Going Indie: Don’t delay – release your music NOW!

On July 22, 2014

You’ve just spent many days and nights locked in your bedroom. You made the beats, found the riffs, wrote the lyrics and tracked the vocals. A bit of mixing, a bit of mastering – DONE! Now what?!

photo 3 (8)

Making music from tiny bedroom studios and making it available to the public has never been easier. The equipment and services for creation and consumption continue to get more powerful and more innovative. Technological convergence and the globalisation of music is something we have come not only to live with, but to expect more of. The playing field on which independent artists exist continues to level out, and these artists now challenge top major label artists everyday. Before the digital age, the major labels controlled much of how music was distributed and heard, and only their voices could shout out to consumers. These days, independent artists can shout almost as loudly.

Clock. Public domain CC.

Don’t delay – your competitors won’t!

If you have made some music, there is no point letting it live on your hard drive. Get it out there and give people the ability to hear it. Don’t worry if you don’t have the perfect image yet, or you don’t know who your fans are yet. Don’t be scared that people might not like it or you might get a bit of criticism. You need to begin somewhere and you can develop your strategy and your fan base from this point on. If you hold for too long, you risk somebody else capturing your market and capitalising on your potential fan base. Make sure you have follow-up content and a plan to keep fans engaged as much as possible.

Content is king

Don’t believe that just because your music is out there it will be heard. In a time where anyone can release music, the battle to be listened to is harder than ever. But just like the old days when artists were fighting for major deals to become superstars, the same rule applies – content is king! Without good, marketable and engaging content, you will not be heard, shared or spoken about.

The music industries have always relied on the talents of the artist. Independent musicians have to do much of the promotion work themselves. You are not just a musician; you are marketing, management, PR, publisher… Those who are gifted and work hard will naturally shine through. If you know your work is of a high standard and feedback tells you it’s good enough to be popular, then the only thing holding you back is how hard you will work to get it heard. Hard work and and high quality content will always prevail.

Image is important

Whether you believe your music is the best thing ever to grace the ears of mankind or not, you won’t get much attention if you don’t look interesting. Creating an aesthetic image suitable to your music and your market is almost as important as the music itself when cultivating and maintaining a fan base. Many artists have been linked with their album artwork but not their music. Many people know Deadmau5 for his mouse head imagery rather than the music he makes. Others could easily recognise the Joy Division spectrograph artwork, but not name a song from the album.

Do your homework

Analyse those successful independent artists in your genre and see what they are doing- and also what they are not doing. Look at others for inspiration, but look to yourself for innovation. Find a concept you are happy with now and one you know you can evolve in the future when releasing more work.

Use social media to see how fans engage with other artists and look for the content which gets the greatest response. Find the right services that fans are using; are hip hop fans on Bandcamp or Soundcloud? Are dubstep producers using Youtube more than iTunes?

Customise as you go

Through social media, artists are able to gather analytics on what their fans like and dislike, catering their creativity to match the fans needs. Bloggers can be very influential and can help new artists get to a large audience quickly. Use these services to identify what you are doing well or poorly, and try to understand and respond to the fans you are reaching. Direct to fan strategies are of growing importance, especially at the early stages of your career. It is normal for successful independent artists to communicate with their fans regularly, if not daily.

Don't be a music snob

Don’t be a snob

Although many people comment on how much bad music is in the charts, it gets there for a reason – market demand. You might not think it’s the best composition, or it has the best lyrics, but often it is the simplest work that gains traction the fastest.  Being innovative is fine, but being over-complex can deter many of the average ‘pop’ market consumers away from your music. Even if your work isn’t meant for that market, consider what changes may lead to more plays. Be willing to revise the way you are creating from the response you get from your listeners and respond to criticism constructively. Don’t confuse pride with being a music snob.

Copyright infusionsoft. Creative commons licence.

Make a plan

What if your track gets popular and your fans want more? More music, more images, more contact… more of everything. Do you have anything more to give?! The attention span of the consumer is fickle, and if you can’t keep them engaged longer than the three minutes of your song, they may never find their way back to you again. The worst thing you can do is get caught out and not know what to do when your new fans want more. Have some idea of what your next step will be if you do get attention and develop this as you go. Planning a social media strategy to keep fans talking and sharing your work is great, but making sure they continue to do this depends on how you engage.

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Going Indie is a series of blog posts dedicated to the independent music scene and is also featured on the SAE Alumni blog

Dean McCarthy is an alumnus from SAE London, the Programme Coordinator for Audio Production at SAE Oxford and has an MA in Music Industries from Birmingham City University. His academic work focuses on technological and cultural convergence and he freelances as an audio engineer in Oxford. More of his work can be found at http://www.athingcalledmusic.com

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