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The 6 Most Common Challenges Faced by Independent Musicians

The 6 Most Common Challenges Faced by Independent Musicians

Breaking through to the other side of the music industry is by no means an easy feat. With so many new avenues available to aspiring artists nowadays, the competition for listeners’ attention is fiercer than ever. Add to that the challenges of getting funding to kickstart your career, finding the right people to work with, or navigating the music taxes minefield, to name just a few, that even trying to build a career in the music business becomes an act of courage. 

While becoming a successful artist might seem easier than ever in the digital age, the reality is that there are more complex challenges awaiting those who seek to make a living out of music than ever before. Let’s look at some of the most common challenges faced by independent artists today, and how to overcome them. 

1. Competition 

The music industry is already saturated beyond repair. On the one hand, that’s a good thing, because it means that more aspiring artists have the chance to make a name for themselves in the business. With the advent of streaming and social media, anyone can test the waters and try to make it big in the industry, without any pressures or complex contractual obligations. You can record music from the comfort of your one-bedroom apartment and go viral on TikTok without even leaving the house. 

On the other hand, this means that the industry is more competitive than ever, and standing out from the crowd can seem downright impossible without some kind of support - or a lot of luck. Not every video on TikTok or YouTube will go viral, and it can take years of trying and failing before you achieve success. Anyone looking to build a career as an independent artist must be aware of this fact and be willing to invest a lot of time and effort in this process, without giving up when disappointment hits. 

2. Financial hurdles 

Like we said, anyone can now record, produce, launch, and promote music from the comfort of their own home, without backing from a label. However, not everyone can afford the tools needed to get the job done. Musical instruments and recording equipment can get very pricey, especially if you want to create a high-quality sound. Add to that production equipment, DAWs, VSTs, monitors and headphones, microphones, streaming platform subscriptions, and other things needed to prepare a music release, and the costs inevitably add up. If you’re an aspiring musician just embarking on this journey, you might not have the budget to do all of these things, and do them to the level that fans have come to expect. 

Then, if you don’t have that budget, you’ll hit the next wall, which is getting funding for your musical projects. Landing a deal with a record label is incredibly difficult in the early days of your career, and publishing deals or licensing agreements will only get you so far. But there are options worth exploring, from tax deductions and music catalog sales to crowdfunding initiatives, applying for music grants, or trying to get a financial advance without losing creative control. 

At Xposure Music, we can lend a helping hand, by offering independent artists the opportunity to get an advance of up to $1,000,000 to fund their next release, invest in equipment, promotion, or anything else they need to get their music career off the ground. 

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3. Lack of industry knowledge 

Navigating the intricacies of the music industry, such as legal contracts, publishing deals, copyrights and royalties, or licensing agreements can be incredibly daunting if you’re just familiarizing yourself with the way the business works. However, some aspiring artists might be easily put off by all the lingo and the amount of paperwork and due diligence that’s involved in many aspects of being a professional musician. 

But it’s in an artist’s best interest to try to get the hang of all of these things, at least on a basic level, to ensure that they don’t sign disadvantageous deals or give up their creative freedom. It’s worth taking the time to explore resources, talk to other artists or music business professionals to gain insight, or even work with a legal advisor who specializes in music-related deals. You might get the hang of it along the way, but when you’re new to the industry, it’s very easy to get confused by all of the details, which makes you vulnerable and opens you up to signing deals and contracts that are not in your best interest. 

4. Ever-changing trends and technologies 

Just when you thought you finally got the hang of this YouTube and Instagram thing, TikTok comes out and you have to start all over again on a new platform and a new way of sharing content online. The music industry is ever-changing, and you never know what new technology or new platform might hit the news next, and you’ll need to shift priorities again. 

Times change, and listener preferences change as well, so you need to always stay up-to-date with what’s new in the music industry. Remember, everything is constantly changing while also being cyclical in nature - vinyl records once seemed obsolete, but they’re making a comeback in recent years. YouTube and Vine were the most popular content-sharing platforms for artists for a while, but now TikTok seems to be taking center stage. You never know what’s around the corner, and that can be challenging, but also exciting if you think about it. Just be open and flexible, and willing to adapt and learn. 

5. Lack of support

Another common challenge that independent artists have to face at the start of their careers is the lack of support. Without the backing of a record label, a manager, a publishing company, or a legal advisor, navigating the business can get overwhelming quite fast. It can often seem like you’re completely on your own and have no idea what you’re doing. 

If you don’t have any connections in the industry, other artists or professionals to talk to and gain insight from, you’re left to basically figure it out on your own. And while for some people, this is an incredibly liberating, empowering feeling, offering full creative control, others might struggle to figure out the next step. That’s why it’s always a good idea to try to participate in your local music scene, attend networking events, seminars, workshops, launches, and try to mingle and meet other people in your industry. You’ll feel like you’re not alone in this and you’ll begin to forge strong working relationships that can offer valuable support down the line. 

6. Unpredictability 

Last but not least, a common challenge musicians have to face relates to the unpredictability of the music industry. Even if you make it big and get your name at the top of the charts, it doesn’t mean that you can just rest on your laurels. Haven’t you heard of the so-called ‘one hit wonders?’ These are artists that made a huge splash with one single or one album, but then disappeared from the limelight. 

Success comes and goes, and it’s not something that’s guaranteed, so even if you make it big and get the recognition you’ve always wanted, don’t get lazy. Keep looking for inspiration, keep experimenting, keep working on new music, new songs, new styles, new collaborations, to keep your work fresh and get the creative juices flowing. And most important, don’t take anything for granted! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common challenges musicians have to face nowadays?

Aspiring artists commonly face a myriad of challenges on their creative journey. Financial instability often poses a significant obstacle, as pursuing art may not guarantee immediate financial success. Additionally, self-doubt and insecurity can hinder artistic expression, as artists grapple with the fear of rejection or criticism. Finding a balance between artistic passion and the practicalities of life can be challenging, leading to difficulties in allocating time and energy to creative pursuits. Moreover, navigating the competitive nature of the art world and establishing a distinct artistic identity can be daunting. Overcoming these challenges requires resilience, determination, and a supportive community to foster growth and success in the ever-evolving realm of art.

How can artists make sure they stay relevant in the ever-changing music landscape?

To stay relevant in the ever-changing music landscape, artists must prioritize adaptability and innovation. Keeping abreast of current trends, technologies, and emerging genres is crucial, as it allows musicians to incorporate fresh elements into their work. Engaging with their audience through social media and other online platforms helps maintain a strong connection and allows artists to understand evolving preferences. Collaborations with diverse artists and producers can inject new perspectives into their music, contributing to its continued relevance. Embracing a dynamic approach to branding, image, and storytelling ensures that artists evolve with the cultural zeitgeist. Ultimately, remaining open to experimentation, staying connected with fans, and actively participating in the evolving music ecosystem are key strategies for artists to navigate and thrive in the ever-changing landscape.

Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S. Top experts from Sony, Columbia, Def Jam, or Universal have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to give invaluable, on-point feedback on your work, which can help you land that dream record deal or publishing deal you’ve been working towards. Sign up now and reap the rewards.

If you’re looking to kickstart your music career but have limited resources, we can help you get funding for your next project while staying in control of your own work and career trajectory. You keep 100% ownership of your masters and get an advance ranging from $1,000 to $3 million to get your career off the ground. Get an estimate now and start turning your dream into reality.

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Gregory Walfish
Co-founder of Xposure Music, Gregory Walfish stands at the intersection of music, tech, and culture. With a software engineering background, he's passionate about artist development and technology.

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