Do it yourself is a term that’s loosely used in the music business. And people get confused by its meaning. Because many people seem to assume that “doing it yourself” is a synonym for “doing it alone.”
But they are wrong.
Lately, I chatted with quite a bunch of musicians. While a lot of them are somewhere in the middle of starting, growing and maintaining a music business, I discovered two extremes on the DIY vs. DIA scale – as I call it.
DIA artists try to solve all their problems on their own. They don’t think with a growth mindset. And even if they do, they are perfectionists. Which isn’t bad per se, but can be devastating if combined with a narrow mindset. Not only happens this to solo artists, groups, and bands, but also to music producers, engineers, songwriters, and other creatives.
On the other hand, DIY artists manage tasks, time, and their team. If necessary, they delegate work or hire experts. DIY artists are running a music business. And they are on a result-oriented mission.
When working with artists, I like to know everything about their vision and mission before we embark on a journey together. Because if they seem to need something else than mixing, I refuse to work with them and give them some hints of where to focus next. Without proper goals, people quickly get side-tracked – I included! – and make bad decisions.
One of these bad decisions is not to hire experts for the work you don’t want to deal with or are clearly not good at. Another bad decision is to hire experts that you don’t need (yet… or at all).
To become a great DIY artist, you need to know what you wanna achieve. Once you know where you’re heading, you can map out what you’re gonna do and what not.
Would you rather tune the vocals on your own and lose hours or days of valuable time? (In which you could have written another two or three songs, built a successful marketing campaign, or reached out to music supervisors.)
Do you really want to ship all your merch from your home instead of paying a commission and have it handled for you? (Using the newly found time to find more fans, create more content, and engage with your followers.)
How much time do you have to spend on mixing to get great-sounding mixes instead of hiring a mix engineer? (Wink, wink. But seriously, you won’t believe how many artists think they can mix their recordings. And then they’re utterly disappointed when the masters sound like sh-it. No offense! Only because some artists put out great mixes – they really do! – doesn’t mean everyone achieves great-sounding mixes by doing it once in a while.)
Outsourcing applies to every part of any business. In the music world, too. Be it songwriting, recording, producing, mixing, mastering, planning release strategies, booking shows, selling merch, etc.
Back in the day, when I started playing guitar, my teacher told me I have to play about 10,000 hours before I master the instrument. This principle is true for (almost) every mastery. We learn by doing it. Do you really want to give it all in so many different niches – only to recognize that you can’t (when it’s probably too late)?
Instead of wandering around aimlessly, map out your music business, calculate your finances and grow your music career.
Use experts where you see them fit in. And do simple math! 🙂
If you only earned $10 per hour after taxes, and you worked 40 hours per week for 46 weeks of the year, you’d end up with a bit more than 1.5k per month. With $15 per hour, you would end up at 2.3k. By reinvesting what’s left after your monthly expenses, you can build your music career. And then gradually work fewer hours at your day job and more hours in and on your music business.
DIY is amazing. You don’t buckle down for a label. Nope, you don’t have to play by someone else’s rules.
You can do whatever you want…
You are in charge to get sh-t done. You do everything yourself. Because you are the founder, leader, and CEO of your music business. But you are not alone.
Where you need help, you ask the right people to get the results you want. But not before understanding the groundwork of that work. Because you don’t want to get exploited, do you?
A great business leader (musician) knows what happens in each stage (e.g. mixing or booking shows) but also that his specialty is another (e.g. songwriting and building a fanbase).
So after this long rant…
Where on a scale from DIA to DIY are you right now?