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Art Against Commerce: Making a Living in Music

In some ways, getting your music out there is simpler than ever. In fact, the whole process of music has, to an extent, been simplified. After all, it is so simple to record music, therefore, it should be simple to promote it. But for any musicians starting out, the overriding component is about promoting yourself. The fact of the matter is that it’s not just about the hard graft anymore. You’ve got to be on the ball when it comes to marketing. And now, the art of music as a business and promotion has never been more intertwined. You only have to look at the multitude of musicians in reputable bands offering their services to mainstream pop artists. We’ll touch upon this later, but when it comes to the right strategies to get your music out there, but also, to make sure that you are earning some sort of satisfactory living from it, what do you need to do?

The Importance of Branding Yourself

This is where art and commerce collide. It’s not an easy thing to get your head around, especially when you want to be taken seriously as a musician. But it is so important to get yourself a branding, and an approach to promoting yourself that gives you an advantage over anybody traipsing around the open mic circuit. We’ve all encountered those serious musicians that are waiting to be discovered, and live and breathe creativity. But the fact of the matter is that the modern world requires us to be multifarious in our skills. Those bands going around the toilet circuit are not able to maintain a living purely by being a musician alone. And this is why you’ve got to be savvy with regards to your marketing. So what does it take to promote yourself properly?

The Importance of Regular Content

Ideally, you need to set up your own website, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and so on. But you must remember that with each platform comes its own specific audiences. Regular content is crucial, and it can be overwhelming to try and create regular music. But don’t think about content as purely being a song, look at how other artists engage with their fan base. Something like a tutorial, or telling a story behind the song can be just as engaging.

Upskilling Your Technical Knowledge 

If Twitter API integrations and terms relating to the Click-Through-Rate, Call-To-Action, and keywords mean nothing to you, it’s no time to get a crash course in marketing. Technical knowledge is vital now. It’s also important to get your head around Search Engine Optimization. When you start to optimize your website, this can be a very simple way to get higher up the search engine rankings. It is a lot to get your head around, but there are fantastic courses available. It’s so important to make sure you have a website, but also knowing what you can do to optimize it to your advantage. For the creatives, this may seem like cheating, but it’s about making sure you have an advantage.

Having an Understanding of the Business Side of Things

In addition to some marketing knowledge, and being able to promote regular content on your website or pages, you should learn the ropes when it comes to business. This can be a conflict for the creative type, but when you start to realize that the creative well only goes so far to earn you a regular income, this is when you have to become savvier with your business practices. This can be frustrating, and you may find that people around you think that it’s unfair, especially if they are struggling musicians themselves. But it’s about making sure that you balance your creative time with your abilities to promote yourself.

The Importance of Gigging

Everybody is taking opportunities where they can to play music. The great thing now is that you can easily do a live stream every single day. But digging is not just a way to build a strong relationship with your audience, but it’s the one true way you will learn from your mistakes. There’s a lot of pressure in being a musician, you have to come flying out of the gates fully formed. Many seasons musicians that have been around for decades were given the opportunities to fail, and now it seems that this is not an option anymore. And because everything we create is out there on the internet forever, we have to be match fit

Gigging is perfect for promotions, and it will help you to get your content out to audiences. Increasing your craft as a musician in front of an audience is daunting. But it is the one true way to discover your audience, but also discover your craft. When you start to play in front of an audience, you can gauge reactions, but you’ve also got to remember the importance of finding your voice. You will inevitably lean towards certain genres and styles and it’s vital that you don’t run away from these instincts. The temptation for so many of us is to go towards something that is profitable. But this is anathema to the creative process. When you are getting a solid feeling from a specific type of music, even though it is a niche genre, you’ve got to go towards it.

This is why you’ve got to take the opportunities where you can to play live and keep doing it. Love or loathe Ed Sheeran, he learned his craft by playing hundreds of gigs a year. Gigging is where the money is. And while gigging is not as profitable as it once was, as far as engaging the right audience, but also fine-tuning your craft, there is no process better.

Living and Breathing Music

There is no such thing as doing one role in a career anymore. While, once upon a time, musicians were able to specialize in one field, this is not the case anymore. You will find that even the most seasoned of session musicians become tutors, and diversify their craft. And it’s something that you need to come to terms with as soon as you can. The great thing about being involved in music is that it’s a craft that you can use to inspire others. And when you start to leave and breathe music, the opportunities are endless.

The fact of the matter is that now, what they used to call “selling out” is part of the music industry. Even indie bands are writing for popstars. And it is an essential part of how musicians evolve. In one respect, you are applying your craft to a different genre or approach, but if you are writing for other people, you can find another way to earn a living. And it is so important, again, that the idea of art and commerce come together. By working with other musicians, it gives you a lifeline to other genres and artists, but more importantly, it is the way to earn a living in such a competitive industry. And this is something we should feel no shame in doing. Those musicians who are able to diversify their efforts, and work as session musicians, or work with other bands, are doing what they can to earn a living by solely being a musician. The very nature of being a musician is feast or famine, and if you can start to fund your creative endeavors by being a tutor, or working as a session musician, it can lead to a fantastic life.

What Is the Answer to Making a True Living in Music?

The art of promoting yourself in the music industry is not just about blasting yourself out there on the internet, but it’s about turning yourself into a product. And this can feel like you’re selling your soul to the devil. But when you start to incorporate the fact that you can promote yourself online, combined with your abilities to work with different positions, while also developing a side hustle as a tutor, it is the definitive way to live a life that is full of music. It’s not possible to earn a living doing one thing unless you are at the top of the pile. 

And the great thing about being a musician is that you can diversify your efforts, and it becomes a part of your life in ways you hand imagined. When you start to look at people who have gone into business ventures, but also now still do what they can to give back by tutoring at music colleges, it is the way forward for the musician. It’s not about the rock and roll lifestyle anymore. Many big-name acts cannot afford to live off their name alone anymore. And this is the reality that we face in a changing world. And this is why you’ve got to be multi-skilled. Partly, you have got to understand the importance of promoting yourself correctly, but also making sure that you diversify your efforts. By gigging, branding yourself, but also living and breathing music in ways you haven’t considered gives you the best opportunity to make a living. And if you’ve made a living doing it, this will be the very definition of success.

Published inkewlMusic

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