In today’s world, aspiring musicians often overlook some of the most crucial skills in the arsenal of the modern artist. Though these skills may have nothing to do with music, they have become as essential as the music itself.

Because there is so much great music out there, artists need to do more to stand out than just have a list of tunes. More often than ever, labels, agents, and managers are looking for artists to have the “full package” ready to go.

Let’s look into what makes up that “full package” and share the necessary skills to get yourself going in these turbulent times.

What the pros are looking for:

Talking with a lot of label reps, I often hear that they’re looking for artists that already have these things going:

  • A decent fan base across multiple cities
  • Frequently performing shows
  • A clearly identifiable sound, look, and message (i.e. ideology)
  • Active (in a smart way) online and in social media
  • Putting out music regularly or having a substantial catalog of songs

In today’s fast-paced industry, you have to think about what you do as a business, and if you want to be picked up or progress further, you have to be a profitable business. As industry types often say, “If your band can’t already generate money, then how do you expect a label to generate money with you?”

If you’re not there yet, don’t be discouraged: with plenty of strategic planning and a little bit of luck, you can get yourself out there and have your music heard. There are five must-have skills that you’ll need to stand out. Let’s look at the first two today:

1. Branding

This term came along quite recently, but the concept of branding an artist was there since day one. In the past, branding was something a label could help you with, but today, it’s more of a do-it-yourself project.

An artist has always been the epitome of a particular ideology. In some cases, this ideology is only for the public spotlight, while in other cases, the performer lives this stage persona in real life too!

Witness Vincent Damon Furnier (a.k.a. Alice Cooper), who gradually developed his stage alter-ego until he was consumed by all the typical 70s rock star habits.

The good news: branding is exactly what you think it is! It’s how you sound, how you look, how you behave, and so on. Branding is essential for your social media presence too, and in fact, social media is the easiest way to implement consistent branding for your act. The bottom line is to be recognizable and distinguishable among everyone else.

A Method to the Madness

Every band or artist thinks they’re unique. That’s great; we’ve got to love ourselves! However, also try to approach your branding from a third person viewpoint. Objectively, and in detail, evaluate what differentiates you from other bands.

You’re in the entertainment business, so be an entertainer! Music audiences are constantly looking for strong personalities and uniqueness.

This industry was never about doing things like everyone else does: different is good.

A good place to start is to write out what defines your project using three words, and then extrapolate on those qualities. Be really specific. Can you define your band/project using one sentence so that a stranger could understand what you are about?

2. Marketing

Once you have a solid grasp of what you are, it’s time to get yourself out there. Marketing is as essential as having great music, and a lot of artists overlook or don’t know how to approach this task.

”A good place to start is to write out what defines your project using three words, and then extrapolate on those qualities.”

Branding and marketing go hand in hand.

By understanding what you represent, you can get yourself in front of the right people who are going be into your project, and invest your time and money into an audience that will be interested in your work.

So, how do you know which audience is right for your music, and where do you find them?

Do the Research

It really begins with bands that have similar sound. If you’re building a list of shows, then it won’t hurt doing research on venues known to feature acts like yours. Also, do online research and look for where your crowd is online:

  • What do they read?
  • Which artists do they follow?
  • Which venues do they frequent?

Indie artists don’t have substantial funds to roll-out a massive PR campaign, so the trick of the trade here is to act smarter. There are some invaluable analytics tools available online to everyone.

Facebook Audience Insights is an awesome one to start with.

Let’s imagine that your act is similar to the Arctic Monkeys. Using Facebook Audience Insights can give you some really powerful info on their fanbase right away, with statistics like age, gender, what other bands their fans like, location, and much more:

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Presently, the following data is only available for the US market (i.e. Similar Page Likes):

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Pretty cool, right? Using similar online tools, you can really nail down your marketing game and make the right choices.

You can go after cities that will have audiences most likely to be interested in your sound (unfortunately only in the US, for now). You can also find publications that feature bands similar to yours, and much much more. This is marketing gold, so use it to your advantage.

To access Audience Insights, go to your Ads Manager (top left corner) → click Ads Manager again → select All Tools → select Audience Insights (Plan section).

Expand your Creativity

Face it: we musicians love music. That’s what we want to be doing, all the time. Going pro means getting paid to make music, and that’s a good thing, right?

When you put your attention on developing essential non-musical skills like branding and marketing, you just might discover that they can be as enjoyable and creative as the musical side.

We’ll be back with 3 More Must-Have Skills for the Modern Musician. In the meantime, start building your brand and busting out your Facebook analytics so you’ll be ready for your crucial next steps.

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