When we create music, what are the parts of it that we own, and which ones do we give away to our listeners? It’s a weird question, but it’s worth asking. Getting to the bottom of what your music means to you and what about it you hope to give other people through your art will give you direction, purpose, and clarity as a music-maker. It’s also an exercise that can help you move outside of yourself temporarily and allow you to hear your music the way one of your listeners would. When we make music for and about only ourselves, we risk cutting off the outside world and alienating our listeners.
Even before the pandemic, it’s safe to say that funds were probably pretty tight for most developing artists. But now without the ability to earn money through touring, festivals, and even most local live in-person shows, money is a bigger concern than ever for many independent musicians. This doesn’t change the fact that if you want to release music and find an audience in 2020, there are some things you can’t avoid spending money on. Here are four things worth investing in as a developing artist making music in today’s complex music industry:
We’re creating music in one of the most uniquely challenging moments in modern history. Something as simple and carefree as getting up on stage in front of a crowd of people in an indoor space is now burdened with danger and uncertainty due to a pandemic that has no end in sight. A fascinating and endlessly frustrating problem is that as the crisis drags on, audiences need music more and more when it’s often difficult or even impossible for musicians to deliver it to them. But between a world connected by the internet like never before and the timeless innovative and tenacious spirit of songwriters and performers, music is still enriching lives during the pandemic in a huge way.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who constantly talks but never really says anything meaningful or memorable? In our creative pursuits as songwriters, it’s essential to avoid doing this same thing with our music––filling valuable time on our tracks with ideas that we know won’t really say or mean anything to our listeners. Along with curiosity, honesty, and a willingness to fail, intention is one of the best traits we can have as songwriters. It’s an asset that can transform forgettable songs into solid, engaging, and accessible pieces of music for our listeners.
In today’s music climate, technology gives us a constantly-updating snapshot of how our music performs over streaming platforms via play counts. The higher the counts are, the better the music is, or so goes conventional thinking. This is flat wrong for lots of reasons. Yet, with a healthy desire to find an audience for your music, it can be easy to give in to this idea in ways that damage your creativity and career in the process. There’s nothing wrong with wanting lots of listeners to love your music. In fact, wanting to build those connections is an essential part of building a music career. But if your only metrics for musical success are the stats behind your music, then you’re missing the point.
An important part of getting more fans is to go beyond your music in your marketing efforts. You might have great songs, amazing visuals, and nice videos, but sometimes these might not be enough to get more following.
If music is the biggest and most vivid passion in your life, then it’s probably something you’re used to sacrificing for. Whether you make music alone or play in a band, it’s natural to develop a “me” or “us” against the world mentality. There isn’t an artform more social and universally engaging than music, and yet making it is an isolating process for many artists. But when we cut ourselves off from the world or even just our local music communities, we end up hurting ourselves as well as our careers. No matter who you are, what sort of music you create, or what your goals are, relationships are important not just for your career, but also for your creativity and well-being.
When you’re first dipping your toes into the water of your next big career move, it can feel overwhelming. What once felt like an exciting adventure designed to get you closer to your goals and dreams pretty quickly becomes a giant pile of stress.