We [The Songwriting Team] have the pleasure of working with dozens of independent musicians, songwriters, and artists every month. Our primary purpose is to help them create the best songs possible but often we get to go beyond that and talk about what they are doing with their music and monitor their habits. We’ve noticed some not-so-great trends that are hurting modern musicians. We hope that by shedding some light on them you will be able to avoid these mistakes and take a good look your current approach. Are you making any of these mistakes? Here they are…
Mistake #1 – Having more authorship pride than knowledge
This is most common with new artists. We absolutely get it… You want to have 100% control of your art, but that only works if you are freaking incredible. Sorry to be harsh but it’s the truth! Great modern music is about collaboration and with any collaboration there will be compromises. If you are hiring someone to help you make better music and help you reach your goal then it’s in your best interest to take their input seriously. That’s why you connected with them right? Learn from those who have more knowledge than you.
Another thing that we notice often is that new artists are really hesitant to share ownership. This is because of bad education and a fear that everyone is trying to take something from you. That’s a lot of times not the case. If a new artist has no connections and have teamed up with others that have those connections it makes sense to share ownership for the greater good. That’s how EVERY business works. Think of investors. A business gets an investor because they can offer them something. In return they are going to share the profits. It makes sense right? I see so many artists hesitant to share ownership and they lose opportunities because of that fatal mistake. 100% of nothing is nothing!
Solution: Always consider strategic partnerships and be open to creative input from those that you trust. Not everyone is out to get you.
Mistake #2 – Chasing the traditional paths instead of exploring new and more tactile ways
We all have different goals as a musician. There are a lot of benefits of going the traditional route of getting a publishing deal or record deal. There are definitely just some things that only major labels can accomplish. But, waiting for that deal is a total cop out. And to be frank… It will probably never come unless you are killing it on your own first. That’s how it works now-a-days. There are plenty of more tactile ways to forge your own path and create “your thing”. Once you have “your thing” those labels and publishers will want a piece of it – I promise! Until you are getting fans, generating income, and creating buzz no label or publisher is going to care. Start studying up on creative merchandising, getting featured on blog, sync placements, YouTube, and streaming strategy. If you aren’t getting hip to that stuff then you’re going to have a really hard time getting anyone interested in your music. Welcome to the digital age! Time to work What’s interesting is… a lot of musicians that accomplish this end up NOT signing with a label.
Solution: Start exploring the “un-traditional” paths of the music industry and focus on more tactile strategies that you can do right now instead of waiting for a deal.
Mistake #3 – Not treating their music like a business
Now-a-days you have to have an entrepreneurial spirit to succeed as an independent musician. I know, it can be overwhelming and annoying. We all got into this just to make music not have to deal with the “business” side. It’s a necessary evil. As an independent musician you are your boss and you’re self employed. It’s up to create a schedule and a balance to manage the business side and creative side.
Tip: Don’t get overwhelmed. Just start with one “business” hour every day where you dedicate time to the non-creative side of your business. Do some research… What are other musicians doing, how are they handling their business, are their other people helping them? Take it little bits at a time, explore courses and education on the subject matter, and ask questions. A year from now be able to manage your business like a pro!
Mistake #4 – Copycatting
We get it… It’s easy to explain your sound by referencing other artists. Our musical taste and sound is directly correlated to our who we listen to and who we’re inspired by. That’s different! What I’m referring to is artists getting super wrapped up in what other artists are doing. I hear it all of the time… I want to make music like artist X because they are hip right now. Well, we already have artist X! You don’t have to be Bjork and create the most avant-garde music that you can (unless that’s your thing of course) but trying to copycat just leads to making “safe” decisions instead of doing what is authentically you. Do not afraid to be you. You’ll have a WAY better chance of getting noticed if you do your own thing. Currently, I think a great example of this is Twenty One Pilots. They don’t really sound like anyone else yet it’s digestible. They have 3 songs on the radio right now that are all doing great and they are all different sounding. Who does that? These guys have an alt-rock song AND a hip hop song both charting. Same band. They have made the decision to just be themselves and make music that is authentic to them. The result? People caught on and they are killing it!
Mistake #5 – Not gigging
The internet is an awesome tool for getting your music on there. Although it’s super important to have internet presence, I see a lot of artists trying to use it a reason to not perform and play shows. There are a couple of imperative reasons why you should still be playing shows in the digital age. One, people want to know that you’re the real deal. It’s easy to hide behind the internet. On the flip side the internet can’t replace the authentic connectivity of being in the same room with your potential fans. Two, playing shows is incredible for networking! Simple. And number three, you can leverage your live shows for content and generating income. At live shows you have potential for selling merchandise directly. You could also sell audio or visual copies of your shows. Finally, you can leverage your shows for content (which you should always be putting out) in the form of live video clips, live recordings, or even streaming your show.
There you have it! Those are the 5 biggest mistakes that I see modern musicians making on a daily basis. I hope this article has given you some insight and some solutions. For more helpful articles like this and exclusive content subscribe to our weekly news letter using the form on the right. Thanks for reading!
Daniel Grimmett / CEO of The Songwriting Team