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A DIY musician not only creates and plays music for the love of it, but also masters the nuts and bolts of business management with the goal to share their music and, eventually, “go pro.” Usually, one goes into the business with a burning desire to play music, not to managesocial media accounts, organize shows and tours, build a fanbase, design merchandise andwebsites, manage a group of people, or become an accountant. To be successful, a DIY artist must have the entrepreneurial drive to overcome obstacles and do whatever it takes to create something out of nothing. Here are seven of the most common challenges that DIY artists face – plus, ways to overcome them.
As an independent musician, you usually have no choice but to do it yourself – whether you know what you’re doing or not. “Action has to happen from within, because it’s not coming from anywhere else,” says Michael Prentky of Boston-based Mozambican group Kina Zoré. “I took it upon myself to fill the gap. It took me a long time to learn the protocol, the etiquette, the language, the formality (or lack thereof), and, most importantly, the stick-to-it-iveness to get shows.”
Being a bandleader means also managing “the wild and crazy personalities, lives, and schedules of your musicians – and still having your band by the end of the day,” Singh continues. “[As a DIY musician, I’m] trying to turn this into a financially supportive project for everybody. To get there, everyone has to invest and make sacrifices, but they have additional priorities.”
Communication. “People are dynamic, moving forces. Open communication is an ongoing need,” says Singh.
“It feels like you’re going against the grain,” says performing or rehearsing. You’re not getting up at the same time as everyone else, so there’s a certain feeling of disconnect from the rest of society. You don’t necessarily have society’s ‘tribal energy’ backing you on an immediate level.”“Your weekends are spent either
At times, being a performer can be so daunting. Perhaps you want to take your career to the next level, whether that means recording an album or going on tour, but you don’t have the resources or the means to acquire do it.
“I think the most discouraging part of being an artist is the fact that art is so subjective,” says Carpenter. “You could write the greatest song in the world, and there would still be a percentage of people who wouldn’t like it. They may not even have a reason for not liking it. No matter how thick your skin, rejection is always a tough pill to swallow.”
“The act of remaining competitive with peers in the industry who generally have much larger support teams around them can be a challenge,” says Carpenter. “But I also think it can be very beneficial to an artist if he or she is up to the task. By managing all these different facets of your career on your own, you become more in tune with the industry as a whole – and that can be an extremely positive thing.”
“It’s always more work than can be done,” says Singh. “You’re creating a business out of nowhere that has to be able to support the art you’re creating in the first place, plus everything that goes along with that. The main challenge is having enough time and energy and entrepreneurial drive to create legitimate support. It’s a monstrous challenge to have as much vigor as you need for your creative process.”
Set a time limit on your work process. Allow yourself breaks. Singh’s solution? “Just like you set aside the time and space for your practice and your sleep, you have to do the same for answering emails, booking tours, scheduling, and promoting.”
A band, much like a business, is most successful when there’s a team behind it. But in the early stages, it’s often one or two people who must become mavericks to make the magic happen! It takes a long and strong effort to get to that point, but it’s worth the hard work to do what you love.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a DIY musician? Sound off in the comments below!
Christiana Usenza is musician and dancer with a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from Tufts University. She has ventured as far as Argentina, Brazil, and Ghana to study music and dance, and has an endless curiosity for music genres, styles, and scenes across the world. She teaches music, writes music, and works in the booking office at Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA. She is a member of the band Paper Waves, and they are currently working on their first album.*
*This article originally appeared on Sonicbids – republished here with permission.