Top 5 Tips For Independent Musicians – 2010 Edition

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2009 is not going to go down in history as a good year for much of anything, and that goes double for the “bloggers who had good advice for independent musicians” category. If I had a nickel for every blog post that just told bands to “leverage social media”, or worse, make sure they’re “telling a story before you go for a deal”, I’d have enough to cover a Goldman Sachs bonus.
However, there were a few bloggers who did make very worthwhile contributions to the future of the music business last year. Four of them, in fact. How do I know? Because I read everything that was published on the Net concerning the business of music in the last 12 months, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Honestly, for any independent musician with great music, a great live show…and a lot of confusion about exactly what comes next, I think a thorough reading of these five blog posts might provide all the clarity, specificity and inspiration that’s needed to plan and then take that next step. Dig.

1) Sentric’s post, entitled “If I was an unsigned/indie artist in 2010 I would…” contains a bunch of good tips, but is primarily notable for its contribution from Drowned in Sound’s Sean Adams, which shows up about halfway down the page.
He’s clearly writing from the perspective of someone who gets a lot of “please review me” submissions from people who have whacked a few Garageband loops together and now think that they’re rock stars, so some of his contribution might be old news to those who’ve made a deeper commitment to music, but he manages to sidestep all the tactical advice being dispensed by the internet gurus and outline an elemental way of thinking/being for serious musicians who are trying to break through. To wit:

“If I was an unsigned artist I would stop and take stock. I’d do almost nothing, except focus in on what it is I am and want to be. I’d sit up ’til sunrise with absinthe and a pen and write something-like a manifesto full of benchmarks and ideals. I’d spend weeks making music and revising the manifesto, asking myself/my band, whether the end result will be unique, whether it’ll truly express or communicate that I think and feel needs to be out there in the world…I’d keep asking whether what I’m doing has a clear aesthetic which runs through it, whether the presentation of the music relates to the music and if it doesn’t, I’d adapt it and change the manifesto to reflect this.”

Honestly, if you haven’t done this at some point, it really doesn’t matter what else you do. It’s not going to work. The rest of his comments are equally elegant and imperative – go read the rest of it.
Sentric: If i was an unsigned/indie artist in 2010 i would…
2) Ariel Hyatt’s Indie Maximum Exposure List is kind of the opposite of the Sean Adams post – a laundry list of nuggets that will probably all be useful to a given artist at different times. If you tried to do all of these things at once, you’d explode, but each item has the potential of being exactly what someone needs to hear at that exact moment. I think almost any band/artist will get 5 or 10 aha! moments out of skimming this list.
CyberPr: The Indie Maximum Exposure List (A Guide For The Rest Of Us)
3) Emily White, manager of the band Family of the Year, posts on “A Walking Experiment in DIY”. This is a case study, covering the band she manages (FOTY) and the specific things they’ve focused on to generate a buzz – many of which are very applicable at this (fleeting) moment in internet time (and might not be this time next year).
Emily White: Family of the Year: A Walking Experiment in Modern DIY
4&5) Two separate but very related posts from Ian Rogers, who is best known as the CEO of Topspin, but also moonlights as the co-manager for Get Busy Committee. These posts also fall into the case study category, and together add up to an incredibly detailed blow-by-blow account of how to set up a successful release in 2010 (well, he actually wrote these in 2009, but it was November…).
Ian writes in a clear and colloquial style, delivers a solid explanation of the strategy behind each of the tactical steps he’s taking, and describes the whole process at informative and satisfying length.
As with almost every other “unknown musician uses Internet to vault to fame” story out there, the personnel involved here had some pretty heavy music biz contacts before they got rolling on this project; that doesn’t undercut the usefulness of these articles. Nor does the fact that they indirectly serve as promotional material for Ian’s company – the information conveyed here is pure gold even if you’re starting from scratch, and even if you steer clear of Topspin completely.
Koalas and Uzis: Managing Get Busy Committee
Alert, Connect, Sell: Releasing Get Busy Committee

What about you? Have you come across any material that would be useful for indie musicians? Let us all know in comments.


2 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips For Independent Musicians – 2010 Edition

    • Hey, don’t mention it – thanks again for the great article (and for showing up here dressed to impress: my first gravatar-enabled commenter! This is how it’s done, people.)

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