Five Ways to Grow Your Music Career... Even if You Don't Live in London, LA or Nashville
By Justine Perry (@justine_perry)
In the US, the music industry thrives in Nashville and LA. In the UK, it’s London (and to a lesser extent, Brighton and Bristol.) I’ll call these ‘industry cities’ for the purposes of this article. Although vibrant music scenes exist outside these cities, it can be argued you’re at a disadvantage being based elsewhere.
I lived in Brighton for two years. This city has my heart. I love the pebble beach, The Lanes, and the unique (and vegan) cafes. As I work in the music industry, living in Brighton was ideal. London is a short train ride away, and Brighton has a vibrant music scene of its own.
Late 2015, I took sick leave due to long-term illness. Unfortunately, the financial aid available to people unable to work didn’t cover my rent, let alone food and bills.
The solution was to find somewhere cheaper to rent. With two pets, this proved impossible. Pet-friendly properties were few and far between, and over my budget. It soon became clear I’d be moving away. I was heartbroken.
I moved to Plymouth (Devon) in 2016. Leaving Brighton, my biggest concern was for my career.
Although I lost HUGE opportunities because I was no longer in Brighton (or close to London), I got more commissions in 2017 than 2016. This shows location isn’t everything.
If you’re a musician not living in an industry city due to finances, family commitments, or because your heart belongs to another city, this article is for you. Here are six ways to flourish in your hometown:
The Internet is the reason I was able to grow my business in 2017. Many of my clients aren’t based in the UK, so whether I’m in Brighton makes no difference to them. Others are in the UK, but also live outside industry cities.
How to grow your music business online is too big a topic for this post alone (and I’m still learning!) But here are some ideas:
Use email, Skype, or FaceTime for client meetings (if relevant.) Suggest this as an alternative to meeting in person.
Be active on 1-3 social media platforms. Twitter chats are a great way to connect with new people. Talk to people. Introduce yourself!
Grow your mailing list (this is a topic for a future post.)
Get involved locally
This is particularly important if you aren’t planning to move to an industry city. There are musicians and music lovers everywhere. Here are some easy and fairly inexpensive ways to get involved in your local music scene, even if this is almost non-existent.
Put up posters advertising your music or service in music shops, cafes, and live performance venues.
Attend local gigs. If possible, talk to the performer and some of the audience. To keep in touch, ask for their social media usernames or invite them to join your mailing list.
Have you got a gig coming up? Is there an element of your work that might interest the local press? If so, get in contact. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no. So what?
Join the Meetup app. If there aren’t any songwriting groups, join other groups. Kyle Buffo said in a Twitter chat that one of the biggest mistakes musicians make is networking only with their own kind (fellow musicians.) Meeting new people is good for business. The more people who know what you do, the quicker your name gets out there.
How to Write Memorable Songs... Even if You Struggle with Lyric Writing
If you want to improve your lyrics, hone your editing skills, or find reliable co-writers, this quiz is for you. Answer 4 questions about your writing process, and I send you feedback based on your answers.
Focus on the positive
What do you love about your local area? Positive thinking is important. It’s harder to progress with a negative mind-set.
I enjoyed being near the sea in Brighton. Plymouth is also a seaside city. There is no beach in central Plymouth sadly, although there are small areas of beach if you know where to look. (The photos on my contact page are of Brighton and Plymouth.)
I have a lot of family in Devon, plus I’m closer to my mum and sister, they live in Cheltenham. The train journey from Brighton to Cheltenham was awkward. Let me know what you love about your town. (I’m @justine_perry on Twitter and Instagram)
Unfortunately, music industry networking is often restricted to industry cities, especially in the UK. Travelling to events is an option. I gained clients from some events I travelled to last year. Try to keep in contact with people you meet, so you can support each other long-term.
If there isn’t a networking event for musicians in your local area, could you organise one? Using the MeetUp app is a great option. As an organiser, there are fees but you won’t break the bank. (You could always have a whip round on the night to help cover your costs.) Meet in a bar to avoid hiring space (and having to pay for this if few people turn up.) To be safe, after people RSVP, check the venue can accommodate that number of people. This is how most local meet-ups are run.
Do You Need Lyrics to Set to Music?
If you like starting with lyrics, and want to collaborate with a lyricist, please browse my work on Songbay. If you find a lyric you like, you can license it online. I license each lyric only once. After you claim a lyric, I remove it from Songbay and it's exclusively yours to use.
Save those pennies
Put money into a savings account each month. Every pound, dollar or euro helps! If an unmissable opportunity arises, you can use this money towards travel costs. Saving also helps if you plan to move to an industry city.
If you offer a service, the client should fund your travel or be willing to work over Skype. If they want to work with you specifically, they’ll make the effort. If not, it’s a client lost but shrug it off, and then continue being awesome!
If you liked this article, please subscribe to my blog. I let you know when new posts are published. I have Q&As in the pipeline with musicians who are making a living or growing their careers, despite living outside industry cities.
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