Embarking on An Independent Music Career
by Aiman Bin Mohd Misri, International College of Music (ICOM)
In this article, I will share my personal experience as a producer, audio engineer and performing artist in the Malaysian music Industry, to help you start an independent music career.
Don’t quit your day job (just yet)
Everything costs money – from gigs to recordings, nothing is free. If you are planning to get into the industry, get some form of music business experience. The cornerstone of every venture is based on a solid understanding and knowledge of the industry. Gaining momentum or losing out is a risk every musician must take. We have all heard of “One Hit Wonders” and the time honored failed business ventures. So, DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!
Increase your revenue stream by learning from the successful ones. Modeling after a successful artist is the first step. Endorsements will follow once you have traction. The most important aspect you need to gain is, balance. Learn how to balance your music career, full time job and personal life. Easier said than done!
Using social media as a platform to showcase your talents would be an excellent start. A video recording of a show that you have performed would do wonders. In the event a potential promoter spots you, he or she would most definitely look you up on these platforms. Here is the best part, you have provided adequate and accurate information for them to decide, in other words, you have made their job easy. If you don’t have any shows to showcase, record at home, Video Logs are an excellent data source.
When we read about producers such as Quincy Jones or Hans Zimmer we rarely talk about the collaborative nature of music production. Look at the credits section and you will realize that the music we know and love came from a team of creative individuals.
Technology is making the one-man band a cost-effective reality, but a lot of great enjoyable music is produced in the context of social interaction. At the lowest level of participation, a fresh pair of ears can help you gauge or give you a great suggestion that could change your music into a masterpiece.
At the other end of the spectrum, a collaborating band can improve instrumentation and musical arrangements, many times better. Whether the context is service-driven or creative partnership, the key is to bring out the chemistry between individuals in the team for an outcome greater than the sum of their talents.
The word ‘independent’ in the industry often refers to creative control in the process of production, but aside from relative freedom of musical expression, both independent musicians and labels still outsource significant jobs related to the day-to-day operations. These may range from management or publishing deals to graphic designing, legal representation and accounting.
With the appropriate budget and compromise, outsourcing is a great way to put more time and energy in your creative processes. Early on, you may start with a friend or a family member as your manager, until you reach a point where you require an experienced manager to help expand your career. As your popularity and income increases, you may opt to seek more professionals to propel your career on agreeable terms, while at the same time maintaining your integrity and creative freedom.
Don’t stop believing!
Shows often come in seasons, and production is always a time-consuming process. At some point, when you may feel like throwing in the towel, keep Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” on cue! As mentioned previously, there will be a lot of choices to make, and not all of them are easy. Through all the ups and downs in your career, you should never lose sight of your passion for music.
Whether you are composing a new tune on your phone during your daily commute, or recording a short demo just before going to bed, or participating in jam sessions, you must find time to practice your craft and produce new music. Music and sound production has grown exponentially because of mobility and technological innovation. Journey on!