Music and artistry can be tricky. I'm not even talking about just making music - the writing, composition, arrangement, recording, producing, mixing, mastering - but even after all that. What do you do with it? How do you start a following? How do you monetize? How do you stay relevant, let alone stay ahead of the curve?
I don't have all the answers, all I can say is I live off of what I am passionate about. All I can do is offer my experience and share some of the ideas and concepts that have proven successful, even in the smallest ways.
Keep it moving.
I produce a lot of 'first time' artists, and I've noticed that as their first release, they are so dead set on getting it right. But the reality of the situation is (in my personal opinion), a lot of artists' first record is a burner, and for many reasons. From your listeners standpoint, marketing is working against you. How do you get people psyched for an album when they have no idea what you sound like? You're new to the scene - it's probably safe to expect that no one is going to care until you've proven your worth, which most likely will not happen until 1-2 releases in. From your standpoint as far as artistry goes, you are going to be spending your first couple releases discovering your sound! No matter how much time and effort you put into your first release, I guarantee you that you will look at it a month later and say, I could do better now. Whether you spend a month on it or a year on it. Hindsight is 20/20, and honestly that's fine, it's a part of the process. Obviously give it your best and make great music, but don't get stuck up on your entry into the scene. Chances are there aren't going to be too many people watching yet.
Stop waiting to be ready.
This is sort of in line with the first tip, but this applies to many aspects - not just recording an album. I'm not even going to go into detail here, but there are so many hours in a day. 'I'm not ready' is a BS excuse - comfortable does not mean progress. If you are ever 'ready' to do something, it means you've spend way too long waiting to do it. This applies not only to recording albums, but playing shows, learning new skill sets, networking, and investing in yourself, to name a few. It's no excuse - get to work! Comfort does not mean progress - failure does.
Know your weaknesses better than your strengths.
From a producer's standpoint, this one gets really important. There are tons of producers who can work very well within one genre. I'm not trying to discredit their skill, because I don't deny the fact that they have it - but they're boxing themselves into a life of being a one-trick pony. Explore and fail. Credit yourself, and praise yourself for progress, but don't let that one taste of greatness fill you with complacency. Musicians who take themselves seriously take every opportunity to grow, and you should never be the smartest one in the room. Surround yourself with people that are better and more experienced than you. The second you think you know everything is the moment you've sacrificed your chance for real greatness, at the expense of ego. Know your weaknesses and improve.
Don't underestimate 'Grass Roots' methodology.
In this day and age, it's so easy to just litter the world of social media with your music, hoping that the 'wide net' method will bring you fans. Let me tell you - it doesn't. In fact, I can't tell you how many people I've unfollowed because their methods are spammy and self-absorbed. Be a part of your music community - talk to others, comment on their music. Engage fans and get to know them. Talk about your struggles, your plans, and your dreams. Be a human being. People are smarter than you think - they're tired of automated messages and shameless self-promotion. If you want to promote your sound, drive traffic to smart, visible placements in your social media where your music is stupid easy to find, and then talk about anything and everything MUSIC but yourself. You will see more traffic to your page, and more listens because people will view you as an artist, not a robot.
Invest in yourself and others who work for you.
Your artistry is your brand, and you have to spend money to make money. Make a budget and crunch the numbers for short-term and long-term goals. Stop trying to get things for free - in the short-term it may be nice, but not only does that reflect on you as a dead-end prospect to anyone who may want to work with you, but the quality of work you'll see your team putting in will show in your art. Quality over time requires sustainablity. Budget and take care of the people who take care of you, and your art will reflect that. Get people excited about the waves you are making, and your art will reflect that. Let people know that they are taken care of under your roof, and your art will reflect that. No one who makes music for a living will take you seriously if you cannot offer them some kind of compensation. Take the time and energy you allocate to trying to get free services and apply that to building revenue off of your craft. Build your business. You're an artist, not a charity. Which leads me to...
Stop doing things for free.
This is the flip-side/continuation of number five. To pay your team and make sure you are getting the best quality work, you need revenue. Music is a business and your name is your brand. If you are going to post or give out your music somewhere, have a reason for doing it. Look up marketing tactics used by professionals and apply them to your sales methods. If you're going to give out 'free' music, get something else in return - like an email. Building an email list could mean hundreds, if not thousands, of future sales if they like the sample you give them. It may not be for money directly, but don't underestimate the value of a contact. Re-monetize your work - Sell your music directly, license it, enable ad monetization on stream services, and blog about it on Steemit - boom, four different revenue streams. Putting value on yourself and your work is important. When someone receives something for free, that is the value that they assign to it - zero. Don't be afraid to allow people to see you as something worth paying for. Even if they choose not to pay for it, they will still apply the value to your worth as an artist.
Naturally, growth creates a larger web of duties, responsibilities, and prospects for you to take care of. Take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you, but never lose sight of your mission statement. If you start to get side-tracked, reel yourself back in - cut out the fat. It's easy to drown in the sea of opportunity that you create for yourself - stay focused and don't be afraid to simplify.
I've almost quit music completely, twice. Why? Because I got lost in the ideas that I was not good enough, or it was overwhelming, or I wasn't making enough to live, or my music had no place in the industry, etc. Don't forget to stop yourself every so often and remember why you do it. It sounds simple, but I can't tell you how important this part is. Keep having fun and always love what you do - if you don't love it, stop doing it. Passion is what drives good music.
These are just a few things I try to remind myself of on a daily basis. I hope that there are artists out there that can read this and take something away from it!