Just about every independent musician has worked his or her butt off promoting a show or writing an album, only to get paid a small, small amount back in comparison to the amount of effort put in. Oftentimes, we have to dig into our own pockets to do the things we want, like record in a proper studio or buy new gear. And while music might not be lucrative in the beginning, there are plenty of ways to invest your limited funds wisely from the get-go and put that money back into your music career.
You don't need to be rich to make smart investments – it's totally possible to make a little bit of money go a long way. Here are six small investments that will make a huge impact on your career.
1. Social media ads
By now, most people know that it's become increasingly difficult to reach an audience on social media without coughing up some advertising dollars. This is especially the case for Facebook, where we're seeing organic reach growing smaller and smaller.
Bands shouldn't be afraid to utilize social media advertising. If you're promoting a show, consider setting aside a small budget to boost your posts. The same goes with a new single, EP, LP, or any other big band news that you want your audience to know about. Not only will you be able to reach your following, but you can also target new fans. Maybe throw $25 at a post here and there, and get your message out to your fans! It won't break the bank, but with the right targeting and messaging, it will certainly help your marketing efforts.
2. Memorable branded merch
Do you remember the first piece of merch you bought? Do you remember your favorite piece of merch you bought? What made it stand out? How did it relate back to the music and your experience with the band's songs? Memorable branded merch is incredibly important for bands looking to make strong bonds with their fans.
Investing in stickers, posters, T-shirts, CDs, etc. is necessary for any band, but how can you make the investment a little more worthwhile? Make tour-specific shirts – or if you can, show-specific shirts or posters. Give your fans something to remember their experience with your music. Merchandise should always be branded, as well – always be sure to have your band name or logo represented in there somewhere.
Also, while this may seem counterintuitive, consider investing in items to give away for free, like stickers or show posters. It's nice to make your money back and maybe even profit, but it's even better to turn casual fans into lifelong superfans by having them walk away with your brand, your music, and your presence in their bag.
3. A photographer or videographer
While this can certainly be very expensive, no one says you have to hire the world's most demanded photographers or videographers. Make an investment to get high quality, professional press photos done. If you have a friend who will do it for a favor, then that's even better – but make sure he or she is 100 percent professional. The same goes with a videographer: while we believe in the power of DIY and iPhone-made videos, don't be afraid to front some money to hire a professional to shoot your next video or high-profile live show. This investment will go a long way in your music's ability to leave a lasting impression.
Humans are visual creatures – we like seeing music performed, and we like seeing the faces behind the music. While DIY visuals can be fun and personal, it's very recommended you invest in a few professional shots. They'll increase your chances of getting good press, winning opportunities, and getting noticed.
4. Graphic design skills
While we also recommend hiring a professional designer when the need calls, learning how to design is a very valuable skill for any musician. This allows you to create show posters, social media posts, stickers, business cards, and even album artwork. You'll have to pull together some money to purchase the necessary design programs and possibly a few design courses, but you can do it cheaply. YouTube and Google are your friends – there are numerous resources to learn basic design skills for free, at home.
By teaching yourself to design, you're not only giving yourself more opportunities to promote, but you're also heightening your artistic eye and ability to properly design your music's aesthetic message.
5. Quality headphones and studio monitors
Like hiring a photographer, this can be a very expensive investment, but it doesn't have to be.
Let’s start off talking about why it's important to invest in quality headphones and/or studio monitors. When you go to the studio and take your demos back home, you want to be able to spend hours and hours listening back to them for changes. If you produce and record at home, having proper equipment to listen back to your music is integral for getting your sound to its full potential.
Sennheiser has a large variety of high-quality headphones for under $50. Good studio monitors can run you under $100 – it might not be very loud, but it will be accurate, at least far more accurate than laptop speakers or a crummy PA. Spend a little money on quality items that will allow you to hear your music's full dynamic range. We've all heard bands that are great live with great songs, but when you listen to their album, you're left wondering what went wrong. Don't let that happen to you!
6. A professional EPK
Shameless plug here, but we wouldn't say it if we didn't believe it. Your electronic press kit (EPK) is your professional music resume, and by hosting it on Sonicbids, the leading career platform for musicians, your EPK is made available to our network of over 25,000 music industry professionals actively searching Sonicbids every day for artists like you. Just by signing up and creating an EPK, your band will be featured in those search results.
In addition to the suite of music career tools that you get as a Sonicbids member, there's no need to start from scratch every time you're looking for gigs and other music opportunities. Once you set up the specific criteria you're looking for on Sonicbids, you can save your search, which allows you to return to it later on your dashboard. You'll also get an email notification when a new opportunity matches what you're looking for, so you'll be the first to know!
The reality of today's music industry is that you can't just write songs and expect success to magically fall in your lap. Having a professional EPK on Sonicbids allows you to put yourself out there – to let the industry know your music is ready and you want to be heard. Through our exclusive partnerships, thousands of Sonicbids members have been given the opportunity to play legendary festivals and venues around the world, have their music placed in major TV shows and commercials, and so much more. (In case you're wondering who some of these people are, we interview musicians every week right here on the Sonicbids blog who have had tremendous success using Sonicbids as a platform to launch their music careers.) At such a low cost for membership, the potential return on investment for your music career is huge.
Sam Friedman is an electronic music producer and singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, NY. His music blends experimental ambience with indie-driven dance music. In addition to pursuing his own music, he is a New Music Editor for Unrecorded and is passionate about music journalism. Check out his music and follow him on Twitter @nerveleak.