DIY – An Indy Musician’s Perspective

A friend of mine is a fairly well-known musician in indy acoustic circuits.  He’s a great musician and tours regularly.  He scored a major victory/feather-in-his-cap sort of thing last year by getting his music onto some well-known internet radio stations.

Yesterday he got his first royalty statement and posted it to Facebook.  $14.53.   Underneath someone posted a joke, “How do you know you’re a true Musician?  Answer: You pile $10,000 worth of equipment into a $1000 car to go to a gig that pays $50.”

Many other musicians shared their commiserations under his post, showing off their royalty checks of 28 cents and more.  yeah me too me too me too.

Like many musicians, making booking calls and marketing myself have never been my favorite things to do.  I’ve tried all sorts of creative things during my 20+ years in this  business, all to, at best, modest success.  The financial returns are rarely worth the money, time and energy you put into it.

I know many excellent indy musicians and most of them have other jobs & careers going on as well to support themselves.  I do know a few who are on the road full time, and most of them are struggling financially.

I finished my run this week of a 2-week show booked at a very nice venue downtown.  I let all my friends and fans know about it through Facebook and my mailing list – a number of times – and the venue did it’s own marketing as well.  The first week audiences were light, and the second week grew to an almost full house on the last day of the show.

I was talking to a friend this morning about it, and he asked what I was going to do now re: booking it again?  Marketing it more?

I told him I felt very satisfied.  I loved the show, put all my energy into doing the best I could, and for all the people that came out, great!  And for all the people that didn’t come out, great!  And if someone wants to book it again, great.  But if not – moving on.  New places to go/new stuff to write.

He said, “That’s a great attitude!  You probably sleep well at night, right?”

But really, I don’t know what else to do at this point.  In this indy music world I live in, I’m surrounded by the pull to become more active in self marketing, especially social marketing and the infinite “opportunities for exposure” out there  – to get my music heard.

Last week someone post on Facebook an “opportunity” they had come across to play in a music festival in Germany.  “If” you get accepted, you have to pay your own way, as well as all your expenses, in return for the “opportunity” to play in front a large crowd over there.  Sign me up quick.

I’m sure there are people who have found success through aggressive social networking and these various opportunities.  I am on Facebook and I have a website.  But this whole self promotion thing…  sometimes it all gets just so…. ugh!

I hate Twitter.  I have tried being a Twitterer several times  but it doesn’t stick for me.  My page is still up though and every day I’m notified that a few new people are following me.  One of these months maybe I’ll say something again.

When my son was 5, a skating puppet show came to the Los Angeles Coliseum.  It was advertised EVERYWHERE.  Tickets were not cheap and every child within a 100 mile radius of Los Angeles HAD to go.

It was loud, crowded and boring.  The music and dialogue weren’t even live.  Just people skating around in furry costumes to a canned score blaring distortedly out of speakers everywhere. Even some of the kids fell asleep.  Souvenirs were expensive and also a “must have.”  (yeah I think we left with a stuffed animal or two).

Whoever promoted that show was a genius.  They packed the place and I’m sure they made millions.  I could never have done that.  On so many levels.

People who are great at marketing are not necessarily the best musicians, and vice versa.  Most musicians I know will attest to that.  And the musicians who are enjoying big careers out there in the world today, I can guarantee you, they are not DIY’ing their own marketing and promotion.

To those of us who haven’t yet broken through that DIY indy membrane, $14.00 royalty checks and modest audiences are our lot.  As I continue to wade through the unlimited bullshit  fabulous opportunities that come to me as a DIY artist, I am at least hopefully getting more cynical a little smarter about it as the years go by.

I love writing.  I love performing.  That’s where my heart is.

Meantime, if that furry rollerskating puppet marketing guy comes around and wants to take over the marketing/promotion part of my career, he’s got it.

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