Knowing you’re naive doesn’t necessarily remedy it.

A while back I emailed Adam from the Bloomington, IN band Murder By Death. I wouldn’t say I know him well but he’s a good friend with one of my closest friends (and I’d Dream contributor) Cas. I contacted him about advice on releasing a CD. Mainly about cheap replication rates, recommended avenues for distribution, and the like. He answered quickly and added a little quip about how it’s far more important to work your ass off, play with established bands, and play quality shows than write good songs. Briefly stated he correctly put work ethic and a little luck above song craft. Don’t get me wrong, Murder By Death is a fantastic band, but there’s enough horrible bands out there with large record contracts to prove his point. Yet, for some reason, I refuse to let go of my belief that with great songs a band is destined to achieve financial independence (hence “make it”). I know it’s not true. I know I’m being naive, but I can’t help it.

I’m one of the many that wish music was simply judged by quality of craft rather than the wrapper it’s presented in. I don’t mean Britney Spears’ style wrapping (or lack thereof), but rather a general “I don’t care attitude” alongside a professional / hip / “I wish I were like them” packaging. I know it’s silly, but even when it’s not supposed to work and the band is completely against the idea, it works. If exposure, image, and saturation weren’t effective tools for selling, majors wouldn’t use them. I know selling isn’t the most important thing for a proper indie (at least, that’s the standard claim) but when you’re operating at a significant loss and are forced to take attention away from your true passion to survive, every tool you can use to create income becomes more important. So, what can an independent musician do about this? Well, do exactly what Adam suggests. Focus the majority of your attention at the business of music; playing, promoting, finding your audience, and managing. Research the paths of your successful cohorts. Talk with people in popular bands, network, and don’t underestimate the underdogs. Just because a band in your area isn’t big today, doesn’t mean they won’t be performing at SXSW next year while you’re kicking yourself for turning down all their show invites.

Read: The Perils of DIY