Part of being an indie artist is discovering how to deal with persistent doubt, fear, and loneliness. We spend months agonizing over hi-hat sounds, perfecting lyrics, and blending synth tones, only to release our art into the world knowing that most people will never understand the time and effort it took to make.
It’s remarkable how we take something so personal, analyze it endlessly, give it everything we have, and then toss it into a fast-paced world full of criticism, half-assed reviews, and low-paying streams.
And yet, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Hearing about how even a single person connected with my music is deeply satisfying — few things touch my soul in the same way, and I bet you feel the same way.
Being an indie artist is extraordinarily difficult, and we need to be easier on ourselves. Just take a moment to recognize all of the roles so many of us play as “independent” artists.
We are often:
- Our own managers.
- Our own publishers.
- Our own business owners.
- Our own producers.
- Our own assistants.
- Our own booking agents.
- Our own accountants.
- Our own therapists (don’t lie, you know you’ve used songwriting to vent)
The first step is self-awareness. Being an indie artist is not easy, and you need to know that. This isn’t some part-time gig at the marina down the street. This is your attempt at building a creatively-filling business, and all of the regular burdens that accompany entrepreneurship (long hours, stress, etc.) & the creative arts are jostled up into one. So cut yourself some slack. Even showing up and deciding to pursue a career as an indie artist deserves credit.
With all of these responsibilities stacked on top of our personal lives, it’s no surprise that artists and musicians are the fifth most likely profession to suffer from depression, but do we have to accept that narrative? Do we have to embrace this masochistic, lonely existence?
I don’t believe we do. Not by a long shot.
I’m going to share with you seven strategies that have helped me tackle loneliness and live a balanced, grateful life as an indie artist and producer, but first, let me say one thing:
Do not make the mistake of underestimating what real community can do for your life.
That goes for both professional and personal communities.
It’s easy for indie artists to look past communities and consider them distractions from your art, but we all need to recognize that investing in personal and professional communities we can rely on is essential to success.
Communities offer us support, energy, collaboration, joy, and ultimately increase our capacity to create and spread art in the first place.
At its essence, a community is surrounding yourself with people you love who share some level of similar perspectives and interests — is it any surprise that the more people we meet the more successful we are? There is no shame in sharing mutual interests. It can be scary to join groups and meet people in ways you’re not used to, but it gets easier and is almost always worth it if you give it a chance.
Okay! Now that we’ve covered that points, here are a few ways to fight back against loneliness:
Tip #1 – Work with friends (who just happen to be professionals)
Continuing on the community point, I don’t care how talented a producer or mix engineer is, if you don’t like them as people and don’t genuinely get along with them, it’s not going to work out.
There is no reason to not enjoy your work. Find kindred spirits who are also involved in what you do and work with them. The best working relationships are built on mutual respect, talent, and hard work. Don’t settle for poor working relationships, and leave them as soon you can if you’re stuck; they only hold you back.
Tip #2 – Embrace co-writes & collaboration of all kinds
It doesn’t matter if you’ve only ever written for yourself. Every musician has something they can learn from another musician, and co-writes are one of the best ways to grow as a songwriter and musician. You get exposed to different styles, have social accountability (which is an incredibly useful mechanism), and you can find more and more musicians you can collaborate with. It doesn’t matter if your styles don’t match or if you’re nervous, do whatever it takes to make this a habit.
Tip #3 – Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself
I get it. We all want to be Kevin Parker, but here’s the thing — you don’t have to do everything yourself. Just because you can mix, produce, write songs, and manage your own career doesn’t mean you should.
Be honest with yourself — what are you best at? Then, ask yourself — what do I always procrastinate on or feel the weakest in? Pro tip: these are often the same.
Okay. Now you know where you need to focus and where you should get help (or in business-speak, outsource).
This is a great way to collaborate, which helps you fight back against loneliness and start building a team that you could work with for years to come. You never know what producer, engineer, or mixing house combination could “break” your career.
Tip #4 – Find a producer who complements your artistic vision
Behind most successful artists are close collaborators and producers who are integral parts of their team. Make an effort to meet new producers and shop around songs to them. If you have an album you’d like to make, shop those songs out to different producer teams and see what style meshes the best. Once you find a producer you love working with, keep working with them!
Tip #5 – Share your vulnerabilities and take stock in solidarity
Don’t feel like you have to do this on your own or that you’re the only one struggling. Artist collectives and groups exist for a reason. We all deal with this stuff, and there is no shame in talking about it.
In fact, taking time to consistently connect with fellow musicians and artists and sharing your struggles and successes is fundamental to happiness in this business.
Tip #6 – Don’t underestimate the importance of work-life balance
Believe me, I know the pressure you feel. Every second should be spent making art, right!?
No. Listen to me.
Your creativity will suffer if your life isn’t balanced. You need to give yourself time to decompress, and you also need to give yourself time to experience life outside of art — these experiences end up affecting your art positively anyway!
Tip #7 – Go see and support live music as a listener and not just as a creator
Indie artists are our own worst critics and the worst critics of others. We have to be more supportive. Instead of looking at everything through a business lens and giving into the shame or jealously that can accompany seeing other musicians do well, choose to be a part of their success. Find amazing artists and champion them. You’ll find your community will grow and your appreciation for art will as well.
I hope this helps. I spent years figuring out how to love my life as an indie artist and producer, and nothing would make me happier than to save you some time.
We love who we work with and are always looking for talented artists to work with.