This is the first article of three, walking you through the steps of releasing your music successfully into the world. The first article focusses on the preparations, Development, after that we will focus on Distribution and Marketing.
Three years ago, as a producer/writer I was working with many different artists and the main goal of the team was always to make sure the artist would sign a deal with a major label. However, 9/10 artists eventually didn't succeed with turning their music into a career. The A&R at the label who was ready to sign them got let go, the artist wasn't ready, the label and the artist weren't on the same page etc. etc. The bottomline, none of these projects went anywhere. I realized there was a big gap between becoming the artist and getting signed to a major. I started a label just so I can help propel the artist into the right direction, build organic stats and get to a point where the artists could either make a good living doing what they love or take it up a step and join a major on their own terms.
In the next three articles we're gonna talk about how to release your music and actually get it heard by people, but we're starting with the basics. Development. The main reason that I have seen artist fail is not because their music wasn't good. Actually, all of them knew how to upload their
music onto the Digital Service Providers (DSP) that's not the hard part, the hard part is creating an audience that wants to listen, creating music that sets itself apart from all the other noise in the internet and creating a true authentic identity as an artist. Of course you can wait for the next two articles that give you the tricks on playlists and stream counts, but......I would suggest to start from the beginning.
This article is focussing on the 5 things you absolutely have to focus on before you even release a single song.
"I wrote my best song ever, how can I release it as soon as possible?" "Why didn't they put my first new song on a playlist?" "I'm playing a show tomorrow, how can I invite the record labels?" - These and many more questions I hear every week. My advice is always, patience. One good song very rarely will be the song that will make your career, usually one song is just a step up to the next one. Think of it this way, imagine you write your best song ever, you release it, and it goes viral. All the record labels start calling, you sign a million dollar deal. They send you in the room with every famous name possible. Sounds amazing right? Everyone starts telling you what they think you should sound like, what you should look like, who you should be.
One good song leaves a lot of options open for you to fit many molds. The best case scenario would actually be having at least 5 amazing songs, that really show who you are, a fanbase that is full of real superfans, an audience that comes to see you play. The one holding the cards is the one with the vision. Let that person be you.
The only way for you to get that vision is to create each part of the puzzle yourself, and the only way to do that is through trial and error. and trial and error takes some time, depending on how much time you are willing to devote to yourself. And taking time, requires patience.
2. Teamwork makes the dream work.
It is ok if you don't know how to do everything yourself. Actually, it's the best case scenario. I know people who insist in writing their songs alone, they want to produce themself, mix themself, take their own photos. This give you a lot of work and you can't be excellent at all of this, so something is going to suffer. Don't let your strengths get covered up by weaknesses, find the things you are best at and focus on them.
One of the most important reasons to find team members is: the more people, the more voices. A band of 5 people has 5 voices, 5 social media accounts, 5 family members and groups of friends they can invite to their record release party. The person designing your artwork will be willing to give you a shoutout as you are helping them out, your college friend driving you to the gigs will want to help connect you to their uncle who happens to be a radio DJ. The more people, the more connections. When I start working with a new young band, I find people around them who are excited about what the band does, I don't find a famous manager right away, or a big booking agent, I find someone who is just as hungry as the band willing to work just as hard because they have something to prove too. The right people will come in at the right time and it's up to you to recognize who those people could be.
3. Recognize the work outside of the music.
So you write great songs, you are an amazing singer or an amazing producer. This is half the job, the other half is sending emails, booking shows, posting on your socials, updating your stories and feeds, creating ways to interact with your fans, figure out what your music "looks" like, getting better at your instruments, spreading the word at networking parties. Again, this is where a team can really step in, but, if you don't know the tasks at hand, you don't know what to delegate to them. I find it helpful to create schedule blocks in my calendar, each morning 1 hour for sending out emails, 1 hour for practice, 3 social media posts a week, 6 hours for business networking a week and the rest of the time is for creating new music. If there is a specific task at hand such as getting art work together or planning a photoshoot, I put that preparation time in my calendar too.
The reason why you want to focus on your music is because eventually you want this to become a full time career, so lets start to at least treat it like a part-time one and hold yourself and your team members accountable.
4. Don't Dream, Do.
How do you go from writing a song in your bedroom to playing it live on stage? How do you get from 5 monthly listeners to 5k monthly listeners? I'm sure you have an idea of where you want to be 5 years from now, you can imagine the sold out stadium tour, the fancy hotel rooms and the gold chain necklace you're gonna be wearing.
But can you imagine crashing on the couch in a strange town, driving your Toyota Corolla 8 hours straight to a gig in the pouring rain? It's easy to dream, but doing is hard. Sometimes the dream actually stop you from doing something, because the goal is almost too big and it is paralyzing. It helps to look at things in smaller steps, is your goal touring?
Lets try 5 gigs in 1 month in your home town first, lets try a 3 day tour in the surrounding cities next, lets book an out of state show after that. These are much easier things to grasp. And each goal has a few steps that you need to take. You need a band, enough original songs, Merch to sell.
Is your goal to have 2M monthly listeners and you are not really interested in touring? In that case, you have to set your eye on building a solid online fanbase. Create a tiktok account, do facebook or insta live videos, tell a clear story on your socials about who you are. Once you have that, build that fanbase by teasing them with new releases, exclusive content.
Take the little steps first. The big ones will come.
5. Don't Compare yourself.
You are a unique individual who is taking steps toward showing the world what you have in store for them and inspiring them with your music. The last thing you want to do is compare yourself to people out there who have "made it" already, or who are a few steps ahead of you. We all do this in our own pace, and rushing your progress, putting out a song because you have anxiety that your 500 followers will forget you can do more harm than good if it is not really what you want to say at that point in time.
There is only 1 Taylor Swift, Kanye, Rihanna, John Legend out there. And the reason is because they were the first at doing what they did, they took the time to figure out who they wanted to be, they developed themselves, sometimes, like in the case of Taylor Swift, she did it in the public eye, changing genres, looks, making mistakes and making daring choices, but that was part of her process and you can only like her more for that.
Don't try to be like anyone else, they already found their thing, go find yours. And when you think you have it, go put out that music and show off that look.
Also, as a producer/writer I get a lot of artists coming to my studio saying, I need an uptempo song like : insert uptempo smash hit: There is nothing wrong with writing a song that makes you want to shake your ass, or writing a song celebrating your sexuality, but write it when you want to, don't write it because you feel you HAVE too.
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