Your art is beautiful. But is your art also a product? You may not want it to be and that's perfectly normal. But for those who are pushing forward with a commercial music career in mind, here is our humble view on the 5 things to never forget:
1) The era of “they sold out to the man” is over. Accept it. If you can find a brand to back you for a single gig, a tour, or an entire campaign – take it. Not only will you likely get a bit of cash thrown at you, but the exposure is totally worth it, not to mention it means that both you and others see value in your work. And better yet, actively search for these opportunities. In this overly saturated environment, great things don't often come to those who wait so be proactive and if you need any help along the way, you know where to find us.
2) Craft an image that stretches from your outfit to your Instagram to how venues and blogs describe you on their listings. Sadly, just being a great “acoustic singer/songwriter with soaring vocals” is no longer enough of a descriptor. Are you the “girl next door with a dark side” or the “urban soulstress with gut wrenching lyrics”? Pick one and stick to it in everything you put out physically or digitally. Our friend Trevor Gibson, Grammy-winning engineer at Circle Studios in Birmingham, has written extensively about this in the past: http://www.supajam.com/blog/article/So-you-want-a-recording-contract-3
3) Understand the commercial trajectory of your music career…or pick one! Yes everyone wants to be Adele and sell 3 million albums in a week and that’s a fine goal to have – we’d never discourage anyone from dreaming big. But how do you get there? With streaming not likely a huge contributor to indie musicians’ income until the Spotify’s of the world grow their paid user bases dramatically, you need to have a view of how you’re going to make money in the interim. Is it sync for HBO shows? Then study what works and find producers who can get you there (we can help with that too [#shamelessplug]). Is it touring? Then gig non-stop until you can secure a high profile agent who can get you placed on the right line-ups.
4) Always be 2 steps ahead of the game. We also call this “product, marketing, product”. If you’re in the midst of recording your first album or EP, you MUST have at least a view of 1) what your marketing strategy will be once it’s released + 2) what this marketing strategy should lead to in terms of next product. Seems like planning to far ahead? Yes, but that’s how businesses work and just going with the flow won't cut it.
For #1, this should be a specific plan of attack: i.e. “reach these 10 individuals who cover genres closest to mine in these 10 blogs that tend to boost Hype Machine rankings” instead of “I plan to book gigs and reach out to blogs” (we can definitely help with this). For #2, if your marketing strategy is successful, your newly found audience will very soon get hungry for new content – have a plan for a few more tracks or at least some unique video ready to go to keep the momentum going.
5) Build a network of randoms! Not quite, but this may seem like it. Your gut may tell you that you need to get closer to label executives, writers for NME and the guys at BBC. That’d be great! But chances are you’ll build a better relationship with the above through warm introductions from someone you completely didn’t expect. So talk to anyone because oftentimes your connections will surprise you. The little peeps are stepping stones to the heavy hitters, so don't be afraid to chat up videographers, engineers, promoters, publicists, lawyers and tell them your goals and vision for yourself. Chances are your determination will inspire someone enough to think of an even more helpful introduction.