2 Innovative Practices for Modern Musicians

Get Inspired. Be Different.

What does it mean to be a "modern musician"?

Playing shows, touring, recording full-length albums and pressing them on CD or vinyl is all good, but if that is all you are doing, it's time for a wake up call.

There are two main habits that I see in musicians I admire. As a bonus, throughout the week I will be sharing on my Facebook page mini-profiles of local and national independent artists who I think are doing this whole innovation thing right. They all have fantastic ideas and the success to prove it, and I can't wait to share with you what they have to say.

In the meantime, are you ready for a jolt of inspiration?

Don't just rely on one way of making money.

Don't just rely on one way of making money.

ENGAGE MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME

Everyone knows the music business is a competitive industry. The advancement of modern recording techniques and social media have really made it easier for anyone to independently produce and share their music with the world. That's great news for all of us, but that also means the market is super saturated.

If you're putting all of your effort into perfecting your craft, writing songs, recording albums, and playing shows--and putting all of your money into printing CDs and other merchandise to sell at those shows--then you are limiting your progress.

If you want to engage multiple streams of income, make sure you focus on projects that only cost you time, or perhaps a small amount of money upfront. Constantly creating projects that have a high cost investment means you're not going to make much profit--and yes, merchandise sales are a high cost investment. (Think about how much those t-shirts cost to make!)

So, for example, if you're a songwriter, why not offer to pen tunes for others via the Internet? Sure, it takes time, and if you don't have a way to record yourself, you may have to buy a microphone or two. But learning the skill of recording can open up doors for more streams of income and opportunities for collaboration. It might take you two hours to write and record music for a short video on YouTube, but you can charge someone a great rate for that kind of work. That's because you're a specialist--don't pigeonhole yourself into being a one-act show.

Learning new skills like recording can help you turn one small project into multiple revenue streams.

Learning new skills like recording can help you turn one small project into multiple revenue streams.

MODERNIZE YOUR APPROACH FOR THE DIGITAL AGE

Think a 12-track album is the only way to go? One big punch and months of work, all wrapped up in a single promotional plan? You may be working harder than you need to.

We are in the digital age. Music is sold online, shared online, and listened to online. The way of the album is starting to fade as far as musical sales go, which I am both excited and depressed about. I absolutely love full-length albums--buying vinyl copies, listening as an activity, analyzing them and looking over the artwork. I think everyone should release full-length albums. But that should not be your end game.

There's a producer named Jeremy Larson that I have been extremely inspired by lately. Check out his website if you have the chance--he is a string arranger, producer, mixing engineer, musician, and composer. His latest projects, however, are what really capture my attention: Mr. Larson is composing and recording a series of EPs under the pseudonym Violents, wherein he collaborates with female singers that he admires. The releases are four tracks and cost $3.99 to download on iTunes, and they are only released digitally. He takes the photos and creates the graphics for the artwork. That means that all it costs Mr. Larson to complete one EP is (maybe) a fee for the singer, and one month of time. And he has been churning them out like crazy.

That, to me, is modernizing for the digital age. Dusting off the "old school" ways and trying something new. Just think about the sorts of things that you can accomplish if you just take some risks.


I hope this was the burst of innovation that you needed to refresh your mind and come up with some new approaches to your musical career. For further ideas, you can read stories of local and national independent musicians on our Featured Innovative Artists album.

Who are some innovative musicians you admire?
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Meg Kuhar

An endlessly curious creator, Meg can usually be found making something, whether it’s a website, music, or a crochet project. She is the first Assistant Professor of Music Technology at Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music, and lives in Cleveland Heights with her husband Nick, and their handful of a dog Petunia.