The Industry's Secrets for DIY Musicians
Everyday is a learning day in this industry, and that’s just for the industry itself. For music makers the challenge is doubled: know how to navigate the complexities of the world around music, and create great things at the same time. Tough stuff.
And it seems at the early stages of a musicians career, when specific support structures aren’t yet in place when it comes to personnel and funding, so-called DIY musicians have to find another way. Find another route on which to lean on and learn from.
The good news is, those things exist. Made up by experts in their field and put together by CMU’s Pathway Into Music Foundation, the ‘Artists Circle’ is a research driven model that provides helpful tips and direction to navigate the world of music making, when that responsibility is solely your own.
Majoris Music was in the room when the ‘creation’ section of the circle was being presented, and here’s what we learnt:
1. Relentlessly collaborate.
We all know the value of collaboration when just starting out. Indeed, this still applies to the biggest names in your playlists today, and has become a near-crucial part of establishing and maintaining commercial success. What pushes this into the relentless factor is the expansive nature of collaboration.
Look not just for people inside your circle, but collaborators out of it too. Outside of your genre, outside of your ‘fit’, or even outside of your country. Take every opportunity to acquire those different experiences, and so from that, learning too. This especially applies to seeking opportunities to collaborate with those pursuing other creative fields, like photographers.
2. Go back to the playground(s).
Definitely don’t stay in your lane with this one. Creating ‘musical playgrounds’ is about dipping your toes into all kinds of music-making arenas. Whether it’s dropping into a session you know is happening, getting involved in cyphers with other artists, or picking up your instrument in a jam. Find those places that facilitate experimentation with music, and magic will eventually happen.
As noted in our recent Major on The Silhouette Project’s sold out headline Jazz Cafe show, it was exactly those jam sessions that started the project as a whole, and eventually led to selling out one of London’s most prolific venues. Get out there!
3. Try it all.
Be encouraged to wear as many hats as you feel comfortable wearing. There’s huge value in having broad skill bases as a musician still defining the path you’re going to take. Is performing your thing? See what you can do on the production side too, and if your primary skill can play into the building of another skill too.
In the age of the ‘DIY’ musician, the more self-sufficient you are, the better, and this can help equalise the playing field to help you get to where you or your project need to go.
4. Be comfortable with your constraints.
Starting out, maybe your studio is a portable one. Maybe you’re not working with the most advanced software yet. Maybe things aren’t quite Abbey Road and Fender at the moment. That’s okay!
A huge amount can be achieved with very little. It is said that Umbrella - Rihanna’s 2007 hit single - is centred around the mere and humble loop on Logic. The song held number one on the UK Singles Chart for 10 weeks - the longest for any single that decade.
The magic that is the early Billie Eilish discography is Logic material too, but not just that - stock Logic material.
5. It’s a sign of the times.
Bedroom Pop: once a phrase of what could’ve been had you put a little bit more money into the production. Now, a whole corner of the market, celebrated by many and aspired to in the same way.
The advent of the genre and its related bedroom derivatives has come, and there’s an unmistakable authenticity of sound that comes from self-produced work. It’s an often subtle part of the listening experience that sounds that bit better knowing it has come from a place of raw passion and creativity, outside of label-backed studios. People will want to hear, regardless of where it was made!
6. See it over the line.
There’s just always something about a project that makes it so hard to finish, isn’t there? Constantly radiating from your creation is a sense that the next one will be better, or that in some way getting it to a place of finality is something that you can’t do. We get it.
But in so many cases it’s so important to finish what you started. A track out in the aether can be a basis for you to gauge response, get some all-important feedback and interact with your audience. All things that will make your work better, the pursuit of which is ironically the reason why some leave their work unfinished. From finding creative ways to finish a project to avoiding that weight of inertia that comes from stalling, getting things over the line is (mostly) your best bet.
7. Be in it for the long run
Getting viral as a means of success has often clouded the fact that ‘making it’ takes longer than one or two years. You’ll often find those years behind the viral moment itself.
The good news to this is that whilst the graft is, in most cases, a necessary component, it’s also a time where you get to hone your craft and do more of the things you love. The most solid foundations are the ones built with care, over time, and loyalty pays dividends! Having a core fanbase aware of the story behind the stage name can be so important, and meaningfulness in lieu of virality is a good holding point. Keep going!
8. Get your rights right.
It’s a weird, sticky, sometimes uncomfortable conversation to have. But what if it wasn’t?
Every musical creation you’re gifted enough to come up with or contribute to is protected by copyright. When you do that with other people, those rights are shared. So a discussion on how they’re shared makes sense, right? It can even happen in the studio!
Your talents are there to be celebrated, so make sure they are by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s when it comes to credit and making sure your name is in the right place. Don’t shirk the difficult decisions.
Being involved with the Artist’s Circle really spoke to us, because fundamentally this is about supporting that all-important musical demographic: up and coming artists. In the same way that the CMU’s Pathway Into Music Foundation helps this key community to define their journey of creative pursuit, Majoris Music provides passionate and cared-for PR, marketing and journalism services - because we love the craft just as much as you do.
If you think we can help you on your journey to something great, get in touch.