As an indie musician, you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. The problem a lot of entrepreneurs run into is they want to get awesome at what they do (whether it’s music, baking, accounting, or whatever) and let someone else handle telling the world about their greatness.
The problem is, that doesn’t really work. This is a big part of why I tell indie songwriters they need to be knowledgeable about 5 things: 1. songwriting, 2. performing, 3. recording, 4. their instruments and 5. marketing. That last one is so often neglected, but it’s so crucial. You need to learn marketing to get your songs out there. The book, Scientific Advertising, by Claude C. Hopkins is a great resource to get into the right mindset as an entrepreneur. It’s a quick read that provides valuable marketing information.
A lot of times, songwriters get programmed to think “making it” = getting lucky and having “someone” find your music on YouTube. Then you magically become famous, somehow. But for the 0.00001% of the time that actually happens, it isn’t enough to make it a real strategy. It’s just what we PERCEIVE to be a strategy, because it’s a great story. So when it happens, we hear about it.
There really isn’t a way to streamline the whole process. It’s a lot of work building a fan base. Some of the stuff you CAN outsource, like creating your website. But as far as marketing your site and your music, YOU are the only one who’s going to care enough to do it right. If you have one other person in your life who cares ALMOST as much as you do and is willing to help, you’re lucky. In most cases, you’ll be the only one.
If you hire someone to promote for you, they’ll do it without the passion you have (although they may have more skill in promoting), but when your money runs out, they’ll stop. That’s why it’s so important to learn this for yourself. Because you’re the only one who cares enough about your music to promote it the right way, on a continual basis.
If you want to be an artist with a big fan base, you’ll have to learn to use social media effectively and build an email list to retain your fans. It would also be to your benefit to play live shows a LOT. But essentially, you need to find out where people who are into YOUR style of music are hanging out, and network with them there.
For example, if your songs have a Tori Amos vibe, you can find out where Tori Amos fans are hanging out. But when you find them, give them value. DON’T just spam them with your music. You have to figure out what you can offer them to make them want to check you out.
If you’re looking to write for other established artists OR write songs for film or TV, you’ll need to get out there and network like crazy. Songwriting conventions are great for this, because you can actually meet the people who can get your music where you want it to be. But again, make connections with them, don’t just try to get them to do things for you.
If you’re looking to write for other artists, your homework will include figuring out WHO to write for and HOW to write in their style. You’ll also have to make contacts with the right people to get your music in their hands.
If you’re looking to get your music on film or TV, you have to know what style to write for certain TV shows, so you can contribute music that’s appropriate for those shows. You also have to start networking with music supervisors. You can’t just send all of your music to every music supervisor to see what sticks. You have to make the effort to get the appropriate music to the right people.
Taxi Music is a service that can be a good shortcut for this process. They’re basically the middle men to music supervisors, record labels, etc. You submit your music to them and if they think it fits the specific listing you submitted it for, they’ll forward your music to that supervisor or record label, who then has the option to use it (or not). And when your music isn’t forwarded along, they usually provide you with good feedback regarding WHY it wasn’t forwarded, which can help you grow as a writer.
They do charge a yearly fee, and a fee for each listing, but it’s worth it if you’re serious about it. They also have a convention in Los Angeles every year that’s free for their members, and a ton of great industry professionals show up for it, making it an awesome networking opportunity.
I know these approaches might not be the quick fixes you were looking for, but unfortunately, quick fixes don’t really exist when it comes to this stuff. And if they do, your chances with them are basically a lottery ticket. So figure out what you want to achieve with your music and then you can going after it with patience and persistence. Good luck!