Indie Artists: Expectations vs Reality

As a musician, placing value on what you do is difficult because: 1) we all are biased; 2) a musician rarely views the total picture of competition; 3) few independent artists carry knowledge of how to properly market themselves; and 4) the economics theory of Supply and Demand rarely enters an indie artist’s mind.
“In reality, music consumption AND marketing have changed dramatically over a short period of time.”

 
Blow past the first reason quickly. We all believe our worth is more than what others think. Years of practice give the typicial indie artist competency with their instrument, maybe even allowing them to write their own music, but that time spent learning how to play means less time is spent learning how to compete – which brings in point #2.

Where a local club may have had a limited selection of bands twenty years ago, there are numerous web sites today built exclusively to widen choice. It’s one reason why “pay to play” is becoming such a contentious topic with indie artists.

The internet has been positioned as a tool for the up-and-coming musician, though many use it wrong and artists seldom equate the internet with the opening of competitive floodgates.

Marketing yourself is difficult. It’s an art that requires mastering a multitude of disciplines. Make no mistake that marketing is an art. You can add the science part, but only after introducing items which allow the calculation of a “Return on Investment” (ROI). That’s not easy. (Read a little on this at Audio Graphics’ “The Math of Radio & Music” Part 1 & Part 2. These spell out the percentage of response you can expect.)

Most damaging to a musician’s psyche is the last of our four points. The theory of Supply and Demand is nearly always cast aside in favor of emotionally judging an individual’s musical worth.

Mixing the above with the unparalleled complexity of “being found” (think YouTube and the internet’s vast reach) brings into focus the difficulties of rising to the top when consumers search within your music genre.

In reality, music consumption AND marketing have changed dramatically over a short period of time. Artist methods of promotion have remained stagnant, aside from the addition of social media (which mostly ends up a time-drain).
 

Thousands of radio stations have been added online. Conversely, getting music played on your local radio station has become nearly impossible.

With Pay to Play policies, clubs have entered artists under the revenue column. Don’t like it, there are plenty of other artists who use this style of “getting a gig.”

Shopping your music online requires a consumer to give you listening time, and who has time for that?

Talented artists are everywhere and available online with only a few clicks of the mouse.

 
To “use” the internet in marketing themselves, indie artists are required to learn “how,” then spend time implementing their online plan.

 

The expectation is: “I have talent, and love to play, therefore I should be able to charge people to listen.”

The reality, though, is we have far more bands trying to reach far more consumers who are less willing to spend money on music.

 
There is no secret. There is no sure thing. There are no companies which provide indie artists success, only those that can help. Practice, loving the lifestyle, enjoying fans, and using technology in various mixes – with a dose of luck – are still your best chance for success.

The world has changed for indie artists. It’s grown bigger, more competitive, and consumers are less willing to pay. If knowing this you still want to pursue being a musician, then your chance to make it big is as good as the next artist’s.

Break a leg, but remember that expectations are best used when tempered with real world facts.

Ken Dardis

President,
Audio Graphics, Inc.

RRadio Music
RadioRow
Audio Graphics

 

Indie Artists: Expectations vs. Reality