Being a singer/songwriter and living off your art is a dream for so many among us!
And yet, if you decide to launch a career in music, it is worth knowing what you are getting yourself into! 😉
The music business has changed a lot in the past three decades, with more and more indie labels and self-made artists releasing songs successfully by making use of the digital tools available to everyone.
From home producing entire albums, to digital distribution to Social Media Marketing, the list of available services is endless AND affordable, at least when compared to the way things once were!
While this new freedom comes with great benefits and little entry barriers, the flipside is the often under-estimated amount of time and energy that goes into building a career this way.
In this post I want to lay out the skills and educational background, a singer/songwriter should bring to the table in order to stand a chance in the market!
The music market is full of talented folks, that release music on the fly. In order to stay competitive, you need to be able to create and release music rather fast! Knowing the basics of homerecording a demo is crucial to save time and communicate your ideas to professionals precisely.
You do not need to be a super tech-savy, fully equipped audio engineer, don´t worry! But it is recommendable to educate yourself on the basics of recording and mixing (understanding the principles of compression, EQ-ing, Reverberation and some MIDI programming). Knowing how music production works, makes it easier for you to communicate your ideas to producers and other engineers. The more you understand what´s possible, the better your songs will turn out!
Social Media Marketing
For a lot of singer/songwriter folks Social Media is a biased topic. The lack of context, which is so crucial for art, can be frustrating, and yet, the easy access to new fans and the instant communication possibilities, really do make sense business wise.
So if you don´t want to spend too much time on Social Media, do at least chose one or two platforms to use as an outlet for artistic updates. Engaging with fans has never been easier and more direct. Make sure to schedule your posts regularly and do react to comments you may get! If you can sacrifice a minimum of 1 hour a day to produce content (images, captions, video snippets, lyric excerpts, you name it!), upload, manage reactions and evaluate stats on your post performances, you can really benefit in the long run. It doesn´t take much to build up a loyal followership. I am a fan of keeping things authentic, visually attractive and inspiring. You do not need tens of thousands of followers (although that doesn´t hurt either). There´s a rule of thumb that says 1000 loyal fans are enough to make a living. 1000 loyal fans, means a lot more average fans though! So, do make it a goal to attract people to your profiles and get them to listen to your music! It may pay off! Literally!
Making money can be a hurdle in this ever evolving business. Yet, there are in fact great opportunities to generate a decent income, if you look at options such as sync licensing, production music and the likes. Live music revenues and streaming royalties also add to the equation of course. To generate money, you need to gain an understanding of your song´s rights first. Know the difference of a writer´s share and a publisher´s share. By granting people permission to use your music (by means of streaming, live performing, sync and the likes) you ultimately generate revenue. This principle is called “licensing”. There are different rights that come into play, depending on whether people buy CDs, stream your music online, sync your music to movies (then distinguishing between TV, cinema or even DVDs), or play your music live. Knowing your rights and the way the industry works is a must!
I know! Even just the word “Sales” might make you want to cut your wrists! Thinking of slippery sales representatives isn´t exactely the way artists picture themselves! And yet, sales in the digital era is as essential as learning to walk. As a songwriter / artist you are your own company. To gain traction, you must shout from the rooftop, because this industry is crowded and the competition never sleeps!
So, be visible, audible and be present! Selling can be fun, once you get the hang of it! I would like to recommend you read through our “Get Pitch Ready” post. If you would like to reach out to music blogs or other media professionals, also make sure to set up a decent press kit. You can read all about that here. You need to understand that by selling your music and promoting what you do, you can bring happiness to people´s lives! It´s not like you are trying to take their money for nothing! So, learn to stand up for yourself and tell the world that your music is worth listening to! If you don´t believe it, no-one else will! You are your biggest testimonial!
Profound knowledge of music theory and songwriting
Let´s not forget the obvious! To make it in songwriting, you obviously need to master your craft! We are launching a mini Music Theory course very soon and it will be “for free” for a limited time! So make sure to sign up the newsletter below, to get a notification as soon as the course is online.
Putting things into perspective
There are many other skills, that are helpful in building a sustainable career as a singer/songwriter, such as film editing, project management, graphic design and Podcast production. You name it! The list goes on and on!
The more skills, the better, you might think. However, make sure not to lose focus of your main means of business..which is the music! Invest in becoming the best songwriter you can possibly become first, and hire people to help you do the rest, if you feel overwhelmed!
Your business is only as good as the music you are able to deliver! Keep that in mind!
In my experience, doing everything yourself not only drains a lot of energy, but also makes you feel lonely and stuck more easily. By collaborating with experts on certain fields of business, you can profit from some motivational team spirit! It makes such a difference! Even for an introvert as myself!
So, don´t put too much pressure on yourself! Make a couple of weeks per year to learn something new and educate yourself on business skills…but then make the right choices, what to do yourself and what to outsource!
Much love to you all!
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