1. The Pure DIY
Do-it-yourself (DIY) and totally direct-to-fan. Not affiliated, this soloist or band is handling mostly everything themselves. Typically very early stage, with low levels of income but ample inspiration. Early fans, and early signs of traction.
2. Unsigned DIY w/ a team
Still toughing it out and totally direct-to-fan, but with a team of believers. This team is sometimes compensated, sometimes not. But they’re always extremely passionate about growing their artist. Sometimes they’re also writing material. Actually, this ‘team’ could be a super-dedicated manager, building things from scratch. It’s a beautiful thing.
3. The ‘Indie’
So ‘indie’ gets tossed around a lot and means different things to different people. Some people say the term applies to an artist signed to an indie label. Others use it to refer to an artist or band that is successful, but independent and not signed to a label.
But the term ‘indie’ almost always applies to an artist with a decent level of success, with a solid fanbase. You’re starting to make it; you’ve got cred. You can fill clubs (or larger) and people care when you release new music.
4. The Signed Artist
Direct-to-fan relationships matter for every tier of artist, but the signed artist has potentially serious resources to draw upon. Depending on the relationship, that means money, creative connections, and access to a (hopefully) knowledgeable team. This can be an independent or major label, publisher, or really any company willing to finance your growth.
5. The Artist Who Has Label Offers — But Turns Them Down
After pouring through the data, Vydia noticed something interesting. After about 20 million YouTube views, artists start to get label offers. But many of those artists prefer to stay independent — and keep all the revenue to themselves. And with success stories like Chance the Rapper, who can blame them?
6. The Superstar Signed Artist
These are the rock stars selling out stadiums, getting hundreds of millions of streams, and probably getting terrestrial radio play. A lucky spot for any artist these days.
7. The Professional, Gigging Musician
Cash Me Outside Girl doesn’t need musical talent. A tenor saxophonist playing jazz clubs in Chicago does. The professional has the chops to play gigs and make money, and can use direct-to-fan platforms to create better fan relationships and even expand income. But these are working folks, so f—k the fame.
8. The Symphony Orchestra Player
This is related to the gigging musician, with the only difference being a steady orchestra chair. Actually, any ensemble that plays consistently fits this category. So, the second violin of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra spends most of her time playing with one orchestra, instead of constantly playing different jobs.
9. The Hobbyist
Maybe a serious musician in the past, now it’s just for fun. Sadly, even extremely talented musicians can experience difficulty making ends meet. So this category can include some bad-ass players that have day jobs, families, or other things laying claim to their time.
10. The Hobbyist In Denial (HID)
Lofty aspirations, lots of missed notes. Sometimes self-financed (see Florence Foster Jenkins).
11. The Songwriter
Sometimes a performer, oftentimes not, this breed of musician is putting songs and lyrics together and hopefully scoring some hits. Usually behind-the-scenes.
12. The Post-Label, Direct-to-Fan Artist
Amanda Palmer is one of the biggest examples of this. Palmer was built up by a major label, had a falling out, and subsequently ventured solo. It was a messy departure, but ultimately a good stepping stone.
Actually, some really big superstars also fit into this category, simply because their contracts ran out! A prime example is Radiohead, but plenty of post-label artists are thriving out there.
13. The Producer/Composer
Typically behind the scenes, but oftentimes grabbing the spotlight — especially in hip-hop. Either way, this is a different type of animal, with roles that can span rap producer to Hollywood composer to stock music creator.
14. The Teacher
A lot of active musicians also teach; some are solely dedicated to instruction. Incidentally, some are actively teaching others and helping other musicians out — even if they don’t have a formal teaching gig.
15. The Legacy Artist
The glory days are over, but hopefully the revenues are not. Or, if they are, reunion tours and remastered releases are always tricks to consider. Of course, it always helps if everyone’s alive.
We’re getting the band back together…