Your local music scene provides both a helpful network of resources and an uplifting sense of community, and that's an especially empowering combo of tools for pushing your progress as a band or solo musician.
There are massively positive effects of being a member of your city's underground landscape – but don't forget that you shouldn't close yourself off from other, non-musical creatives, either.
Just like in an underground music scene, independent shops and other small businesses can benefit from working together rather than opting for an everyone-for-themselves ideology. Sharing fans and supporting each other – for example, a coffeehouse brings their brews to a nearby design studio's pop-up-shop event, and that coffeehouse commissions that studio for all their branded merchandise needs – strengthens both parties' followings, and in some cases, their incomes, too.
As a musician, you've got a service to offer, too. Live performances, merch, your fanbase – all of these are services worthy of bartering. Consider your own city: what small businesseses could you team up with for a mutually beneficial relationship?
Don't forget, though, that this is a give-and-take. What will you offer on your end? Promotion on your social media channels? List spots at shows? Live sets at no charge during their next event?
To get you pondering, we've compiled a list of seven types of businesses that you could partner with for reciprocal boosts to your independent creative efforts.
1. Individual artists and design collectives
If you aren't handling your own merch-making from start to finish, then you might benefit from partnering with someone who can. Solo artists, design studios and art collectives could help you materialize your merch ideas, from patches, buttons and enamel pins to screen-printed T-shirts. Your album artwork, of course, could get a boost under the helm of someone who truly knows what he or she is doing.
2. Art galleries
Working hand-in-hand with a local gallery can mean greater access to the skills of individual artists mentioned above. There are more creative possibilities, though: what if the gallery curated a mini-exhibit at your next show? How about your band delivers a stripped-down set at their next opening reception?
3. Print shops
As a DIY band or artist, you're going to have to spend on printing – there's no way around it. Flyers, at the very least, are a regular operational cost. Why not appeal to your local print shop for a possible discount with exclusive use?
In return, you could offer heavy promotion to your fans as well as within the local music scene? Considering how much money you'll be pouring into physical marketing over time, even a discount as small as five percent is a big help.
4. Record stores
This may seem like an obvious option, but how many of you are actually on a first-name basis with the folks at your local record store? Frequently collaborating could not only mean in-store events but also helpful extra pushes on their part when you're working to promote a new release. If you're not already a regular customer, start there.
5. Instrument and gear shops
These smaller shops – not chain stores – rely on repeat visits from local musicians. Why not help them spread the word by shopping there exclusively and promoting that alliance to your fellow musicians? They might be willing to give you a discount or maybe just throw in an extra pack of guitar strings now and then. (Every little bit helps.)
6. Photographers and videographers
You absolutely need great photos and videos of your live sets, and that's something you can't really do on your own, because duh, you're usually sort of busy onstage. While there are some photographers and videographers who document solely for the love of it, many are working toward (or already are) making a living from their creative passions – just like you are.
7. Internet radio and podcasts
Local podcasts and radio shows are a source for press, but they can also be a tool for community building. Offer a studio performance or a curated playlist – you'll help spread the word about their efforts to your fans, and their existing fanbase will be exposed to your work.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.