We’re seeing more and more artists successfully self-manage these days. So, whether you haven’t found the right manager yet or like the idea of being in control of every aspect of your business, anything is indeed possible. Yes, you’ll need to be realistic when setting goals, and prepare for some serious graft, but in return, you know that all the profits are coming straight to you and you’ve got complete artistic control.
Thinking about it? Perhaps the main obstacle you’ll need to overcome is funding. The benefit of signing with a label is the major cash injection that comes with it. Perhaps it will take you longer to quit your day job as you’ll need your wages to fund the early costs of your business? And you’ll likely be spending a few sleepless nights writing emails to industry insiders before getting up for the daily grind like everyone else. That said, the rewards of being self-managed, including the sense of freedom, are (for some) unmatched.
There’s more to the choices you make than money though. It seems a cliché, but it’s more important than ever to connect with your fans as an independent artist. Without the backing of a label, their support is not only going to earn you money but help you make connections in the industry. Play live shows as much as you can in a variety of locations, and make sure your online presence is at the top of its game. Post content and new music regularly and keep your YouTube updated with quality video content. Follow in the footsteps of artists like Stormzy and connect with your fans on a personal level by replying to their tweets and messages. You’re making yourself look relatable, which fans love. Social media is one of the reasons self-management is an option now more than ever. You have a free marketing tool at your fingertips; so don’t be afraid of using it.
Focus on your strengths; If you’re handy with a camera, shoot music videos and promo clips to accompany your songs. If you find a unique selling point, one can become known or recognised for a standout trait (for example, Ed Sheeran and his iconic loop machine performances or Stefflon Don with her bold styling and unique lyrical style). Build a brand identity and carry it across everything you do, from your social channels to the physical merch that you can sell at gigs. It can help to make you memorable and build a strong foundation for your success.
Don’t ignore the legal stuff either. Perhaps you’re collaborating on a track, or a friend is helping you out with album artwork. Outsourcing work is needed but you’ll regret it if you don’t sit down and discuss the financial and legal bits at the time. Just because you don’t have a manager to take care of this stuff, doesn’t mean that you can skip over the admin. Figure out who owns the copyright to what and get any tracks registered with PRS and PPL, as you don’t want to risk losing out on that early income (if you’re baffled by any of this, hit UD up and we’ll help you nail the learning).
When it comes to getting your music out there you have to be your own label initially too.. Once your music is registered, check out distribution services like Ditto that will enable you to get your music to the major digital platforms like YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, Spotify and any other relevant streaming services. This will make it possible to collect royalties from plays of your tracks, and give your fans a central place to enjoy, comment on and share your music.
Words by Jesse Bernard