…and four things you probably do. The following comes from Lee Parsons, founder of Ditto Music. Ditto is a UK- and US-based digital distribution service that counts over 50,000 artists worldwide.
1. Major labels and radio are NOT against you.
Don’t get into the ‘us against them’ frame of mind that seems to have hit a peak in 2012. Labels still want to sign good music and radio deejays are desperate for great new sounds. View labels and traditional outlets as potential partners.
A big reason labels and radio pass on music is a lack of originality. Make sure your music is not only great but sounds original. Get some honest feedback by people outside of your circle and as hard as it can be, take notice of their criticism.
Understand the music industry in 2013 (and that it needs you).
2. Music may be getting worse, but that’s a good thing.
With ‘Gangnam Style’ at worldwide number 1 and ‘X Factor’ controlling the media, you may have lost all faith in the 2012 music buying public.
Do you spend a lot of time telling people how bad current music is? Don’t waste your energy. Every major trend like ‘X Factor’ makes real music lovers even more inclined to seek out something good to listen to.
Recognize the music industry for what it is: a business. There has always been a throwaway product aimed solely at the teenage market. Ignore this. Keep your head down and concentrate on what makes you great.
3. Survive as a musician in 2013 (it takes more than playing an instrument).
If you still do not know what the PRS [or ASCAP and BMI] do, or insist that you are a musician and not a businessperson, that is not good enough in 2013.
The good news is that just a small bit of work will put you in the top 10 percent of musicians. Spend some time learning to use social media properly. Join some organizations (AIM [or A2IM in the US] is a great place to start) and start building solid relationships. Think of your music as a product and then decide how to market it to your audience. Keep your financials in order and properly plan your budgets.
4. Rip off other artists (but be original).
90% of artists seem to be influenced by the most popular 10% of current artists.
Mumford & Sons, Foo Fighters, and Rihanna are all esteemed artists, but if you are only using the biggest artists in the world as a point of reference you will sound second best. And worse — just like every other artist on the circuit.
Music streaming has opened a whole new world for discovering music. Sites like Pitchfork, amazingradio, and Spotify playlists provide you with new music months before it gets to radio. So drop your preconceptions. Go discover something brand new and get inspired.
5. It’s not 2005 anymore (so stop acting like it online).
Faking popularity briefly worked in 2005. Just because Myspace is back doesn’t mean it will work now.
A label is not going to sign you because you have 50,000 fans, and a music lover is going to like your music whether you have 1 fan or 1,000.
Are Facebook likes important? They are as important as you make them. Do not spend time collecting Facebook likes; spend time collecting fans. Whether that is from your mailing list, social media or in person, real fans are all that matter in 2013.
6. Don’t be afraid to start with a clean slate (and have FUN)
Have you been stuck in a rut music-wise? Are you becoming less excited by the music you are playing?
In 2008 singer Nate Reuss was still in his group The Format. A name change and a new direction and he now leads one of the biggest acts on the planet: FUN. It’s 2013, a great time to scrap the rules, improve your style.
Don’t be afraid to start again.
7. PLZ SHARE MY VIDEO RT! RT!! (#TEAMFOLLOWBACK).
So many artists tweet out asking people to get involved, without taking the time to support or interact with others.
Twitter in 2013 means interaction. There is an overflow of content. People are more aware of being spammed at.
Take some time to get to know your followers. Start sharing other artists’ music. Talk to people. Remember the 9/10 rule. For every promotional tweet, make sure you send out 9 engaging non-promotional tweets.
8. Don’t spend all your time promoting.
So many musicians spend time all their time promoting music that they have not spent the proper time and effort producing.
It has become a lot easier to make music. This has its good and bad points. But just because you can mix and master a whole album on Garageband doesn’t mean you should.
Are you handing out music to people that doesn’t sound like your live act? Have you ever said, ‘This is an old demo, we don’t sound like this anymore’?
Do not spend time promoting music that does not fully represent you. Spend extra time polishing your music and invest in some quality production.
9. Set wildly ambitious goals (but make a plan to achieve them).
If your ambition for 2013 is to sign a deal and sell 1 million albums you are going to set yourself up for disappointment.
However, if your ambition is to record a great EP and triple your fanbase, that is easily do-able. So make a list of all of your goals for 2013. And make some notes on each point describing how you are going to make this happen. Stick to your plan and check back each month to see how you are doing.
10. The term “unsigned” is irrelevant (Who needs labels anyway?)
Don’t be worried about signing a record deal, concentrate on building fans and making great music.
Until recently the only way to be successful was to sign a record deal. In 2013, artists are getting their own distribution, doing their own PR and having major success independently. Ironically, once you are successful on your own terms, a label will come knocking.
11. Go Gangnam Style (Please don’t really go Gangnam Style)
At the start of 2012, no one would have predicted (or hoped) that the year’s most popular track in the world would be ‘Gangnam Style.’
You can do the opposite of everything I have just said and still be successful. In 2013, there are no rules. Get out there and make it happen.