What is an independent or indie artist?

home recording

An independent or indie artist is an artist who publish his music on his own. An independent artist is so to say self-employed, an entrepreneur, in the music business who is doing, next to the whole music thing, the management and the marketing for example.

Modern music industry

These days it is as easy to publish music as it never was before. Everyone who has a computer with an internet connection can upload music to the common music streaming platforms at almost zero costs.

Also music production became way easier than let’s say 20 years ago. Modern technology makes it possible, that these huge recording studios are not absolutely necessary.

That’s why many artists start to record their music on their own in the rehearsal room for example. That makes record deals almost unnecessary.

These artists who publish their own music on their own are called independent artists or easily indie artists (has nothing necessarily to do with the genre). Because that is what they are: independent.

The complete business

But that also means they have to do everything else what’s around the music as well on their own.

They have to be the songwriters, the Instrumentalists and vocalists, the producers and often also the engineers.

But next to it they have to be managers, booking agents, artwork creatives, marketing experts and so on.

It´s not just writing songs, playing an instrument and to sing along. You have also to record the songs in a quality that is comfortable to listen to and carries the emotion of the song. Also you have to mix and arrange the song in a good structure, that fits the art on the one hand but also makes it possible to sell the song. After that you have to make it fit to streaming platforms or CD formats and to be sure it sounds the best it can on all different devices. Not to forget that old kitchen radio and modern bluetooth speakers.

But after that the job ain´t done. Actually the hard works starts right now. Because all the work isn´t it worth when nobody listens to the songs. So you have to make sure to get it heard. You have to make the artwork for the song, the video(s), you have to provide the platforms with the lyrics and additional informations. You have to send it to curators for playlists and radio stations and so on. You have to manage the library so that the older songs are not forgotten over the newer releases. You have to engage with the fans.

I think you can slowly imagine what´s all connected to it.

A lot of hard work

All together is really a lot of work. It needs a lot of organisation to get it all done and stay creative at the same time.

It can also cost a lot of money. Especially in the beginning. And also especially in the beginning the return on investment is, let’s say, unavailable.

Let’s talk numbers

You know what an artist gets per stream? It’s currently about 0,003 $ per stream, but only when you listen to at least 30 seconds of the song. That has changed the whole structure of modern music and release strategies. It’s necessary to keep the intros short and to enter the first chorus within these first 30 seconds. Also the whole songs are getting shorter as what they used to be before the streaming era. When a song is about 6 minutes long you get also 0.003 $ per stream. So when a song would only be 3 minutes long you could double the amount of return when two streams are counted in the same time.

So let’s say you need about 1,500 $ to make an average living. In streams it would be 500.000 streams. And to reach 500.000 streams on a monthly basis is really a lot of hard work. Especially when you think of that are about 60.000 new songs are uploaded to Spotify daily.

Everything has it’s pros and cons. It has never been easier to be an independent artist but to make a living out of it seems to be more difficult than it has ever been before. That’s why signing a contract on a huge label definitely has it’s right to exist.

What you can do to support your favorite independent artist

Software driven platforms

It’s all about the algorithms. Not only social media but streaming platforms as well are algorithm driven. All these platforms make a living of their users. So they will keep you on their platform as long as possible. To achieve this, it is necessary that you are given the content you are really interested in. And that is where the algorithms comes in. The software analysis you as the customer and the content to find the best next fit.

But the algorithms can not work without proper data. And that is where you come in turn. Because of there is not data available for new artists and new music. But you can help to gain that data without any costs.

What you can do for free

Hit the like buttons on the songs you like, share them with your friends and family and also in your own playlists. Feed the algorithms with proper data so that it can come to work and suggest the new songs to others listener that might like the music to gain streams.

It’s also important to make connections. Add new songs together with other artists that fit together in your playlist. Also cross over to social media, like and comment posts. A huge impact would be when you name artists together. For example in a story “hey I found this great track from artist a. It sounds a little similar to this track from artist b”. You know what I mean?

Follow your artists on their social media accounts and even better join their email lists because it also helps a lot to stay in tune on upcoming releases. It’s important how many streams and songs gets especially in the first hours. If there are enough streams in a short period of time the algorithms notice that and become aware of what is happening with this special song.

So it’s up to you to support your favorite artists and help them out to keep up with making and publishing new music. They don’t have these huge marketing budgets to buy into the proper data for the algorithms or drive huge campaigns on their releases. They are reliant on you, on their fans.

Talking for myself as being an independent artist as well: thank you very much for your support so far. You all make it possible for me to do what I love to do! Can´t say it often enough: Thank you 🙂