In the beginning of the semester, while everyone was gearing up to start the new academic year, I was finishing up the last bits of promotion for my debut album. It was the result of a two-year long process of finding my voice, recognizing my strengths and improving my weaknesses. At first, it all seems very easy, but while working on my project I did learn a few very important things.
- Study and practice your craft
This is the part that is mentioned just as frequently as it is overlooked, yet it may be one of the most important steps in developing your artistry. I have never been a natural born singer. However, singing was something I enjoyed doing, which motivated me to better my abilities. I even Googled breathing techniques and scale exercises to improve my pitch. This taught me a lot about self-improvement and staying critical about yourself, especially because criticism is something that you will definitely have to face in the field of creatives. As for writing, I learned that listening to music is essential. Gain inspiration from different musical pieces, analyze structures of lyrics and try to incorporate them in your own work. This has elevated my writing skills tremendously and it continues to help me when I’m lacking inspiration.
- Music distribution websites
Whereas in earlier days you may have had to either receive support from major distribution companies or maintain a huge network of connections at radio stations, nowadays you can get your music on streaming services rather easily. Websites like Tunecore and Fiverr allow you to get your music on apps like Spotify and YouTube. Some ask you to pay prices ranging from 5-20 EUR per song or album, others use monthly subscriptions in exchange for unlimited uploading minutes. Some of these sites even have apps through which you can upload mp3’s on your iPhone, making it even possible to upload a song in the comfort of your bed. This was important for me, as I had no connections in the music industry whatsoever when I embarked on my journey to becoming an independent artist. Using these distribution services provided me with a platform to perform my artistry on.
- Your environment has the best connections
As I mentioned before, I did not know any industry professionals personally. However, I did have some friends in high school that shared the same passion for music as I did. I reached out to them and one of them had a home studio. I ended up recording my debut album in that same studio. Also, when I was planning the release of my second single, another friend of mine who was into photography helped me shoot the cover art. Not only was this a fun experience for us all, it also helped us train our skills in our respective fields. Sometimes, you may have plenty of ideas but no connections to execute them, and therefore it is important to look closely in your environment. Especially in the IBCommunity, there are plenty of creatives that are willing to help you.
- Find your niche audience and work from there
With new ‘Lil-something’ rappers being born every other day, it has become tempting to simply follow the formula of preceding successful artists. ‘Appealing to an audience as big as you can will make you famous!’ Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), this was not the truth for me. When I was trying to establish my musical style, I really tried to emulate the likes of Bryson Tiller and Drake, simply because they were the most popular R&B/Hip-Hop artists around at that time. However, as I was creating more music, I discovered that a lack of authenticity came with that emulation. People like to listen to music that they feel is real, and it’s also easier to create from an authentic place. Don’t dumb your art down for the world, wait until the world is ready to appreciate your art as is.
Now you do it! No one is going to do it for you. In all of these,, the essential element in keeping me motivated is having a good work ethic. Do your research, practice your notes, rewrite those songs and most of all, make sure you’re enjoying every part of it. Remember, you will have downfalls, as expertise is preceded by process and progress.