There is so much power in being an independent artist. Now more than ever, you have advantages that you’ve never had before. From complete creative control to the ability to make decisions for yourself, being an independent artist is no longer seen as simply a stepping stone on the way to signing to a label. Many artists—perhaps even you—have made a decision that indie is the way to go.
However, one of the things you’re bound to run into as you navigate the DIY waters is the inevitable feeling of wearing all the hats. You know what I mean—you’re the manager, you’re the publicist, you’re the marketer, and you’re the booker. You’re trying to learn, do, and get better at everything, and it’s exhausting.
You start to feel frustrated and a little resentful, as you wonder—how am I supposed to do this all alone?
Lesson #1: We’re not meant to do it alone
If you take nothing else away from this conversation, please remember this. DIY does not mean doing it alone. We as humans, and as creative individuals, are not meant to do things alone. We’re meant to have a shoulder to lean on, a mentor to talk to, and a supportive network to get feedback from.
We aren’t supposed to be trying to do it all ourselves. It’s that simple.
Here’s where a lot of artists go wrong—they forget what DIY really means.
Somewhere along the way we started treating DIY like it was a pseudonym for doing it alone, staying broke, and playing small. We started acting like DIY meant you didn’t want or need anyone else and that was that.
Of course, you need someone else. For starters, you need your fan base. Then, you need a team.
I hate to break it to you but if you’re an indie artist who wants to grow and someday make a true career out of this, you’re going to need team members. You simply can not do it alone. Plus, why would you want to?
Try the barter system
If you’re just starting out and looking to test the waters, I always suggest finding someone you can barter with short term (emphasis on the short term) to get your music off the ground. For instance, if you need a photographer, see if you can find someone who is also just starting their career and ask if they’d be willing to make a trade (or do a discounted rate + trade) where they do a 30-min promo photoshoot with you, and in exchange, you write them a jingle for their YouTube channel.
Finding team members doesn’t have to be super expensive early on—yes, you want to have the money to pay someone after say, the first year, but when you’re just starting out, this is a great way to build relationships and get started on a small budget.
Being independent means you get to choose who you work with
One of the best things about being an indie artist is you get to choose who you want to work with. There’s not a label assigning a publicist or a manager to you, that’s all you! So, take your time, do your research, and start to assemble your dream team
Early on, I suggest finding companies that are in a similar life stage so that you can truly grow together. Plus, there’s a lot of value in working with small or independent companies because like you, they know how to work hard for their passion, and they’ll always get scrappy for the things they care about. (that’s you!)
You don’t need all the things at once. It can be tempting to feel like you need a publicist, booking agent, radio promoter, and marketer all in the same day—but take your time with it. Think about what the biggest priority for you is right now, and then focus your efforts there.
Are you getting ready to release a new album? If so, then you probably want to focus on a publicist.
Are you getting ready to go on a college town tour? A radio promoter might be a good fit right now.
Take your time and don’t overwhelm yourself. It’s better to take baby steps here and there. Often times people try to do 10 things at once, and end up doing none of them.
The important part here is just to get started. Find your people. Assemble your team. Begin creating the life and career you want right now. You’ll never have to look around and wonder “what would have happened if….”
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and the THRIVE Mentorship program—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.