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The One Thing

7 essential skills for independent artists

Published 2 months ago • 4 min read

Being an independent artist is a lot of work.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of things that vie for our time and attention.

If you’re anything like me, it can feel impossible to keep track of it all.

But, while the to-do list may feel unending, fundamentally, I believe there are 7 skills that, if mastered, will make the path to success much simpler for all of us.

Here’s how I think about it.

Music production

The core function of a recording artist is to create music.

Because of this, I believe every artist should know the basics of what goes into the music production process.

It’s important to understand concepts like EQ, compression, pitch, timing, and arrangement—you want to be musically literate.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing yourself or be a music theory genius, but knowing the nuts and bolts will allow you to outsource things like editing, vocal timing and tuning, mix prep, mixing, mastering, and more with confidence.

And if you are doing everything yourself, then you’ll have the tools you need to ensure a quality finished product.

Branding and identity

We live in a visual culture, and the single most effective way to spread the word about your music is with a strong visual identity.

This means taking the time to craft your brand with purpose and understanding.

A professional recording artist is more than just an artist—they are a business and a brand too.

Putting thought into the message and emotion you want to convey with your brand is an increasingly important cornerstone for success in music.

Content creation

Much in the same way branding and identity are requisite steps in our visual-first culture, so too is creating content to promote your work.

Great content should serve as an extension of your core brand identity.

Do you make gritty, distorted rock music? Your content can keep to the same tone.

Clean, bubblegum pop? Maybe a brighter, happier form of content is better for you.

No matter your genre, crafting engaging content to complement and promote your work is critical.

Merchandise and design

Merchandise is a great way to increase revenue as an independent artist.

Whether you’re solely a web-based artist or playing shows all year, offering a bit of memorabilia for your fans is huge—they get to take a piece of you home with them.

Great merch is an extension of your core visual brand and is also a great marketing tool.

After all, your name on a t-shirt is essentially a walking billboard.

I’ll admit, delegating out merch design is often the best move for most of us, as the mechanics of apparel design are unique in their own right; however, having a firm grasp on the vision for your merch will make the process of communicating ideas far easier when it comes time to create offerings for your fans.

Marketing and advertising

A great song is powerless if no one knows about it—you have to tell people about your music.

Creating content online is a powerful way to spread the word about your work, but learning the basics of digital advertising can make your game even stronger.

Just as with visuals and design, you may wish to delegate some of this out, but it still helps a ton to understand how ads work.

Taking the time to get a grasp of human psychology and why people click on an ad or a video will go a long way too.

The core of this though, is understanding your audience.

Every artist, genre, and song is different, so do a bit of digging and learn what makes your audience tick. If you can do that, you’ll be able to serve them far more effectively than you ever could by just taking shots in the dark.

Learn to write

I believe the single greatest skill any creative person can cultivate is to learn to write well, and the fastest way to do this is to write all the time.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, cinematographer, entrepreneur, educator, or whatever else—writing is the foundation of communicating ideas.

I write every single day, usually multiple times per day.

Writing is a skill I’ve honed over years of practice and it didn’t always come naturally to me, but now that I have it and practice it daily, I can pull from it whenever I need it.

If you can learn to record and communicate ideas with clarity and persuasion, you’ll make better songs, craft better visuals, tell better stories, and connect with people on a much deeper and richer level than you ever thought possible.

Trust me when I tell you that, if you’re a musician, you’re a writer first, especially if you’re singing in your songs.

After all, music is just the written word communicated through sound and voice.

Building relationships

Music, as with any other business, is built on relationships.

How often have any of us heard it said, “It’s not what you know but who you know”?

But being good at relationships doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we have to learn how to establish and maintain friendships and professional acquaintances.

I personally despise the term “networking” and don’t advise anyone approach a career in music with this in mind.

Folks can sniff this out quite easily and you don’t want to be the person who walks into a room only to have people groan because everyone knows you’re only there for you.

Instead, I recommend adopting a posture of being someone who is invested in the success of others. Try giving without expecting anything in return.

A simple kind word or grabbing coffee without expectation can go a long way.

And a word of advice: look to forge bonds with others who are at or around your level. As your career progresses, these will be the ones you look to (and who look to you) when the time for an “ask” presents itself.

That’s it for this one.

Whenever you're ready, here are three ways I can help you:

  1. Get more marketing information for free by exploring our entire backlog of Articles here.
  2. Learn to quickly and easily automate your growth on Spotify inside the DuPree X Academy here.
  3. Hire our team to market your music for you by becoming a DuPree X Agency client here.

Have a fantastic week,

Tom

The One Thing

Tom DuPree III

One high-leverage idea to scale your audience (and your business). Delivered every Tuesday.

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