Love is in the air. Candy-shaped hearts line the shelves of every market, while oversized teddy bears get carried out of drugstores in droves. It’s that beautiful moment of year called Valentine’s Day, where whether you like it or not, you’re going to be smothered by all that love has to offer.
But to celebrate this year, we wanted to put a musical spin on the whole charade. Valentine’s Day doesn’t only have to be about loving your relationship partner (or lack thereof), it can be about loving your band, and loving how awesome it is that you’re an independent band. (I know, I know... Too mushy?)
Alright, grab your favorite heart-shaped candy and let’s get cozy. There’s a lot of reasons why you should love being an indie artist, and these are five of my favorites.
1. You get to call all the shots
Do you want to go on tour in a month? Great! You can do that. Do you want to release an electronic album this year and then try your hand at pop next year? You do you. As an independent artist, you get to decide what happens in your career, and that is so empowering.
Having the freedom to say “yes” to exciting opportunities or “no” to the ones that turn you off means you’ll never waste time on the things that don’t light you up. You don’t have to do anything just because of “optics,” or waste time hanging out with or working with people who make you feel miserable.
Simply put, you’re in control of your own destiny.
2. You can experiment to your heart’s content
If you’re in a hardcore band and you want to tour with a rapper, do it! Personally, I’d love to see more multi-genre shows and tours. If you want to try a collaboration with the coffee shop down the street or a new indie drum company, you can do it!
You don’t have to wait for anyone to do the paperwork and approve your big ideas—you can simply get out there, try them, and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. There was nothing really lost. You just get to move on to the next thing and keep experimenting.
3. Guess who keeps all the moolah?
That’s right, it’s you.
This one doesn't really need a ton of explanation. Get your finances in order, and make sure you own your masters at the very least. As the sole proprietor of You Incorporated, none of the money you make from merch, tours, or sales is going to go to a label—it simply goes back in your pocket.
Check out: 26 ways musicians can make money
4. You have no idea what the future holds (and yes, that is exciting!)
I know it can seem a little scary when you think about all the uncertainties of the future. But try to flip that around; not knowing what the future holds also means you can make it whatever you want. There’s a kind of magic inherent in not having your future plans decided by someone else.
You don’t get that when you’re signed. When you sign to a label, you usually know exactly what’s coming ahead—and while there’s comfort in that, it can also be, well…boring.
There’s no more wondering what amazing thing is going to happen next—you’re just going about the routine and walking the line. Creativity needs risk to survive, and it needs to be challenged. “DIY” might mean working a little harder and getting a little scrappier, but it also means you’ll never be bored and you’ll never have to compromise on that creativity.
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5. One day you’ll lack this freedom—and you’ll miss it
In my earlier blogging days, I interviewed a lot of signed artists. And while they were typically grateful for the opportunities they’d been exposed to as a result of partnering with a label, many consistently expressed nostalgia for their independent days.
I specifically remember one band talking about how they missed the days of being able to just release a single when they wanted to—and not have to integrate it into a calculated marketing plan. Something so simple that they took for granted now required 10+ people to approve, a series of strategies and analytics, and a list of 25 other things that needed to happen under the responsibility of a team of strangers.
Now, I understand the appeals and luxuries of having a label behind you—and for a lot of reasons, I think it’s a fantastic option. But gone are the days when you actually need a label to be successful, and gone are the days when labels are the answer to all your perceived problems.
So this Valentine’s Day, don’t fret that you’re alone; embrace it! And don’t ever forget how lucky you are to be independent in this day and age. There is so much to love about the creative freedom that comes along with being DIY. Will you be your valentine?
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and the THRIVE mentorship program—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.
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