266 – The 5 Layers of Independent Music Success

by | Apr 1, 2022 | Podcast

How do you achieve independent music success on your own terms?

What music distribution service should you choose, and what are the nuances you should be aware of in selecting a partner?

All this and more in this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 01:11 – Catching up with Monica Strut
  • 03:26 – What’s new with Monica?
  • 06:59 – What’s new with David?
  • 12:52 – The 5 layers of independent music success
  • 50:18 – Navigating the music distribution minefield
  • 1:05:23 – Get in touch
  • 1:06:11 – Closing thoughts

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Episode Summary:

David welcomes back Monica Strut to the show – her last appearance was on episode 125 of The New Music Industry Podcast.

Monica shares what’s new in her world. Her rock-metal band, The Last Martyr recently launched a new single and rebranded their online and offline presence. Her band now has a booking agent who is keeping the band busy on tour.

Monica also put together a new course called Crush Your Next Release. Normally, she works with bands on a case-by-case basis to develop their release strategy, so this is the first time her methodology has been available as a six-week course.

David shares about his search for a new home. He also shares an update on his search for a Chief Marketing Officer for Music Entrepreneur HQ. Through an insurance agent, he was connected to CAYK Marketing in Calgary, AB. After a couple of sessions, they informed David that they did not detect any major SEO concerns and that it would not make sense for him to go on a retainer at this time. David and his team plug away at Music Entrepreneur HQ’s SEO day by day.

The 5 Layers of Independent Music Success

Independent music success diagram

The five layers of independent music success are as follows:

  1. Principles / mindset: These are the things that remain true no matter what changes around you. People change. Circumstances change. Your goals change. But the one thing that does not change, that you can always count and rely on is principles and your mindset. This is what keeps you anchored when the going gets rough. And without a strong foundation here, success in music as an independent artist is difficult if not impossible.
  2. Experience: You become better at what you do through experience. The more experience you gain as an instrumentalist, the better you will ultimately be at playing your instrument. The same could be said for songwriters, vocalists, producers, and more. Your experience can also guide the direction of your career, steering you towards opportunities that are worthwhile, while helping you avoid pitfalls. But experience isn’t always reliable. And those are the times you need to fall back on principles.
  3. Branding: Your external brand has to do with colors, fonts, logos, costumes, business cards, and so on. Your internal brand has to do with your purpose, your mission, your reason for existing in the world. Crafting your brand may not be easy. But it’s one of the most critical aspects of building your music career, because if you know what you’re doing, you can create a magnetic brand your fans and potential fans will be attracted to. When you have your branding, strategy basically sorts itself out.
  4. Marketing / strategy: Once you have your brand in place, developing a marketing strategy is a walk in the park. You can identify specific dates and events that are aligned with your brand. You can uncover where your fans like to hang out online. You can develop your voice and messaging. Without your brand, marketing is but a shot in the dark.
  5. Tactics. Posting to social media. Sending email campaigns. Setting up advertising campaigns. These are all tactics. Tactics are sexy. They basically form the foundation of your daily to-do list. The only problem? Tactics are not a strategy, especially when you don’t even know what your strategy is. You must let your strategy inform your tactical approach.

Also see David’s blog post on the same topic.

And the following is David’s four-time Best Original Score winning film score:

Navigating the Music Distribution Minefield

Music distribution partners

Music distribution services get your music out to all the major destinations.

If you’re a new artist, choosing a digital music distribution service might prove a pretzel.

Which distributor should you choose? What kind of marketing do they offer you, if any? Do they even care about you as a customer?

Should you even distribute your music digitally?

Monica’s band used DistroKid for their latest release because they liked everything that was included with the service.

She also makes the point that music distributors basically all offer the same service. So, don’t be afraid to pick one and run with it. You can always switch to another service later.

David shares his top picks for music distributors:

  1. CD Baby: David likes that you only ever pay a one-time fee with CD Baby to have your releases up forever. YouTube Content ID is included, you can create multiple artist names or pseudonyms under one account, and if you want, you can upgrade to CD Baby Pro to have them collect your music publishing royalties.
  2. Ditto Music: Like DistroKid, Ditto Music allows you to release unlimited music for a modest yearly fee. You can even try their service for 30 days. They also submit your music to playlists, protect your music copyrights, and collect your publishing royalties if you upgrade to Ditto Music Publishing.
  3. DistroKid: DistroKid has a very personable, human brand. They let you release as many tracks as you want for an annual fee. Their accounting dashboard is one of the most streamlined and easy to use. But a YouTube Content ID is not included with their service. These and other extras must be paid for.
  4. TuneGo: David had the opportunity to talk to TuneGo founder John Kohl in an earlier episode. David has TuneGo on his “watch” list, because in addition to music distribution, they let you create NFTs and offer promotional services. They want to help you monetize your music in as many ways as possible. Most music distributors offer minimal promotion if any at all.

Monica adds that any promotion a music distributor can offer will depend a lot on the quality of their connections as well as how relevant those connections are to your specific style of music and audience.

Here’s one thing David says he doesn’t like about certain music distributors:

He’s not a fan of distributors that pull your release from major platforms if you can’t keep up with their yearly fee, or services that force you to renew each year if you want to keep your release up. He prefers services that keep his music up in perpetuity.

At the end of the day, Monica and David agree that you shouldn’t sweat over the music distribution service you go with. Most are affordable and offer the same basic service. If you really need to switch later, you can. There’s no downside to distributing your music!

David adds that artists should gently separate distribution from marketing, look at them as two separate entities, and plan for both.

Get in Touch

Find David on Twitter and BitClout.

Find Monica on Twitter and Instagram.

Closing Segment

So, we look forward to hearing from you on our social channels. But if you’re more of an email kind of person, I get it. You can send us an email to musicentrepreneurhq@gmail.com and leave your questions and comments. We’re happy to feature them in a future episode. That’s musicentrepreneurhq@gmail.com.

This has been episode 266 of The New Music Industry Podcast. I’m David Andrew Wiebe, and I look forward to seeing you on the stages of the world.

Upgrade to Members Only Audios for more exciting, exclusive training.