Why Am I Stuck? – A checklist for indie artists.

© 2009 Vinny Ribas

Let’s be honest. “I haven’t been discovered yet,” “I’m just not one of the lucky ones” and “I’ve just haven’t had that big break yet” are NOT reasons for stagnation or failure in the music business. They are excuses, and nothing else. There are only a handful of plausible reasons why you haven’t reached a level of success that you are happy with. Any one or combination of these can keep you from moving up the proverbial ladder of success.[private_frteebie]
Managing Time and Tasks

  • You’re being unrealistic. I often see wide-eyed dreamers who expect that their talent and charisma will take the music world by storm. Unfortunately, there are less and less artists getting signed to record deals every day. And even a record deal is no guarantee that your music will ever be heard or that you’ll ever make a penny. Today, record labels look for artists who have already built up an amazing following. They want someone they can just put their money and marketing muscle behind to propel them forward.
  • In most cases, a more realistic vision is that of being an active artist, working your way up to playing larger and more prestigious (higher-paying) gigs and attracting and keeping a large fan base that buys your music any time you release something new. The gigs can be traditional (nightclubs, small concert venues etc,) or specialized (schools or colleges, Nascar events, weddings etc.)
  • Your ‘package’ – your look, voice, song choice and persona – is not strong enough. I know this sounds harsh, but it only takes one of these components to be ‘off’ to stifle a career. For example, it is amazing how many times I see good looking men and women with great voices record less-than-stellar songs that won’t enable them to stand out. This is often because they insisted on writing them themselves, and that is simply not their strong suit. Or, the attractive artist is talented as a singer and a songwriter, but has a less-than-pleasing personality. Have professionals assess what you’re presenting to the marketplace to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward in every way.
  • You’re not unique enough. This means that your combination of talent, persona, sound and look isn’t different enough from what’s already out there to differentiate you from the crowd. Or, it might mean that these features are inconsistent with each other (wearing a cowboy hat and singing about life in New Your City). Maybe you sound too much like an already popular artist. Maybe you just don’t have a ‘hook’ – something that grabs people’s attention. You may need a makeover by some branding and image consultants and possibly a new producer.
  • You’re not marketing yourself, or your marketing yourself ineffectively. For most artists, in order to make serious money you need to do one or both of these things: 1) perform for a lot of people, and; 2) sell a lot of music. It’s plain and simple. Both of these require extensive marketing on your end. That includes booking yourself everywhere and often, being active on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks, playing benefits, being on the road, producing and disseminating great marketing materials, possibly promoting your songs to radio and then doing radio interviews and much more. Some people can do this by themselves, but most people hire friends or professionals to take on some of these tasks. When you’ve got your ‘machine’ consistently working on all of these, your income will increase dramatically.
  • You haven’t carved out a niche. As I mentioned in reason #1, carving out a niche and working it long-term is a great way to build a profitable career. This can take too many forms for me to list here, but I’ll get you started. You can specialize in playing performing arts centers, rodeos, the college circuit, the fair circuit, network marketing conventions, dude ranches, cruise ships, high-end resorts, horse shows, ethnic events, specific nonprofits etc. The list is endless, which means your opportunities are endless. Learn everything there is to know about your chosen niche (hopefully it is in a field that you love). You might even write songs about it. Use your knowledge and understanding of that field to cater to them in ways that an ‘outside’ act wouldn’t know how to do. You may not become known to the entire world, but you’ll be famous within that specific circle. And you stay working, get paid well and sell a lot of music!

Obviously, these aren’t the only reasons that someone’s career gets stifled. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. Sometimes it is the luck of the draw when there is very stiff competition. So the question you need to ask yourself is, “Since I have hit a roadblock here, am I going to try to push through it, climb over it, go around or under it, or should I pursue a different path to achieve results that I can still enjoy and live with?” Note that there is no wrong answer. The bottom line is that whining about it will not get you anywhere. Take a close look at what we’ve discussed here as it relates to you and your career, make any adjustments you need to make and just keep on keeping on!


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.