The music industry is a totally different animal than it was a decade ago, and it continues to evolve. Artists now have the ability to write, record, produce, and promote an album without even stepping foot outside their front door. What used to be a costly and confusing science has been exposed to the every day musician with a will to create. Many people tend to face intimidation when they approach a career making music on their own terms, but there are many ways to get past that initial anxiety.
Ive devoted over ten years of my life to this solo project under the name Autumns Eyes, and its been a never ending cycle of varied emotions. Some of which can potentially destroy your entire creative vision if you’re not careful. The most important aspect to follow is always stick to your guns, no matter what stands in your way. These are just a few steps you can take to ensure success is on the horizon throughout your career as a solo artist.
The most important piece of the puzzle is having quality content thats unique to what you do. Make sure to invest a lot of time finding your sound and play to your strengths. If you get the feeling something you wrote is ripping off another band or artist, start over and try again. Not only is it career suicide by creating something an audience has all ready heard before, but its a waste of your time and efforts. Every second you spend writing music is precious, and you want to make sure everything you create will maintain its credibility long after you’re gone.
People won’t give you the time of day if everything you write sounds like someone else, so don’t try to be something you’re not. If you happen to be a great rhythm guitar player but can’t solo like a speed demon, don’t pretend to be Eddie Van Halen. Use what you know and focus on crafting some amazing rhythm parts instead. Often times musicians think they need to impress the world with all their talents pooled into one song, but you can go further than you think just by having the right arrangement of notes and chords.
Polish Your Brand
Branding is essential when you’re trying to draw someones attention, especially in the music business. Think about all the iconic imagery thats invoked when you mention bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles. They all had amazing branding strategies that set them apart from the crowd, and made them easy to identify. When you’re deciding on a logo make sure its very adaptable. Start with a simple black and white design and make sure it looks good in a variety of sizes. This is going to be your signature in a way, and should be completely unique from every other logo out there.
Aside from the logo, a strong color scheme is also necessary in creating a brand. You want to maintain a characteristic palette that will translate through different mediums like print ads, web sites, and album artwork. All these little details add up to create something people can soak in upon first viewing, and easily recognize over and over again. For example, in Autumns Eyes I stick to a palette of Halloween themed colors with orange and black serving as the foundation. Think about the emotion your music calls upon, and try to utilize that when building your brand.
The music business doesn’t have the patience to wait for you, and will quickly push you to the back of the line if you’re not persistent. You need to get your name out there, and knock on every door you can. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting the exposure you wanted, you need to keep at it. Every little bit counts when promoting yourself, and the more areas you expose yourself to, the more relationships you begin to create with people who can spread the word about what you do.
Don’t be afraid to sneak a peak at what your competition is up to as well. If you want to play shows and notice similar bands are dominating your local scene, figure out what you need to do so that you can capitalize on that same audience. Take a look at popular bands websites and see what they lack, and what you could provide their audience that they aren’t providing themselves. Its not about trying to be better than someone else, but you need to stand up and be heard so people will take you seriously, and more importantly listen to what you have to say.
Focus On Longevity
A lot of solo acts die within the first year or two, and most of that is because their determination is either weak or nonexistent. You have to be prepared to fail many times over before you get to where you want to be. At times it will feel like a roller coaster with many ups and downs. Music fans tend to write off newer acts much quicker than well established ones. In most cases its because they don’t want to invest their time or money in someone who doesn’t have the experience.
Setting goals for yourself will help maintain endurance throughout your career, and also continue to evolve what you do. You can set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals at different levels of difficulty. Weekly goals should be smaller in size and easier to achieve. These can include making a specific number of networking contacts by Friday, or getting a certain number of hits on your site and trying to double that the following week.
Monthly goals should be a bit harder to achieve by the amount of time it takes to do so. A good example would be to finish recording a couple new songs or shooting a new music video before the month is over. Yearly goals are ones that take up most of your time, and will be have the most value towards your career. These include getting an endorsement, magazine interviews, television promotion, or even getting a record deal.
Be Adept and Don’t Adapt
No matter what your goals are, you need to follow through with every single one that you put in motion. At times it will feel like you are doing it with no results to reimburse all your hard work, but rest assure that time is always on your side in this case. Everything that you do in your musical career has to be something thats going to take you a step forward, even if its an incredibly small step. Success is measured by progress, and the best way to achieve that is to endure.
Don’t adapt to trends and fads around you, as this will only seal your fate in a musicians graveyard. If you notice that a certain style of music or song writing is making a ton of money at one time, don’t let greed drive your creativity. A perfect example is one of our greatest singer/songwriters, Tom Waits. He’s written some of the most successful songs ever heard in the music industry, while maintaining a career lavished with both respect and longevity.
If Tom Waits was just starting out today, there’s no way popular culture would accept him as nothing more than a novelty act. Im sure it was some what similar when he started his career decades ago, but Waits made allies with time and used it to his advantage. His career aged like a fine wine and garnered more and more accolades as the years passed by. He outlived decade after decade of pathetic trends and fads, and today he has gained the respect of millions.
No matter what direction you set yourself on within the music world, make sure you invest all of who you are into the project. We have all seen what everyone else has to offer, but there is only one of you. Make everything you do an extension of your personality and creativity. The second you try to be someone else is when all credibility goes out the window along with any chance of success. Become the person other musicians want to strive after, not the one we have all seen and heard before.