by Bethany Stobbe
In Part 1 I shared the good, the bad, and the therapy (lol) about being an independent musician in today’s music scene. But there is much more to music than just making it or dealing with the inevitable “haters”. There is also some really fun and really random things that go along with it so let’s continue!
To be an Indie Musician, you need to be a…
A Sound Expert
I think as equally important as being good at your instrument or singing, is knowing what sounds good. Now good is subjective, but I’m not talking simply about the music itself, I’m talking about mixing and producing. You have to learn how to mix and produce your songs WELL. Nothing can take an awesome song to the grave like a bad mix. Ever hear a song where you can hardly hear the vocals or everything sounds kind of muted and flat or empty? Guarantee something wasn’t right in the mix.
The mix is what happens after everything is recorded. Mixing, in simple terms, is adjusting volumes of everything, EQ, and making the overall song sound balanced. No matter the genre, there are things that will ALWAYS need to be done to bring the music to life. A wrong move here can be the difference of “holy crap why isn’t this band famous” to “these guys suck, it sounds like they recorded this on a phone”.
I am in no way saying we are amazing mixers and have nothing to learn. Not at all. But we have spent MONTHS learning as we work on what to do and what not to do. If people can’t hear your music the way you envision it, they can’t connect with it. You could have an amazing song with killer lyrics, riffs, and comp, but if people can’t hear and FEEL that, then they’re going to glaze over your music.
Side note: A weird thing happens when you get in tune with EQ and frequencies. It ruins some great music for you. Cuz now you can hear that there is a boost at 10k on the hit hat and it’s soooo tinny and that’s all you can hear now every time you hear that song…. But I digress.
We’ve also learned (the hard way) that how you set up your room for mixing matters A LOT. We had a ton of trial and error with our first 2 songs. We’d get done mixing, go listen in the car and all of a sudden the bass was completely gone or the vocals were drowned out. We’ve moved around our mixing space countless times. Added and taken things away, and pretty much have had to become well versed in room acoustics. Who knew you’d have to understand how walls and objects affect your music 🤷🏻♀️
A Marketing Expert
I bet you didn’t think you’d have to become good at marketing to be an Indie. Yeah, neither did I. I think all us musicians would like to believe that we can just make our music and put it out there and in will roll the fame and fortune. Buttttt that’s just not the reality of it ????The reality is that no one (other than your mom and besties) is going to “discover you” if you don’t learn how to SHOW people your music.
Something funny happens when we start to create our own work and we completely forget how WE have found our favorite artists and music. I’d be willing to bet you didn’t find your favorite band or artist by them rolling up to your IG and going “HEY NICE PIC LOL LISTEN TO MY NEW SONG PLEASE F4F HAHA 🔥”. If that happened you’d probably be like “uh… no thanks”. Why am I telling you this? Because this is the biggest marketing “secret” or expert tip I have ever learned: market like you would talk to a friend. Think about how real-life relationships are made. Don’t try and SELL people something before they even know who you are. It doesn’t work because it’s not natural.
I’ve had to learn how to show people our music without SELLING to them. How to help people “Discover” us without me knocking their door down with unsolicited pleads for attention. I’ve had to learn the physiological process that goes into becoming a fan of an artist or brand. And no, I didn’t learn some ninja mind tricks or some shady marketing “hack”. But I did have to rewire my thinking on what works and what doesn’t work, and be open to trying different things to get our music out there.
Most of all, I’ve had to learn that we have to be willing to spend money to make fans. I’m not talking about buying comments, likes, or follows, I’m talking about finding creative ways to show people our music. That means advertising that doesn’t look like advertising, which is still advertising so it costs money. Gotta spend money to make money (or fans I should say). It’s no different when you’re an Indie musician.
A Graphic Designer
You know when you see a really kick a$$ album cover? Graphic design. Or a nice website? Graphic design. Or a band poster? Graphic design. Maybe a cool T-shirt? Graphic design. Lucky for us, Trevor was already a professional graphic designer for almost 10 years before we started our own stuff. It was easy (and free) for us to make an awesome website, band logo, branding, album covers, etc.
Now, in my opinion, having a good branding for your band is really important. Why? Think about a brand that you always recognise instantly without even seeing the business name. Like McDonalds. As soon as you see those golden arches, you know it’s McDonalds and you’re gonna get the same delicious Big Mac with Fries and a Diet Coke as always. Your band should have the same effect. As soon as someone sees those lips with the tongue sticking out, they know it’s The Rolling Stones and they’re gonna hear that good ‘ol classic Rock ‘n Roll.
Your brand is what people will know you by and if it’s all over the place, or non-existent, it’s harder for people to connect with your vision or vibes. You’re not explaining who you are or what you’re about if your band logo is a skull with a knife in it’s head but you’re a smooth jazz/pop fusion band. I think this is one of the most overlooked things by new bands and Indies. Cuz it’s about the music, right brah? Yes, it is. But if you’re serious about music as a career, you need to create like an artist but think like a business. So I guess I’m saying, if you’re an indie, you’re also kind of a business person too 💼
Okay so I knowwwww this is a lot to take in, buttttt there is even MORE stuff that goes into being an Indie 😮 I’ll give you a little break from my rants and I’ll finish up with a few final things we’ve learned in our Part 3 post next. Thanks for reading! 😉