Why should you only take music-career advice from legit sources?
Because your music career depends on it, at least partially. If you get bad advice, you could end up wasting years of your life chasing a facet of your music career that wasn’t working and was never going to work.
And that leads us to the question, “What are these reliable sources you speak of?”
And that’s what I’d like to help with. I’ll go through the different categories of being a DIY musician and point you to some things I’ve found super helpful.
Where to get songwriting advice
Don’t get your songwriting advice from random blogs that claim to have “songwriting secrets” or a seven-step process to writing hit songs. Anyone can start a blog and say anything.
The best place for songwriting advice, I think, is directly from the great songwriters. I understand “great” is subjective here. So go find interviews with your favorite songwriters — try Rolling Stone, American Songwriter magazine, and SongFacts — and learn from them.
I’d also suggest checking out the book Songwriters On Songwriting, which is packed full of interviews with some of the most well-known songwriters. A few names you’ll see in it include Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Brian Williams, Patti Smith, Tom Petty and a bunch of others.
Where to get audio engineering and music production advice
A ton of recording-and-mixing websites regurgitate information they found somewhere else and pretend they’ve written it from their own expertise. Why trust these websites when you can go right to the source?
A few examples of reliable sources include Sound On Sound magazine and Tape Op magazine, both featuring interviews with audio engineers as well as gear and software reviews. And experts are writing this stuff, not some college students looking for class credit.
If you want to start simple and get some basic step-by-step instructions for recording and mixing music, I’d suggest The Recording Revolution and Musician On A Mission. Both have videos and blog posts that will get you started with recording, editing, mixing, and even mastering music. And both websites come from experienced engineers and musicians.
Where to get advice on being a DIY musician
Be wary of blogs run by people who aren’t actively being musicians. Read the “About” page to see who the writer is and what they’ve done.
One website where you can hear directly from a full-time musician is Ari's Take. It’s a blog that singer-songwriter Ari Herstand runs. He started it as a way to help his fellow musicians learn how to properly tour, and now it’s one of the most trusted music-advice sites out there.
Another place where DIY musicians speak right to you is CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog. It’s managed by a singer-songwriter (Chris Robley) and there are often guest posts from working musicians.
Where to get advice on getting and playing live shows
When you get advice about playing gigs — what venues to choose, how to become a better performer, how to work out an agreement — you want to hear from someone who’s done all those things.
Sonicbids is specifically built to help musicians get gigs — the right gigs. And the content the other writers and I produce is meant to help you in that process. We’re all musicians, songwriters, performers, and/or members of the music industry. So we’ve been around the block and we want to tell you what we’ve seen.
Where to find advice on creativity as a musician
Creativity is an essential part of being a musician. You’ve got to keep it alive and well.
To do that, I’d suggest reading all three creativity-related books by writer and artist Austin Kleon: Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work!, and Keep Going. They’re short and easy to read and they have plenty of drawings and photos.
The next place to look is the fabulous website and newsletter called For The Interested. The curator, Josh Spector, is a marketer, writer, and “idea guy.” He writes blog posts covering things he’s learned about creativity, but he also pulls from other creative people. His newsletter is literally a list of things from other artists, writers, and the like that have inspired him.
Books and the internet are not the only places to find inspiration and direction for your music career. And the other options are right in front of you.
First, talk to your musician friends. Ask for their advice. Learn from them. What have they done that has helped them accomplish XYZ? How can you implement those things into your own music career?
Second, listen to musician acquaintances. You can find them in Facebook groups like Ari's Take New Music Business or Sync Lounge, or in subreddits like r/recordingmusic or r/BedroomBands.
Reliable sources for music advice are out there, you just have to know where to look. And now you do.
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter and producer based in Austin, TX., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.