How to navigate your music career as the industry changes

Photo credit: Possessed Photography

A music career is like running a business. And any business owner will tell you that you need to adapt to changes in your industry and the world at large. So as a do-it-yourself independent artist, you need to know how to navigate your music career when the industry takes a turn.

How the world of music has changed

The music industry has undergone drastic transformations over the past 20 years. With the Internet came a whole host of new opportunities and problems for musicians.

Looking back, music piracy seems inevitable. From there we have music streaming which now dominates the music world. This led to a decline in the sale of physical CDs and the birth of music distributors, CD Baby being the first available to indie musicians.

The Internet and other technological advances put more power in the hands of the independent contractor. Musicians were able to get their songs placed in the same places as major label artists, which was almost impossible before the internet. Now, unknown artists can become national or global sensations thanks to social media.

To make a living 20 years ago, you pretty much had to get signed, record an album, then tour, tour, tour and sell merchandise. Thanks to the internet, you have so many other options for sources of income.

However, copyright laws in the United States have not kept pace with technological advances. And with AI music here, we have to start addressing copyright and privacy concerns.

How to adapt to the changing music industry

Now let’s talk about some practical ways to adapt to whatever changes occur in the music industry. We don’t know what the music industry will look like in 5, 10, 20 years. So it’s best to build practices that will prepare us no matter what.

Be informed and educated

Stay up-to-date on industry trends, technology advances, and changes in listener behavior. Read trusted news sources (like this one), listen to podcasts, and keep up a conversation with the musicians in your life.

Learn more about music promotion and the business side of the industry. Understand the basics of copyright, licensing, and contracts to protect your work and make informed decisions (or work with a music attorney).

Maintain your digital presence

Maintain a strong online presence through social media, streaming platforms and your own website. Engage with your audience, share regular updates, and continue to build your email and text lists so you can stay in touch with people regardless of platform changes.

Stay on streaming platforms

Embrace streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and more. Boycotting them only makes it harder for fans to discover them. So create playlists, encourage fans to follow you, and make sure you have access to the backend artist view on these platforms so you can better understand your listeners.

Diversify your income streams

Don’t rely on just one source of income. Stay open to multiple revenue streams. Some of the most common currently are streaming, merchandising, live performance, sync licensing and producing other artists. But there are so many more and the options will change over time. So always look for how you can use your skills and songs to make money.

Focus on building a fanbase

Focus on building a loyal fanbase instead of trying to get as many followers as possible. Yes, you always want more people to find you, but focus on connecting with your fans. Engage with your audience, respond to comments and create a sense of community. Word of mouth is powerful, and a dedicated fan base can help you navigate industry changes.

Collaboration and Networking

Collaborate with other musicians, producers and industry professionals. Cross-promotion is a powerful tool.

Step outside your comfort zone

While maintaining your artistic integrity, be open to experimenting with your sound. Music trends can change and adapting your style (without selling out) can help you reach a wider audience.

Embrace technology

Explore new technologies and tools that can improve the process of creating and promoting your music. New things can be scary, but that’s mainly because we don’t understand them at first. Do your best to understand the technology so you can decide if you want to use it.

Attend industry events

Attend conferences, seminars and industry events to stay connected, learn from others and discover new opportunities. Getting to know people at these events can also be invaluable to your career.

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