No one ever said being an independent musician would be easy. But they also didn’t warn you it would be so incredibly hard did they? That you’d be expected to be the most talented in your instrument or voice, as well as take the best promo photos, and work with the best producers, and have the strongest marketing plan, and budget for a publicist, and figure out how to book your own tour….
You probably got into this to play your music and spread your message and maybe even connect with others so that they’d know they’re not alone in this.
But you probably never expected to be a musician and a music business expert.
And yet, in today’s music business you really do have to be able to do it all. Or at least, having those skills can be incredibly valuable—knowing how things work will set you up to know who to hire down the road, what to reasonably expect, and how you can make the most of that partnership. But doing it once doesn’t mean having to do it forever, and the reality is if you hope to find success, you’re going to have to learn to delegate and start to outsource.
So where do you start?
Figure out your budget
First, you want to figure out what your budget is. Let me just spoil this for you right now, $0 is not really an option. While you can and should be able to do a lot of this stuff yourself in the first year or so of starting up, there will come a point where it’s actually a hindrance for you to be spending all your time and energy doing things you probably don’t enjoy, instead of focusing on the things you’re good at (like playing your music for instance). So if you’re low on funds, figure out a way to change that. Sell some of those old trading cards that are collecting dust in your closet, Uber for the next couple months on weekends, or decide to stop buying lunch out every day. The harsh reality is that you will need to have money to outsource and you will need to outsource before you think you’re ready and before you’re making enough money to not pay out of pocket, so the sooner you’re able to create a plan for this, the better.
Assess your strengths & weaknesses
What is it you’re really good at inside the world of music business? Because maybe you’re really great at handling your Instagram and growing your following and you actually enjoy doing it, so in the case, you can probably get away with not hiring someone to help with social media. But if you’re really bad at getting press and/or just don’t want to spend the hours and hours per week it takes to build relationships, pitch press, and coordinate features, that might mean hiring a publicist. Or if you want to go on a tour but have no connections and no idea what you’re doing and no time or desire to learn, it might make sense to hire someone whose expertise is in booking, and has the connections, time, and skills you lack.
The reality here is you don’t have to be good at everything and you’re probably not anyway, so getting clear on what you are good at (and doing more of that) and what you’d rather not be doing (so you can outsource) are vital to moving forward.
Find your team
When it comes to finding team members, you’re looking for people who you feel understand your mission and support your vision, just as much as you’re looking for people who know what they’re doing. With most of these positions, you’re going to be working with the person relatively long term, so if you don’t really vibe well or you don’t think they have a clear grasp on what you’re going for, that’s going to be a problem.
I’d recommend starting with word of mouth recommendations and asking other local artists or industry who they recommend for (whatever field you’re looking for). After a few asks you’ll likely see the same names start to pop up over and over, which is usually a good sign you’re onto something.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Co-Founder and Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She recently released a free training titled ‘Reaching a Wider Audience Without Spending A Dime.’ She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.