Your Band Is Your Business: 5 Things Unsigned Artists Need To Do Right Now
In my last post, my focus was on the "old" record business model and its flaws. However, I cannot fully blame labels and big music business for the current economic climate of music. Yes, I understand some indies can actually be beneficial to the artist and that both physical and digital sales are important. I also see that there is no one correct solution for anything in this business, which is one of the things that give me faith in the future of music.
However, I feel that in order to even the playing field, musicians should be taking a more active role in the branding and research necessary to properly market to their audience. It amazes me to learn how many musicians fail to think of their band as an actual business. They go to practice, create a Facebook and Twitter, play a few local shows and expect to one day get signed and have the label do the rest. The fact is that in this industry, many bands do not know what is really needed to become a profitable band.
Artists need to take the time to:
1. Study Their Fans
You as an artist should make it your mission to know where your fans are and how to market to them. Research where your fans find out about new music, where (and how) they buy merch, what blogs they read, what magazines to they look at and even down to how they wear their accessories. Now you can ask them what graphics they like before you print a shirt, ask them which song should you do a video for… these are the people that are spending their money on you in a tough economy, so give them what they want!
2. Be Versatile
Create products that speak to your fan and your brand. Like any smart company, you need to constantly be reaffirming the quality and integrity of your product. Only put out your best and make your music available. If you are unsigned, then use digital outlets as well as the hand-to-hand sale of physical at shows. I know this sounds like common sense, but that's because it is!
3. Create a Network
Every time you play a show, talk to the venue owners, the booking agents, the promoters etc. and shake their hand. Whether you play for 5 or 500 people, creating a good relationship with these people will open the doors for future shows an opportunities. Know that if you want to make it, you are going to need a team of people working for your cause. Once you are ready (you will know when you are), start building a team to help you (i.e. booking, PR/press, legal, management etc.). Posting to your 350 Facebook fans alone is not going to get you that help.
4. Get Thicker Skin and Take Criticism Well
If you get a bad review, look for things to improve on and work with them. If you have a bad show, find out what was bad about it and correct it. Even with this post as well as my last, I know that people may not agree with my thoughts and criticize them, but if these words help to inspire even one person to think or re-evaluate a situation and make it a positive then I have done my job. You as an artist should do the same. Your lyrics speak to people and your music/branding gives those people a way to relate to you. Everything is subjective and it is a great time for the artist to make money directly. But how can you do that if you get upset every time someone makes a critique? :)
5. BE PATIENT!
Making it as a band takes time, trial and error, love and a whole bunch of failed attempts, but in the end, if you truly have something that should be shared and you believe in the product, then keep pushing and always find new ways to make friends with your fans! People are more likely to support a friend in need than a cocky rock star.
The music business has become complacent with the big business, little band dynamic and if you arm yourself with the knowledge of your fanbase and good business practices, you will be in a position of power and hopefully secure more of a fair deal when working with others. If you are on point with your business, then you have the power.