This January, we’ve taken a weekly tour through some of the most important New Year’s Resolutions for musicians. We’ve discussed everything from co-writing, to maintaining accountability toward our goals, to the fears that we must overcome to achieve our desired levels of success.
The question remains, though: how can we actively ensure our own growth on a daily basis? What are the techniques and skills we need to learn to develop not only as artists, but creative professionals?
I’ve got a few ideas, and I compiled them into a list below. Let’s explore!
A new playing style – or even a new instrument
The beautiful thing about making music – or really, creating in any artistic medium – is that we have the license to color outside the lines and create absolutely anything we would like. Artistic expression is truly limitless; yet, leaving one’s musical comfort zone to explore and incorporate different genres can be a scary proposition for artists – especially when they’ve committed to a particular style for so long.
However, pushing past the fear has its benefits. Not only will learning a new playing style – or perhaps, a new instrument altogether – expand your musical horizons, but it will allow you to incorporate new techniques into your art. In turn, this will help you create from a more diverse palette, while appealing to a larger audience over time.
Beyond that, continued musical learning has some serious brain benefits. Studies show that playing music leads to better brain development in young people, while improving memory and mental alertness in people of all ages.
A creative, non-musical skill
Do you like photography? Graphic design? Maybe you want to learn production, so you can produce not just your own music, but others’ music as well (including the friends you meet right here on Muze). Or, maybe you have a ton of media contacts and a knack for writing, and you want to give artist public relations a try.
Immerse yourself in these new skills! Not only will they supplement your own artistry – we have already established that most independent artists find themselves tasked with being Jacks-and-Jills-of-all-trades early in their careers – but the quality of your work will improve with more practice. Over time, you can take the new skills you’re most passionate about and turn them into services for your peers. This will help you create additional revenue streams, while maintaining flexibility in your own schedule.
How to create an effective artist pitch
Of all the points in this article, I may be the most adamant about this one. As someone who has received thousands upon thousands of artist pitches over the years, I can offer two bits of truth:
- It takes time to create a complete, compelling artist pitch.
- Most artists don’t know where to begin.
Gone are the days when you can bill yourself as a “singer-songwriter from Anywhere, USA” and hope to stand out. You need to have a story, and you need to include the components – audio, visual, and even a good, old-fashioned bio – that will help your story stand out to media outlets, event and festival promoters, and even prospective team members (management, publicists, etc.). All of these folks receive tons of artist pitches on a daily basis, which means that the sooner you hook them, the greater their chances of working with you. Once they’re hooked, your job isn’t done: they will want to discover why, of all the artists, they should invest their time and resources into you.
Create an EPK that weaves them through your story, complete with photos, video, and ways to listen to your current or upcoming releases. Communicate your artistry, as well as your values, and let it all shine through as you forge ahead to new opportunities.
Time management – and investment
There are only so many hours in a day, and we’ve definitely covered this in other articles. However, it bears repeating that time management is one of the most important skills that you will learn as an independent artist.
This goes beyond our previous points on assessing the ways you spend your free time (although, that is still super important). Time management includes an understanding where you are investing your time when you are “on the clock.” There are a lot of tasks to balance in this creative life, and only so much time to accomplish them. Which ones are giving you the best results? Which ones are leaving much to be desired, for the time spent? Which ones could you stand to outsource? Track your hours spent on these tasks, track the return on investment for each, and adjust your focus accordingly.
Y’all… it’s time to dive into TikTok
If you’re an artist, and you aren’t on the TikTok train already, it’s about time you climb aboard. In July 2021, Music Business Worldwide reported that 75 percent of TikTok’s U.S.-based users have discovered new artists on the platform. The same article also pointed out that TikTok also has double the global active users of Spotify.
The data doesn’t lie. Furthermore, there are many notable instances of songs becoming megahits – and their creators becoming megastars – thanks in large part to their presence on the TikTok platform. Releasing the right song at the right moment to the TikTok universe can change your career – and your life.
Also, when is the last time you brushed up on your marketing skills?
Do you understand search engine optimization (SEO)? Have you compiled a mailing list of fans, friends, and followers? Are you up to date on current social media trends? Have you ever run a social media ad campaign?
No matter where you are on your artistic journey, there’s no time like the present to bring yourself up to speed on best practices for making sure your art has an opportunity to be appreciated by the masses. There is a wealth of free information on the internet to help you get started. Or, if you have the budget, hiring a professional marketer with proven success will help you kickstart your brand across its relevant platforms, while freeing up more time for you to spend on music-making.
It’s been a long pandemic. How are your networking skills?
In many ways, the COVID-induced time warp that began in March 2020 has made traditional networking methods more challenging. While lockdowns and restrictions have, by and large, been lifted across the United States, many areas of the globe still face pandemic-related challenges that make in-person interactions challenging.
Even so, it is still possible – and in some ways, even more advantageous – to build your network using digital means. Apps like Muze will connect you instantly to potential musical collaborators. In general, the internet is full of industry think tanks and networking groups that will help you grow your community – locally, as well as anywhere on Earth. As you continue to shape your career in music, these relationships could be pivotal toward finding new opportunities to help yourself grow as an artist and a professional.
Overall, it all comes down to treating your music as a business.
Take another pass through all of the above points, and give yourself an honest assessment:
- Which of these skills have I mastered?
- Which of these skills could I improve?
- Which of these skills do I still need to learn?
Once you have made your assessment, it will become easier to define your areas of focus here in the New Year. Through it all, one thing is for certain: steady improvement in the above areas will bring you closer to the artistic career you envision.