The Hardest Things About Being In an Independent Band

Being an independent artist has many stumbling stones. Some are emotional and others are physical. We as musicians should share and talk about these factors to help others deal with them better.

We reflect on key factors as if we are teaching the younger version of ourselves about the warning signs and how to overcome them. So if you can think of any more that you are struggling with, please drop them in the comments and we can address them by updating this post.

If you are currently thinking about starting a band and want to know about some of the core risks to the job, don’t miss the article that I published about What Are The Main Risks of Becoming a Musician for a complete overview. Like they say: all sports have their injuries. 😉

Let’s get into it!

Money Is King (or Not?)

We often feel powerless when we can’t afford the things we really need. It starts with having the ideal gear and then it carries over to recording and promotion etc. Where in fact, we should use what we have and focus on the job at hand, which is writing music and entertainment.

The battle comes in especially when you are not making money to support your band expenses that can really get to you. We all went through this, and we should remind ourselves to stick to the basics:

  • Our band is our passion and for now, still a hobby.
  • Keep your head down and work with what you have.
  • Success could be right around the corner.
  • Use the contacts that you have and keep networking

As an unsigned band, we feel that a label or manager would take all our financial problems disappear, but that’s only half the truth.

There will still be labels that want to make money from you without investing first. Be careful who you sign with.

I remember when I just started out with music with a friend of mine; we borrowed gear from our high school teacher. From instruments, amps and PA. Just having this made it possible for me to get the feeling of band practice and belonging to a group of musicians working towards a common goal.

You can get far with only a little support.

A tip from me: Set achievable goals for your band. This will help you to save enough and budget well for what you need.

I wrote a helpful blog post about Goal Setting for Bands and Artists that I highly recommend you scan through for some extra guidance.

Emotional Eek of Being a Musician

The emotional battle is a real one. We show each other that we are strong and confident, but in reality, we are often weak and struggling with self-doubt.

If this is you, you’re not alone!

Let’s address what contributes to the self-doubts and what we can do to minimise the struggle.

This post was written and posted by De Wet from on 06.07.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere else.

Remind yourself of your career highlights when the self-doubt kicks in (Photo credit: Canva)

Constant Comparison

If you are often comparing yourself with others, then you are guilty of this.

Comparing yourself to others is the root of the problem. Everybody is on a different track and on a different journey. It’s completely unfair to yourself if you judge yourself and get into a comparison battle.

What could you do?

Stay away from social media or opening your ears to the opinion of others. The quicker you understand that the market is big enough for all of us, the better.

Being Unique

This will make you stand out above the others.

Think about having a unique identity or image that people will recognise and support you by. This could be something you wear, or certain values that you stand by. People like to identify themselves with someone they can relate to.

For this, I can absolutely recommend my article about Your Image As an Artist to help you discover the artist that the younger version of yourself wanted to become.

Find a Coach

Having a support base is key to keeping your sanity and your feet grounded. Most artists use their family members or friends.

In a band situation, we often also rely on each other to stay strong and to make a few jokes about what went well and what did not. This bond between band members is a special one since we all go through the same experiences and feelings.

Learn From Other Musicians

We as artists are all connected and we can also rely on each other. We should not think that we are in competition with each other but rather cooperating together to the benefit of the music for our fans.

I am also a big fan of fan-sharing. Support other bands by performing or touring together and sharing each other’s social media posts to make both fan bases grow.

Nobody only listens to one band for their whole lives, so when one band releases a single, people will surely listen and appreciate the effort to release new music.

The most meaningful discussions I’ve experienced were in a band room with other musicians, just talking about things that they don’t get the chance to talk about since they are mostly just connected to music.

This made me realise how alike we all are and that we’re all just human, and experiencing similar feelings.

Earn Respect Within a Community

This is a great chance for you to include a piece of your private life so that your audiences also connect with you by meeting your family and what you do when you are not engaged in music.

Hard work deserves respect. Open yourself to work in the community and do some volunteering. I loved performing gigs for charity since the money raised goes for a good cause.

I also organised my own band nights for charity, just because it feels great to do something for the greater good. If this is something you are also keen to do, I’ve published a free guide to take you through the steps: The Guide to Organise an Amateur Band Night for Charity.

Build Relationships, Not Connections

You are in for the long run if you can convince people that you are a pleasure to work with.

Being a musician is a very self-centred job, and you stand out when you are different. It puts you ahead of others when a venue had a good and fair experience with you and they see that you are uncomplicated and easy to work with.

In the end, remember that all levels of people are dealing with these kinds of issues. Especially people in leadership positions. You are also running your own business in your own way and therefore it’s natural to experience this sense of overwhelmedness.

I continue to write about the emotional challenges because it continues to be a tough nut to crack for all of us. Let’s keep talking about it.

Time is An Enemy

When time becomes a factor, we tend to get anxious. The reason is that we want to get as much done in a short space of time. And in the end, we still feel like there was not enough time to finish what we wanted to do.

We usually try to rush the trends of what’s currently working in the music industry and get the content out, like yesterday. But we need to wait for studio time and be patient about various elements.

We regularly deal with this feeling of where I should have been with my life at a certain age. “I’m 30 and haven’t released my second album yet!” Sounds familiar? By disconnecting yourself from these life mile markers, you’ll set yourself mentally free from your own expectations.

The less time you have, the more you do. The more time you have, the less you do.

Sounds familiar?

It’s ok to say “no” once in a while. You don’t always have to say yes to everyone and give your best to please everyone. Take your time to think and consider each opportunity and place your vision at the heart of your decision-making process.

Performing rockband (Photo credit: Canva)

The Outplay of Our Expectations

As musicians and owners of your own creations, we want to be happy and proud of our work. We often become perfectionistic about our art just because we want it to be as exact and perfect as we imagined it to be.

The sad truth is that often we are disappointed about our recordings or work not being as perfect as we thought it would be.

You should prepare yourself mentally to know that things will never play out as you planned it to be. Make peace with the fact that the product will be as perfect as it should be.

Often with content creators, we are very self-critical and are hardly satisfied because of perfectionism, but in most of my coaching sessions, I tell my students to work until they are at least 80% happy and then let it go.

This has helped this young artist to produce more work in a shorter framework of time, way ahead of her peers, just because she has managed to distance herself from this perfectionism hanging over her. I am so proud of her progress and I often tell her what an inspiration she is also to me!

Learning to let go after being satisfied with 80% is mentally challenging and a skill. Of course, there will be some things to work on, but now the product will be completed in a shorter period of time.

Not Getting the Deserved Respect

It is sad to often hear that musicianship is not a full-time job.

I have a friend, that is arguably the best live-performing bassist in South Africa, joking with us by saying hopefully one day he will have an adult job. We always have a chuckle about this because it became clear that the struggles of professional musicians are a constant battle, not even mentioning independent artists.

Many musicians work on their musical career dream since they are very young or from childhood. It’s a glamorous job, that mostly takes place at night, a little unstable with the income and you are combining your passion, childhood dream and hobby all together as a job.

People don’t see what you are going through to get to the top.

Mainstream people would study, get a job and climb the ranks. As a musician, you are constantly in the battle of writing the next best hit, and for that, I salute you!

Your homework from me now is to find the people who you can trust and that takes you and your career seriously. Surround yourself with these people and nurture the friendships of people that deserve your respect!

Don’t get pushed aside by signed artists. You are just as talented, you just need to prove this to the right individuals.

It is your turn to be taken seriously.

Until next time boys & gals. Rock on!

Here are some of my recently published articles that you might be interested in:

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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