4 Ways To Be A Boss A$$ Indie Artist | Indie Artists Chronicles Series
A Guest Post by Ava Bella
Everywhere you turn, somebody is claiming "Boss Status" in this industry. The thing that bothers me about that is, most of the bosses I know don't have to even utter the word. They just live it. They utilize the tools of this game, both written and basic understood industry rules, as well as their immediate circle of influence to be massively successful. Most of the folks that we see on the TV screens and magazine covers are not bosses. There's probably 1 to 2 of the hundreds of people behind that person who are the ones getting all the major bread for whatever or whoever is the front man in that 15 minutes of fame countdown. It's never who or what we get to see at face value. For instance, as a little girl, I always was interested in commercials. Not what was being sold, but who wrote the jingle? Who was singing the jingle, and how did they get their money? How did they even start doing it? I later learned that is all a part of music licencing. Believe me, its no coincidence that everywhere you turn right now, you hear Pharrell's super mega hit 'Happy'. It's in movies, on the radio, and in at least 2 or 3 commercials; probably playing right now as your reading this. That's what I call BOSS! I'll be giving you a little more info on music licensing in about a week, but until then let's talk about the basics...
4 Ways To Be A Boss A$$ Indie Artist
1. Get Your Circle Tight!
Okay. So first, a couple questions about your circle...Who are they and what do they do? Are any of these people a 'Boss' in their own right? Do they have more than one stream of income? Are they a bunch of 'Boo-boos' waiting on you to get on or have they referred you to at least 1 check of some sort? Seriously though, what does the group of people you spend the greater majority of your time with add to what you do? A few years ago, I began to take a close look at my network. 90% of the people I hung with were artists. Literally, about 100 singers, poets, writers, songwriters, authors, spoken word artists, drummers, clothing stylists and designers, keyboard players, producers, beat makers, and let me not forget the wanna be manager/promoters. While most of these folks are massively talented, have standing local cover gigs with cover bands, and are by all means popular and loads of fun to be around; I wanted a little more than that. After doing countless open mic nights, being the go-to dedicated wedding singer, and the one you can always call on for a pretty moderate to decent Jill Scott cover, I looked around and realized the majority of my 'friends' weren't living off their art full time and neither was I. I had a pretty killer corporate management job with a more than decent salary, but I wanted to create for a living. The bug bit me and I quickly learned that what was important to me was to record and perform my own music-nationally and eventually internationally. To add to that, I wanted to do it all independently. I also knew, first, I had to change my network and circle of influence. Now, I'm sure by now you already know if you are at all on a path to your own individual greatness: "Birds of a feather flock together". That didn't start or end in school with what your parents or elders in your family told you. It applies more than ever if you want to be successful in the Indie world or music business as a whole!
A little AvaBella history...
I originally signed a management deal with a multi-media company, The Anarchy Movement, in 2012. The roster at the time was comprised of a genre-defying rocking awesome band, 3 lyrically impressive MC's, and me, a singer/songwriter. The founder, an artist himself, was already successfully touring as a solo MC, getting commercial radio play in a several markets, both blog and traditional media coverage, clothing line sponsorship, and a publishing and distribution deal with a major for a few songs- all as an Indie Artist. Now, I saw what was going on and when I was approached with the opportunity to work with the company, I began to see it was some Boss type ish going on! Within 6 months of my management signing I had a digitally distributed single on a major, and later I'd have the same for my debut project. To date, I've been on a regional tour with not one, but two national recording artists and shared stages with both music legends and up and comers. Now, I'm not saying this hasn't been a winding and at times down right bumpy road. What I am saying is- look at what you'd like to do, make a list even, then look around and see who's doing or done it. That's who you should be spending the greater majority of your time with. Now go NETWORK to change your NET WORTH...
...I mean keep reading #2
2. Get Your Calling Cards
How are you gonna approach a Boss to network with no cards?? If you're reading this, then you probably already know you need a few things to get active in this industry. Some must haves are business cards, flyers, your music of course, and merch. Get creative with every aspect of your brand, because guess what, THE CALVARY AIN'T COMIN'! You are your marketing team, design firm, and advertising agency. I suggest you do like I've been doing and take some classes in at least those 3 elements of branding. Better yet, find and partner with a student in those disciplines. Forget about the MUSIC for a second and think about the BUSINESS. Until you have your dream team in place, find a way to make it your marketing materials aesthetically pleasing so people will want to listen and learn more about your brand; YOU! Case and point- no matter where I am, when I've handed out a card or a flyer, people ask me about the graphic on my debut EP. It's been a great conversation starter. For my business cards, I wanted to not only convey a little more of who I am and what I do, but since I tend to run out of flyers pretty quickly, my cards have to serve a dual purpose. I sell my music online, so I let people know that across the top of the card. Also, I have the cover art in the bottom right corner, because , like I said, it's always been a conversation piece. Then instead of listing out all the millions of things that I do- singer, songwriter, web designer, producer, artist business services, blogger, artist bio writer, press release submissions, etc. I simply chose "God's Vessel" as my job title. Again, a conversation piece. I also take my cards EVERYWHERE! When I go to happy hour, lunch with my Mom, the park, basketball games, the bathroom at a restaurant, seriously, every where. When I'm booking an appointment, I pull my card out and hand it to the receptionist. They can read it as I recite my email, name, and number. A little trick I learned working in corporate sales, put something in their hands. The person has in that moment read the information once, and heard it twice; they've read it in their heads and you've said it aloud! You're welcome:). At the very least, whenever you step a foot outside of your home you should have your cards. Once you are fully functional, you really should not be seen ANYWHERE without merch, music, flyers, and even a few hard copy one sheets or press kits. You never know what opportunity you'll be presented with- BE PREPARED.
3. Get Your Social Media Together
Now, pause. Before you go out and buy a bunch of youtube views, facebook likes, and twitter followers(PLEASE DON'T DO ANY OF THESE), hear me out. Social media is not the end all be all. Furthermore, if your aim is to eventually get a distribution deal, the labels ain't checkin' for you any quicker if you spend hundreds of dollars on faux numbers. NEWS FLASH- the labels really don't care about anything, but your real life fan base, that will in real life buy your music and tickets to your shows. Neither do the blogs, AvaTheAnarchist.com included. Nor do the clubs where you wanna book your next gig. Social Media is a tool. Let me rephrase that, Social Media Marketing is a tool. It is no different than your business card, your flyers, your merch, your press kit, or your one sheet. It does not work independently. At the DJ's United Conference there were a few panels on Social Media where the experts in the field said that youtube now does a cleanup and basically deletes purchased views, Twitter virtually does the same. These fly by night companies that offer to boost numbers really have people thinking all they have to do is buy views or followers to get on; it's not happening, they've caught on to the game. There are ways to effectively utilize social media and establish your brands social equity. If you want to know how, ask me:). Just remember the key words are social and marketing. Be as authentic on social media as you would if your audience was right in front of you. Social Media is a tool- not THE tool.
4. Get Your Business Straight
This is the Music Business. Every business sells something. For the Indie Artist, that something is music. But did you know that you need to protect your music, your thoughts, your words? If you have not already done so, its very important that you become a member of a Performance Rights Organization. Here's the breakdown for PRO's: In the US there are 4, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange(the newest guy), and ACEMLA in Puerto Rico. There are 5 in Canada, 1 in Mexico, 1 in Saint Lucia, and a little over 50 countries have a minimum 1, sometimes 2 for that country. I encourage you to click the links and base your decision on what's important to you as an artist, but more importantly as a business. Once you've gotten your social media, your network, and your marketing materials together, you may not be making tons of money. In fact you'll be spending tons(spend wisely). It's inevitable, however, you CAN make money on some of those promo shows that you are going to have to do by becoming apart of a PRO and obtaining a quarterly performance royalty check. Now depending on how many shows your doing, it can be a little check or a lot a check...lol. For me, it all adds up! I list every live show, then sure enough, in a few months BMI Live, hooks me up:). I also strongly encourage registration of your DBA(Fictitious Business Name). This way you're ready to rock when our dear Uncle Sam is looking for his piece of your pie. Here is a little more info on DBA and PRO's. This is probably one of the most important keys to being a Boss. I've never quite understood why people don't have these 2 in order. I released the LadyGun EP on Assilem Music(& Media) Group[my company] with The Anarchy Movement. Again, that was something that was important to me. I needed to establish my brand and business to do just what Anarchy Movement had done for me, and the way that works is to take the steps to be able to legally put a stamp or my creative works and to aid others in doing the same.
So being an Indie Artist is a means of expression, right? It allows us to creatively speak to an audience that is hungry for the real. Some of us have chosen this path, while others are really wanting that major deal, complete with all the bells and whistles we've seen in our daydreams:). Whatever your personal goal, you have to set yourself on a path with a foundation that speaks for itself. These are the minimums. Improve your network so you can raise your net worth, round up some marketing materials for the sake of presentation, utilize social media marketing as a tool, and finally, protect your brand, name, and your creative works. I've spent the last few years after putting out my EP asking questions, reading, taking classes, and getting certifications on everything I could that would help me to be not only a better artist, but to be able to consult other artists on their branding. I'm proud to say, I have a heck of a network, I designed and re-coded this very website, have built a few great artists sites(including mobile optimized apps), and I'm currently free lance web designing for small businesses. In the last few months I also added bio writing and press release submission to services I offer fellow artists. Sometimes, it is hard to execute the basics because you aren't a full time artist quite yet, but as always, if you all want to connect, you can comment under this post, email me right from the home page, and directly at info@AvaTheAnarchist.com. I'm available for a FREE 20-30 minute consultations if you want assistance. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing how you're going to change the world with Indie Art!