In today’s competitive industry, making a name for yourself as a musician is a challenging and not-so-straightforward road. Because there’s so much incredible music being put out into the world, it’s no longer enough to just have an impressive discography. Much of what separates highly successful mainstream acts from underground indie artists are non-musical elements like money, branding, and smart marketing.
Though there is (unfortunately) no such thing as a money tree for musicians, you’re in direct control of your project’s branding and marketing; this consists of fine-tuning your sound and aesthetic, and getting yourself out there in front of the right people/audiences. If you haven’t already, check out The Top 2 Must-Have Skills for the Modern Musician to read about the important role that branding and marketing play in the success of your music project.
Now, we’re going to look at three more ingredients that will help you kick-start your career:
- Digital audio workstations (DAWs)
- Being able to make connections
- The thirst for self-improvement
Let’s dive right in, starting with the technology that will help you to improve your sound. What’s more, you will also effectively communicate your musical ideas with other collaborators such as band members and sound engineers!
1. Working With Digital Audio Workstations
DAWs are essential for the modern musician. There probably isn’t a record out today that was made without the use of a DAW. Here’s why you might want to know how to use one:
- Mastering a DAW will teach you how to make high-quality demos or even final masters (if you’re willing to get dirty).
- DAWs can bring new textures into your music (for example, the use of synthesizers and new effects).
- DAWs can help you capture any spontaneous ideas that pop into your head. This is actually faster than grabbing a sheet of paper and writing it there.
- DAWs allow you to add MIDI instruments to your show, and to use new sounds and effects during your performance.
Also, consider the following…
Stages of Recording
- Writing, recording, production, and sequencing – involves DAW
- Mixing – involves DAW
- Mastering – involves DAW
In the best case scenario, you’d have each of these stages handled by different people. The writing and recording stage would be handled by your band and a dedicated recording engineer, mixing would be done by a professional mixing engineer, and mastering would be completed in a mastering studio by a pro.
How Can Knowledge of DAWs Help?
If you’re doing this all by yourself, then having a substantial knowledge of how a DAW operates is essential. The interfaces may be different, but the concepts of sound engineering and how DAW works are the same everywhere!
Even if you’re not going the do-it-yourself route, having a working knowledge of DAW production is still an incredibly useful skill to have as a musician. It will help you communicate your ideas with industry pros easier, ensuring that your final product sounds exactly how you want it to!
2. Social Interactions
We’ve all heard, “It’s about who you know,” and that is entirely true. Back in Part 1 we looked at marketing techniques for finding venues that feature similar bands. Well, the patrons of such venues are not just going to be your regular fans, but also everyone you need to know to keep moving in your career: bloggers, writers, agents, managers, and other bands.
We’re all looking for genuine connections. And there’s nothing bad about connecting with people in your niche to achieve mutual growth.
Involving Yourself in the Community
Contact a writer of a popular magazine in your city and invite them to your show. Support local bands at their shows and come up with ideas to do shows together. It’s easier to build a fanbase and bring in a decent crowd by combining efforts with other acts than doing everything on your own. In fact, this kind of interaction is at the core of growing any band.
The same is true for social media interactions. By finding local venues, publications, and bands and consistently getting into conversations with them, people will start recognizing you. And next time somebody needs a band to perform, they will think of you just because you’re always out there!
Being an artist, you are dedicating yourself to a community, and being a supportive and collaborative part of that community is a beautiful thing.
Onwards and Upwards
One of the best ways to bring in a new audience for an upcoming act is to go on tour with a headlining act or get invited to open for someone big. Guess how that happens?
Usually, a headlining band will simply invite someone they like to hang out with. How many people your act can bring to the show isn’t the only important thing; often, simply being likeable and pleasant to work with is vital for getting those coveted gigs!
Staying hungry for the new is an important personal quality to cultivate, and is crucial for any music act. You already know this is true for your music, but it’s also true for branding, marketing, music technology and social skills.
These days there are so many new tools that become available to musicians on a daily basis that you never know which one will help you really get your project off the ground.
For example, you need exposure and ways to interact with your fans. You need to be heard and you need to perform. Thankfully, there are tools online that can help you accomplish each one of these. With a little bit of research, you can get pretty much everything you need.
Let’s say you’re in the US and want to go on tour. Naturally, you’d need to create a list of venues. You can start browsing through them by yourself, or you can use a website like Indie On The Move that has a directory of venues, bands, and much more.
Make A Plan – Then Follow It Through!
Find something that works for you, and double down on it. Have a solid plan to achieve your goals and try new things all the time. This is true for your music and for everything else discussed in this article. Working on your branding, marketing, and social skills is as important as frequent rehearsals.
3 + 2 = Success
Mastering these three skills – along with the other two from The Top 2 Must-Have Skills for the Modern Musician – can help you create a solid platform to move forward. The best thing is that these all go hand in hand, and complement your existing skills.
Whether it’s focusing on your branding or expanding your network, think about how these skills apply to you and your project, and which ones will serve you best in your musical goals.
The way you’re shaping the branding game will directly impact your marketing strategy and the audience you’re going after. Making yourself familiar with DAW software will help you better understand what goes into making a record, and will also facilitate your communication with your sound tech whenever there’s a question.
Never disregard the power of building strong interpersonal skills – you can never be sure who will play an important role in taking your project to the next level!
Wrapping Up the Full Package
Whether it’s focusing on your branding or expanding your network, think about how these skills apply to you and your project, and which ones will serve you best in your musical goals. Then, make a plan for how to integrate these skills, and see it through. This way, when you’re in front of the music industry pros, you’ll already have the full package ready to go, and whoever you’re working with can be sure that your music is a worthwhile investment.
Implementing a plan built with these skills requires a lot of careful thought and hard work. It’s a challenging road, but if others can make it, you can dominate the game too! So take a few minutes away from your music and make some time to work on the branding, marketing, DAWs, social skills, and self-improvement skills that will create a lifestyle where you can be making more music, more of the time.