. Limited music business knowledge. Starting out as an independent artist can be tough, but no tougher than starting a career in music itself. The only down-side is that you will struggle to navigate the world of music business. However, with the all-inclusive services of Infinite Vibrations, we are here to help you develop these skills and enhance your career to be a flourishing and rewarding experience. 
5. Bad contract deals. Starting a career in music with limited music business knowledge can set you back in the long-run, even if you decide to pursue a signing with a record label. If you do not understand how music business works you could find yourself tied down in a terrible contract with a less than favourable record label. This could cost you thousands in the future when hiring an expensive lawyer to bail you out of this contract and could leave you with financial and mental scars – hindering your future career in the music industry. 

Now you understand the differences between these two types of artists, you should consider what it takes to pursue an independent career in music – How do you become an independent musician? 

It all starts with a mindset. Music is a creative process and it often begins as a hobby. However, if you wish to pursue an independent career in music, you must begin to view an aspect of your music as a business, just like the record label does. The difference being is that you have control over that business and not the record label.  

Therefore, you must become an entrepreneur. This is because many of the skills that business owners are equipped with are very transferable to developing your own career in music. Networking, marketing, financing, creating a business plan and establishing a brand are all the same things that you will have to achieve as an independent musician. 

Here are several key elements to having a successful, independent career in music: 

  • Attend networking events. Go to as many networking events as possible. Meeting other like-minded individuals is incremental to your success and you can meet people who you could potentially work with to grow together. You never know who could have an influence on your career and it is best to increase your chances of success by meeting new people and nurturing relationships. 
  • Only work with people based on truth, trust and transparency. You are an independent musician, but you will still need to conduct business with several other key members of the music industry. This includes graphic designers, journalists, venues, recording studios, sound engineers, producers, distributers and anyone else who can bring value to your career. However, you can’t and shouldn’t just work with everybody. Your music is special to you and you don’t want somebody treating it like a commodity. Trust your instincts and if you feel that somebody doesn’t have your best interests at heart then maybe it’s time to cut your ties with them. 
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The beautiful thing about being an independent musician and owning your own business is that when you make mistakes you won’t be hounded on by some corporate robot. As well as this, when you make a mistake, don’t feel bad about it. Making mistakes is a process of learning and pushes you that little bit closer to success. Build upon these mishaps and learn to do different next time.  
  • Be easy to contact and proactive in replies. Keep on top of your contact methods. If you have an old email that you don’t use anymore, then delete if from your website and social media. Make it easy for people to message you and advertise that method as clear as day. There is nothing more annoying than sending an email and having a notification pop up that this email doesn’t exist anymore. On top of this, be proactive in replying to messages, you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity and replying 3 weeks later with “sorry, I didn’t see this” is unprofessional. 
  • Establish a brand and own it. Creating an effective and efficient brand is key to raising awareness to your music and building a reputation. However, a brand is more than just a logo. It is your values as an artist and the way that you want to public to perceive you. This can start with a slogan or even a new genre of music; whatever you choose you must also choose to own it. Embody every aspect of your brand and promote it to the maximum. 
  • Protect yourself legally. Seeking legal advice can be an anxious time, especially if you’re an independent and don’t have the funds to front an expensive lawyer. However, should you need to, there is a helpful organisation called LVFA who provide free legal advice to the arts community. As well as this, you should copyright your music with PRS and trademark your brand, logo and artist name. Doing so will protect your intellectual property and you can take action if you are infringed upon. 
  • Manage your finances. You may be scared to consider the money when running your music business. However, you must acknowledge this factor if you want to conduct a professional career in music. There is a plethora of online templates for creating an excel document to help you keep track of this. Manage your finances wisely, especially in the early days. You want to make sure that you are scaling your business and you have a strategy to generate profits in the long run. 
  • Conduct market research. Don’t be afraid to spend some quality time conducting market research. This means finding out who your market is and who will be buying your music. This can be done by creating surveys, holding focus groups, seeking professional advice and making customer profiles. Once this has been completed you will have a developed understanding of your customers, where to meet them and how to sell your music to them.  
  • Keep an open-mind and always be prepared learn more. Are you experienced? You may have some skill in your field but never believe that you know everything and always be prepared to learn more. Listen closely to the people giving you advice and always ask questions. Be mindful of your knowledge and remain open-minded. 
  • Be humble. This is an important one. Too many artists get caught up in their own ego that they are the best thing since The Beatles. Your music is good, and you know that, but allow others to have their opinion and don’t get cocky if that opinion doesn’t line up with yours. This also applies to how you conduct yourself in business. If you’re close minded and arrogant, then no one will want to work with you. Respect others be humble and be the person that you would want to work with. 
  • Remember to protect your mental health and don’t sacrifice it for others. The music industry is a volatile place and often this can leave musicians vulnerable to their own mental health. It is important, not only for your career but for your own personal health that you are conscious of protecting your mental wellbeing and be wary not to sacrifice it for others. If you feel you are approaching a burnout then take some time to rest and recuperate. Don’t run yourself into the ground by taking on too many jobs, even if you feel you must. Learn about yourself and how your brain operates, as we are all individually different, and this will massively benefit you in the future.  
  • Use the internet to your fullest advantage. The digital age leveled the playing field for independent musicians. With instant access to your audience and a wide array of online services for distribution, merchandise, marketing and networking; independent artists have never had such a colossal set of tools at their disposal. So, use them to your fullest advantage! Be sure to keep up to date with the latest technologies as you never know what could help you take your career further. 

In conclusion, you can have a much more fulfilling and rewarding career in music as an independent musician. You need to work hand and work smart, but this is very achievable, and we are here to help you along your journey. 

Come and join us on the 28th of February, at The Parish in Huddersfield, for a celebration of this innovative new model of music business. Network with like-minded individuals and admire live music from some of the hottest local bands. Including a free raffle with a chance to win a £300 Infinite Vibrations voucher. 

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