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Is It Possible to Be an Independent Musician?

There are many stories of talented musicians who failed to break into the big-time. Some artists are overlooked or perhaps they weren’t seen as the right fit for a record company when they were active. They might simply have not had any way of being heard by a wider audience due to their circumstances.

The tried and trusted route in the past was to gig at small venues and try to get noticed in the press. Maybe the band would send a demo to the A & R department of a record company and if they were lucky it would get played. If the band were to get really lucky a talent scout would see them perform and then they would get a contract.

Things are very different now but musicians themselves remain the same. For most, music started as a hobby but if a musician is serious about their art then they will at some point dream of playing to a bigger audience or hearing their music on the radio. Is there any way for a performer to break into the trade on their own? 

Starting Out

Many musicians will start out learning at home. Perhaps a relative bought a guitar or drums as a present and that turned into a hobby and a passion for creating music. If you are serious then take guitar lessons or practice with friends. Others sing in school bands or at church and discover they have a genuinely good voice.

For the majority of young musicians, it is a hobby. There may be a dream to become a professional musician and there may be many attempts to launch a career. For most though, playing music ends up being something they retain through their life but it never makes it past the hobby level. So how can you look at pursuing music further? 

Practice, Practice, Practice

Before you can even consider being a musician, independent or not, you need to be able to play competently. Practice as much as possible, alone or with your band. Play covers and learn the chords without buying sheet music or guessing. You can use online tools to help you. Upload a classic song to one of these websites and displayed on the screen instantly are the Hey Jude chords for you to follow. 

Public Performances

Before anyone hears about you, or your band if you are in one, you will need to get out there and perform. Practice religiously and try to perform regularly in your local area. Visit local venues and ask about having a guest slot. Talk to other bands about supporting them in small gigs. The more you perform in your area, the more your name will grow locally. Once this occurs you can begin to look at a wider radius.

If you are a solo artist or even a band and finding it hard to get gigs then do it yourself. Find public areas that can be used for performing, busk, go to open-mic nights, offer to play at friend’s and relative’s parties. Nothing is too small when you are trying to gain experience. Once someone sees you perform, you may get an invite to play at their party, bar, or wherever. 

Promote Yourself

If you do get a slot in a local bar or club then promote the hell out of it. Don’t rely on the club owner to put up posters. Make your own posters and put them around your city, legally of course. Put flyers in record shops or other places where there may be interested people such as skateboard or clothing shops. 

Making an Online Presence

One area you will have to work on in these times is self-promotion. You will need your own space on the web where interested people and fans alike can come together to see your work. What does a web presence entail exactly? You probably already have one in the form of a Facebook page. This is one way to attract followers as is Instagram.

Using social media is a good idea but try and keep one page for fans and followers, and another for your private life – and restrict posting to it. You may not be famous now but one day you may well regret posting those drunken, party photos.

Other ways to increase your online presence are to build a website and post videos on other platforms. This could be time-consuming so plan carefully, however, it can be a great way to interact with fans; once you get some. 

YouTube

In the past, many professional and amateur musicians created pages online. MySpace was partly responsible for some big artists being signed and some big ones in particular such as Adele, Arctic Monkeys, and Calvin Harris.

Nowadays, YouTube is the place to go. Open a channel on the site and post videos of you jamming and also of live performances. You can do monologues about your day or a recent gig; anything to keep fans interested and returning to you.

Growing numbers on your website, social media, and YouTube is a good indicator of how you might do as a musician when it is time for releasing a record. 

Make Your Own Record Label

Throughout the years, many musicians have made their own labels as a way of controlling their output and material. They would typically be signed to a larger record company or have a deal for distribution and manufacture. These days there is less need for worrying about production and distribution. If you want to be independent then your own label is the next step. 

Make Your Own Recording

So far you will not have had to spend too much on your quest to be a rock star, but if you want to make some money without involving record companies, then you will need to shell out now. Simply put, you need to record music if you are going to be successful. Sure, you could keep gigging without ever recording but with the pandemic, it is going to be hard to find stadiums or arenas to play.

You have two obvious choices here, either spend money on studio time or record at home yourself. Both are possible depending on your budget and skillset, which means understanding recording techniques and equipment. 

Release Your Music to the World

Make a certain amount of CDs for sale at your gigs. Consider how many people usually attend and how many have expressed an interest in purchasing your music in the past. Your biggest route to musical success is going to lie in downloads and possibly streaming. The problem with this streaming is you may need to sign up to a distributor.

Once your track or album is recorded and ready to go you can look at ways to sell it. Firstly, you have a website so offer it for sale there through PayPal or other online payments. Secondly, think bigger and add it to Apple iTunes Store. Millions of people visit there every day to download music. Promote your song through YouTube and social media and let everyone know it is available for download. 

Summary

These are some steps that could take you forward in your career as an independent musician. You could go from strumming Beatles chords in your bedroom to selling thousands of copies of your songs on the internet. Being completely independent is very tough as music companies will spend a lot of money promoting their artists and performers but with hard work and determination, it is possible to get there. Just remember to practice a lot first or you might not get a second gig.

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