I am a singer-songwriter-recording artist. I am not in a band, I am a solo artist. I write all my music and lyrics and I also produce my albums. While I take great pride in declaring this, I could not do any of it on my own. I have musicians I hire who help me bring to life the small- and large-scale productions I have in my mind.
But it doesn’t end with the creation of the music. Then there’s the promotion of the music, which is a whole other ball game in which one also needs a supporting cast.
Just like a professional athlete, such as a tennis player, a musical indie artist can’t do all of the above on their own. It takes a village. I’m still on my journey and where it ends I have no idea, but in my mind, the following are the important elements needed to be a successful indie artist.
Talent. If there isn’t any of that, then you’re in the wrong vocation. Talent alone doesn’t guaranty anything, but it is the element that needs to be there and needs to be nurtured and developed.
Passion. As in any profession, the passion for what you’re doing is a must. Without passion —which I think is a synonym for drive—then, again, you’ve chosen the wrong vocation.
Belief. Belief in yourself, belief in your craft, belief in what you do. This of course is a necessity because without self-belief, no one else will believe in you. And I think belief comes from a work ethic. Just putting your head down and plodding along your way, ignoring the naysayers, learning and learning—for me it was voice lessons and the art of songwriting, failing and trying again, failing and trying again. Belief comes from all of this because you learn from your mistakes and it’s from this where you create your foundation.
Patience. Some people get lucky, but most don’t. Patience for the process of finding yourself artistically, finding your path, is a must. This goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned belief in oneself, enough to endure the many stumblings and failures that you’ll experience. I’ve experienced getting up on stage, starting to sing, and clearing out the room. That is a gut punch. But I pressed on. It’s nice to be on the other side of that.
I mentioned that it takes a village. It takes patience to create that village—that support system around you. It also takes chemistry. I worked with a lot of musicians and it took me over a decade to find the musicians who I had chemistry with. This is a pretty hard thing. I marvel at all the successful bands/solo artists out there who found the right people to play with.
Each musician in my band—I have two guitarists, a keyboardist, a drummer, and a bass player—knows instinctively what I like. We are all in sync with each other. We have a chemistry. I am so thankful that I found these guys. It took a long time, and I could not do it without them. As previously mentioned, I may write all my material, but these guys are essential in bringing it to life. They’ve been essential to me finding myself artistically.
Then there’s the whole promotional aspect of getting your material out there. I’m still learning this phase. Finding the right avenue to get your music out there whether it be a radio promoter or a publicist or a manager—you need chemistry with these people, as well. They are another part of the village that an indie artist needs for success.
But I tread carefully on what the definition of success is. Success is different for everyone. I already consider myself a success because I’ve already become what I envisioned of myself: a singer who composes his own material to the point where he releases his own albums. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m also aiming for commercial success… but if that commercial success doesn’t come, it’s okay. I have already achieved what I wanted to achieve.
Everything else is icing on the cake. But I’m still trying, still plodding along, still learning, I’m sure I’m going to fail again, but I’ll get back up, and add to the foundation that I’ve already created. All of these elements, I believe, are what go into being a successful indie artist… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.