I come from Oregon, the Beaver state. Somebody has too. And like the eighties anthem by one of the many one hit wonder bands, of that era, A Flock of Seagulls, I Ran…oh yes, I ran so far away—as soon as was humanly possible. For me, that happened at the ripe old age of 15, when I signed up to be an ‘experimental exchange student’ leaving Indian land for the great land down-unda. (That’s how they pronounce it: downunda, as if it was one self-explanatory word; no ‘r’ needed). That was 1982.
My year abroad was neatly divided into four segments; The Outback, including the opal mines of Coober Pedy and the arid rock, known as Ayers; North Queensland with Magnetic Island and the yet to be touristized Gold Coast; Melbourne-where I would act as an honorary guest for the Carlton Blues Footie team—(again, footie, not Yankee gridiron); and finally a sheep station outside Alexandra, Victoria. There would be other educational excursions sprinkled throughout, and at the end of the year, it would be my feedback that would (allegedly) determine the fate of future exchange students.
When I returned to the States, I graduated high school, and attended OIT; where I began my career in earnest—spinning discs. Even then, I LOVED indie music; The Stranglers, Bob & Bob, Ebn-Ozn, Agent Organge and many more. My first commercial radio job was at 97 KROY in Sacramento. I followed that with more radio, Monsters of Rock and an array of varied music sort positions, both literally and figuratively.
A lot has changed in the past decades. Video Killed The Radio Star, Twitter feeds the world its information in 140 character tidbits, Facebook has delivered more friends to us than is humanly possible, the record companies are broke and breaking, Wal-Mart has spawned their own species, and the mass marketing machine has created for our consumption a myriad of pop marvels who pose as singers.
30 years later, I still love indie music though; those troubadours who go from club to club, street corner to street corner, creating an experience and selling their songs. They may be doing it without a record label, but, they don’t do it by themselves. In this ever-changing landscape, I thought I would share some ideas and thoughts on how we can support each other; musician to fan, fan to musician.
I went to Twitter and tweeted; “Looking for examples of indie musicians or buskers who have unique and innovative DIY ideas….” Here are some ideas that came back.
Let your fans interview you and catch it on video for YouTube. This is simple. Solicit questions from your fans and answer them on video, then share, share, share. Remember to state their name and question, which will inspire them to share, share, share!
If someone hands you something, they can take it away from you. Independent artists should be open to having people help them, if they can retain ownership of their Masters and still be in charge of their career and creative control. As an independent artist, having a killer live show and killer videos is a must. You should do a video for every song you plan to record and make them really good. And don’t just limit your live shows to nightclubs or coffee houses. You want to get in front of as many potential fans as you can; so think craft fairs, grand openings of business’, block parties, farmer’s markets, busking, street performing, etc…Also, it’s important that independent artists, are their own bank. You must invest in yourself with your time, money and every spare bit of energy you have, and take responsibility to fund your own growth. How can we ever expect others – fans for example, managers, partners, etc. – to invest in us if we don’t invest in ourselves first? It’s proof we believe in ourselves!
Turn Yourself into a Sandwich or Coffee Drink. If you perform regularly at a restaurant or coffee house, why not have a beverage or sandwich named after you and/or your band?
Cool Merch. Aside from shirts and CD’s on the merch tables, there are tons of other cool things that should also be there as well; Download cards-which are cheap, easy and fans LOVE them, candy or lollipops, stickers, buttons, customized flash drives, cool-interactive posters, vinyls. Come on, people have come out to see you at a show; give them something unique and collectible from the experience. (Editor’s Note: Download cards are some of our favorite things at a show. Truth & Salvage Company had some awesome cards at The Petaluma Music Festival, with cool art on one side, four new songs on the other for a mere five bucks.)
Invest in a CD duplicator. At your gigs, offer fans a CD of ‘tonight’s concert‘ for X amount of $. Collect emails and birthdays. When the time comes, send out a birthday shout-out via Facebook, Twitter, etc…Yes, it’s a lot of work, but, remember the saying; ‘if you aren’t out there promoting your music, someone else is promoting theirs’.
And finally, a couple of things bands should NOT do EVER….
Block the freeway during rush hour traffic while blasting your new single. This is annoying, but then when you say it is for charity, it just pisses us off. Or, defacing public property in the name of promotion–ie: plastering your posters over community murals and art. Just saying….
About Heather Jacks
Vixen of Vocabulary who likes to wax poetic about the world of street art, music,busking and all things indie. She has earned two college degrees, traveled extensively and written three books. She is currently finishing the multi-media project, The Noise Beneath the Apple Art-Style Book, to be released in NYC, Spring 2013.