5 Important Priorities for New Artists [Belmont University Series]

October 2, 2018

[Editors Note:The following is an installment in our series of a partnership between TuneCore and students at Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business at Belmont University. In an attempt to offer new insight and educational content for independent artists, we’re excited to give these music industry professionals of the future a journalistic platform.]

1. You Have to Build a Team

If you have decided to pursue a career as an artist, you must know that you cannot do it alone. Having a strong team with experience and connections can be the key to furthering your career. These people will represent you and guide you through the tumultuous early days as an artist, as well as through the many challenges you will face on the road to success and beyond. This team can include, (but is not limited to), a personal manager, business manager, booking agent, attorney, publicist, publisher, tour manager, and producer.

As your career continues to grow, the more of these positions will need to be filled. For many, the most effective starting point for building a team is with a personal manager. A personal manager can be integral to an artist’s career. The key is to find a manager who also has time and energy to dedicate to your career. (A seasoned manager will know the ins and outs of the industry and will help you navigate different obstacles.)

While beginning with a personal manager is beneficial, it is by no means the only route to building your team. You can start by filling any of the positions mentioned. For example, a live show is integral to building an audience for a lot of artists, so it may be that a good booking agent could be first on the list.

2. Craft

As an artist, you have to practice your musical craft like a professional athlete practices their sport. Even the best practice; only the best practice the small stuff. There are two main categories of your craft: musical/technical ability and live performance.

An important part of artistry is creating a distinguished sound. When practicing, you should find a common theme in your songs and develop a unique style. Practice is the most important part of developing your musical and writing abilities.

Additionally, taking lessons, playing with other artists, learning music theory, and listening to music enhances your craft. Extend your musical palette to find new material that will influence you and inspire you as you make your own music. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. There is no shame in taking lessons because a teacher can drastically speed up your progress. Practice takes time and dedication; the benefits will not arrive overnight, but they will come.

The second aspect of craft is live performance. Performing live is a requirement in entertainment, so having the tightest band on stage will give you an edge. Your set should be built around your audience. From song choice to stories between songs, every decision should have a purpose. You need to develop the presence you create on stage and the image you project to the audience. You should be genuine, but remember that you are putting on a show. There is no better way to develop your live set than to start playing shows. More on that next!

3. Building a Great Live Show

When it comes to establishing a position within the industry as a new artist, putting together a great live show is crucial. Live shows contribute to an artist’s income, and also give them the opportunity to potentially develop their fanbase early on.

In putting on a great live show, it is important for new artists to be on time. When starting out, it is essential that the artist establishes a good reputation among promoters, venue owners, and potential fans. If an artist is constantly running late, people will be less likely to be willing to work with them in the future.

An artist’s genre will influence the direction of the live show. With pop artists, the audience will typically expect more production, such as lights and dancers, to accompany the singer. On the other hand, a singer/songwriter is typically judged purely on their instrumental and vocal talent, with little or no bells and whistles in the production department.

No matter the genre, live shows cannot happen without fans. To heighten an artist’s performance, they should focus on stage presence and fan interaction. It is important to keep fans interested and engaged so that they will come back to the show next time you’re in town.

4. Media

Record labels are not signing artists anymore – they are signing audiences. The first step a new artist can take to attract record labels is to build and establish a digital presence.

A firmly established social media presence, as an example, can strengthen an artist’s credibility and help accumulate a fan base across channels. Social media platforms have become a crucial part of an artist’s marketability to potential labels. A strong fan base lessens the risk of investment, because a label will have to put in as much time and money into an artist to get them to the next level in their career.

Having a social media presence comes with more benefits than just a potential record deal. An artist can also attract the attention of potential managers or booking agents for gigs. Social media channels also function as safes zones for unsigned artists to soft release new singles, tracks, videos, etc. This allows the artist to interact with and receive constructive criticism from fans without the cost of publishing new materials through formal retail outlets. Fans want to have access to their favorite artist as much as possible, and they want to feel like they know them in real life. Social media is a powerful tool to facilitate a fan/artist relationship that can grow an artist’s audience and further their career.

5. Branding

The fifth priority for a new artist is branding. Once you have put time and effort into your craft, building your team, establishing a digital presence, and getting comfortable on stage, your personal brand should fall right into place. Your brand is what separates you from every other artist in your genre.

For example, take up-and-coming artist Lainey Wilson (ed. note: also a TuneCore Artist!). She has a thick country accent and sings about whiskey; however, she dresses like a hippie with flare jeans, retro glasses, and printed shirts. She sounds like any other country singer, but her appearance helps to set her apart from other country artists.

When creating your brand, it is important to balance staying true to yourself with representing a personal style/image that correlates with the genre of music you play. There is a range of style and image norms within the different genres. Sometimes, breaking or bending those norms can be a good thing in order to stand out, but stark violations of them runs the risk of alienating a large portion of the intended audience.

Branding is one of the most compelling parts of the music industry because it can be changed and manipulated in different ways. In order for a brand to further an artist’s career, it has to be distinct. Although it may seem simple, it can take years of hard work and patience to change people’s perceptions. Branding is about the little details that build up over time to create something marketable and unique. Many opportunities for corporate sponsorships are available to an artist with a distinct brand and a positive public image.

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