How To Not Get Eaten By The Industry

I would like to talk about a trend in many musicians I know, including myself. We are idealists! We have a certain notion that we should be able to walk into the woods with a beat up nylon-string guitar, looking soulfully off into the distance and sing esoteric songs to the trees. While doing this, people should magically appear and love what we are doing and give us money. This would be great. It is however not the case. With that in mind, I would encourage any artist to go play music in the woods, just don’t expect to make a living at it.


So, music IS an art. Art should be organically produced. The music itself should not be swayed by commercial intent…but then I struggle with this. I have been veering to a more “listener-friendly” format in my songwriting as of late. I do this because what I have been listening to is changing as well, its not just Magma and Van Der Graaf Generator anymore. So am I “selling out?” I think not, probably because that would be very pretentious of me. “Selling out” means making loads of money off of “soul-less” content. I guess I don’t know where I am going with that except that as humans and musicians our tastes are ever changing and our music should do the same.

So, how do we market what we do? What is the audience? I am 21 years old, was raised in the age when cd’s were dominant. I have begun my music career in this generation of online madness. I have no problem with that. I love that my perspective is not muddied by sentimentality for “the old way.” I love older music and I LOVE VYNIL! (That deserved all caps) I do not however think that the music industry is dying. It is simply moving on to new means to spread itself. I am learning how to take advantage of that.

So back to the tortured artist. How can this play into a marketable package?

You probably have the best audience ever now that anybody in the world can find you through the internet. Your music has to be easily accessible though, available for download or through an independent distributor. Monetizing your art on the internet is still a bit of a mystery to most, me included. But it can be done!

I think another thing to focus on is turning your online audience (through social media) into REAL attendance. Does anyone else get annoyed at the 40 generic invites that musicians send out to their show that’s 50 miles from you? We’ve got to think of something different. Real, personal messages to people that live in the general area of your show will perform much better. They take much more time however. On Facebook: do not make an invite except for informational reasons. They will not generate interest in and of themselves, they will however provide valuable information. Don’t try to make them anything more than that unless you are very creative.

Stop whining about the music industry - either you take advantage of it or it takes advantage of you.

  • Don’t stop - if some people don’t like your music, others will (even Rebecca Black has fans) but ALWAYS continue to improve your music through any means necessary.
  • When you are local - BE local. Create things people can identify with and feel like they have a part in.
  • Make money wherever you can! Put a dollar value on what you do (be it albums, downloads, or gigs) and stick to it. If you do a bunch of “exposure” freebies people will assume you aren’t worth anything more than that. You are!
  • LOVE IT! When you get paid for doing what you love, its hard to not love life.

When creativity and business meet, it can be a difficult balance. My hope is that neither is obscured by the other.