THE WAY OF THE INDIE
The Way of the Indie is a hard road to travel filled with distractions. Follow these signposts and be consistent in your dealings.
1) Active Crew = Support Staff
2) Get a Real Manager
3) Be Accountable For Your Own Actions
4) Shows Are The Engine
5) Buzz & Word of Mouth
6) Hustle Smartly
AN ACTIVE & SUPPORTIVE CREW
No Man is an Island. You need a crew, a support staff, a safe harbor among a band of friends that believes in you almost more than you believe in yourself. Most successful artists have stable, productive, established crews. That crew should be extroverts, chatterboxes, Netheads, hard workers, problem solvers and can network their asses off. You need someone in the crew who can man the merchant table, collect names, hand out flyers, do graphics, site designs, can comfortably move and post in message boards, can talk their ways into clubs etc. Mostly, you need that guy or girl who can talk you up and sling a CD anywhere, anytime and to anyone. If you already have an following, that crew member has to realize that being in your crew is not a shortcut for their own career. Always give back and acknowledge your people. Respect and a shout out can go along ways. Drop the yes men. Listen to the constructive input of a crew, they are your most valuable asset.
When it's time, get a functioning manager you can go to for everything or do without until you need one or find the right one. You need someone dedicated to chasing sponsorships, ringtone deals, helps maintain your websites including your MySpace site, manages the e-mail database and has a regular plan on how to keep that database active, vibrant and in tune to your needs. Someone who has even more contacts than you and submits you to all festivals, conferences and related lifestyle events as well as the main contact for booking agents and promoters to make sure shows get booked and promoted as they should. A manager that can roll corporate when needed and can write a bio or biz plan as needed and has your artist profile written and ready for anyone who asks. You need a manager who is thinking two steps ahead of you every step of the way. Most importantly, someone who can help shape your career and knows their way around the word No. A good manager is worth their weight in gold, treat them well.
Be 100% responsible for your own actions, your career and your lot in life. It's too easy to blame everyone else, you are in control of your own destiny. If you've made a mistake or an error in judgement, own up to it and make it right. Solid careers have been built on artists that take full responsibility for their actions, know their own strengths and weaknesses and how to address them. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar. An artist that's easy to work with and doesn't flake at the first hint of trouble attracts good people into his orbit. Balance yourself against a realistically similar artist (Not a 50 Cents or Coldplay) to compare your profile to theirs (tours, active fan base, buzz, amount of music released etc). Comparing your status and profile to superstars backed by million dollars campaigns is simply counterproductive for everyone involved. Stay positive, be solution oriented instead of a finger pointer, shoulder the load and people will go that extra step and will be there for your when you are in need. Know yourself and keep your work ethic strong because it's a long road to travel. Be a beacon of light.
SHOWS, SHOWS, SHOWS
Playing shows are the engine that makes everything else work. In the Way of the Indie, shows are the principle way to convert fans, build a base ,create buzz, sell music direct and network like your life depended it (be sure and say hello to the club owner, bar keep, etc) . A transcendent show and stage banter can turn fans into believers and create an honest buzz. Not all gigs are equal but the stage is your #1 outlet to personally deliver your message (remind them you have music they can buy right then) and to continue to refine and hone your craft. The promoter can be a valuable ally as a decent one makes up postcards, has a street team to make sure it gets out there including online and may even by print ads in the local rag to announce the gig. Always make sure they have album art and logo, not some random photo a fan will never see again. The getting and playing of shows can't be overstressed. Your next superfan, manager, friendly journalist and/or DJ or otherwise important connection could be in the audience. A great show and attitude can lead to a steady paycheck and chances are your best paycheck when you include selling cd's at the show.
Buzz is word of mouth that marketing converts into sales. Money can't buy buzz and brilliant marketing campaigns have been felled to a lack of or even a negative buzz. Buzz is the word of mouth you and your crew have steadily built by months of steady and consistent touring backed by non stop networking. Buzz is your and/or your crew 1) constantly working the 2 to 3 clubs or venues that your crowd is at 2) building a rep for a great live show and related parties 3) using connections to build relationships with DJ's that can help your cause 4) creating clever mixtapes or digital releases and making sure they get into the hands of the fans you want to convert, onto various websites as well as into the local indie stores you respect and visit. 5) do and thoroughly complete every interview opportunity you can do, however small, because every bit of visibility adds up. Overall, get out there, mingle with your fans and be seen. Most important, make sure your music is on point and your are as prolific as you need to be. That could include slinging some tracks free if that's what it takes to start the buzz up.
Nowadays, it's not uncommon for an artist to be working a music career with aspirations for Hollywood or DVD's as well. Having a diverse game plan is great but be sure you complete building your foundation first. Get the main career in gear first and dedicate all your initial energies to that purpose. Hustling Smart is 1) building and maintaining a productive, active crew 2) tirelessly seeking out promoters and tweaking your presentation to keep your pitch strong 3) getting to know the people that can directly impact your career. That's indie store managers, regional promoters, DJ's, barbershops, cool indie clothing stores or related lifestyle store, cheap print vendors and more. 4) getting a day job if that's what it takes to pay the bills to keep your momentum. Hustling Smart is staying focused and making sure your daily actions advance your album and profile. Hustling Smart is staying on message with the appropriate parties.
Free Agent Recordings