The modern DIY musician: what to do, and what to delegate!
Every modern musician knows that they have to take a few more aspects of their career into their own hands than previously. Since the widespread availability of affordable DAWs, computers and the internet, it has become easier and even fun for many artists to work independently on their music. Many artists start their careers acting basically as their own manager, as Steve Rennie points out in his talk: ‘Dream It, Do It’. Sometimes the industry will take notice and offer you support later on. However, you may also find that you are happy, independent and in control when you run things yourself, or use third party companies to help you.
This doesn’t mean that all musicians are interested in building their career DIY style. Many of the tasks associated with the music business can distract you from your creativity, bore you, or even be so difficult and overwhelming that they put you off completely! The good news is that you’re probably not the only one who finds certain tasks tiresome. New companies are starting to realise this, and help musicians out in a completely different way from labels. They aim towards the same goals, but leave the power and rights ownership much more in the hands of you, the musician.
What to delegate
Which new companies should you use, and which tasks should you let them take on for you? As we mentioned in our post on Gigstarter, the definition of DIY has changed a bit recently. Even if you don’t have to have a label, you no longer have to work 24/7 doing all the other tasks involved in a music career, including being manager, artist, accountant, PR expert, and booker. Entrepreneur Derek Sivers recently came up with a new definition of DIY – ‘Decide it yourself’: think about what a label would do for you, and organise your career so that other companies can help you in whichever area you need or want support. The most important tasks (apart from writing great songs) include:
- Administration of copyrights
- Synchronisation rights
- Neighboring rights
- Exploitation of your songs wherever possible, including YouTube monetisation.
- Gig/tour booking and promotion
- Funding for album production, tours, etc.
Instead of being overwhelmed by these tasks, the modern musician has many options to receive help managing all these tasks, freeing up some time and energy for making music. A list of all the companies would be too large to include here, but check out our previous blogs linked above to get an idea of the sort of help you can receive.
What to do yourself
In spite of all this, however, there are some things you can and should still do yourself:
- Social media: Even the most famous bands update their social media accounts personally. As we wrote in our recent post on music for millenials, modern fans don’t want to read updates from your manager. They want you (the artist) to post on your own Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook pages, with real life updates, pictures, and opinions. Hypebot recently shared a useful infographic produced by Tent Social, showing you exactly what dimensions you need for photos and updates on each different social media platform, in order to make your page look professional! There really is nothing worse than pixelated images, bad fonts, and out of date social media pages with 2 followers or likes. It’s time to get practical! Embrace your inner graphic designer, or ask friends and contacts to help you. Its crucial to update regularly, and respond personally.
- Build your brand: Your social media presence and business moves behind the scenes are both important. You, as an artist, should have some opinions about how things look and work. Don’t wait for a label to come and make you into something they want you to represent for their own branding. The beauty of the modern independent music industry is that you can build a brand that you actually believe in, that represents your music and your personality. Of course, there are some basic trends and levels of taste that it would be helpful to fit in with or appreciate! The ‘Decide it Yourself’ approach to music allows you to create a tailor made career. There is no ‘correct’ path, you have the choice to decide which way you want to go with your music, how your image will look, and how your money will be earnt.
- Decide what genre you are and movewithin that framework.Where would you like it to be seen on the musical map? Although it can be hard to define your own musical sound to others without feeling like an idiot, it’s a good idea to work out where you fit in – even if you want to challenge and innovate within that genre. Think about which other bands would you like to support, which festivals would you like to play at, etc. Knowing this in advance can help you to focus your career movements and choices.
- Use great artwork and create physical products. Make sure that all your physical and digital merchandise reflects your image and your social media presence. Visual branding is the most important way of showing your fans who you are, and inviting them to share in your music and your personality on a deeper level. Although collaboration is great when you need help with design, you should make sure that whoever you enlist really understands you, your music, your label, and whatever it is that you are trying to express.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s better to delegate practical, business related tasks than artistic choices. Other people or companies are more likely to be able to help you organise your royalty collections and your publishing rights than to write a status update that will relate to your fans. It is, however, also crucial to have some knowledge of the music business. Most distributors, labels and managers will be on your side, but they also need to make profit. There are false friends out there, as we recently reported in Stefan Teubner’s interview for Backstage Pro. If you know and understand the business, and use the help of others where you need it, you should be able to focus on creating the music and the brand you believe in.