DIY or Delegate – Using Experts To Increase Your Chances Of Success

network_ 2© 2010 Vinny Ribas

I believe there are 6 primary categories in which a DIY (do-it-yourself) artist needs to be proficient in to be successful. They are performing, recording, songwriting (if you’re not just playing covers), booking, marketing (your act and your music) and business management. That is a lot for one person to handle. Here is each of those categories broken down into basic tasks that that you can either take on yourself or delegate.

Performing – Obviously, only you can improve your own personal performance skills (singing, playing your instrument, entertaining). However, there are many other sides to performing, such as rehearsing, preparing set lists, setting up the equipment etc. One of the keys to handling the business side of your performances is tapping into your band and spreading the responsibilities for various but equally important areas of the show. Tap into each person’s strength. For example, you can ask different people to be responsible for:


  • Rehearsals – Scheduling and planning out rehearsals can be tedious and time consuming. This includes preparing work tapes, chord charts or whatever else the band needs to have to be both effective and have time effective rehearsals.
  • Maintaining equipment – While band members may be responsible for their own equipment, someone should be in charge of cleaning and maintaining any equipment that the whole band uses (e.g. PA system, vehicles, etc.)
  • Set up and tear down – If you’re not that technically oriented, designate one person to be responsible for insuring that the sound and lighting are set up right and also conducting the sound check. This doesn’t mean that only one person sets the equipment up, just that only one person is responsible for making sure everything is set up and working right.
  • Set lists – You can make one person responsible for writing up the set lists for your shows, with or without input from you and/or the rest of the band.

If you perform alone, in most cases you will be responsible for all of these different areas. However, you may be able to find friends, family or fans to help you get prepared before you even leave for a gig or road trip.

Recording – To do it right, you need to put a lot of thought and effort into making a great recording. However, the entire process can really be divided into 4 primary segments. They are:

  • Pre-Production – Everything that needs to be done before you show up for the recording session. This includes choosing the right songs, charting and arranging the songs, choosing the studio, choosing the producer, choosing the engineer, hiring any session players and back-up vocalists you might need (including a session leader), to name a few. The good news is that your primary responsibility is to interview and choose the right producer. He or she should then take on or walk you through the entire pre-production process.
  • Production – Everything involved with the recording itself. This includes guiding the engineer so you get the proper sound, coordinating and directing the players and vocalists to insure the right sound and a smooth work flow, insuring that you are doing the best that you can be and much more. Once again, the good news is that these are also the responsibility of the producer. You can see now that choosing the absolute perfect producer for your project is essential.
  • Post Production – This is primarily the mixing and mastering of your tracks. Once again, your producer should come to the rescue by choosing the mix engineer and mastering lab and insuring that the mix is correct and the master sounds perfect.
  • Creative – This involves the tasks performed outside of the studio, such as designing the artwork for the CD and corresponding marketing materials. For this I recommend finding a good graphic designer. This doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact, you may be able to barter for it or find someone who just wants to add the credentials to their resume.

Songwriting – There are several stages of a song’s life, most of which you need to be directly involved in. However, there are certain areas that you can either recruit help for or outsource.

  • The Craft: To write great songs you need to learn and perfect the craft. There are books, websites, e-courses, and more for this. There are also songwriter organizations. This is where you can not only find great instruction, but also co-writers who are a little bit farther advanced than you are. Nothing can replace the practical experience of writing songs with someone who is willing to teach you the finer points of the craft.
  • Writing: Everyone works differently in the actual writing of the song. Some good things to do are:
    • Know what works for you (finding ideas, writing lyrics or melody first, writing both together, finishing a song in one sitting or coming back to it until it’s right, writing alone, co-writing etc). Develop your own routine.
    • Schedule time several times a week to write and don’t let yourself off the hook. Ask a co-writer or friend to hold you accountable to your schedule.
    • If you co-write, schedule your co-writing sessions. Don’t let them ‘just happen’ when you and a friend just happen to both have your guitars. Ask your favorite co-writers to call you if you don’t call them.
    • Have your songs critiqued by someone you trust. You may know good writers who would help you out with this, or you may have to pay for a professional critique. If you choose the latter, be sure to do your homework on them!
    • Re-write if necessary.
  • Pitching – If you’re writing songs for someone else to record, you have several options:
    • You can find artists on your own who might need songs and pitch to directly to them. Call artists you know. Ask your friends and other musicians to be on the lookout for artists for you. Check social websites for great artists who are singing all covers.
    • You can try finding A&R reps at record labels, artist managers and other people who might have influence over an artist’s song choice. The Book ‘Songwriter’s Market’ might be of great assistance in this area. In addition, there are many reputable tip sheets that let you know which artists are going into the studio and what kinds of songs they are looking for. Ask around to find the tip sheet that is best and most reliable for your music genre.
    • Most writers without direct industry contacts submit their songs to music publishers.
    • A publisher is someone who likes and believes in your song and will try to get it cut for you, usually for 50% of any royalties that come in. Only work with publishers who have contacts and a strong track record. Have an attorney review any song publishing contracts you are offered. Never pay a publisher to publish your song.
    • You can hire a reputable song plugger. A song plugger is someone you pay a monthly fee to for them to shop your song for you. There are a lot of scam artists in this category, so be sure to do your homework! Find someone with strong references, a good track record and who will report every pitch they make to you.

Booking – For many independent artists, this is one of the hardest challenges they face. This may be because they are afraid of making cold calls, don’t know what to say on a sales call, don’t know how to do the research to find the venues and the right contacts, or just aren’t good at selling themselves. Whatever the reason, here are some tips:

  • DIY – There are numerous ways to learn how to book yourself. ‘How To Be Your Own Booking Agent and Save Thousands Of Dollars” is a great book by Jeri Goldstein. Indie Connect also has several videos and articles on booking yourself. If you are determined to get better at this, I recommend taking a basic sales course.
  • Other bands – You can find someone from another band that is similar to yours and ask him or her to book you for a commission. If they’ve already built relationships with and are trusted by venue managers, this could be a great side income for them.
  • Hire someone – You can hire someone to be your own personal booking agent for a commission. The best person for this is someone who believes in you and knows enough about the industry not to book you in places that aren’t a match for your act. He or she should also have sales experience but not be too pushy.
  • Booking Agent – You can get a professional booking agent. This is sometimes difficult to do until you’re commanding enough money to make it worth their while. There are many different kinds of booking agents, so do your homework to insure that you are hooking up with the right one for your situation.
  • Online help – There are numerous websites that can help you in this process, such as (organization and venue contacts) and, (routing your tours). Websites like and are sites where people shop for acts for a convention or private party.

Marketing – There are 4 major sides of an artist marketing campaign. They are online marketing, publicity, live marketing (e.g.; street team) and traditional marketing (posters, magazine ads etc.). Here is a breakdown of each: .

  • Online Marketing – Let’s break this down into your website, social networking and a fan newsletter.
    • Website – Your website needs to be built and maintained (updated). It needs to look professional. The good news is that you don’t need to know html code to build a nice website. There are free, DIY website templates like and There are also low-priced, feature-packed templates like However, the look and feel of your website need to be professional, and it needs to be very user friendly. If you are not visually artistic, you might consider bringing in a web graphics designer (different than a web designer who actually builds the website). They can help you get a great looking website that will help you sell your music and get gigs. Of course, you can also hire a web designer to build a complete website for you from scratch that has bells and whistles that the template-based sites don’t have.
    • Social Networks – It is easy to feel overwhelmed with all of the social networks that are trying to attract artists. My advice is to pick only the handful that are most relevant to you and your kind of music. For example, if you cater to people over 40, you probably don’t need a MySpace presence. The most common social network for reaching fans right now is Facebook. Reverb Nation has a lot of great marketing tools that you can use. Beyond these I would look for the most popular genre-specific networks. Lastly, I would join and in order to develop important contacts within the industry. Twitter is another form of social networking that you can utilize to reach and stay in touch with fans. There are syndication tools like that let you enter your calendar, blog, status updates and more just once and then automatically update all of your social networks at once.

Many artists have help in managing their social networks. That help might come from a friend, an intern, an assistant or anyone else who you trust to do the work proficiently. However, there are 2 important things to remember regarding farming this task out:

    • YOU should still be writing, or at least approving the content (blog, updates etc) and then having others do the actual physical posting. That way you know and are in control of exactly what is being posted. Don’t ever take the risk of being misrepresented online.
    • You should be the one responding to personal questions from fans. That way you are building relationships, and no one else is fabricating facts, exaggerating or bluffing their way through. That can definitely come back to bite you!
  • Fan Newsletter – Most indie artist benefit greatly from building a mailing list and sending out periodic newsletters (1-2 times per month). These newsletters can contain calendar updates, personal news, free downloads, recording or songwriting updates and anything else that will keep your fans engaged. They should also point your fans directly to where they can purchase your music or your show tickets.

It is possible to get someone else to help with this newsletter. You might even find someone to be the head of your fan club and make this one of their responsibilities. However, the rules that applied to keeping your social networks up to date also apply to your newsletter. That means you should be writing or at least approving the content and you should respond to any responses that require a personal answer.

  • Publicity – This is the art of getting your name and music to be carried by the press. The scope ranges from preparing and sending basic gig announcements and press releases to scheduling TV, radio, magazine, newspaper and even blog interviews. It can also include personal appearances, autograph signings and much more. Ultimately it results in feature stories, cover shots and other forms of free marketing.

In the beginning most artists take this on themselves. And someone you know who is a good writer and good on the phones can learn to do some basic publicity. But there are publicists who specialize in the music industry. They already know the newspaper and magazine editors, have contacts at TV and radio stations, know the ropes of getting CD reviews etc. Many artists hire a publicist to handle all of the media for an upcoming CD release or for an entire tour.

  • Live Marketing – This includes everything that goes into promoting a show that you don’t do on the Internet. This can include conducting a radio tour, distributing fliers, hanging posters, setting up ticket giveaways through radio stations, doing CD signings and more. In many cases, this one area in which fans, friends and family, or ‘street team’, can and usually love to help out. There are several reasons for this:
    • They don’t need to have any particular expertise
    • They can use their contacts and influence to help you out in cities other than your own
    • They feel important and special because they are doing something to help you

The key to getting this kind of help is knowing the skill sets, availability and dependability of the people who are taking on these tasks. If someone says they will bring tickets to the local radio station, or hang fliers around the local college, you’ll want to be confident that it is being done and in a timely manner. One way to do this is to have one person who volunteers to recruit and manage your street team. Street team members often get rewarded with free tickets, free music, merchandise etc.

Another aspect of live marketing is setting up a live showcase for entertainment buyers or record labels. You may want to hire someone who is very experienced at setting up and handling all of the details of this kind of event. Your manager can take on this role if you’re inviting industry representatives. Some publicists are also very good at this. A big enough event may involve hiring an event planner. Depending on the nature of the event, you may want to put a staff of team members (friends, family and fans) together to greet and seat people, introduce you, sell your CDs and merchandise etc. so you only have to think about performing at your very best.

  • Traditional Marketing – This includes running ads in newspapers, magazines, on the radio, attending trade shows, attending conferences, selling your music via infomercials etc. For the print materials you will need someone to do graphic design. As mentioned earlier, you can hire a professional or find someone who is good at this and who either just wants to help or wants the credit on their resume.

While anyone can place ads in the various forms of media, you would be wise to do your homework to determine exactly where you will get the most return on your investment. You want to know that you won’t be throwing your money away. You don’t need to hire a marketing expert for this. What you can do is find other bands that you see advertised in the places you are considering and ask them if it worked for them and if they would do it again.

  • Business Management – This involves everything that goes into treating your act like a business. Someone needs to handle the day-to-day business affairs, such as issuing or signing contracts, confirming gigs, handling the money, dealing with taxes, buying equipment, coordinating all of the team members and volunteers we have talked about etc.

If you are big enough to have a true manager, he or she should be handling almost all of these details. However, it is good for you to know enough about business to have a say in what and how things are being done. If you don’t have a manager, and you can’t handle everything yourself, you may want to hire a part-time or virtual office assistant to help. He or she can keep you organized and informed while taking on the routine tasks such as bookkeeping (if qualified), scheduling events (photo shoots, radio interviews etc), answering basic correspondence, managing your online presence etc. You might even get a college intern to do some of this, but remember that they are usually very part time and temporary (one semester).

Some acts hire a business manager to handle the financial side of the business. This person usually has an accounting background, and takes care of the bookkeeping, banking, payroll, taxes, paying bills etc.

On the legal side, there is no substitute for an experienced entertainment attorney. You want them to review any contracts you receive (except for basic booking agreements), file trademarks (or copyrights) on your behalf, negotiate deals (recording contract, publishing etc) and handle any other legal matters that arise.

Obviously, there is a lot that goes into keeping an act working and recording steadily. However, instead of getting overwhelmed, break the major tasks down into smaller ones and then keep the things that you can do and then delegate those that you don’t have the time or expertise to handle properly. You will find that many of the tasks that have kept you bogged down or have stopped you in your tracks can be accomplished with a little bit of help and friendly persuasion!


About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.