Sometimes it can feel like your path as a DIY musician is paved with obstacles. It’s a lot of pressure, budget, and responsibility for just one set of people to handle, and having a label to help you out (especially with the budget side) can feel incredibly refreshing.
While it’s true that having a team to help you out when it comes to things like press or booking tours is something you’ll want to eventually budget for, there’s also a lot of power to be had by being a DIY musician.
Now, this isn’t to say that being on a label might not be a logical next step — rather, it doesn’t have to be a make-it-or-break-it kind of thing when it comes to your career. We’ve put together a list of six ways that DIY artists have more power than ever.
1. You can get as creative as you want — without asking permission
When you’re on a label, you have someone to answer to. While sometimes that can be a good thing, it can also be really restrictive, especially if you’re a band that’s used to trying things a little outside the box, experimenting a lot, or doing things on a whim.
One of the greatest powers that you hold as a DIY musician is to be the sole decision maker and have the final say when it comes to everything from what kind of music you make, what tour dates you go on, the design of your T-shirts, and your branding.
If it seems like having someone to guide you on those things would be helpful, then consider hiring experts in the areas you struggle with. In fact, I encourage surrounding yourself with team members! There’s a big difference between working with a team of promoters, publicists, and managers vs a label that owns part of everything you do.
So, enjoy your freedom as a DIY artist! You wouldn’t believe how many signed artists list all the rules and lack of freedom as one of the main things they miss after signing.
2. You get to choose who you do (and don't) work with
Usually, when you’re signed to a label, your team is already picked out for you. They have set team members either in-house or that they hire out for to do everything from marketing to booking to management to press, meaning even if you don’t vibe well with any of those team members, you’re more than likely stuck with them.
When you’re in charge of your career, it means you also get to choose who you do and don’t work with. You can take calls with multiple publicists until you find one that you feel really gets you, and then move forward. You can choose to book a show with a lineup that doesn’t totally make sense on paper, but that you know will put on a killer show in the end.
You can choose to stop at that tiny town in NJ with the pizza place you love, even if you know the turn out will be small. You get to surround yourself with only the best people to support your career, hand picked and selected based off their passion around your project.
3. You become more informed
One of the most valuable things that DIY artists can take away from the process is all the knowledge they’ll acquire simply by doing. It may not seem like it now, but by booking those tours yourself, learning how to write a strong pitch email, or figuring out how to put together the perfect show lineup, you’re setting yourself up for immense success when and if you ever do decide to sign to a label.
Because you’ve been doing these tasks yourself, you’ll know what’s involved, which will not only help you to appreciate and understand what your team members are doing when they’re hired (label or no label) but it will also help you know what to look for, and what to run from.
4. You own everything
Of course, when you're DIY-ing it, one of the major pros is that you keep the rights to your music, and you also keep the cash. This means no bad deals, no compromising your vision, and no major loss of cash. Pretty good, right?
5. Your connection to fans is stronger
When you’re a DIY artist, you’re more accessible, which means you can hang out after a show and meet fans, or spend an hour or two a day on social media talking to them. You can experiment with new ways to reach them (and who knows your fans better than you do?) and speak to them in a way that feels much more intimate and genuine than if it was controlled by a label, whose main goal is to sell, rather than connect.
As a DIY artist, your fans are your family — and that’s one of the most powerful and inspiring gifts that comes with being DIY.
6. You decide the future
Being 100 percent in charge of your career means being 100 percent in charge of your future. Sure, it can seem daunting at first but it also means you have the power to succeed based off your decisions and your decisions alone. It means that you have complete and total power when it comes to what happens next—which is sort of exciting when you think of it!
It means instead of waiting around for someone else to make your dreams come true, and hoping that they do, you get to be that person. You get to put the plan in place and get things in motion so that when you do succeed, it won’t be because you sat around waiting for someone else to make it happen—it will be because you took control and made it happen.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine, as well as a PR coach. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.