Indie Music Success Tips in the Age of iTunes
by Alan Steward

Indie Music Success in an ITunes World

As a record producer that worked with many Grammy winning acts and artists from the Temptations to the Baha Men, I've seen the enormous changes and the record industry has gone through in the past years. Many feel that all these changes, the illegal downloading etc. may bring the end to the record industry and artists can't hope for much more than to give their music away.

I feel that this new age of ITunes and Internet Marketing offers unlimited opportunities to bands and musicians that under the 'old system' of traditional record labels never would have had a chance.

Here are my five success tips for musicians and bands that want to make it in the music industry without a major label contract:

1) Get Distribution. Until very recently, getting any kind of distribution was impossible without a major label contract. ITunes does not take independent artists music. Now this has changed. You can sign up with either TuneCore www.tunecore.com or CD Baby www.cdbaby.com to get your music into all the major online outlets like ITunes, eMusic, Amazon etc. That's like instant world wide distribution. With a few mouse clicks, your songs are available from Tokyo, Japan to Novosibirsk, Siberia. And with online sales, there are no returns, no CDs to manufacture, no big advance costs to worry about.

2) Market your Music. There are unlimited ways to market your music on the internet. Your own web site is your first line of defense, if you don't have a site, get one. Selling your music there is as simple as placing a link back to ITunes. Then, there's MySpace, where you can set up an artist site for free and get your music heard, your videos played and more. Marketing yourself on the internet is hard work. Getting people to link to you, getting found in the search engines. etc. Here's a quick tip: To get found on the net, don't concentrate on getting the name of the band into the search engines. Remember, nobody knows you yet, so nobody will be searching for "The Rocking Elephants" or whatever you are called. Instead, try to get links that point to your style of music. When somebody searches on Google for "Russian Rock Fusion" your band's name should come up on top. We are following this strategy with www.alansteward.com and it is working quite well.

3) Market to Radio. A word of advice here. As an independent artist, you are wasting your time trying to market yourself to commercial radio stations. They will NOT play your songs. It takes millions to tap that market. The average marketing budget for a new major label release is at least 5 million dollars. You can't compete with that. What you can do, inexpensively and effectively is to market to college radio, internet stations, clubs, jazz programs etc. There are thousands of these outlets and in this day and age it is actually an advantage if your music is not mainstream pop but maybe reggae, jazz, electronica etc. A good service to use to market to these specialty outlets and stations is Radio Direct www.radiodirectx.com. They market your music to hundreds of specialty stations and DJs that play YOUR kind of music.

4) The rebirth of the EP. One thing I noticed on ITunes that no matter what album you look at, there are only two or maybe three songs on the album that get all the sales while the rest of the tracks get almost no sales at all. Yet, in order to get on ITunes, you have to have an 'album'. So you are wasting in a sense a lot of recording time and energy to fill an entire album just to sell those two or three 'hits' Our record label Slim Chance Recordings www.slimchancerecordings.com decided that we would only release 5 song EPs from now on. We feel that the EP will be the new 'album'. ITunes requires you to have an album but they don't tell you how many songs need to be on it so we found five a pretty good number. If you are an artist that has a lot of variety in their music, you can split one traditional album into 2-3 EPs that has songs of a similar style. So, your EP #1 may do well with jazz lovers while the next EP does well with fans of R&B. My EP "Slim Chance and the Groove Enigma" caters to people who like a more melodic kind of electronica with the exception of the ultra-commercial "Give it Up" that is the 'single' of that EP and probably has the widest appeal.

5) Leak it to the Illegals. Now this is probably the boldest move. The big complaint from all musicians and labels is the illegal downloading. Big labels are suing individuals, big artists take Napster to court to shut it down. But here's my take on that. If you are an 'unkown' and you don't have any sales anyway, why not give your first song away to get a fan base. You cannot get 'distribution' quicker than giving your stuff away by leaking it to the illegal downloaders and to make sure it gets around quickly. But here's the trick. Do not call your track 'Honey" by the 'Honeymakers' or whatever your song or band are really called. If your track sounds somewhat like Linkin Park, title it 'Unreleased Linkin Park?' with a question mark behind it. Hey, now everybody who likes Linkin Park and looks for an illegal download will see your song and if they like it, they will download it. The key here of course is, the MP3 tag for the song when they play it will show the real name of your song, your band name and if you are really smart, the URL to your web site.

Alan Steward, Recording Artist and Producer

Alan Steward is a record producer and recording artist who worked with Grammy winning artists from the Temptations to the Baha Men. He now runs his own record label and recording studio.