5 Awesome Things About Being An Independent Musician
There are many great things about being an independent musician (there are many bad things too, but we'll save that for another article.) Here are 5 of the most awesome things about taking the DIY route.
1) 100% Creative Freedom
“Now listen Zuby, the ‘Eurodance’ sound is very hot right now so for your first single we’d like you to make a song for the clubs produced by DJ D-Bag. If you could please keep the complicated wordplay to a minimum then it will definitely be a hit…”
This is a conversation that never happened and thank goodness for that.
Before being in the ‘music business’, we are artists first and foremost. There’s little art to creating music that someone else told you to, especially if the creator doesn’t even like it! As an indie artist, you can make whatever kind of music you and your audience wants without having to pander to external forces of label execs or heavy handed A&Rs determined to turn you into a soulless pop star. Many potentially great albums have been ruined by labels trying to mess around with artists’ creative processes. You signed an artist so let them create their art.
2) 100% Financial Control
Rather than being stuck on a cruddy 8-12% royalty rate (assuming you’ve even recouped, which most signed artists don’t) you’re in a position to be on up to a 100% royalty rate. Now of course that could be 100% of less total sales but it’s great to know that you’re in control of your own revenues and expenditures. The less middle men there are to deal with, then the less chance of getting screwed.
There’s also a greater chance of making a sustainable and liveable income or even some serious dough if you can earn a strong army of supporters; even if it’s relatively small in comparison to the massive fan bases of some major artists.
3) You Call The Shots
Being an independent musician vs. being signed (from what I’ve gathered, I’ve never been signed) is like being self-employed vs. being an employee (I’ve been both).
If you’re an indie artist, you’re responsible for planning, recording, releasing and promoting your music. You set your own release dates, decide your own distribution channels, decide your own track listing and pick your own singles. Once a major label gets involved, this power is gone from you. Heck, under most deals there’s not even a guarantee that you’ll be able to release your record even if it’s ready to go (remember what happened with Saigon and Papoose?). Not everyone is designed to be self-employed but not everyone is designed to always be at someone else’s mercy. I’m in the former camp.
4) You REALLY Get To Know Your Fans
And I don’t mean that in a sexual way (well actually…). The independent grind involves meeting a ridiculous number of people, shaking a ridiculous number of hands and communicating with an ever-growing amount of people (assuming your fan base is growing).
Over the past 6 years, I’ve definitely spoken to at least 250,000 people about my music, probably closer to 300,000+. One thing this experience has taught me is how to maintain a smile whilst standing on a random street hundreds of miles from home in sub-zero temperatures… another thing it has taught me though is how to relate to people and who exactly my potential audience is. I’ve met loads of awesome people – who have gone from being strangers, to fans, to friends and supporters. Had I gotten signed 5 years ago and bypassed this experience I don’t think I’d have anywhere near the level of rapport that I now have with my supporters.
5) The Sky Is The Limit – Really!
Tech N9ne, Immortal Technique, Macklemore… the list goes on. These are all successful independent artists who have made millions of fans AND dollars without major label deals. So it is possible. Is it easy? Heck no. All of the above had a very long and difficult journey to reach their levels of success but I don’t think they’d have it any other way. Ultimately, supporters are the life-blood of any artist so regardless of your signed/unsigned status, if you have fans that are willing to support you then it is possible to make a living. Maybe one day even a very healthy one. The talent is there (hopefully), the tools are there and so the rest is up to you…