If you are an indie / DIY
artist and your goal is to eventually land a major recording contract, you will
still need to gather more attention for your music by cutting, distributing and
promoting your own music first. You will have a much better chance of obtaining
a great record deal with a major label if you’re are successful on your own
before the bargaining table begins. You may even find out initially that as an
indie artist you can be more financially successful on your own.
MC Hammer started out on
his own. He sold his music one car trunk and one club at a time. Hammer -
Time knew the bottom line and the amount of money he was making on his own
working his record in dance clubs. When a record company approached and wanted
to sign him, initially he said no. The reality is that many in his place would
have signed on the dotted line without hesitation if they were offered a deal
like that or any deal. After all, isn’t that why millions of people stand
in line at the American Idol and Nashville Star auditions? That appears to be
the musician’s dream, right?
So why did MC say no at a
time when an Indie Artist was more of an underground movement than a standard
response to the music industry's money practices? Because he knew and
understood his music business model. Hammer knew how much he made on his own,
and he knew he could make a lot more money on his own than the labels were initially
offering him. Eventually the record label had to meet him on his terms. They
offered him a much better deal in the end and so he signed.
That was back then when the
market wasn’t so saturated with music hopeful’s right? MC Hammer’s music
was fresh, so how can you do what MC Hammer did? Three triplet words…Marketing,
Marketing, Marketing – and it’s not all dependent on having your own label or
producing your own music. A lot depends on networking as
well. Marketing takes money and networking only works if you are let into
the “it” crowd right? To a certain extent that can be true. But not
everyone started at the top, with the “in’s” and money to back them.
If you are one of the lucky
few and have a lot of contacts and a lot of extra money, your path will be much
easier, but still not guaranteed. If you are like the rest of us, you have a
limited budget, fewer contacts, and even less time to spare. So what can you
No matter which way the pie
is sliced, there is no getting around the fact that you will need some money no
matter how limited your funds are. You will need to spend some money and time
to start your business up and make your CD. It's the same with contacts.
You have to put yourself out there and network. You will need to spend a lot of
extremely early mornings (if you work a regular job) and very late nights
initially surfing the web for information on how to find and meet the people
you need to help you on your path.
You also need to attend
various functions and music gatherings where the music movers and shakers meet.
This is a see and be seen world and if you aren’t seen, no one will know you
exist. Join your local version of the BAMM or WAMI association. There are local
clubs where people in the music arena meet on a regular basis. Many important
local musicians will be members and might be there to network with. Many major
cities will have some type of club like this.
After you have begun to
hone your networking skills, it’s all about marketing and marketing savvy. The
next step is to get reviewed and then collect all of the write-ups on yourself
and your band and put them into a folder. Using those as a base, write a
one-sheet and pass it out to the people you meet at the parties. (A one-sheet
is one page marketing tool that emphasis the important aspects of your
band/act.) If writing is not your gig find a professional writer who
specializes in one-sheets or bios for musicians or people in the entertainment
business and write them on a regular basis.
Make sure you have a great picture
of you or your band, full body preferably and a great pitch letter that details
why your music is different and unique and what tracks you suggest they listen
too. This letter should be no more than three to four paragraphs at the
most, with three to four sentences in them.
After gathering those
marketing tools (formerly known as a press pack) start scheduling appointments
to audition for local clubs. Take every gig that is offered to you initially,
whether you are paid for it or not, and make sure to get the most press out of
If you do get paying gigs
when you first start out, great! Make sure you have a contract in your hands
that is signed by the person who will be paying you. In case there is a
dispute, and they do arise, you have a contract spelling out whether or not you
were going to be paid and how much.
Although it would be nice
if everyone could work on faith and trust, make sure you get your contracts
written, signed and in place. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you get
a reputable entertainment attorney to look it over. NEVER sign a contract
before you have followed that step. You could lose the shirt off your back and
The next step is hard for
some because face to face or phone to phone contact with people can be
intimidating, but you’ve got to do it. What step is that? Working it! You’ve go
to work it baby! Work it! This is not the time to be shy and bashful about your
career. Grab onto every single opportunity and use it to your advantage.
Unabashed marketing is what you need to do…so go for it! Just do it! No is just
a word in the dictionary. It may hurt for a minute, but it’s the people that
can take the “no” 50 thousand times that will get the prize in the end.
One of the smartest steps
you can do for your music business career is to take a few courses at a local
community college on Business Management, Marketing and Accounting. These
courses will help you immensely when it comes to watching your money and the
Whether you’re producing
your own label and watching every penny or whether you’ve signed with a major
label, you still need good accounting skills or a good accountant you can
trust. With or without an accountant, it’s just good business to look at your
books daily. Oprah is notorious for this and look where she is! No-one will
care about your money or your success like you do.