Budget-Friendly Ways Indie Artists Can Enhance Their Photography

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Michelle Aguilar.]

 

Photography is one of the most powerful modes of artistic communication. It conveys and reveals to us the raw and special details of life. It’s basically what we tend to rely on in those final attempts to visually describe, share and appreciate events that cannot otherwise be done in more immediate ways.

Just think back to a favorite artist or figure; it’s likely that you may associate them with an image in mind, the way we all might picture Jimi Hendrix shredding a guitar as he usually is in photos. It’s easy to see this especially in the digital world, where, as an artist, most of your searchability and promotional material is found.

So what can you do to make sure you’re giving your band’s/work’s photography the appropriate attention, even on a budget? Read more to learn various budget-friendly alternatives for adding an extra kick to your photo galleries.

Make use of your current network

As fiction writer Dan Simmons puts it, “It occurs to me that our survival may depend upon our talking to one another.” Let’s reverse back to the early 1900s. During that time, the study of marketing had just begun to emerge and almost all strategies based on these studies had only an emphasis on tactics for simply selling more products and services with little regard for what customers really wanted. Thus word-of-mouth was the most effective medium. It was the only way people expressed and got what they wanted.

This is still very relevant today, considering that 90% of consumers are more likely to trust and buy from a brand that is recommended by a friend. How does this all connect to making use of your current network? By expressing your needs to those in your immediate network, you increase your chances of finding someone who’s a professional photographer, a freelance photographer, a photographer just starting out, etc. By doing this, you are broadening your resources, landing affordable prices and receiving better service.

Reach out to a photography class

There are plenty of colleges, schools and programs where students are training to become photographers. You can easily search up locations in your area and find contact information. Try speaking to staff and suggesting that perhaps someone from the class might be interested in doing shoots for a band, show, or event. Leave your contact information and depending on the conversation, you can even ask permission to come into class on a certain day to introduce yourself and make the announcement.

You may mention that you’re willing to offer a small payment, but maybe wait and see if it’s really necessary. Most of the time, students are looking for experience and opportunities to expand and develop their portfolios.

Teach yourself how to edit

While this might sound scary since the first thing that may come into mind is a time-consuming program like Photoshop, there is no need to fret. There are much simpler and cheaper alternatives. For simple creations, check out either of these websites to design digital banners, touch up photos and create collages.

PicMonkey

Price: 7-day Free trial, $47.88 per year billed annually or $7.99 monthly

PicMonkey includes features like photo editor, portrait retouching, design maker, and collage maker. The photo editor has basic advanced and editing tools, prime photo effects and filters, and other tools such as text, graphics and textures. The portrait retouching feature offers touch ups for skin, mouth, it even changes hair colors and removes blemishes and wrinkles. The design maker offers a variety of templates for different types of content material. The collage maker allows you to combine photos in a unique way for any social media platform.

BeFunky

Price: Free basic account, $34.95 per year billed annually, or $4.95 per month billed monthly.

BeFunky features photo editor, collage maker, graphic designer, and touch up. Each banner template comes pre-sized for the dimensions required by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The neat thing about BeFunky is their emphasis on video tutorials, blog articles providing inspiration, tips, and solutions for challenges that are bound to rise with editing.

Post an ad

Craigslist still remains the most popular classified site in the U.S. It’s simple to navigate. All you need to do is create an account that only requires an email and the rest of the steps are self-explanatory. In your ad title make sure you use words that are straightforward. Start your search with “photographer” or “freelance photographer,” for optimal search results, rather than using extra words surrounding it like “need photographer” or “looking for photographer.”

As a freelancer myself, Craigslist has been a great client outsourcing tool, it spreads the message quick and provides a wide reach, depending on the timing of course. Sometimes you’ll hear back, sometimes you won’t. Just try to be consistent.

Ask your fans

Lastly, always keep in mind that fans can serve as a great resource for just about anything. Reach out to fans and see if anyone who is really into your music wants to help out by taking photos. Depending on the type of photos you need, and if you don’t have the funds to pay them you can mention to them the perks of helping your band out with photography, like free entry to gigs, photo crediting them on all your social media platforms, referring them to other bands, and overall continuing a professional relationship with future pay when circumstances are best fit.

Of course you can always try and negotiate pricing if they want to charge and you can afford a little pay. The goal is of course to help you stay within your budget.


Photography shouldn’t necessarily require expensive tools and equipment. With thorough research on available alternatives, you’ll discover the countless resources available to help customize and improve your photography. Your fans and those that so-fortunately stumble upon you or your band will appreciate you for it!

Do Less, Get More Done: The Ultimate Time Management Tip For Musicians

[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea Ira of New Artist Model.]

 

Pretty much every indie musician I’ve talked to has two big problems that really overshadow just about everything else. Number one, there’s just WAY too much to do. These days, you need to essentially set up a business around your music – which is a full-time job in and of itself – AND you need to find time for practicing, playing, writing, rehearsing, recording, and gigging on top of that. It’s a lot to manage.

And the second big problem is that despite putting a lot of time and effort into their career, many musicians STILL feel stagnant – almost like they’re not making any progress.

So today, let’s solve both problems at the same time, so you can start getting more accomplished and start building up some serious momentum. If you want more guidance and time management tips, I have a time management and productivity guide that you can download for free. Click here to get your free copy.

The Problem with Trying to Do Everything

What if I told you that you were wasting a lot of time and effort doing things that may not have as big an effect on the growth of your career as you thought?

Let me explain. The DIY revolution has created this mindset that indie musicians need to do everything and that they need to do it all themselves.

The there are so many musicians out there competing for attention that you feel like we have to be on every single social media platform out there if you even want to be noticed at all.

Not to mention, the diminishing and fragmenting revenue streams. Today, there are more revenue streams out there than ever before. BUT, the small payouts from things like streaming services can make it feel like you need to have your hand in just about every revenue bucket just to make a decent living.

Now here’s the big flaw – if you’re trying to split your limited time between everything, you probably don’t have the time to dedicate to each to do them really well. And as a result, you’re taking a lot of small steps in different directions.

There are only so many hours in the day and time management is about using them wisely – focusing on the essentials, the big movers that will really make a difference in your career.

Let’s take a look at an example.

It’s totally normal to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Soundcloud to promote your music and connect with your fans. But can you realistically fully understand each platform? Will you know the best ways to engage? The best times to post? All the while pushing out unique content and actively engaging with fans on all platforms? Probably not. All social media platforms require a unique approach if you want to be truly successful.

It’s the same for revenue streams. If you really want to be successful licensing your music, you can’t treat it like a passive income stream. You need to be actively improving your songs, co-writing, networking in the licensing industry, sending personalized emails, and doing research to find the productions your music would fit best.

I hope you’re starting to see just how important focus is. If you try to do everything you just can’t give everything enough attention to make your efforts really successful. In short, you’ll be doing a lot of things half way, never actually putting in enough time to reach your goals.

The Focused Approach

So how do you get passed this perpetual overwhelmed feeling and also start seeing real, meaningful progress in your music career?

It may seem counter intuitive, but the key is to do less – do less but better. If you really want to be successful, it’s not about doing a million different things and hoping it will work out. It’s about knowing where you want to go and taking calculated steps to get there. And saying no to everything else.

Understand Your Goals

So how do you simplify? The first step is to really understand your goals in music. What is the one thing you really want to accomplish with your music? What do you want to spend your days doing?

If you really want to spend most of the year gigging and touring regionally and nationally, why waste your time pursuing sync licenses?

Instead, focus! Make connections in the live industry, develop your setlist, improve the way you set up your merch table, and promote your shows. Maybe you could start doing streamed concerts or house concerts and think up some really cool merch. As you can see, all these tasks really compliment and work with the gigging goal.

As a rule of thumb, every time you’re presented with a new opportunity, ask yourself, “Is this related to my goals in music? Will this help me get closer to my goals?” If the answer is no, it may not be worth your valuable time.

Cut Back

The next thing I’d recommend is doing a time analysis. For the next two or three weeks, write down everything you do each day and how much time you spend on each task. This might seem a little tedious but it can really help you get a bird’s-eye view of just how much time things take.

And finally, it’s time to start cutting things out! What tasks aren’t taking you closer to your goals? What tasks aren’t getting the results you want?

You may find that you’re pouring a ton of time into trying to grow your following on Twitter. And maybe, despite your efforts, Twitter just isn’t catching on for you in terms of engagement compared to your other channels. Maybe you’re just using it because a lot of other musicians do. In this case, it may be best to put Twitter on the back burner and focus on making your other social channels even more awesome. Reallocate your time to a more productive task.

As another example, you might see that posting videos to YouTube doesn’t really align with the goals you set for your career. Despite what you may hear, doing YouTube successfully is a huge undertaking that goes way beyond just posting videos every now and then.

On the flip side, it can be a great career path for musicians who want to release cover videos, music videos, gear reviews, and tour and studio vlogs, and channel monetization and partnerships can become a viable revenue stream if you get enough views and subscribers. YouTube can also tie in well with a Patreon, and many successful YouTube artists have incorporated Patreon into their income strategy to great effect.

 


Time management and staying focused on your goals is going to be an ongoing effort. As your career grows you’ll find you need to reassess how you’re spending your time to make the most of your present opportunities. To help you stay on track, you can also download my free time management guide: The Musician’s Guide to Getting More Done, and revisit it as often as you need to.

If you want more tips, I’d also recommend checking out the book Essentialism.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Quit Your Day Job Just Yet

[Editors Note:  This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Hugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

 

The vast majority of people creating music also need to find another way to pay the bills, at least at first. Making a living from any form of art, be it acting, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, etc., is incredibly difficult, and as the economy stands at the moment, only a certain number of people can be supported. There are plenty of ways to work your way into the biz as a musician, but doing so at the right time, when you’re prepared and truly ready, is an important part of ensuring this is correct for you.

There could be millions of people who want to do nothing but write, record, and tour all day long, and that means quitting the “day job,” which may or may not actually take place during the day. That sounds wonderful, but before you give your two weeks, keep these warnings in mind.

You Haven’t Saved Enough

No matter how hard you try, chances are you’re never going to have a huge nest egg sitting in a bank account somewhere collecting interest, even though we all wish we had one. Even those who are incredibly careful with their money have a difficult time making their savings grow substantially, so don’t feel too bad.

When you’re on your own as a working musician, the money doesn’t come to you in the same way it did when you had a “regular” job. Paychecks aren’t guaranteed, and sometimes you’ll wind up going long periods without earning a dime. You need to have as much cash on hand as possible, budget carefully, be diligent about your savings, and think like a business owner.

You’ll be planning for tours months in advance and spending a lot out of pocket for things like studio time and video shoots, but you also can’t run out of dinero before you actually start making any of it back.

Having said all this, don’t get too insane when it comes to saving money. As I said, it’s hard for everybody, and there’s a good chance that you may have overestimated how thrifty you’d be able to force yourself to be, and that whatever amount you set down in stone as a minimum that must be met in order to leave the working world behind might have been too optimistic.

Be smart and think many times over before you make the leap and quit your job, but don’t wait forever. If you hold off for the day when you have everything perfectly aligned and money to burn, you will likely be disappointed at how long you’ll be waiting.

The Hours

Many musicians complain at length about the hours they need to work between their regular jobs, whether that’s a 9-to-5 or a part-time gig doing anything other than creating music and building their careers in the field they desire to succeed in. It’s a completely fair gripe, and I don’t blame any artist for being less than thrilled about spending copious amounts of time away from what they love doing just to be able to pay the bills. That’s not how things should be, but of course we all know better.

Having said that, it needs to be said that just because you give up the position you took just to afford to live and eat, that doesn’t mean the hours are going to lessen and free time will suddenly become abundant. In fact, many working musicians will tell you that they put in truly insane hours just to make it all work.

Any artist knows it takes a very long time to craft something worthy of sending out into the world—whether that be a song, a painting, a film, a story or any other format—but many working towards doing music full-time don’t realize how much else goes into the career.

Musicians that support themselves based solely on their art only spend some of their time actually crafting tunes. Hour upon hour upon grueling hour can be devoted to a myriad of other tasks that need to be done and done well if the money is going to continue to flow in the right direction. Booking, accounting, all things social, merchandise creating, correspondence with fans and keeping in touch with members of the team (a manager, those in charge of syncs and licenses, lawyers, etc.) is necessary and time-consuming.

Don’t start thinking that just because you’re not reporting to a different boss you’ll have all the time in the world!

Structure

Being entrepreneurial sounds sexy and it’s made to seem glamorous by startup founders and those that brag about how they travel the world while still making ends meet, but at the end of the day, it requires an incredible amount of self-discipline and motivation, and the sad fact is that many people either don’t understand that, or they don’t have what it takes to run their own careers successfully.

The image of the rockstar that sleeps all day and parties all night may sound like a lot of fun, but it couldn’t be farther from what is actually required to survive. Before you can go out on your own and make a go at being your own boss, you need to both understand and respect how important structure is in your everyday life.

Waking up early to make it into a job may suck more mornings than not, but the musicians doing the best stick to the same type of schedule. They have a routine and they stick to it as much as is possible, and many indie acts at the top of their game will tell you that they have dedicated work spaces, hours set aside for this task or that, and enviable organizational skills. That may not be the portrait often painted of a rocker, rapper or pop star, but it’s the truth for many of those who have the career you wish you could.

Buying Social Media Followers – Should You Do It?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Hugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]  

These days, musicians aren’t just selling their art, they are selling themselves. Fans don’t just want to hear songs every so often and go see your live show, they want to feel a real connection with the musicians they love so much, and that’s all thanks to social media. The advent of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a myriad of others has been both a blessing a curse for the world at large, especially artists. It helps forge powerful, lasting, valuable relationships with fans all around the world that previously weren’t possible, but it is also a new demand placed on those working hard to stay afloat.

As is the case with almost anything related to your career as a musician, just getting started and off the ground when it comes to social media can be one of the toughest things about the entire endeavor. It’s so easy to look at both musicians and social celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers and more interactions than they can handle and wonder, “How did they get there? What am I doing wrong?” Well, I can’t help everybody with that second question, but I have a suggestion for the former.

It might be controversial, but I often suggest to those acts just getting started, both in their careers and online, to purchase some social media followers. Yes, that’s right—you should pay money to have people follow you on the various social platforms where you should have a presence, but don’t tell anyone you did (and certainly don’t tell anybody I said to do it).

The idea of purchasing followers, likes, views, and everything else on social media is nothing new, but it is one that has always been despised by many. It is maligned with negative connotations, but it can also be extremely helpful when it comes to kicking things off on social channels, which is very important to you as somebody trying to get the masses to fall in love with who you are and what you create.

When explaining why I believe purchasing social media followers is a good thing, I always use the analogy of a party.

Nobody wants to go to a party until there are plenty of people there and it’s in full force, right? But if that’s the case, how is one supposed to get a party started? The same can be said for your Twitter or Instagram page. Why would anybody want to click the follow button on an account with 25 followers, even if the content seems to be great upon first glance?

Feel free to invite all of your friends and pre-existing fans to join you in these places, and then do a quick Google search to see about upping those numbers. You don’t need many, and in fact, why purchasing, you should do so intelligently. If you are an artist with only a few songs out and yet you have 50,000 followers on Twitter—we’ve all seen these people—nobody is going to believe you, and your efforts will end up backfiring, making you look like a fool in the process.

Think before you buy.

Will 500 followers make you look appear to be on your way? 1,000? Maybe start with one and eventually spend your way to that second figure? There are many different ways to go about this, but you need to be aware that people are going to quickly glance at your follower counts and judge you instinctively based on them.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all an exercise in vanity, and I’d say you’re right, but only partially. Having a respectable follower count on popular platforms shows that some people have invested in you, if even in some small way (and even if they aren’t real, but that’s just between you and I). It tells those that might be potentially interested in booking you to play a venue, a festival, or even to sign to a label that there are people out there that are interested, and that there might actually be something to the artist in front of them.

Buying social media followers, as well as likes on various posts you may upload to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and so on, is something you should consider, and that I’d suggest, but it doesn’t have to be a necessity for everybody. If you want to go the traditional route, feel free, but keep in mind that even the biggest and most successful artists partake in this strategy. Pop stars, rock bands, and rappers all up their counts from time to time with fake followers, just as they do with real ones. You won’t be buying in the same bulk as them, but don’t feel like this is just a no-man’s game.

This tactic shouldn’t cost you much, as all of these services come pretty cheap, which probably won’t surprise you when you take a look at some of the options that pop up on Google (they’re fairly sketchy looking). Think about what I’ve said as you set up or begin to invest time and effort into your social channels, and decide if this is the way you want to go, but don’t worry or think too hard—it is just social media, after all.