If you’re trying to make even a partial living as an indie musician you’re a businessperson, and the news gets worse… You’re a small business. That’s a tough row to hoe as it’s unlikely you’ll have much support. You’re going to have to fill lots of roles all by yourself, publicist, customer relations, sales, accounts and legal for starters. That’s all you. If you know a bit about any of those roles that’s great. If not get studying.
Talent and even producing wonderful music is only a component of success. There are lots of talented people and as a consumer it feels like there’s lots of music out there to listen to and quite a lot of it is really good. The way to garner an audience is to be good at publicising yourself and managing your relationship with your audience. The way to prosper (or at least survive) financially is to be good at selling stuff and managing the money that earns you.
This isn’t for everyone, but just because your music might not be your job doesn’t devalue your music at all. It might even be the best path you could take. You might be better off keeping your music as a hobby in the sense of something done for pleasure rather than for financial compensation. This can be a great liberation. Music doesn’t have to be your career, and choosing to make your living elsewhere doesn’t make your music any worse. In fact it could make it better.
Upsides to not making a living from your music:
- Freedom to create whatever you want
- No worries about pleasing anyone else
- No stress about sales and income
Downsides to not making a living from your music:
- Music becomes your second job
- Time and energy may be hard to find
- Difficult to be taken seriously as a musician
There are two interesting and very different examples of musicians who have taken this path in Charles Ives and Shellac. Continue reading Being a professional indie musician isn’t for everyone: Lessons from Charles Ives and Shellac