Everything you need to know about publishing your music as an independent artist
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02.03.2022

Everything you need to know about publishing your music as an independent artist

indepdent artist
(Image: Yatharth Roy Vibhakar)
Words by Stefan Wyeth

How to get started and excel as an independent artist

When you are looking to release your music online for the first time, the process can seem overwhelming. There are so many platforms for publishing your music and engaging your audience that it’s simply hard to know where to begin.

There simply isn’t a template that will work wonders for every artist out there, but having a strategy is key. This involves combining the rollout of your music releases, merchandise launches, and performance dates with social content in a way that tells a story.

Summary:

  • Understanding platforms and building a content plan is vital to build an audience and create engagement.
  • Keeping a consistent identity assists your presentation, while you should always be on the lookout for areas of growth.
  • Some platforms like YouTube, already have systems in place that favour subscriber revenue, so get used to the idea of migrating users between platforms and funnelling them into tiered content plans.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

By seeing platforms as tools, and learning about the different benefits that each one provides you can build the perfect system for yourself as an artist or band. Social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, and download portals like Beatport and Traxsource all play a role within the cycle of music publishing. Let’s see where they fit in.

Understanding platforms

Before you research the algorithms for every music and social platform available, there is a far more effective route to take that will make the task of building a brand as an artist easier too. You need to develop a second-nature understanding of yourself as an artist and where exactly you fit into the musical landscape of today. Think holistically, beyond the style of music you write, about each aspect of what you do.

As you build your identity as an artist, your ideas for the stage design of your live shows, the styling in your shoots, the look and feel of your YouTube clips, all have relevance. The way music is categorised online into such specific genres makes it easier to connect the dots and build a profile.

As you release music and content, the data feedback from each platform helps to plan your next move.

Building a content plan

As an artist, each aspect of what you present to the world requires time and effort for its creation. To do all your hard work justice, you need to develop a strategy that fits in with your schedule. Keep in mind that this becomes more demanding as your audience grows, so be realistic.

As you grow, having a system for regularly creating new music and content means your fans always have something to look forward to and you don’t lose momentum. With your live performance dates and music releases as your main focus, build content streams on your various engagement platforms that lead into each announcement.

An effective content strategy takes the pressure off your release schedule considerably, because you are consistently moving onto the next chapter of the story while refining the way you work. Over time, you get a clear picture of which posts have a lasting impact.

Keeping a consistent identity

When listeners discover your music online, they will see it before they hear it. This makes it critical that there is a cohesive thread running between all the visual avenues representing you as an artist or band.

Social media has changed the way artists are discovered, so having a handle on your visual identity as an artist and the visual aspects of your creative output are more important than ever. Artists are often held back by the idea of presenting themselves online, as they never imagined themselves as media content creators.

To overcome this hurdle, rather see these avenues as additional creative outlets that allow you to present your vision as a more complete artist. No matter how obscure, the content of your music can be associated with appropriate imagery to reach fans on platforms your music can’t. A little mystique goes a long way – just ask Daft Punk.

Engagement and growth

Using a publication service like Tunecore or Distrokid to release your music on multiple platforms can be useful. However, without a plan for growing your audience on each platform, a release can become like a drop in the ocean.

The sheer volume of music available makes it essential to understand where your audience is listening to your music the most. Platforms like Soundcloud, YouTube, and Spotify each have different algorithms and approaches to get your music noticed. Once you are releasing regularly, you can get a clear idea of exactly where you are getting the most traction.

When you get notable attention on any platform, be sure to react quickly. Follow it up and commit to a strategy with new targets that will challenge you and allow for the expansion in your fanbase. Finding out what is attracting listeners will help you grow over time.

Sustainable income

Artist and creator revenue continues to evolve within today’s entertainment industry. The one aspect that makes the online environment favour independent artists is the ability we now have to build a following without a record label.

Some platforms like YouTube, already have systems in place that favour subscriber revenue, so get used to the idea of migrating users between platforms and funnelling them into tiered content plans. This immediately divides the audience and isolates fans that put their money where their mouth is.

Prioritise these fans, as they are more likely to buy presold tickets, merch, and support any aspect of your operation that needs funding. Whether you use Patreon or your own website, having a platform to engage on a long-term basis with your most die-hard of fans is the key to sustainability. Adding value with exclusive content makes them part of the journey rather than just observers.

Where to begin

Put yourself in the listener’s perspective and look at the way the world around you engages with music. When you find something that inspires you, be it a YouTube clip, photoshoot, Twitch stream, or even an album cover, think of the process it took to put it all together.

Very seldom will you find successful artists that work alone on every project, it’s simply too big of a job with too many moving parts. Here, your ability to build relationships and create a team around your vision will set you apart from being another bedroom producer. It’s simply impossible to have strengths in every area and collaboration will free up more time to focus on what you’re best at.

Once you have a formula for creating and releasing that sticks, be relentless in your consistency. Every listener out there is potentially another die-hard fan, and those stay for life.

Get started on Patreon here.