When you’re an independent musician, the path isn’t always so clear cut. Do you focus on growing your social media first or recording your next song? Do you go on a 3-week tour to cities you have no audience in an effort to grow them, or do you focus on weekend tours around your well-defined hometown? And how on earth are you supposed to do this all by yourself?!
Being an indie artist can be fun, and exhilarating, and full of opportunities, sometimes, you get stuck in that space of simply not knowing what you don’t know—and that means acknowledging the things that work, as much as the things that might be hurting your career.
So if you’ve been feeling stuck for a while, or your career is at a standstill and you simply don’t know why, read on.
Thinking your music is enough
This is truly one of the most common mistakes I see artists make—simply thinking that if your music is good enough, the rest will fall into place.
I hate to break it to you, but no matter how good your music is, it’ll never be enough. You can have the best musicians in the world in your band and if the rest of the things on this list are being ignored, your chances of success are slim.
Remember, great music is the baseline for entry into the music industry—it isn’t your golden ticket.
Trying to do it all alone
In the early days, you’re probably going to get really good at doing a whole lot of things by yourself. You’ll be your own booking agent, your own publicist, you’ll do all your ads and marketing and list building on your own. But eventually, if you truly want to grow, you’re going to have to find the budget and outsource.
This doesn’t mean you need a label to survive—it just means you need a team. You’ll eventually want to bring on people to do the things you aren’t so good at or simply don’t want to do (IE: PR, management, booking, FB ads) so that you can focus more on the things you do love, that help grow your career.
Taking your fans for granted
So often we look at social media as a burden. We think, “ugh I have to post this today.” or “I can’t think of anything to post!” And those are very real concerns and feelings that even the most seasoned experts experience. But what I’d like to encourage you to do is stop looking at social media as a horrible task that gets in the way of playing music, and instead look at it as the incredible tool it is for connecting you with your fans.
You already know your fans are everything, and social media truly is the best way to connect with most of them.
So if I can be quite blunt, stop whining about it and start embracing it and you’ll not only begin to look at social media differently, but your career will grow exponentially.
A wacky live schedule
There really is too much of a good thing—and there’s also too little of it. Finding a balance in your live show schedule is key to growing your fanbase. If you’re playing every week at the same venue, mix it up and maybe cut back by a couple of weeks. If you’re only playing one show every 6 months, you’re likely going to become forgettable. Find a balance that works for you and your fans. Hint: you’ll know you’ve hit it when your turnout grows and fans seem all in at every show.
A boring live presence
Continuing on the live show train, please stop being boring on stage. This one could be its own article, but basically here’s what you need to know: if you’re not having fun ON stage, you can bet your audience isn’t having fun OFF stage.
Take the time to really perfect your live show through practicing, recording, assessing, and correcting, as well as asking trusted friends/family/fans for feedback.
I’ll give you a hint though, if there’s no banter, no playfulness, or no showmanship of any kind, you’re doing it wrong.
An uninspired merch booth
Please have good merch. I’ve already written about this here, but safe to say, if a fan comes over excitedly looking to support you, you need to have several different options that are brand specific and at different price points. It wouldn’t hurt if it was well decorated/laid out either!
Using introversion as a crutch
Last but certainly not least is playing the introvert card.
Look, I get it. I’m an introvert myself. But if you want to be successful in really any venture, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. I get that talking to people is terrifying—I still get nervous about these things after 10 years! But I will promise you that it gets easier. Not only that, building relationships is the single best thing you can do for your career.
We’re just getting started! If you’re looking for even more tips on increasing fan engagement then join me for my free Masterclass ‘How to gain your next 1,000 fans. 3 simple steps that lead to higher engagement, sold-out shows, and life-changing opportunities’.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placements on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, Spotify and more, as well as the Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.