Contrary to popular belief, the biggest challenges that talented indie artists have do not stem from a lack of promotion or the state of the music industry in general.
Trends and markets have always changed often. And technology has revolutionized things every 10-20 years for the past century. It is just a fact of life as we know it. Yet there are artists who have been performing successfully and profitably for 30-40 years without skipping a beat. How do they do it?
The first challenge most artists faces is not having a business model that is geared towards ensuring long-term success. Most artists’ approach is one of immediate gratification. Their thinking doesn’t go beyond, “What can I do today to get a gig this weekend” or “How many new ‘likes’ can I get on Facebook this morning”. They never really develop at a long term plan that helps them establish the rest of their career.
Artists who succeed in building a profitable and sustainable music career are those who do build their careers in such a way that they are not adversely affected by fickle outside influences.
The second challenge involves making poor financial decisions. Artists are notorious for doing things such as buying more gear than they need or recording a CD ‘because it’s time’ and then hoping to sell it. The financially sound model for any artist trying to make money is first to develop a budget for equipment, recording and other major expenses. Then he must only spend the money when he KNOWS he can leverage it in some way to recoup their investment and make a profit. With a few different twists, the same principle holds true for ensuring that gigs are worthwhile and profitable, that merchandise will sell in a reasonable amount of time and that time spent on marketing, songwriting etc. have specific, wisely chosen, purposeful goals and measurable results. Without this kind of thinking, artists are almost always dooming themselves to a life of financial struggle.
The last major challenge artists have is not finding or making their place in a life-long marketplace. In other words, they cater to short-term fads and trends rather than developing a timeless sound and act. This happens for any of several reasons. Many lock themselves so tightly into one genre or style of music that when it fades from popularity, so do they. Also many build a large fan base but never consider how those fans’ lifestyles, buying habits and musical tastes change over the years. As a result they lose their fan loyalty when their fans outgrow them. This leaves them always seeking out completely new fans. Others artists simply always play small when they have the potential to be much bigger. For example, they refuse to give up the ‘freedom’ of not being locked into presenting a well-designed stage show, so they don’t stand a chance of moving into higher-paying concert venues.
The good news is that there are powerful, manageable strategies that any artist can implement to ensure their long-term stability and profitability while never compromising their creativity in any way. The reason most artists don’t move in this direction is really quite simple. They were never taught to think this way. Artists who seek long term stability and profitability must find someone – a coach, mentor or even a full team – to teach them how to make strong business decisions that keep them and their music moving in that direction.
Vinny Ribas is the founder of Indie Connect and a mentor/coach to both artists and artist managers seeking to establish long-term careers in the music industry.