Could you be a DIY musician in today’s industry?
DIY musicians have stormed the music industry in recent years. Experts speaking to Rolling Stone estimated that self-published artists generated $643 million worldwide in 2018, stealing market share directly from record label titans.
After several decades of sitting on the fringes of the industry, DIY has seen a resurgence thanks to platforms like Bandcamp, YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, which offer musicians a way to upload and distribute their music directly to fans.
Before you quit your day job to become a full-time DIY musician, find out which musicians have found success with the method, how they’ve done it, and what you’ll need to know if you’re going to make it big.
Doing DIY right: best-in-class artists in action
The Buzzcocks were the first successful DIY pioneers. Their Spiral Scratch EP was released in 1977 on their own record label (New Hormones). They advertised it in punk zines and relied on mail orders and sales from independent retailers in London, cleverly circumventing the record industry and inspiring other successful DIY artists like The Raincoats to take the same initiative.
Contemporary musicians like FKA twigs, Tyler, the Creator and Starstorm Digital’s founder, Kai (Esprit D’Air), have since used the DIY ethic to successfully gain international exposure, award wins and critical acclaim for their music.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bring Me the Horizon channelled the DIY ethos to record, produce and release their single Parasite Eve. Although they aren’t a DIY band, they by-passed traditional methods and used what they had to create their new single under quarantine.
What does DIY mean in a modern music industry?
The DIY approach to music production and distribution can be effective if you take the time to cover off all the bases. Here are some key areas to consider…
Digital marketing and advertising skills
You don’t need a business degree to market your music effectively, but you do need a basic understanding of how to put your product in front of your target listener and how to pitch it in a way that’s attractive to them. You’ll need to manage advertising campaigns which hit the sites, apps and platforms your listeners are using, without wasting a penny of your budget. It’s not easy!
If you’re serious about learning marketing yourself, you can take industry-specific courses on websites like Skillshare to make sure you’re maximising every touchpoint and every sales opportunity.
Social media management
Social media management is important for PR and promotion, as well as connecting with your fanbase…but only if you do it properly. Many bands make the mistake of only using social media when they have something to promote, but true engagement starts when you blend promotional posts with personal content and fan engagement.
You should also pay close attention to artists who have gained traction with Twitch, TikTok, YouTube and Vevo — is yours the kind of audience who might respond well to this? If so, how would you approach it?
Professional website, email address and merch store
In the modern DIY scene, digital presence is everything. Although your social media accounts and streaming platforms are the most high-traffic sites in this instance, your website is still important — it acts as a booking funnel and a storefront for your merch.
If you can’t afford to put money down for a professional website, you should seriously consider using an easy website builder. A custom domain name, professional photography, business email address and a secure payment gateway are all non-negotiables. Don’t forget to optimise your website before you launch it, so you can maximise the number of visitors it gets (and get more people listening in the process!).
Using LinkedIn to build professional relationships
When you choose to go it alone, LinkedIn can become one of your greatest tools. You never know when you may need to call in a favour or find a trusted expert! A savvy DIY musician will connect with professionals in all industries and knows when to leverage their contacts to achieve their goals. Don’t be shy about sending a connection request!
Copywriter, blogger, author and general menace.