As an independent artist, time is money. You’ve got so much to pile onto your plate, it’s important you don’t waste time on things that don’t really need it. Focus on the things that are necessities. Everything else can wait. All artists are probably guilty of it though. It’s just about working out what requires your attention and what doesn’t.
Not being current enough
This one’s a huge waste of time. I don’t mean you have to have all the latest tech and be down with the kids as they say. Sometimes, that can look worse if it’s not you. Remember people are quick to spot inorganic behaviour and acting out of character to stay on trend isn’t the key. However, what is, is being in the 21st century when it comes to your promotion. Think about it, when was the last time someone handed you a flyer, and you sat and read it? I personally just see leaflets being avoided. If someone was to stand in the middle of a city, trying to pass out flyers, I can’t imagine people willingly taking them. That is unless you find the ones who feel too guilty not to.
So, instead of physical promotion and awkwardly standing around asking people to listen to your band. Get online! Go social. It counts. Everyone today is on social media, whether they’re addicted or just use it from time to time. Putting your content online is the best way of getting it heard. As an independent artist, exposure is important. Possibly one of the most powerful features in fact. Think about the physical costs too. You’re not only wasting your time but also money. Social media is free, as are many of the tools out there to make yours stand out. So, why would you want to spend time and money on something you don’t need to?
I’m digging at myself above, don’t worry
Giving too much for nothing in return
Forget when people try and tell you “it’s good exposure though isn’t it?” Yes, sometimes that’s true, and we’ve advised playing for free on several occasions, but the key is, when and where. You have to ask yourself, is it going to benefit you? If not, then why would you take the time to do it? This isn’t me being selfish and suggesting you keep everything to yourself at all times. We say all the time just how important collaborations are. Instead, it’s about not wasting time you don’t have on something that won’t pay.
Just be super cautious with what you give out to people. It’s fine if in the long run you’ll gain something from it, but someone telling you they aren’t going to pay you, but you’ll gain experience isn’t really ticking those boxes. Think of the amount of practise that goes into a live performance. You aren’t just giving up your time on the day, you’re giving up hours of your life prior to the big performance. That’s time and effort that could be spent on increasing your artist awareness. Independent artists can only stretch so far, especially when focusing on growth and that’s something you have to remind yourself.
I’m not apologising for the cat GIFs, they’re great
Not accepting help
A big no, don’t do this to yourself, trust me. It isn’t worth it. Yes you might get there on your own eventually, but it will take twice as long. Again doubling your time which could be spent on other projects. You don’t have to be a one-person team to be an independent artist. The name might suggest that but believe it or not, you are allowed help. You’re independent in the sense, you make your own music without being signed to a label. If you’re flying solo throughout the music world then you are an independent artist despite allowing people to lend you a hand.
Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say, but it also wasn’t built by just one person. Remember that next time you’re trying to take on everything. So, you have a friend who can help promote via socials, allow them to! Or, maybe you have a videographer mate who you can collab with. Let people help you where they can and when you have a bit more free time yourself, you can return that favour. The people you know in your social life and the best for getting the ball rolling with promotion. Allow them to do that, ask them to. I’m certain they’re not going to say no. After all, independent artists help independent artists, right?
But… you don’t have to be
Taking on too much
Not everything you have on your to-do-list has to be done immediately. Some things can wait a little while. Sometimes independent artists put way too much pressure on themselves. Actually I’d go as far to say most of the time they do. Life can seem like it’s travelling way too fast to keep up, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Slow down a little and see what you’ve already achieved before moving on to the next task. Give yourself a break, it won’t hurt. In fact, it could do you the world of good and your fans are going to understand. Running solo can wear you out, please don’t let it.
Why not try writing a list and prioritising the things that need to be done and what order you should focus on them in. Start with anything that needs urgent attention. Perhaps this will be promoting your new release but working on new artist images can wait a little while. Trying to do too much within one day will make you less motivated to continue. Break things down and tackle each bit at a time. Again coming back to my previous point, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
A label isn’t something you need immediately
Many independent artists think they need to find an agency or a label to support their growth. This isn’t the case, you can grow without the extra help. In fact, trying to get signed or giving your work to a business too early on might do more damage than good. They are always going to have the time to invest in you, teaching you new things. Instead, for them, it will be a bit of promotion, and you might not get much more with it.
The problem also comes when you’re not in a position to keep up. Perhaps they’ve secured you gigs or promo, but you don’t have the content to fill the gap, or enough of it at least. You’re in a position to rush work or just burnout because you’re trying to reach expectations of someone who’s been in the game for a lot longer. You need to work on establishing your release plan and schedule first. Then you can go into it a bit more prepared. Otherwise, you’re likely to fall to the back and if you’re part of a label or service, you want to be getting the most out of them.
These are just some examples of how independent musicians can waste their time on things that aren’t necessarily important in the beginning. It’s best to build up your foundations first and accept any help you can get. After all, there’s no point burning yourself out at the start of your career. Otherwise, how are you going to progress up the chain? Focus on anything that makes you as an independent artist happy and the rest will follow. Your music should be the main priority to start with as this is what will gain you the following you need. Of course, promotion and other tools are critical, but your music needs to speak for itself at the end of the day.