[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
Many musicians want to believe that if they create great art, they will be taken seriously. What they are trying to convey to the world will be immediately understood, millions will want to consume what they craft, and everyone in the industry will want to work with them because of their incredible talent.
Sometimes that happens, but talent and the ability to create a beautiful song or album isn’t often enough. Being taken seriously as a musician (specifically as one who either makes music for a living or who aims to do so) is tough, so here are a few tips that might make thing a bit easier for you.
1. A Real Website
Social has taken over and replaced traditional websites when it comes to many functions, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need one anyway. Fans are most likely going to head to your Twitter or Facebook to learn about your upcoming tour dates, when new music is slated to drop, and to connect with you, but a website is still important to have. It makes you look like you’re taking this seriously as a professional, and it’s a great place to house everything that might not work on social.
Your website, which should be pleasing to the eye and which shouldn’t look too amateurish, but which doesn’t need to be done by a professional web developer who will charge you thousands of dollars (there are plenty of sites these days where anyone can produce something that is perfectly acceptable), should house everything connected to you and your music. Tour dates, a merch store, links to your social accounts, links to listen to your music on streaming platforms and watch your videos on YouTube, appearances in the media, photos, perhaps a blog, and even contact info should all be present, and there’s no better way to lump everything together than on your own website.
2. Obvious Social And Email Addresses
You might have some funny ideas about what would make for a good handle on social channels, but that doesn’t always work in your favor, no matter how clever they may be. Your most ardent fans will remember your @, but selecting anything other than your actual musical moniker can lead to confusion. I have run into several instances where I can’t find a band or a singer on a certain social channel because they decided not to use their actual name.
The same should go for your email address, which you’ll be using a lot when you first start out to book your own shows and reach out to bloggers and playlisters. Gone are the days when you used to have a screen name-style address at Hotmail or something similar that has gone the way of the dodo. If you want people to take you seriously and immediately recognize who the message at the top of their inbox is from, stick with your band’s brand, the name you record under, or perhaps your own name. If it’s anything other than those options, people might not open the email at all, and you don’t need to be making this job any more difficult for yourself than it already is.
3. Have Professional Photos Taken
Most of the time, quick snaps taken with someone’s phone will do, and people don’t need the highest-quality images when it comes to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Sure, they should be great shots and they should be interesting to look at, but you don’t need a photographer to follow you around.
Having said that, a few professional pics go a long way, and you can get a lot of use out of just one photo shoot. Whether you hire a photographer – or simply have a pictorially-inclined friend – snap some excellently-composed, beautiful staged images that will be edited later, you do need at least some options that you will use in a number of ways. You’ll be sending these to media outlets, including them on your website, and not only will you share them on social media, they’ll serve as your avatars as well.
4. Quality Album Art
It’s not that I don’t love what you can do in MS Paint (if anybody still has that), buy quality album art is a great way to get people who don’t already know who you are to give your song or album a try. The visual that accompanies a piece of music should be appealing, and it matters more than many musicians would like to admit. Skimping on this step can result in people skipping over your latest release instead of letting it play.
Again, I’m not suggesting you need to set up a photo shoot and spend thousands staging something elaborate for every tune you drop, but paying a few bucks to find a freelancer will be worth the investment. An eye-catching, colorful, beautiful piece of art might be enough to rack up some streams and make some new fans.
5. Quality Studios and Studio Staff
Your song can be the most beautifully-written piece of music to ever come out, but if the recording quality is terrible, who is going to want to listen? Demos are demos and live or acoustic versions come with different rules, but if you’re producing and releasing a finished track or full-length, you need to do everything you can to make sure it sounds polished and perfect.
Yes, high-quality recording studios, as well as the producers, mixers, and engineers that work there can come at a premium price, but if you shell out your hard-earned cash for something that doesn’t end up sounding any good, it’s not worth anything. I have personally had to tell many musicians that I can’t really tell if the song they sent is any good, as I can’t get past the terrible recording quality, which has ruined the experience for me.
6. Educate Yourself!
When you first start your career as a musician, you probably won’t have the money to hire a publicist, a manager, and a booking agent, and that’s fine! It’s a lot of work, and it’s difficult to wear so many hats as just one person, but until the money starts coming in, it’s what many artists have powered through (and you can do the same).
While most people will understand that you aren’t highly-trained in some fields, that doesn’t give you license to waste someone’s time and be unprofessional. Before you begin booking shows, reaching out to the media, contacting studios, and so on, do your research! Read up on how these industries work, how they function, what the steps are to get from where you are to where you want to be, and learn best practices. If you learn as you go along, you’ll burn bridges and waste a lot of time, but if you are dedicated to understanding something before you attempt it, the effort will pay off.