There are many great things about being an independent musician (there are many bad things too, but we'll save that for another article.)
Here are 5 of the most awesome things about taking the DIY route. Listen up.
1) 100% Creative Freedom
“Now listen Zuby, the ‘Eurodance’ sound is very hot right now so for your first single we’d like you to make a song for the clubs produced by DJ D-Bag. If you could please keep the complicated wordplay to a minimum then it will definitely be a hit…”
The above is a conversation that never happened and thank goodness for that.
Before being part of 'the music business’, we are artists first and foremost. There’s very little artistry involved in creating music that someone else told you to.
As an independent artist, you can make whatever kind of music you and your audience desire without having to pander to external forces, such as label execs or heavy handed A&Rs determined to turn you into a soulless pop star.
Many potentially great albums have been ruined by labels trying to mess around with artists’ creative processes. You signed an artist so let them create their art.
2) 100% Financial Control
Rather than being stuck on a cruddy 8-12% royalty rate as a signed artist (assuming you’ve even recouped) you can instead be on an 80-100% royalty rate as an independent artist.
Granted, that could be 100% of less total sales, but it’s great to know that you’re in control of your own revenues and expenditures. The less middle men there are to deal with, then the less chance of getting screwed by a bad deal.
There might be a greater chance of earning a sustainable, liveable income independently. You could even be in a position to earn some serious dough if you can build a strong army of supporters.
Either way, the ball is in your court.
3) You Call The Shots
Being an independent musician vs. being signed (from what I’ve gathered, I’ve never been signed) is like being self-employed vs. being an employee (I’ve been both).
If you’re an indie artist, you’re responsible for planning, recording, releasing and promoting your music. You set your own release dates, decide your own distribution channels, decide your own track listing and pick your own singles.
Once a major label gets involved, this power is gone from you. Heck, under most deals there’s not even a guarantee that you’ll be able to release your record even if it’s ready to go.
Not everybody is designed to be self-employed, but if you're that way inclined then being an independent musician could be the right path for you.
4) You REALLY Get To Know Your Fans
And I don’t mean that in a sexual way (although there is potential for that lol).
The independent grind involves meeting a ridiculous number of people, shaking a ridiculous number of hands and communicating with an ever-growing number of people.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve definitely spoken to at least 300,000 people about my music - in some way, shape, or form.
One thing this experience has taught me is how to maintain a smile whilst standing on a random street hundreds of miles from home, in sub-zero temperatures. Another thing it has taught me though is how to relate to people and communicate effectively.
Throughout my journey I’ve met thousands of fantastic people. Some have gone from being strangers, to fans, to personal friends.
Had I gotten signed 10 years ago and bypassed this experience, I don’t think I’d have anywhere near the level of rapport that I now have with my fans and supporters.
5) The Sky Is The Limit – Really!
Tech N9ne, Immortal Technique, ICP, Macklemore… the list goes on.
These are all successful independent artists who have made millions of fans AND dollars without major label deals.
So it is possible. Is it easy? Heck no. All of the above had a very long and difficult journey to reach their levels of success but I don’t think they’d have it any other way.
Ultimately, supporters are the life-blood of any artist. So regardless of your signed/unsigned status, if you have fans that are willing to support you then it is possible to make a living. Maybe one day even a very healthy one.
The talent is there (hopefully), the tools are there and so the rest is up to you… or me?