How DIY Musicians Can Model Record Label Roles with Technology

Being a do it yourself (DIY) musician is a challenging but rewarding path to pursue. It's challenging because you have to have a solid understanding of the business side of music and you have to depend on yourself to make shit happen.

To be successfully DIY, you've got to create income from your music. If you are not doing that, then it's going to be very difficult to pursue music full time outside of a hobby. Some of you reading might have a "fuck making money, its not about the money man, it's about making music" outlook which is fine, let the labels handle your business then, and let them take their cut.

Labels do a lot of behind the scene moves that most musicians aren't really involved in. It is the reason it is kind of nice to sign with one because they are supposed to handle a lot of the business end while you focus on the music.

Doing it yourself means you will have to take over the role of a label if you want your albums to be successful. Here is a list of the type of things labels should do for musicians:
  • Financing
  • Cross Promotion with other Artists
  • Work with Graphics Departments to handle cd art, posters, flyer's, mailers, ect.
  • Legal Departments which handle contracts, negotiations, and lawsuits.
  • Marketing Departments which handles promotions, publicity, and sales.
  • New Media Departments which handles social media, and web presence. 
  • Promotions Departments which handles radio, xm radio, and online streaming.
  • Publicity Departments which handles news, magazine, and articles to be written about the musician.
  • Sales Departments which handle cd distribution and getting the music in stores.
That is a pretty broad brush of what a label does, but it gives you an idea of what you will have to take on as a DIY musician. This is the business side of the music business. Fortunately, technology is in place which handles a lot of the roles labels used to control.

If you're doing it yourself, then you will have to finance your music. One of the best ways to raise the money, outside of touring, merch, licensing, ect, is to tap your existing network via crowdfunding. Here is a list of top sites for musicians to crowdfund: List of Top Sites to Crowdfund Music

The biggest thing with this strategy is that you need to be active with your music and have people willing to donate the funds. Just signing up for a random Kickstart campaign without promoting it to the people that care about your music will more then likely result in you not hitting your financial goal.

Cross promotion with other artists can also be a challenge at first. This really boils down to networking. If you are touring, releasing music, and being active, it's much easier to connect with other artists doing the same thing. Birds of a feather flock together!

When it comes to graphics and artwork, you can create it yourself, use free services, or pay someone to create it for you. I like buying images and graphics on Photodune because it's not that expensive, the quality is there, and there's a lot of options. Canva and GIMP (basically an open source photoshop) are free and work awesome for graphics, album covers, flyers, or whatever. If you are not good at creating your own art, Fiverr is a nice resource to hire someone to do it for you.

Before you worry about distributing a new release, start promoting. Get a buzz going for your music and create a website. Include all your social media, merchandise, news, photos, touring, ect. When you are playing live, tell people about an upcoming album and to visit your website for more details. If you are not playing live you need to be doing something to attract people to your music. That can be anything from writing a blog, making YouTube videos, being active in an online music community or whatever.

It is surprisingly easy to create a website. It's not like it used to be where you'd have to code the whole thing. You can sign up for a blogger site which is free, and that way you can have a website and a blog. With Blogger, you choose a template and get started.

Just a side note for merchandise. Dizzyjam is free, and great for online merch shops. The shirts are comfortable, look good, and you can set the price. Remember with your website that mailing lists are your friend, use them. I've never had a problem with MailChimp for mailing lists.

Once you have the framework setup then it's time to work on releasing and distributing an album. There are a ton of digital distribution companies out there to choose from. Here's a good article from Ari which compares the pro's and con's of some of the major online digital distributors: CD BABY, TUNECORE, DISTROKID, DITTO, MONDOTUNES, REVERBNATION, SYMPHONIC OR...

Next you need to hit the ground with a good old fashioned radio campaign. For those of you that think radio is "dying" it's not. Radio is a huge deal with getting your music out to people and it's important to try to get stations to spin your tracks. Labels send out press kits with new music all the time to radio stations and as a DIY musician you will have to do the same.

Fortunately there are a lot of opportunities out there for musicians, with stations that are very friendly to the "do it yourself" or indie musicians. The most important person at the radio station for indie musicians is the Music Director. They pick the music that is going to play on the air. Below are some killer resources for stations that play indie music and I suggest hitting up all of them.

In addition to non-commercial radio campaigns, make sure that you are hitting up your local commercial radio stations. A lot of the time they will have a segment for local musicians/bands to showcase their music. Don't forget to get your music into their hands.

The next wave of promotion is to focus on getting writers to write about your band/album/music. This is much easier if your playing live, but not impossible if you are not.

There are tons of independent music writers with blogs that have large followings. It is important to get them interested in your music and what your doing. Below are some resources of popular music writers and blogs.

Again, don't forget about local music mags, and newspapers. They can be a serious friend to get the word out and start getting "buzz" about your music.

There is a reason why a lot of musicians choose to sign with a label because there is a shit load of work involved that has nothing to do creating and playing music. A lot of people think, just make a great track, put it out, and wait for it to take off. If that works for you then great, but if it doesn't then do something different. This is a great time to be in music. You are in control of your destiny and there is nothing stopping you from follow your dreams.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share, like, and comment below!

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