Updated: Oct 22
Gone are the days when all you needed to succeed as a musician was music. In the new music economy, successful artists think like start-ups and need to be savvy marketers and content creators. Here are some essential tools to support the independent artist on their journey.
The old music industry
Go back forty years and major record labels signed artists who had potential, and invested money and time into their careers to make them a success. It famously took U2 and Bruce Springsteen three albums before they had a commercial hit. Those days are gone.
Money is now tight, physical sales once the backbone of the industry are in terminal decline, and the labels are having to get smarter when making a business case to sign an artist. In the start-up world, there is an expression called 'Product Market Fit' which basically means proving demand for your new product or service.
This concept is increasingly similar for record labels. Everyone wants to de-risk the investment, that means they are extremely unlikely to sign anyone unless the business is already profitable. For artists that means having a fan-base who listen, attend gigs and passionately engages.
So whether you like it or not, nobody is coming and signing you unless you do a lot of hard work first. And if you are successful within the new music economy you will inevitably ask:
Do I need a label?
What additional value will a record label bring me?
Why should I give away my income?
The new music economy
In the new music economy, where artists are independent, success is no longer about fame but about finding a way to be financial sustainable from your music. This shift in mindset is vital to become a successful independent artist. Here are some essential tools to help you on your journey to financial independence.
The first time you discover Canva, your mind will be blown. It's like having a graphic designer by your side. Simple to use, with a ton of professional templates and professional fonts you will quickly find yourself resdesigning everything from logos, gig posters, social posts, social banners. There is a free version to allows you to do everything, but the paid version allows you do to more. So definitely consider the upgrade.
If you haven't already used Canva you'd likely be as impressed by Design Wizard. The interface is simple and intuitive and much like Canva you have access to a host of professional templates, images and fonts to give everything you design the professional touch. Prices are similar so we recommend you try out both before committing to a paid subscription.
Bannersnack was designed to allow to you banner banner ads for websites, but we also think it's perfect for creating static and animated social media content. If Canva is for static images, Bannersnack is for animated static images, slideshows and basic videos.
While the first version of this online video maker was a little glitchy, it continues to improve and is now a vital part of our content making armoury. Reevio provides a growing bank of video slideshow and design templates which you can edit, customise and download. What makes Reevio really powerful is access to the VideoBlocks library, (sadly not available on all templates, which is a frustration!) but when it is available, you find high quality video content for almost any subject. We often create basic videos in Reevio and then upload our creations into Adobe Premiere Rush to add some extra sparkle.
Pixaloop & Videoleap
These two mobile apps work powerfully together and are essential for anyone looking to make social content. Pixaloop allows you to create animated static photos, which a huge arrange of overlays and effects including a new 3D mode which is great! Videoleap allows you to edit videos or just add a soundtrack to the animated static photo you have just created in Pixaloop. For any musician looking to jazz up their biog photos, album artwork or add their music to their social posts they come highly recommended.
In a post Covid world when it's just not possible to gather together, Milanote provides an online creative solution. It's a simple, intuitive, drag and drop platform is essential for any musician planning release, or brainstorming your next music video. Boards are collaborative and easily shared with your band mates or manager. You'll wonder what you did before.
Wix is rapidly becoming more than just a website building tool, we love the logo design tool and the increasing number of integrations it allows with everyone from Mailchimp to Google Analytics. While Squarespace and no-code new kids on the block Webflow may be cooler, Wix delivers what you need right now, and seems to constantly be evolving to add more value to it's users. Having a great website signals to the world, you mean business and we use Wix for all the artist websites we design.
Once you have started to build your website mailing list, MailChimp provides a simple way to speak to them. Professional templates, smart delivery (it recommends when best to send messages) and insightful analytics allow you to understand who has opened and who has clicked.
This nifty little email plugin allows you to create branded email signatures containing links to your website and key social pages. Wisestamp makes Gmail look professional
The Spotify pre-save has changed the way musicians can market their music. Now getting people to pre-save in advance of your launch, means momentum on launch day, and this momentum can greatly increase your chances of Spotify playlisting. Show provides a free tool to help you set up Pre-saves and also provides a new Advertising tool that allows you to directly advertise on Spotify (US only) and premium music websites including Billboard, MTV and Pitchfork. Ad formats are currently limited to static banners, but expect that to change. This becomes compelling when they allow video!
It feels like a new distribution company launches every day at the moment, but sometimes you just need to focus on the basics. Get you music in all the key stores, at the right time and don't give away your royalties. We highly recommend EMUBands, great service and simple transparency - quite unlike AWAL who will try to wow you with free distribution but keep their hand in your pocket to steal your royalties!
Further support for independent artists
Major Labl provides management consultancy and creative solutions for unsigned artists,
we are part of the Right Chord Music family of companies. Follow the links below to discover how we can help you get your music heard.
Squall influencer marketing for musicians
The RCM blog for incredible unsigned artists