As independent artists, you’re in danger of constantly comparing yourself with artists on major labels with millions of dollars behind them, funding professional studios, marketing budgets, radio placements, promotion on Spotify playlists and plenty more initiatives.
You are not in competition with them, you’re in competition with yourself and what you’re capable of achieving.
Don’t let the industry fool you, there are many versions of success in the music business.
You absolutely do not need to Drake streaming numbers or receive Kendrick critical acclaim to be successful. This is especially true these days where it’s all about independent artists going the DIY route, distributing their music and slowly building a loyal fanbase to support their dreams.
Not everyone is setting out to achieve the same goals or lifestyle as the artists you see popping on mainstream media.
Not everyone wants to be on the radio and TV all day. Not everyone wants to win a Grammy. Not everyone wants to cop Bentleys and Rolls.
There are many versions of success for independent artists. Your job is to find out what your version is and work hard to achieve it.
Some artists just want to tour their local area. Some artists just want to make a living from their music. Some artists just want to put their kids through school with their craft.
Just take a look at super successful independent artists like Nipsey Hussle (who now has a major label partnership with Atlantic Records), Chance The Rapper, Curren$y, Tech N9ne and plenty of others who creating their own versions of success through avenues like touring, merchandise, licensing and retail stores.
Figure out what success looks for you and create a plan to achieve that vision.
These rhymes were written in economy class seats, these beats were produced on long bus trips & these songs were recorded in Airbnb apartments. All I want to do is make music for a living so that I can live to make music.
To help you with your vision, here some examples showcasing different versions of success for an independent artist.
Chance The Rapper – independent freedom
I don’t make songs for free, I make ’em for freedom
Chance’s version of success means he is completely free to make the music he loves and pursue the business opportunities he supports.
As one of the leading independent artists in the game today, Chance been at the forefront of the scene, achieving major milestones for the scene.
Since dropping his breakout mixtape, Acid Rap, in 2013, Chance has gone on to:
- release Surf together with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment as a free exclusive on iTunes.
- secure an exclusive Apple Music distribution deal for his third mixtape, Coloring Book.
- win three Grammy awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album for Coloring Book, making it the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy Award.
With these major achievements, unprecedented success and relentless focus on staying independent, Chance provides a shining example of all up-and-coming artists on how to carve out your own path in the music business by staying dedicated to your fanbase, dropping quality music and staying true to what you believe in.
Tech N9ne – independent empire
What we’ve built is so massive that I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to stop until the world ends or a meteor or asteroid comes and fucks us all up
Tech N9ne and Strange Music is arguably the biggest name when it comes to independent music. Over the past couple decades, Tech and his partner Travis O’Guin built an independent music empire built on incredible live performances, strong brand vision, uncompromising music and an ever-expanding roster.
Thanks to their relentless independent grind, the Strange Music team brings in approximately $20 million per year via touring, music sales and merchandise.
Not to mention, the company’s brand sponsorship deals (Monster Energy sponsors Strange Music) and music publishing – Strange has its own publishing companies with ASCAP (Snake and Bat Music) and BMI (Songs of Snake and Bat).
Tech N9ne represents the highest level of independent success in the music industry; a business empire spanning close to 20 years, millions of dollars in annual revenue, over 50 employees, dozens of artists on the roster and millions of fans around the world.
Curren$y – independent lifestyle
Just do what you wanna do. If you stick to your guns, stick to what you’re saying, then, in the end, the universe will give it to you, because you believed in yourself.
On the opposite end of the independent success spectrum from Tech N9ne is the one and only Spitta Andretti.
While Tech and his team has spent decades building up an independent music machine, Curren$y has been using his career to design a lifestyle he wants to live.
Since his career beginnings in the early 2000s, Spitta has been putting out quality work non-stop (over 12 albums and 57 mixtapes to date), putting on dope live shows, curating the Jet Life brand and slowly building a global fanbase who supports his merchandise and music.
For many independent artists grinding these days, Curren$y’s version of success is perhaps the most attainable: having a dedicated fanbase around the world, travelling the world to perform live shows, have total control over his music and most importantly, the freedom of pursuing his vision.
Nipsey Hussle – independent fanbase
It might have been time to buy cars and jewelry for the age I was and the mindset of that age but it’s about believing in what you’re doing to the point that you invest in it.
2018 has certainly been a victory lap for Slauson’s own Nipsey Hussle.
After nearly 15 years in the rap game, Nipsey has finally unveiled his long-awaited debut album, Victory Lap, featuring a star-studded lineup and brutally, honest truths on music, business and life.
Putting out project after project, Nipsey’s mixtape grind enabled him to build a strong platform to secure a distribution partnership with Atlantic Records and take his career to new heights.
But it’s not just about the music, that’s only the gateway Nipsey used to create a fully immersive customer experience which includes his Marathon Clothing store, visuals, merchandise and more.
Nipsey’s version of independent success is having a dedicated and loyal global fanbase of die-hard All Money In riders who are invested in his vision and believe in his lifestyle.