Jonathan Wax is the founder of 4×4 Artist Management, a boutique music management and marketing firm in NYC. As a manager who has utilized many unique independent marketing strategies, he helped secure his brother, pop/rock artist Mikey Wax, a record deal with Toucan Cove/Universal, a worldwide co-publishing deal with PEN Music Group, over 15M Spotify streams, along with dozens of TV syncs with brands that include Nike Swim, Hollister Clothing, United Airlines and more. He has also helped grow the careers of over 300 independent artists using these outside-the-box digital marketing strategies.
The music industry is constantly evolving. Digital streaming is continuing to grow while digital downloads fade into history. Going on the road is an exhausting process if you’re not selling hundreds of tickets each night. Getting on mainstream radio is a difficult road mostly controlled by the major labels. So how does one succeed in today’s music industry as an indie artist? Here are five tips that I think are important in today’s music industry:
1) Focus on singles. Save for a few specific genres, albums have become a thing of the past. Focus on writing and recording undeniable songs, and releasing them one by one over the course of a few months or even a year. Pitch the single to playlists on digital streaming platforms like Spotify using Spotify’s submission portal, or team up with a digital distributor or marketing firm like 4×4 that has relationships with playlisters at these streaming platforms to land playlists. Do your best to build as much momentum as possible behind one individual song. If that song takes off, rest assured you will now have enough fans supporting you to release an EP and eventually an LP that people will actually listen to. Otherwise, you will be spending a large budget recording an album that people may never hear. It is better to focus on writing/recording 3 amazing songs and utilizing your remaining budget to market the music, instead of recording 7 more songs to make a full LP. If the 3 songs take off, you will likely have that budget to finish your album AND market it.
2) Get a sync licensing team on board. Find yourself a team to pitch your music for TV/film/advertising. Not only will this be excellent exposure that can lead to lots of Shazams, streams, touring opportunities and overall greater industry attention, but it can provide excellent financial compensation to allow you to continue doing what you do best; being an artist. There are lots of licensing agencies out there who act as the middle-man to pitch your music for these sync opportunities. They have the relationships with music supervisors. Some of these agencies are non-exclusive, some are exclusive. Submit to them and if your music is selected by one of these agencies, definitely get a lawyer or experienced industry representative to review the terms. Again, once you sign with a licensing agency, they act as the middle-man to pitch your music directly to the music supervisors who are the big piece in selecting the music for a specific sync opportunity.
3) Grow your social media. Social media has become such an important factor in today’s world and it is something I help all my clients with. Having great content, and investing some money into the growth of your online accounts can go a long way. It can help get you the feedback you need to see if you’re on the right track, it can help get the word out, and it can also grab the attention of people in the industry. Today’s game has become so analytics-based that many of the industry movers and shakers won’t jump in until they see some sort of buzz. Social media certainly creates buzz. But don’t bother buying fake followers as it is easily noticeable.
4) Upload a lyric video or a music video to YouTube. Having visual content on YouTube is important. A lot of times the first thing people will do after they discover your music is to look it up on YouTube. Lyric videos and music videos can now be done in an affordable way. And then you can look to marketing agencies like 4×4, and others in the industry to help you market it. One company I work closely with on music video promotions is HIP Video Promo (hipvideopromo.com).
5) Mediabase mainstream radio campaigns are of course excellent exposure, but as they are unbelievably expensive and extremely competitive, your odds of succeeding in this avenue without the help of a major label are incredibly slim. However, there are other radio outlets. One effective way is to look into companies providing in-store radio promotions. Getting your music on the air in stores like Bloomingdales, Duane Reade, Gap, and similar retailers is a great way to being discovered. They all have their own unique in-store radio set up due to their important need to play music that will appeal exactly to their unique customer-base. I have seen many tweets to my clients who have had their music discovered by fans shopping in department stores. In-store radio campaigns are much more affordable compared to mainstream radio campaigns, and it certainly helps build buzz and momentum.
I hope you enjoyed these 5 tips to having success as an independent artist. If you have any questions for me, you can always reach out: Jonathan@4x4ArtistManagement.com. And if you would like to learn more about the business and how much your favorite celebs earn on The Squander