Back in March of 2018, I attended a new, intimate conference hosted in San Francisco that focused on how creators / creatives make a living through the internet. Music artists and musicians are included in this bunch. For a blog recap, click here.
There was a lot of great stuff discussed, so I took some notes on specific points and reminders that I think will help all creatives, including music artists like yourself. Also, I want to emphasize the importance of community and the value of attending conferences like this.
Here’s a description of the conference:
Bond will focus on the realities of running your creative practice as a business on the internet. We’ll cover everything from establishing a community to building a sustainable career using crowdfunding and community patronage. Let’s trade stories, learn from one another, and figure it out together.
Normally, I’m not going to do blogs like this, but I wanted to take this opportunity to present something different. Nothing groundbreaking here, but I think reading reminders are always important to keep you focused on making the right moves for your career.
#1 Networking and community are keys to success.
The first speaker, Gary Chou said:
“Success is a function of access to networks.”
Access to networks means access to resources and opportunities. You have to be able to put yourself out there in the community. Start through collaboration with other artists in your area who share similar beliefs, passions or interests as you.
#2 Luck matters.
We live in a highly individualistic country that does not really want to acknowledge the existence of luck and how it plays a role in our failures and successes. This does not mean hard work isn’t important, but it’s much more complex to believe that we are not 100% in full control of our fate… so we don’t.
You definitely still need to put in the work, but as Seneca, the roman philosopher, would say:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
The main point is, don’t be hard on yourself if things aren’t playing out as you hoped. There are factors that you don’t have control over, but focus on ones you can control like the effort you put into building your network and the amount of time you dedicate to doing work. Be ready for those moments when opportunities come.
#3 You need to start.
There may be some people reading this who have not made that first step yet. This could be because they aren’t convinced pursuing a career in music is sustainable.
Starting is always the hardest part, but the most important. There’s a fear and insecurity about it. Fear of what people may think. Fear of people thinking you’re not good enough. Fear of failing.
You will NEVER know until you try. Do it on the side while you have your day job. Figure out a way to make it work. Start now.
#4 Sustaining and consistency is the hardest part.
Okay, I lied. Getting started can be hard and that in itself is a challenge for many. Actually sustaining yourself and maintain consistency to build momentum is even more difficult. You have to be in it for the long haul. Unfortunately, many people don’t have the patience.
Artists might feel they have to do everything themselves, which makes the journey even more challenging. This assumption is a big mistake. Explore ways to get help and build a team, even if you have to pay. Also, be a part of community where you have the support of others.
#5 Treat your audience as equals.
As an artist, it’s important to give your audience what they want. But at the same time, you need to find the right balance that does not compromise your artistic vision.
It’s true that without your fans and supporters, you would not have a music career. However, you don’t want be to be fully subservient to an audience because then you just become a service.
#6 Think outside the traditional platforms.
Depending on where you are on your music career, consider other platforms outside of your typical social media channels.
Stable income, more often than not, is the biggest obstacle for independent artists to sustain a career. Look into crowdfunding options like Kickstarter, Patreon, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo. You never know.
#7 Listen to feedback.
Don’t let your ego blind you. Getting feedback is very helpful to gauge your progress and make better decisions. This is also why analytics from your marketing efforts are important.
Obviously, ignore the trolls, but be open to criticism even if it’s not what you want to hear. Being able to have an honest and open conversation with yourself is important for not only individual growth, but growth as an artist as well.
#8 Quality is subjective, not meritocracy.
What is a “good” song to one person, may be a “garbage” to another. It’s important to recognize that not everyone will like your music or your art. You shouldn’t let this fact discourage you. The key is to find the right audience who engages with your music and go all in.
If you put something out that doesn’t get the reception you hoped for, learn from it, listen to feedback and keep on creating. The more you put out, the better chance you have of creating that one thing that will catch on.
#9 Don’t chase waves (trends).
We live in a digital age where there’s an audience or niche for all types of different people.
When a popular trend or sound comes on the scene, you may consider jumping on the bandwagon, but don’t do it only because it’s popular right now. You have to take into account that everyone else is probably trying to cash in too. If that’s the case, you’ll just be drowned out with the rest of them. Don’t chase waves, make them!
Authenticity is important, so stay true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to do something different. Look at Hobo Johnson, the latest viral sensation as of this writing.
#10 Don’t compare yourself to others.
When you’re at a conference listening to successful creatives, it’s easy to get a bit discouraged.
You just have to remember that everyone’s journey in music (and in life) is unique because no one has the exact same life as you. Be happy for others’ successes and be grateful for experiences you do have. Just keep pushing forward.