What is it Like to be a Recording Artist?
When you google the definition of music artist, the results read, “a person who composes, records, and releases music, often through a record label or independently…music artist often face intermittent periods of unemployment, long nights in the studio, and frequent travel to performance venues”.
Google – and Wikipedia – pretty much hit the nail on the head with it.
While the jet-set lifestyle and being at a studio might seem like a luxury lifestyle, the big thing that should be jumping out to you from that description is ‘intermittent periods of unemployment. This is a reality of the music industry and is why most recording artists choose to start with their music as a side hustle.
You can definitely become the recording artist with a garage full of sports cars and sold-sold stadium shows. The chances of it happening, though, are pretty slim. Even if you do make it big, these facts will be a reality of your life at the early stages of your career.
Even so-called ‘success’ recording artists face their own daily struggles. Imagine the pressure of having millions of fans following your every move. We’ve all known at least one artist who has been criticized for a lackluster album. Can you imagine getting that criticism after putting your heart and soul into an album?
If you want to become a recording artist, you need to understand the reality of the industry you’re about to walk into.
Is it rewarding? Absolutely.
Can you chase your dreams? 100%
The reality is that you probably don’t have a major or the backing of a major label to help you fund your career. At this stage, you’ll be doing it all independently. The idea of being an independent artist might be scary, but it’s not.
This checklist takes you through everything you need to know and do so you can get your foot in the door and become a recording artist.
What You Need to Start as a Recording Artist
You’re also going to have to get comfortable with the idea of promoting yourself and your music. There isn’t a manager or a PR team waiting in the wings to do it for you as an independent artist.
These two things are what you should keep in mind as you read through our checklist.
This checklist for getting started is based on some of the biggest mistakes made by independent artists when they’re getting started.
Here’s your cheat sheet of mistakes you want to avoid.
- No biography online – either on your website or social media.
At a minimum, your online biography should say who you are (or your artist name) and where you’re from. If you want to stay anonymous, you can put in some fun generic facts that help you build a relationship with your audience. Potential fans and followers want to find out more about you and who you are.
- No collective links to all your social media channels.
When you’re starting out, you want to be promoting your music on YouTube and Soundcloud. That’s how people like Justin Bieber got started on their careers. Now, what happens if someone finds your music and wants to get to know more about you? Maybe they want to follow you on Instagram to stay up to date on your music.
They won’t be able to find you if you don’t link your social media channels on every platform. Your video descriptions and profiles should have a link to every single platform you have.
Missing contact information (or no contact info!)Trust me. You want your contact info online. If you don’t want to give out your phone number, make a dedicated email address for your music and include it on your social profiles. How else are you going to get booked for gigs?
- Social media profiles that aren’t complete.
You want to make sure you’re filling out every field on your social media profiles. Whether it’s your other social media links or the place you’re from, don’t leave any spots blank.
- No call to action on your social media page.
Every social media page you run should have a call to action. People need a little push to get them to do things. Your call to action could include “stream my new single on SoundCloud” or “follow me on Instagram for daily updates.” It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should give your audience a push to another part of your online footprint, whether it’s another social page or a music link.
Becoming a Recording Artist Checklist
- Write Your Biography
Your biography is one of the most important things you’ll write. You’re not writing it to go up on a Wikipedia page. You’re writing it for record labels, booking agents, journalists, and event promoters to read. Your biography is an opportunity for you to tell your story to the world. It plays a role in creating the picture of who you are as an artist. You don’t want to underestimate the importance of it. They’re also a marketing staple that you’ll find yourself using almost every day.
You need to have three types of biographies saved on your laptop to use.
- A short version to use on marketing material and to provide to booking agents.
- A snap-shot version that is usually a line to include on your social media profiles.
- A longer version that you can post on your website and include in media kits to press officers and booking agents.
When you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have the budget to hire a professional writer to craft a biography for you. Don’t worry. You can do it yourself if you’re on a budget.
The first thing to remember is that structure is everything. Your opening paragraph should act as a summary. You’ll want to be able to grab this paragraph and use it elsewhere, so make sure it’s a general overview of who you are.
While we like to think our audience reads everything we write, they usually stick around for the first few paragraphs. Your first and second paragraphs should have all the essential information about who you are as a recording artist.
You want to have your stats about plays and downloads, as well as your follower count. In the beginning, you don’t have to include these if they’re still on the lower end. It would be best if you mentioned your recent and upcoming releases, along with any other accomplishments you have. If you’ve collaborated with other artists, it’s worth noting that at the start of your biography.
Take some time and look at the biographies that are online for your favorite artists. Even the big-name recording artists have biographies on their websites.
Your biography is a live document that you want to keep up to date every time you have a new release or have hit a new goal. When you’re hosting the biography on your website, you need to include hyperlinks to anything you’ve mentioned. If you’ve name-dropped a song in your biography, add the link to it so the reader can go directly there. It’ll help give your streaming numbers a little boost!
- Personal Website
You don’t need to be a tech wizard to know how to set up a website. With sites like WordPress and Squarespace, anyone can make a website. If you have the budget, you can have someone build a website for you. In the beginning, you can definitely use a platform like Squarespace, which have professional themes and plug-ins for you to utilize.
Your website is the catch-all for everything you do. It’s an opportunity for you to promote your other social media links, and you can pre-sell your albums or merchandise directly through your website. You can use it as a space to upload professional photos and your contact information for booking agents to get in touch.
The benefit of having a professional website is that it’s your website. YouTube or Soundcloud could disappear tomorrow, and you’d be back to zero followers. With a website, you’re always in control of what’s happening.
As your career as a recording artist grows, you’ll be able to add more things to your website and flesh it out.
- Social Media
Do not overlook the importance of social media. It’s an invaluable tool that has launched the careers of dozens of recording artists. Everyone is glued to their phone, and all it takes is one viral video to turbo-charge your career.
When you’re setting up your social media platforms, you want to make sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself to your audience. Your profile should be up to date with all the information we talked about earlier. While you can use social media as a way of connecting with fans, it should primarily focus on promoting your music. The occasional personal post is good, but not every fan wants to hear about what you had for lunch.
- Online Music Channels
Before you put your music out there into the world, you want to register on both YouTube and SoundCloud. Before you start thinking about Spotify or iTunes, you need these two platforms.
Your music channels should have the same information as your social media profiles. As every upload allows for a description, you want to make sure you’re linking to your other channels and have a call to action. No one is going to know that you’re giving away a free download of your single unless you tell them.
- Network and Contact
As soon as your music is out there, you want to start networking and building your contact book. The only way you’ll become successful in the music industry is by collaborating with other artists and producers.
Start by writing out a list of the radio stations and producers you want to send your music to. Reach out to journalists that write about independent artists. Ask another creator if you can collaborate on a song. Just like that, your follower count will start to jump.
The relationships you build as an independent recording artist will stay with you throughout your career. Link up with music supervisors and producers who can help you improve the quality and sound of your recordings. Join Facebook Groups and get your name out there.
We hope this list has set you in the right direction. Becoming a recording artist is an exciting adventure, but you want to go into it with your eyes wide opened. This checklist will help you avoid some of the common mistakes made by new recording artists while setting you up for success early on.