The 5 Layers of Independent Music Success

The 5 Layers of Independent Music Success

While blazing your trail to independent music success, you might encounter a few roadblocks. But the extent to which these roadblocks hinder you will largely depend on how well you understand the following.

These five layers form the foundation of a successful music career. They empower you when you’re disempowered and show you the way when there appears to be no other way.

Pyramid of independent musician success

Principles / Mindset

Most foundational to your success in music is your mindset. It accounts for 80% of your success. And your mindset should be built on time-tested principles.

Principles don’t change just because you change, and rest assured, you will change.

When all else fails, principles are what will keep you anchored in the real world, not some pretend world where everything always goes right. Because many things will go wrong on your music career journey.

When all else fails, principles are what will keep you anchored in the real world. Share on X

You may not be able to depend on anything else – band mates, gig dates, record contracts – but what you can depend on is principles.


Your experience as an artist is invaluable. As you perform more, you’ll gain more live experience and become a better performer. As you record more, you’ll gain more experience in the studio, and gain a better sense of what’s expected of you when the engineer hits the “record” button.

But experience isn’t everything. “Every time we play at XYZ bar, at least 50 people show up to see the show.”

That may be your experience, and it may have proven true to this point, but there are factors you can’t possibly know, and this “truth” won’t always remain true.

The bar could shut down. They might stop promoting musical events to their 500 email subscribers. A natural disaster could unexpectedly come along the day of your show.

Some of this might seem far-fetched, but you’re denying reality if you think that nothing could ever change the 50-person turnout.

So, it’s key to know the difference between principles and experience. When you can’t rely on experience, you can rely on principles. But it doesn’t work the other way around.


An artist’s brand informs all aspects of their mission, image, and marketing activity. A brand might be the hardest thing to figure out, but once you’ve got your finger on the pulse of it, all other decisions concerning your career start to fall into place.

An artist’s brand informs all aspects of their mission, image, and marketing activity. Share on X

A brand cannot take the place of principles because it’s built on principles. It cannot take the place of experience because it’s built on experience.

But it can outclass marketing any day because your brand informs your marketing. If your brand isn’t undergirding your marketing, chances are you don’t have a strategy yet.


Marketing is critical. But without a brand, it’s mostly a shot in the dark.

Who are you trying to market to? Where do they like to hang out online? What publications, magazines, or blogs do they read? What podcasts or radio shows do they listen to? What do they like to watch on Netflix or YouTube? What interests do they have?

If you know your reason for existing, your mission, your purpose, you can build your marketing around that, because that is your brand.

But you can’t build your marketing on any less, because then it is reduced to a tactic (shot in the dark) and not a strategy.


Tactics are basically the to-do list for your daily marketing activity.

“Send an email campaign to fans every Thursday at 1 PM EST” is the very essence of a tactic. It’s a specific thing to do, on a specific day, at a specific time.

Of course, such tactics are ineffective, or at the very least, less effective than they could be, away from a proper marketing and branding strategy. How do you know you should be sending emails at a weekly cadence, on Thursdays, specifically at 1 PM EST?

Further, who is the email being written to? Why is it being written? What’s the message, and with what voice are you going to deliver it? What action do you want the reader to take having read the email?

These are easy questions to answer if you know your brand and have a marketing strategy. Much harder to nail down without it.

The 5 Layers Are Your Foundation

If you’ve understood the above, then you’ve realized something most artists haven’t – success doesn’t happen by accident. You must be deliberate and intentional about creating your foundation, and you will have a shaky foundation if you don’t understand the five layers of independent music success.

See what else I’m up to.

What Made This All Possible

What Made This All Possible

I just launched my new music business membership.

But this certainly would not have been possible without 10XPro.

Yes, that is an affiliate link, and I will benefit if you happen to click on it and purchase anything.

That said, I wanted to acknowledge what made this new membership possible.

There’s a lot of great course and membership platforms out there, to be sure. I just haven’t seen anything like 10XPro.

Even tasks that I thought would be daunting proved much simpler than expected, to where creating a premium membership experience is a joy and passion rather than another day staring at a screen, calling tech support, and trying to figure out why things aren’t working properly.

5 Common Mistakes Made by Independent Musicians

Hey, independent musicians! This post comes to us from Nick Rubright, founder and CEO of Dozmia.

No matter how smart we think we are, not one of us is exempt from making mistakes. It’s what we do with those mistakes that matters. Nick shares some important insights into what we can learn from the mistakes others have made. Let’s get into it!

Statistically speaking, most musicians never make a living off of their music.  Many experienced musicians see mistakes they’ve made early in their career as a learning experience, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to avoid unnecessary errors by learning from those who’ve gone before you.

Here are five mistakes independent musicians often make early in their careers that can easily be avoided.

1. Not Becoming a Great Marketer as an Independent Musician

Too many musicians focus only on their music, thinking a label or manager will get their music in front of new fans, or that simply uploading their music to SoundCloud or YouTube is enough.

Waiting around to be discovered doesn’t work. There’s simply too much music out there.  On SoundCloud, 10 hours of audio is uploaded every minute, and almost none of those songs ever get a large number of plays.

Having an understanding of different music marketing strategies can set you apart from the large number of musicians who follow the “if I upload it they will hear it” strategy, and give you a huge advantage when it comes to making a living with a career in music.

There are a number of resources available online that offer valuable tips about marketing your music.  Here are a few to get you started:

These are just a few, but there are many other blogs about music marketing and business strategies that you can read to educate yourself on ways to grow in the music business.

2. Prioritizing Social Media Over Email

Social media is great.  It allows you to share your music in ways that gives you the potential to reach a large audience.

Here’s the thing, though – email beats social media in nearly every metric.  On Facebook, organic reach can be as low as 2%, and only a small number of those people will actually engage with your posts.  Twitter’s organic reach is better than Facebook’s, as they show tweets in real time, but engagement is still below 1%.

With email, on average, musicians receive an open rate of 22%, and a click-through rate of 3%.  This is better than similar metrics on any social media platform.

The problem with social media is this – as more people use a platform, more content is shared.  When more content is shared on a given platform, there’s more competition for your posts.

With a mailing list, you own your contacts, and have much more control over the presentation of your message.  Additionally, your emails are sent directly to subscribers of your mailing list, so your reach is nearly 100% when sending an email.

Keep focusing on social media as a promotional channel for your music, but focus more on successfully building an email list.

3. Not Understanding the Importance of Album Art

Many newer musicians think if their music sounds good, people will listen to it.  So  they upload their music online with low quality images that resemble that of a social media profile picture.

However, in the age of online streaming, people are often exposed to your album art before your music.  Music recommendations on streaming services prominently feature album art, especially on browse and “related artists” pages.

If your album art is bad, people won’t click it, and they’ll never be exposed to your music.  They’ll scroll past your album without a second thought.

Put as much focus on your album art as you do each song on your album, and your music will perform better online.

4. Touring Before Building a Local Following

Touring is extremely expensive and requires much more planning compared to playing local shows.  Oftentimes, musicians make the mistake of touring too early – before they have a strong local following.

When you go on your first tour, you’re going to want local artists to open for you so you can draw a good sized crowd.  If you don’t have the following in your own city to help out other artists, it’s going to be harder to convince them to help you out.

Build your local fan base, then once you’re well-established in your market, start touring to grow in other markets.  You want to have as many fans as possible, but in today’s music industry, it’s important that your fan base is densely populated.

5. Thinking a Record Label Will Make You Famous

Many musicians put out song after song, hoping that one day they’ll be discovered by a big label that can work their connections to build their fan base.

This is unrealistic.  Because of the decline in music sales, record labels have a low risk tolerance when it comes to signing new artists, and typically want to sign acts that already have a growing and engaged following.

Record labels are great – they provide funding for you to focus on music, as well as marketing and tour support, but these things work best when working to accelerate your growth as a musician as opposed to devices that help you launch your career.