With the rise of digital platforms, streaming services, easy access to music production tools, music business knowledge and global connectivity, independent artists have more power now than ever to create music they love, build a fanbase around the world and make a living from their craft.
The music business today is standing at an incredible intersection of art, technology and business. There isn’t a better time than now for artists to look at successful businesses and learn how to apply their principles to their music career.
Lean Startup is a term popularized by entrepreneur, blogger, and author, Eric Reis, who wrote a book, The Lean Startup, highlighting the methodology’s use in startup companies.
As described by Reis on his website:
“The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration. It is a principled approach to new product development.”
The lean startup methodology emphasizes speed, continuous testing, non-stop learning from feedback, and applying an entrepreneurial aspect to all aspects of the business.
In today’s world of digital first, independent artists can learn and apply lean startup principles to their music career in order to build a fanbase, get regular feedback from the audience and continuously develop their product.
Create an MVP
“Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement and learning and must include actionable metrics that can demonstrate cause and effect question.”
In the startup world, an MVP is a minimum viable product which is a product just good enough to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future development and iteration.
As creatives, artist tend to want everything to be perfect before releasing their music to the world.
It’s understandable. Creating music, especially as an independent artist, is a deeply personal process and it’s fair to say you would want everything to be right before putting it out to the masses.
When it comes to your music, you’ll rarely get to a point where you’re 100% happy with the final result so it’s possible you’ll keep holding off on dropping it.
However, in this music landscape, it’s all about speed and getting your product in front of the audience as soon as possible.
We’re not suggesting that you rush your music to get it in front of people; artists still need to develop their craft.
But what better way to develop as an artist than to get your music than to create a MVP (minimum viable product), release it to the audience and get their feedback on it?
Create an MVP, whether it’s a single uploaded to SoundCloud or a 4-5 track EP you distribute on Spotify, release it to fans and get their feedback on it.
Learn from audience feedback
“The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.“
This is where creating and releasing an MVP comes into play. As independent artists living in the digital age, you don’t have to go through the long, arduous process of pressing up your music on CDs or vinyl.
Thanks to streaming services like Spotify, which now allows independent artists to upload their music directly instead of going through a label or digital aggregator, you can get your music distributed as soon as it’s ready to be heard.
From there, you can either share it to a small group of people you trust for their feedback, or release it to world (depending on how comfortable you are with the final product).
Then it’s just a matter of listening to audience feedback and taking on board what makes sense and what you can apply to future music making process.
“Using the Lean Startup approach, companies can create order not chaos by providing tools to test a vision continuously.“
As independent artists, you need to be constantly testing, experimenting and analysing results to see what works and what doesn’t.
This doesn’t just apply to your music, we’re talking about revenue streams, marketing channels, merchandise design, anything you can think of that will add to your learning process.
Try paid Facebook campaigns if you have upcoming live shows, shoot a behind-the-scenes video and put it on YouTube, write a guest article for a website you like.
Whatever it is, make sure you experiment continuously, learn from those lessons and use that knowledge to further bolster your music career.