Artist developmentMusic Business

How not to burn out as an Indie Artist / Songwriter

As a DIY indie artist you are by the nature of the game 30 % artist and 70 % business hustler. While taking care of the business side of music might not be your most favorite thing to do, it is essential, if you want to make a living off music!

I know first hand (I am an indie artist myself), that there are hundreds of things to do in a day, ranging from working on your social media strategy (which may include Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, TikTok and the like), taking care of licensing contracts, pitching songs to publishers and music supervisors, uploading and sorting digital press kits and songfiles, researching and attending industry events, booking and playing gigs, signing up with digital distribution services to get your music out on streaming platforms and itunes and much more.

Sometimes this can be overwhelming! And things get really nasty, once you are trying to understand the legal side of things!

However, it is crucial to be on top of these things!

In order to do that, you probably spend more time than you should each day, reading through blogposts (like right now), researching contacts in databases and watching DIY videos for musicians on youtube, all while you should also be practicing your instruments, writing new songs and producing new demos.

Life as an indie artist ain´t as glamorous as it may seem from the outside! And yet it is totally worth it, provided that you are passionate about your music!

Here´s my advice on how to best organize your day and schedules, for fast results and less fatigue:

Reduce your time online

There are plenty of cool resources like tutorials, blog posts and the like that can get emerging songwriters to spend hours on the internet, soaking up new knowledge. While this is great, you must be careful not to get overwhelmed by the amount of information coming your way. The trap is, that you might never shift from consuming to creating or from planning to taking action!

I therefore recommend setting some rules with regard to media consumption. E.g. only allow yourself to watch 1- or 2 educational youtube videos a day or limit your online time on such platforms to an hour a day or 1,5 hours if you like.

Make sure to really keep an eye on that and instead of hopping to the next link and the next and the next.., step away from your computer/tablet/phone every once in a while and process what you just learned!

Then see if it triggers new ideas or revelations.

Note: You may also carve out an additional hour for researching new artists and listening to music that inspires you though! It´s always good to seperate the business related tasks from the art-related ones!

Stop comparing

Comparing your songs to those of other (more succesful) songwriters is a dangerous game. While listening to other artists may inspire you to a certain degree, you should make sure not to get to hung up on other peoples´ styles. This may keep you from developing your own voice and it may also bring up insecurities with regards to “am I as good as…?” “Are my songs similar as…”? and the like!

Watching Youtube and Instagram videos of seemingly perfect performances might actually keep you from getting there yourself! Feeling not good enough is widely spread in our culture, mainly because we compete with each other. We compare and compete and feel pressured to meet up to certain standards. These thoughts are evil though! There is enough room for many different kinds of music and styles and you should never feel too doubtful about your own style. Emmylou Harris once stated that your personal style is only the result of your limitations. And I like this idea! Embrace your flaws and let them shape your uniqueness! Imperfection is the key sometimes!

Setting times

You might try setting specific days for specific tasks. E.g. reserve Mondays and Tuesdays for office work, then Wednesdays through Fridays for creating songs and recording and the weekends for gigs.

Keep in mind though, that creativity and inspiration don´t always follow the rules of logic and structure. You might soon find the limits of this strategy! Inspiration can literally hit any time and I think we should never neglect it, but welcome it as it comes! So make sure to be flexible! You do of course have to make sure to get your non-creative tasks done, but do allow for interuptions for the sake of artmaking. (Make sure to always have a voice recorder close-by, just so to save some quick ideas). I think these moments of joy and productivity ultimately also help staying motivated when it comes to doing the more boring tasks! And if the latter require a night shift every now and then, you should be alright with that! Nobody said this was gonna be easy;)

It makes sense to reserve little times in the day for mandatory things though! This could be as little as a 10 min instrumental practice in the morning or half an hour to post and promote your music in social media groups at night! Try to commit to certain non negotiable habits (just like brushing your teeth) to make sure you move forward in those areas! Also: Do track your progress! We often don´t see our progress otherwise and this can be discouraging!

One last thing: With regard to setting goals and achieving them, I suggest setting realistic mini goals! E.g. pitch one song a week! Or do 3 social media posts per week etc. This leaves plenty of room for “when exactely” you get things done, which is great for the artist mindset! Freedom is essential for most artists to thrive within their craft!

To help you be organized in the songwriting process, make sure to download our lyric sheet and Songwriting checklist.

You can get them for free right here: “Freebies

At what point does it make sense to build up a team or get a manager?

You may wonder, at what stage you should invest in building up business relations that help you grow your business and allow you to focus more on your artistic development!

There is no real answer to this obviously, as it always depends on your financial situation, your goals and the amount of time you have at hands to put into furthering your music career!

I suggest asking those questions:

1) Would a manager or an assistant bring in more business opportunities (e.g. get you booked, promote your music resulting in more revenue etc.)

2) Does your art suffer because of your lack of time and a fatigue from running a one-woman/one-man show?

3) Do you feel like you are not capable of doing the job yourself? Always make sure to have the right person in the right seat on the bus! Some things require an expert! Others require you to put in the hard work! Choose wisely!

Keep reflecting on those question and you will find the answer to your concerns!

Good luck and very best,

Katie

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