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Ten Business Tips For The Independent Artist

MISTER | July 25, 2021


When I asked students at Boston University, independent artists were in high demand. Reports of top talent receiving signing bonuses had dollar signs rocking in my head. fast forward to now, I entered a market pitching from the dot-com failure. A talent-heavy candidate pool performed jobs scarce, making my research feel like a chalk doodle. Unsurprisingly, I found myself in a music career.

Like the best music creator, I work with many label and companies. 
I gained my first project from Mr Newmark’s eponymous site: a song for his youtube channel, no contract. Upon completion, I sent the music to the client, and he was very happy with my services. 
When I became a full-time independent musician in 2020, I promised to be entrepreneurial and treat my music career as a business. Here are ten things I’ve learned & earn along the way.

  1. Selling Out Is In
    The stigma is gone. You have musician rand. Sell your music on different platforms. Sell yourself. A few musts:
    Design a logo for your brand.
    Print business cards contact details, logo, website and work.
    Develop a rich website full of information; share the link constantly.
    Be socially smart & you don’t have to be everywhere (Blog, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Be good wherever you are.
  2. Live By The Schedule
    The corporate world turns around the schedule — so should your artist career. Be rigid:
    Know your working hours — if you paint from 10 PM – 5 AM? Fine, but be uniform.
    Organize your day carefully: emails, social media, business outreach, create, emails.
    Set a deadline for each project— stick to it*.
    Plan displays far in advance; set milestones (work creation, promotion, event coordination, work delivery, show take-down, etc.).
  3. Everything Under Contract
    Never sell a piece of music without a contract. Family? Friend? Contract. Here’s why:
    For any contractor, getting paid is difficult — without a guarantee, it’s impossible.
    You must defend your generation and presentation rights.
    Documentation is required to complete and build your market.
    Representatives will only take you as seriously as you carry yourself.
  4. Price Your Work Responsibly
    Many independent artists get a smell of success, channel Damien Hirst and triple their prices. You must be wise:
    Discover what comparable artists are selling for, compare careers and set an affordable price.
    Never sell the music of art for less than you’ve sold a similar position of art.
    Supply in demand: prices go up as the record goes down, not the other way around.
    Have a growth plan: if your market is stagnant, seek advice from a savvy entrepreneur.
  5. Build Your Market
    When you string a series of sales & you have built a market. For this market to maintain and grow, you must:
    Document all transactions.
    Establish pricing honesty.
    Communicate with your collectors frequently & keeping them informed of your successes.
  6. Pay Income And Sales Tax
    I don’t file for two years, find success and suddenly report a six-figure income — the IRS will notice. Here are a few tips:
    File your income taxes yearly, even if you work at a loss — this will demonstrate visible organic growth.
    Pay regularly sales tax, carefully following the laws in your control.
    Sustain detailed expense records.
    Hire a professional CPA because it’s a necessity.
  7. Have A Master Price List
    When you receive a price inquiry, be it in-person, social media, over email — having a master price list is important. A few tips:
    Include all available works & your collector’s preferences might surprise you.
    Create a different URL and make it password guarded — bonus: you can monitor traffic to the page via Google Analytics.
    Add relevant knowledge: sales tax, shipping details and helpful articles on assembling art.
    Keep the data updated, and archive your previous lists.
  8. Business Outreach Is Critical
    The seeds you plant blossom today into next year’s business — never stop making connections. A few points:
    If you read something suitable to your work in the paper or online, find a contact person and introduce yourself.
    Write short, information-rich, consistent emails, and respond to all inquiries within two days.
    You will be neglected and denied constantly — don’t be confused.
  9. Pitch The Press Constantly
    Every article needs a beautiful picture. Declare war on stock images, and pitch your work to the media. Remember:
    Consider a writer’s time: be concise, on-point and relevant.
    Include full credit details: artist, work dimensions, link to the image, drop-box link to a 300dpi print-ready image — no attachments.
    Think ahead: if she frequently covers business, and you have a portrait of Carl Icahn, make the outreach.
    Don’t sell yourself; do link to your bio and press pages.
  10. Be Thematic

Nearly everything you read, including this post, comes in a list format — it’s easy to digest. Accordingly, plan your art:
Instead of painting your favourite musician, create a series of seven portraits of folk singers in a consistent style.
As you make, share each work on social media — develop a following.
Pitch the series to relevant media outlets, considering the points outlined in section 9.
When possible, hold the entire series for exhibition (deliver pre-sold works at the show’s conclusion).


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