3 Lessons From The Indie Artist Summit

Post by Dave Kusek Founder & CEO of The New Artist Model

The easiest way to take your career to the next level is to find experienced people in the industry to act as your mentor. Unfortunately, most musicians don’t have direct access to these people, but I do. Rick Barker, former manager of Taylor Swift and founder of the Music Industry Blueprint, and I recently held our first ever Indie Artist Summit event in Nashville. We brought together the most innovative people in the industry to share their knowledge and experiences, and indie musicians flew in from all over the world to learn from them.

We were completely blown away from the amount of information our speakers shared, so we decided to record the entire Summit and make it available to indie musicians everywhere. In this article, I’ll break down some key points our speakers discussed, but you can get the entire Summit and two days’ worth of teachings from the industry’s best right here.

1. “There are people that want to spend. If you don’t allow them give you money, it’s not their fault.” – Benji Rogers, Co-Founder and President of Pledge Music 

There is a lot of complaining in the music industry about the lack of money being spent on music. People aren’t buying albums any more, piracy is still driving sales down, and streaming services only pay artists fractions of cents. In all of these complaints, we’re blaming the fans for our decreasing revenue. But what if I told you that it’s not the fans’ faults at all?

Most musicians have a pile of revenue they miss out on every single month, and that’s because they don’t give their fans theoption to give them money. You have some fans that love you and your music so much that they would buy anything you put out. They would buy a vinyl with a special, limited edition cover. They would pay to see you backstage at your gigs.

However, if you only give them the opportunity to buy a $10 download, you’re basically putting a hard limit on your potential revenue. To get past this, make sure you’re offering different tiers of products at different price points to address your different fans. Sell your downloads, physical products, and special bundles. Sell limited edition signed merch and exclusive Skype calls. Give your fans the option to support you beyond the finite price of a download by setting up a Patreon campaign. The sky’s the limit. (Click here to learn more from Benji Rogers.)

2. “A song isn’t one-way. It’s a conversation with your audience.” – Clay Mills & Marty Dodson, Hit songwriters and Founders of Songtown.com

Songwriting is usually a pretty solitary activity. You write songs based on your experiences or your thoughts and then you perform them to the world. However, it’s important to remember that when you write and play a song, you’re creating a two-way conversation between yourself and your audience and fans. Your lyrics and music is being interpreted by your fans, applied to their life and experiences, and reflected back at you.

Clay Mills and Marty Dodson have written plenty of hit songs that have been loved by huge audiences, and this tip really hit home for a lot of our Summit attendees. Songwriting is like storytelling. The audience is a fundamental part, and for the most part, if you want people to relate to your song, it needs to be about something relatable – something everyone has experienced.

If you want to improve as a writer or have your song reach and affect a larger audience, try to put yourself in the listener’s perspective. Draw from your personal experiences, but convey them lyrically in a way that everyone can relate to. Will they be able to connect with a song that’s specifically about your memories with your grandmother? Or would your song have a bigger impact if you played on the more general concepts of memories and loss? (Click here to learn more from Clay Mills and Marty Dodson.)

3. “If you’re looking for a deal you’re doing yourself a disservice. BE the deal.” – Patrick Clifford VP of Music Publishing and A&R at Disney 

Ask most people what the most important element of a record or publishing deal is and they will most likely say the label or publishing company. They have the money, the connections, and the experience. For a long time, the artist has been thought to be on the receiving end of a record deal, but this mindset is a little backwards.

Without the songs you write, the performances you give, and the music you create, there would be nothing for the labels to invest in anyway. There would be no deal. If you take it a step further, without talented artists, there would be no record labels. You are the deal.

Don’t spend your days hunting down A&R folks, sending your music to record labels, and calling up publishers hoping they can make you a star. Instead, focus on building your career, growing your fanbase, and developing your sound. Don’t wait for some label to come swoop you up and take your career to the next level, start doing it yourself today. If you do that, labels, publishers, and booking agents will want to work with you.

This is literally just a fraction of the information that was shared at the Indie Artist Summit. We’re talking about two day’s worth of real, actionable advice that indie musicians can start using immediately. If you want to watch the entire Summit and learn more from the industry’s best, check out the full video series.

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