I was talking with a friend today about the music industry, record labels, bands, etc. and it became very evident that, as much as the major labels want to talk about being “quick to change” and “embracing the age of the internet”, it’s far from the truth. There is an old guard running the labels that still tries to protect this nostalgic way of doing things that’s dripping with money and involves a lot of arm wrestling with radio stations and back-room deals with distributors.

This is simply not effective, nor economical, for the indie artist.

You know as well as I do that we’re now in the age where you can cut a quality album from your bedroom using your personal computer, and we’re now certainly to the point where you can distribute it internationally without hardly moving a muscle. I would argue that you can just as successfully market and distribute yourself today as an independent artist as any given developing artist on a major label.

I’m not saying it will be easy – in fact, it will take a significant amount of work on your part. But after all, it’s your career, and it’s something you’re passionate about, and the nice thing is that you’re in control of how to guide the ship towards your own success. Here’s a few simple ideas to keep in mind as you consider the “big picture” of your career:

  • Embrace Your Niche: The major labels spend a lot of time on the “shotgun” approach… lets just throw this ( and this, and this, and this…) at the wall and see what sticks. You don’t have time for that. Figure out your audience and what makes them unique, then determine how to get to them. You need pinpoint accuracy to be able to quickly and effectively get your message out to your target audience.
  • Collect The Names: Every time you perform and on every web page you’re on, have a way to quickly and easily gather fan information for your mailing list. Make it simple – get their Name, Email, Cell Phone, and Zip Code. Zip code is important because you need to be able to target your fanbase (e.g. – you’re playing Dayton, OH on Friday night… you need to be able to let the people within 40 miles of Dayton know you’re coming). Cell numbers are important for the increasing ease (and affordability) of mass text messages… plus the fact that no one is ever without their cell phone.
  • It’s All About Community: You have got to stay in touch with your fans – regularly and often.  Use your mailing list diligently – you need to have a monthly newsletter with the most recent news.  Your website should be informative AND, more importantly, interactive.  You need to give fans a reason to come… maybe it’s entertaining YouTube videos that you’ve created on the road, maybe it’s a fan photo submission contest… whatever it is, you need to get the fans involved.  You need to have a blog – talk about life, being on the road, the recording process, and make sure you set your blog to allow comments.
  • Distribute Internationally: PayPal is an easy way to collect money from people all across the globe… in a matter of minutes you can set up a rudimentary store for your physical CDs. CDBaby is another great resource that I particularly like for their digital distribution service – service your core products to them for distribution to the major digital accounts (iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, Zune, etc). CDBaby’s royalty rates for digital are fair (64% of retail), but their physical rates are a little on the high side ($4 per CD)… you can do better through PayPal. Our service, musicnuvo, offers you the ability to sell digital downloads direct from your store (70% of retail commission) and process transactions for physical CD sales (100% of retail commission).
  • Never Stop Touring: Three things to remember when playing shows… 1) Do them as often as you can. 2) Consistently play the same markets to build and strengthen your fan base up. 3) Push yourself each month to expand into a new market, and add it to your regular rotation.

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