An introduction to The DIY Musician Model
Over the course of my 18-year music career, I’ve formed a concept for the process for what the ideal cycle should be for independent musicians to create and release music.
I’ve taken inspiration from mentors and experience to use strategies employed by successful eCommerce business and apply them to musicians to build sustainable music careers.
I call this process The DIY Musician Model… You can see the 5 overall concepts of the cycle below.
Cultivate A Successful Mindset
If you are looking for ways to build your own music brand and earn money out of it, having the right mindset and learning about the music industry is essential.
Understanding how you will maintain creativity over a sustained period of time along with balancing all the work involved, taking a project from nothing to reality, will determine the success your receive.
Mark Zuckerberg once remarked, “The biggest risk is not taking any risks.” An increasing number of musicians tend to agree with this notion today. Musicians are gradually accepting the word “entrepreneur”. To make a successful living as a musician, you want to think and act like a successful business.
Musicians who want to make a living in music need to be organised, consistent, and extremely professional in their approach to stand out. As entry requirements to get into the industry have lowered, more artists are flooding the market than ever.
Develop Better Habits And Routines
For musicians, like any other businessperson, their business will be exposed to wild successes and irrefutable failures. However, whatever it might be, you need to accept whatever you get and always stay humble.
As an artist-entrepreneur, there will be situations where you feel disheartened or overwhelmed, but don’t let these temporary feelings stand in your way of achieving your goals.
You can learn and understand various skills from various other creative industries for guidance too.
Look for inspiration from content creators who earn a living from their followers or eCommerce websites that convert a high number of shoppers.
Plus, never try to do all the work alone – unless you’re a glutton for punishment – the music business (marketing, brand development, etc…) and creating music (writing, recording, etc…) are two separate skill sets and must be approached differently.
As an artist, you need a separate space for your art. So by effective delegation, you can distribute your tasks and face new challenges with determination and reach success.
Build Your Brand
The shifting trends in music consumption have flipped the old business models on their head.
If you follow the new way of doing things, you’ll quickly realize that your music is part of your brand marketing and not the product you are trying to sell.
Your goal as an independent musician in the modern music industry should be to create content through your brand to draw fans in. If they like what you do, they will compensate you for your art through the buying of your products, attending your shows, and becoming part of your journey.
This stage in the process is all about defining a clear plan that outlines your assets, merchandise, audience, micro-niche, culture, story, tactics, and goals to name a few.
It’s also where you begin to decide what work to take on yourself as DIY musician, what to automate, and what to delegate to experts around you.
Create Your Assets
Once you’ve got yourself in the right mindset and have a clear plan in place, you can begin to create all the different content required to entertain, inspire, or educate your audience.
Your plan should have any assets listed along with the when, where or how they will be shared or used.
Assets can be videos, photos, music, products, social pages, blog posts, merchandise, websites, eCommerce stores, email lists, or anything you plan to create or share with your audience.
Working on your assets up front allows you to be creative first and then switch into another mindset for marketing your products and content.
You may be able to create a lot of your assets yourself, but you will probably have to outsource or automate some of the creative or technical tasks.
This stage of the process could take weeks, months, or years depending on the scope and scale of your project. Make sure you’ve properly assessed how long a project will take (always overestimate) and what resources are required to properly complete the involved assets.
Find Your Fans
Now you’ve created all the assets needed to run your campaigns, you need to find your fans.
You should have a clear idea who it is your targeting and who would be interested in your music. The approach of making music or products for “everybody” ends up with a generic nothingness that nobody will want.
The more detail you can fill in about your audience, and the more you stand for something (a.k.a. niche down), the better you will be able to leverage the tools to find and engage these people.
Although demographics (i.e. age, gender, location) are great places to start, you also need to understand the “Why” behind your audiences’ behavior. This is called psychographics.
The Problem For Musicians
As musicians, we don’t necessarily solve direct problems.
For example; if you have a leaky tap, you call a plumber.
Musicians solve existential problems through their creative interpretations and music is great way to comfort, inspire, or entertain people.
For this reason you need to have a very good understanding of the reasons why someone would be interested in your music brand. Once you know that, it just a case of creating marketing campaigns that target these people and behaviours. The language you use on landing pages and websites should also motivate those who you seek to turn into fans.
This stage is all about running marketing campaigns and walking people through a nurturing process with your music brand.
According to a Google study, it requires at least 7 hours of content, with 11 touchpoints (i.e. interactions with you), over 4 platforms before anyone will be in the right place to buy something from you.
That means that the person who streamed your 3 minute song once on Spotify, isn’t going to buy your merch.
But, the person who has listened to all your music online, watched all your vlogs, read all your blogs, and interacted directly with you on different social platforms. They are your raving fans who will buy anything from you.
Monetize Your Music
This is the part most musicians are seeking.
Obviously, we have to pay bills and survive in a capitalistic society. Instruments, equipment, and advertising, all costs money. But, like any other business, you have to put down some investment first in either time, assets, or your own money.
The trope of a “starving artist” is one many can relate to (even myself at one time) and takes a mindset shift (see step 1 of the DIY musician model) to escape from.
However, if you have put in the ground work to truly understand what it is your creating and who for. There are a plethora of tools and ways to monetize your music brand.
You’re Not Selling Music
Music streaming is gaining a lot of flak for how little it pays its artists, and although I agree the model is broken, this has meant that the music itself isn’t the product you’re selling and music is now essentially free.
You should make sure you have optimized your income stream from this revenue source by making sure you register your tracks with the appropriate royalty collection agencies in your country, along with using a reputable distributor.
But, being on these highly algorithmic music platforms gives you massive exposure for not very much cost at all. (I pay less than £35/year for unlimited music releases on all major music streaming and download sites.)
The way to truly monetize your music, is to focus on your raving fans and actually give them something of value.
This can be anything from stickers, t-shirts, and hats to CD’s (yes, fans still buy them), live shows, and exclusive experiences.
You have to be entrepreneurial and forward-thinking in your endeavors. Whinging about how the industry no longer values music (which it actually does) isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Sometimes the thing that actually makes you money to continue your music career might not directly come from your music.
I know many artists who also give music lessons, produce for others, or licence their music for film & tv, that helps fuel their passion.
There is no reason you can’t make more money from one income stream to help support other ways of making money online. Why not use your skills and help others?
The more income streams you develop that align with your goals, the better you’ll be able to monetize your music and have a fulfilling and satisfying life and career.