Navigating Opportunities – The Indie Artist

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I’ve done two previous articles for Artistic Echoes that both relate to Indie Music. This article essentially is the third of what now appears to a series that continues the trend to provide some insights into challenges that an indie artist can run up against. I will detail a couple of situations or opportunities that highlight the caution signs that an Indie artist should be very cognizant of.

The first thing to get in check if you are an Indie artist is your ego. Every artist has an ego, no matter how much they might try to down play it. They want their music or talent to be realized in some fashion or another. I’ve seen many artists that don’t realize they are a small fish in a huge pond that has sharks in the waters. If you don’t have that ego in check than you will get eaten.

So, here’s example #1. A guy that wants to help you with promotions contacts you. He wants to talk to you directly. He has pictures of himself with famous artists. He’s got to be legit, right? He tells you about other artists he’s worked with. He says he really likes your music, your vibe and all that ego stroking BS. He claims he can get your music played on radio stations across the country. Wow! You’re fired up! You’re thinking, finally! You’re soaking up all of this when suddenly you manage to get your ego back in check. You start asking legitimate questions.

Questions like, how is all this measured? What kind of reporting do you receive about airtime details? Why do you want all this money up front? What kind of shared partnership is involved in this transaction? He tells you that you can’t have success unless you do this. He tells you it all happens after you get all this airplay and of course this guy is really good at making you feel like you don’t want to pass up this opportunity. Thank goodness you managed to keep your ego in check. Why? Because the fact is this guy doesn’t want to share in your success. He even tells you himself that there are “no guarantees”. He wants his money upfront so he can move on to the next artist. For him, it’s all gain, no pain! For you, it’s money up front with no measurable reporting. For that matter you never got any sense of reporting of any type from this person.

Maybe this pans out for some Indie artists, but my bet is that turns out to be one in a hundred.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll do it again. Indie artists need exposure so that people can discover their music. Unfortunately, that’s where many of the shark’s prey.

On twitter alone I get at least one offer a week from someone offering some sort of promotion. Get Likes, more followers etc. etc. You pay upfront with no guarantees and rarely is it measurable in what it truly means for you. So if you’ll pay for more followers, do you start paying people to come to your concerts? Do you pay them to buy or listen to your music? There are so many offers directed at Indie Artists these days that it gets very difficult to navigate. You must have that ego in check both ways! You can’t get discouraged either. There are people selling their “Learn how to be successful and make a living with your music” to places like Music X-ray that want you to pay to get your music in front of opportunities. Any exposure is good exposure, right? Be cautious!

So here is Example #2 – You are a young aspiring indie artist. You managed to release a couple early albums with help from friends and family. You managed to get some attention regarding your work. You’re ready to dig in now that you made some connections from the exposure that you’ve gained. You want to record something a bit more sophisticated and professional. So you start working with a producer that has history with some successful local artists.

You work with this Producer that records your music and is working with you to get to another level. He wants to change some things about your music and your image. You’re open to try a few things, sure, because you are working to get to the next level. As time goes on you find that the Producer isn’t always (for lack of a better way to say it) nice. A lot of your time and a fair amount of your money have gone into recording your music and modifying your persona. You’ve recorded a lot of music. Enough songs for a couple of albums, yet you’ve only had a single released. You’re starting to realize that this Producer probably isn’t truly working to capture the essence of your music. He gets more and more difficult to deal with. You like a lot of the work you’ve done, but guess what? The Producer has it all. Besides that, a lot of the recordings you did include custom BEATS that he owns or has copyrights on. So now what?

How do you manage around this one? Do you write it off as experience and move on? Do you get a lawyer that you can’t really afford? How do you deal with someone that has become difficult to deal with? Most Indie Artists aren’t business people. That said, anytime an Indie Artist has an opportunity it’s vital to get a clear understanding of what you are spending your money on, what you get out of it and get it in writing.

I’ve come to think that if someone wanting to promote your music is willing to share in your success then it’s a win – win situation. There are all kinds of difficult situations that an Indie Artist will have to face. Be smart, work towards results, don’t get discouraged, don’t let your head get too big and stay true to your music. Cheers!

Rick Lally


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