Business for the Independent Musician

Speak Your Music was founded on the principle that artist’s create.  Whereas a lot of people who get involved in music also tried to get their own music career going at some point, this was never the case for me.  I’ve always been the business person in all of my music dealings and have never tried to pretend that the music lime light was something I aspired to engage in.

The true difficulty, I’ve found, for musicians trying to make it independently comes from a lack of sound business principles. Most independent artists learn a form of “street business” that comes from the constant hustle and grind of trying to peddle your music to whoever will listen.  This street business knowledge is extremely important for the independent artist but it must be supplemented by the foundations of business.

When I started my first music based business at 17, I didn’t know what I was doing at all.  I lost a lot of money on frivolous business decisions that I thought would be a good idea but if I looked at it from a true business foundations stand-point I would’ve realized that I was creating waste.  I didn’t have processes, I flew by the seat of my pants and tried to react to items thrown at me daily.  There was no strategy.  I picked up the street business knowledge but I wasn’t rooted in the foundations that would’ve helped that first business take off.

With street business knowledge for independent musicians, you’re reactive.

There are no strategies and no processes.

You have a goal that you hope to get to but, you don’t know how you’re going to get there other than try to get your music heard.

This type of business is great for dream chasing but it is not ideal for running a strong business.

The key to reaching your goal is to understand the steps you need to take in order to get there and put processes in place in order to aid you in achieving those steps.

Let’s think about a standard organizational structure for example:

At an organization you will have functional groups such as Marketing, Engineering, Procurement, Sales, Research and Development (sometimes under Engineering), Manufacturing, Customer Service, Finance, Accounting, Legal, and more.  Typically, as an independent musician you will have to ignore some of these functions at first, wear many hats in another case, and build your team for the final case.  However, when you think about the functions you allow yourself to begin organizing your patterns and where you focus your efforts.

Lets break some of these functions down from the standpoint of the independent musician:


As an artist you need to have a plan for how your music and YOU (as the brand) are going to be perceived.  This includes the message you convey throughout Social Media, the branding on any flyers you hand out, how your shows are structured, and the overall way in which your marketing efforts will build on themselves.

Engineering/Research and Development:

Engineering/Research and Development is truly the creative process for independent artists.  In conjunction with your marketing efforts you should understand what kind of music you are looking to make.  Your marketing efforts (along with sales) should help you understand what kind of music your fans enjoy the most.  Note: This does not mean you hurt the creative process by only catering to what is popular but instead you are knowledgeable about what is in the market place and what works.


You need to have goals for you music, shows, and merchandise!  I’ve seen too many times where an independent artist will put on a show and blast it all around social media without a plan.  Focus on what you would expect your actual attendance to be (unless you’re established, you will likely not sell out…be realistic) and then set a goal for sales.  By setting a goal you can ensure you focus your efforts on the correct market to achieve your goal.

Why is this important?  If you focus your efforts in a calculated manner you can also ensure that you have time to focus on other respects.  Think about it this way: If I spent 100 hours  getting people to my show who would’ve come with only 20 hours of work, I could have spent another 80 hours on other potential revenue streams such as merchandising or preparing ways to capture fans.

Organizational structure is key in being able to develop strategies and processes that allow you to take your independent music business to the next level.

In order to understand your own personal independent music business you need to understand how to structure yourself to succeed.  By thinking about the different facets and the processes involved in each you will be able to create a long lasting strategy to move you into a better position with your business.