By knowing what separates indie artists that succeed from artists that fail, you can avoid the pitfalls that can keep your career from moving forward!
© 2012 Vinny Ribas
- Work Ethic: Many artists are unwilling to do the behind the scenes work that successful artists do relentlessly. They may be waiting to be discovered. Successful artists know that you have to create your own success. They take care of business, and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.
- Lack of Knowledge: Many artists are willing to do the work but don’t know what to do. Many don’t know where to start or are afraid that they will do things wrong so they don’t do anything. This includes marketing, performing, songwriting, legal issues, recording and other important facets of their careers. Successful artists do their homework and tap into experts help to guide them. They study the ins and outs of the industry. They learn to make wise decisions. Most find a mentor(s) orcoach who will guide them.
- Ineffective Efforts: Many artists think they are doing the right things, but for some reason they are not hitting the mark. Some of the reasons for this are that they are not doing enough, are doing the wrong things, are doing things wrong, are missing some of the pieces or do things in the wrong order. Also included in this list are the artists who do things for the wrong reasons. Many just throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. Successful artists know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, and how to get the most from it. They plan their business out in detail, and then follow their plan religiously.
- Building Relationships: Many artists do not take the time to build relationships both in the industry and with their fans. Successful artists do both, and they know how to keep and continuously deepen those relationships.
- Strong Foundation: Many artists don’t build a solid foundation so their success is limited and fleeting. It also means that when opportunities arise (e.g. a YouTube video goes viral), they are not in a position to take advantage of them. Successful artists prepare for and put themselves in the way of opportunity.
- Team: Many artists try to do everything themselves. This may be because they want to retain complete control, or it may be because they don’t know how to put a strong team together. Often no one wants to work with them because they don’t have anything happening. Successful artists know how to make themselves attractive to key team members. They know how to assemble a powerful team and keep them engaged.
- Talent: Many artists think they are talented enough to cut through the clutter and stand out among the millions of other artists competing for the same fans. Successful artists work tirelessly at their crafts and strive to be the absolute best songwriters, performers, musicians etc. They are always looking for ways to improve, both individually and as a group.
- Uniqueness: Many artists are trying to be the next ‘____’ instead of creating a sound and look all their own. Even though they may be incredibly talented, nothing about them distinguishes them from the artists they hear on the radio or the multitude of similar artists vying for attention. Successful artists know that the best way to stand out from the crowd is to be unique in as many ways as possible, and they work hard at it. They also know how to build a brand around their uniqueness.
- Perseverance: Many artists quit too soon. Maybe they have had some success and so they stop doing the things that got them there. Many just get tired of wasting time, money and effort, when all the while they have started creating the kind of buzz that can lead to much bigger and better things. Successful artists refuse to give in. They are determined to figure the puzzle out. They measure the results of their efforts so they see and work to capitalize on even the smallest amounts of progress.
Image: Many artists look like amateurs. Their promo materials, if they have them are not attractive. Many either don’t have a website, or the one they have looks like it was developed by a 3 year old. Often they don’t have business cards. Many don’t dress appropriately, especially for business meetings. Successful artists know that everything about them and everything that represents them has to make them look like they are in the major leagues. They never settle for ‘good enough.’ They hire experienced graphic designers to create their online and print marketing. They dress like businesspeople when it is appropriate. They know that their biggest competitors are doing the same!
Finances: Many artists are under-funded and so they can’t purchase the tools they need or hire the help they need. Sometimes this is a result of lack of funds to begin with. Sometimes it is because the available funds are not spent wisely. Successful artists know that they need to constantly invest and reinvest in their act. They establish a budget and stick with it. They raise capital if it is necessary, whether it comes from investors, crowdsourcing, a loan or some sort of enterprising venture. If they are not good at managing their money, they hire someone who is. They do not let money, or the lack of it stop them.
Professionalism: Many artists act unprofessionally, or just don’t have a pleasing personality. They don’t treat others with respect. They are not on time for gigs, rehearsals, photo shoots, interviews or anything else. They are oblivious to other people’s feelings, egos, needs or desires. Successful artists always act in a professional manner. They are personable, so people want to be around them and help them succeed. They know that this is what it takes to earn the respect of their team, their fans and the industry.
Freshness: Many artists get stuck in ruts and never climb out of them, becoming stale and predictable. This can become evident in their music, their stage show, the look and feel of their marketing, they way they dress and everything else they do. Successful artists are always adding new dimensions to themselves. They keep everyone curious about just what they are going to come up with next. They not only watch the trends, they either jump ahead of them or set their own. They find ways to become pioneers. They avoid stagnation by constantly reinventing themselves, all the while remaining true to their fans and their brand.
Fan Management: Many artists have no idea who their fans are. They can’t tell you with any sense of accuracy their biggest fan demographics like age, gender, income level, where they live, what their occupations or hobbies are etc. Successful artists know their fans and everything about them because they interact with them. Many conduct surveys and contests to extract demographic information that they use to select the merch they sell. They use that info to know what to write songs about. They track where the people who visit their website are coming from so they know where to book gigs.
Communication: Many artists are bad communicators. They don’t have an email list or newsletter. They don’t keep their website or social networks up to date. They don’t blog. No one knows if the artist is still performing or recording, or even alive. Out of sight, out of mind. Successful artists know that constant communication with their fans is key to keeping them for a long time. By keeping their fans both informed and engaged, they dramatically increase the dollar value of every one (how much each fan will spend on music, merch and gigs in a specific amount of time).
There are countless more reasons why some artists fail and some succeed. Timing, unforeseen circumstances such as illness, lack of family support, etc. can all dramatically affect an artist’s career. But when all the playing fields are leveled, the bottom line is that those artists who succeed and remain successful are the ones who are constantly improving, adapting and creating and taking care of business.
Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, a global business club for serious independent artists, songwriters, musicians and music professionals. Indie Connect helps its members increase their chances of success by providing practical career direction and education, combined with live and online industry networking opportunities. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, an artist manager, a booking agent, songwriter and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He is the author of hundreds of widely read articles on the independent music industry, and ‘CEO Secrets’, a highly-praised book for entrepreneurs. He is also a popular speaker at music industry conferences.