Words by Kavina.
The first rule of independent artist management-life is to manage your music like you don’t need no manager. Yeah, we out here! Smack-bang in the game of self-definitive success, where you can set your aim and shoot for the moon, and there’s a whole repertoire of tools out there to help you out along the way. 2020, another year and another step into the future of artistic control and independence. So long as you've got the right attitude, a few tricks up your sleeve and a simple but effective self-management style, there’s no reason why you can't take your career to the next level this year.
Here’s our take on the best tools to help you on your independent artist journey.
Your best tool is your mindset. What's your artist philosophy?
Taking on an indie philosophy means taking full-time responsibility for a DIY attitude when it comes to governing all aspects of your career, from managing the accounts, networking, artistic direction, and connecting with fans. Plus, this is all after practising and making sure that your sound is on point.
Whether it’s the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice rule from Malcolm Gladwell's, Outliers or ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’, you need to know what drives you. Whether it’s fearlessness and risk-taking or believing that, ‘it's better to fail at being an original than succeed as an imitation.’ Most independent artists want to govern their careers, not just because it’s cheaper, but because they don’t need societal pressure or commercial enterprise to change who they are or what their music represents. Holding the reins tightly over something as precious as your artistic expression, without having to compromise, essentially puts you on the same path as like-minded individuals who paved the road before. So, stay true to what you believe and let the rest reveal itself.
Focus on the music and getting it out there
Most artists will tell you to focus on your music, and the rest comes with time. *Insert appropriate and inspirational Post Malone, Kaytranada, Kygo, Radiohead, Billie Eilish quotes here*. Your biggest advocate is your sound, so first and foremost - get that noise out there, even the rough-cuts. Sure, some may tell you that you’re dreaming if you think your mixtape can reach the Billboard music charts because you aren’t Chance The Rapper. However, what were the same people saying to Chance before he got there? SoundCloud is the king of the indie discovery game, and it’s the best social music network/profile you can have as an artist. The list of discovery and success stories are endless (refer to the inspirational artists mentioned above) and it’s all because they became busy and didn't wait until they had polished sounds ready to share. SoundCloud gives you a more detailed portfolio than a Spotify playlist and discography. You can debut music previews, link to social media directly and allow commenting on your music as well as re-share it amongst fans and followers. It’s the best of LinkedIn, Facebook and music sharing combined for an artist.
While there are considerable benefits to indie music distribution sites like Bandcamp and CD Baby, which come with time, your greatest weapon is your exposure.
Management systems, because you're a professional boss!
Setting up a system for all the different tasks that come with self-management helps to keep things transparent. Something as simple as using Google Sheets and Google Docs to create and save information in one secure place enables you to keep tabs on the business end of things and makes it easier to share info with others. Whether its updating budget spreadsheets for costs and accounting, task lists and invoicing, it’s all in one place and explained.
Using a management system like Trello (it’s free) or Asana is an excellent way to keep track of progress and delegate tasks amongst band members or outsource projects. Especially when meeting time-sensitive deadlines, such as having albums mixed/ mastered before public release, also everyone can see how a plan is moving along. When you self-manage, sometimes you bring in different players to help achieve your goals because no one can do it alone. Using systems like Trello can help you organise and prioritise your projects, and it’s super easy to use, so things don't get lost in communication.
Social media scheduling and gig calendars
Social media scheduling
An organic method of posting content to your social media networks gives you a more predictable and therefore connected persona amongst your followers. Many indie artists stand by ‘in the moment’ direct contact such as Instagram videos or quick tweets. However, for less personal information, using a scheduling system such as Hootsuite can streamline sharing-events and gig info or album release dates by linking up posts between your twitter, Instagram, and Facebook etc. It provides a quick way to handle promotional and informative material because time is money, and the quality time you spend on social media interacting with your followers instead of separately updating every platform is time better spent.
A gig calendar
Using a linked calendar to show tour and gig dates is crucial to artist management. The only way to grow as an artist is to play more shows, and you need people to come to them. Providing a calendar to view future events is not only thoughtful but professional. It’s easy to link up to Google calendar and add it to your online electronic press kit (EPK) or link a gig calendar to sites like Bandsintown, which also handle ticket sales. The best thing about Bandsintown is, even if you're an unknown band when people look for live music in their local area for that night, and you’re in town, you’ll appear in search terms associated with venues and city information.
An electronic press kit (EPK)
Having your EPK updated and ready to go/easy to share online, or stored away in Google Docs, makes it fast to distribute to prospective network leads, or upcoming show venues and publications. You never know when someone will want to tell your story, so you need to be ready to go with the best profile, then you can show the world what you’re all about.
Your EPK should include:
A band resume
Make sure the resume contains:
Sound and other recordings
Demo’s and mixtapes (both old and new), which showcase your sound, plus any live show recordings or music videos.
Other promotional material
Magazine articles and reviews and promotional flyer templates. You can also put together artist-written pieces for feature blog posts, which are a handy way to show fans what your band represents.
A band website
Having a website as your EPK serves as a professional website and can act as a launchpad linking you to gig calendars and social media, which gives you a highly professional image for a low price. Site builders like Wix, WordPress or a one sheet are super cheap and integrate easily with multimedia sites like embedded SoundCloud players for your music demos. Wow, proper profesh artist stuff!
Hot tip - Artist business cards. Don’t go old school by keeping a USB or CD in your pocket (with a written word document attached) and hand it out to people, unless you’ve crashed your heroes’ concert and jumped on stage to hand them your demo. Opt for a card, linking to mixtapes or EPKs online (also probs don’t jump on stage!) - which is also the best way to promote yourself and link up prospective industry people to your social media. Be chill but cover your bases. Because names are forgettable when you meet people at a gig or a night out, but a business card is something memorable that they can keep. The simple methods work the best.
Get onboard with online booking platforms
Thank god we no longer have to go door-to-door, looking for gigs and making sure venues realise you exist. I mean if you adore a place, definitely pop in when it’s quiet and get to know the sound manager/booker, but the world has evolved, and it’s even easier to connect with an enormous range of venues which suit your sound.
By streamlining the whole process of finding gigs, they can be delivered to you in an almost gig-newsfeed type of deal, where you can choose what suits you and connect with venues accordingly. Finding gigs shouldn't be stressful when you’ve got the goods, and spending less time searching for bookings and more time on your music is a blessing.
If you need any help getting started, feel free to contact us at Muso. We also handle the whole booking process from acquisition to invoicing and payment. Muso is trying to get more live music out there and help connect artists faster.