2020 has radically changed the rules of the game for independent collectives, young producers, and solo selectors. 

Forced detachment from physical spaces and ever-evolving mediums of communication have made it taxing for new artists to reach new audiences in a creative landscape that's increasingly saturated and depersonalised. This rings especially true for bedroom acts with unique and eclectic sounds, who find no relief in cookie-cutter pressers and overused social media strategies. Capturing organic followings has become much more complex than just participating in Soundcloud podcast circuits and secret Facebook groups, especially if your music is a bit out there and not affiliated to any specific scene. 

In this article, I propose a different approach, which will work for anyone with an honest intention of getting their name out there into the world wide web. The screens and ears of the willing are there for you to reach. It's just about solidifying your presence in the online space and using free music industry tools in your favour. Even if you already have a decent following and have a manager or agent, this article will help you increase your online presence and accrue new listeners in different parts of the globe.

A little bit about me

A few years ago, I moved to London and heard many interesting sounds in different parts of the city, DJ'ed at some afterparties and got to meet incredible people. Through these experiences, I started to experiment with some electronic aesthetics and formed an experimental jazz duo named 'Error Subcutáneo'. Our vinyl got a lot of attention, and we managed to get played in big radio stations + distribution in at least a dozen stores in Europe. In my case, the extraordinary thing about leftfield music is that you don't really know where it's going to go. You just have to go with the flow. And even if your music fits into a certain well-defined niche, instead of going to 'the scene', you should try to build your fanbase in a 'decentralised' manner. Meaning trying to get people from different disciplines to dig your stuff and share it with their inner circles. This is indeed possible and usually the most interesting way of building fans since, (A.) you'll be making your own scene grow by bringing new people into it and (B.), you'll attract fans that are purely interested in your music rather than your connections.

Help your label

Labels have always been the institutions responsible for doing all the heavy lifting for the artist. You pitch them a record, and they do everything for you. You sit back and lounge on royalties and whatnot... great, right?

Truth be told, you don't really want to do that anymore. Most indie labels don't even have the resources to launch full-blown marketing campaigns for you, and you also don't have any control regarding how they market you or the people they get your music to. Instead, you should build your own niche and let the label tailor its strategy to you. I'll give you an example: you just released an extravagant ro-minimal-dubby-housy two-sider on 140g plastic, the label sends out a few copies to DJs, Youtube selectors upload it, and distro readies it for purchase on Beatport / Traxsource and what next?

You wait for videos of the track playing out, a couple more weeks to get a few dollars from the split profit... after manufacturing + distribution + label cut, you'd be lucky to get a few hundred bucks at best. What did you achieve with this as an artist? What did this achieve for your fans? If you don't know what else needs to be done, neither of you will grow.

Sell your stuff on

If you're not on Bandcamp right now, you're missing out on a bunch of features that could help you build engagement with your audience. Here you can sell your music for as much as you like and keep all the profits. Your artist page is the gateway for selling all your vinyl, digital tracks, t-shirts, tote bags, etc. It also provides you with a free data dashboard, where you can track who buys your stuff, visits your pages, where your music is most popular, and more. Basically, completely free analytics to help you define who your audience is, reach out to them in your community section with new pressers, unreleased tracks, early access to new EPs, brand new merch drops or download codes directly through to their email. If they're on this platform, they're just as freaky and involved with music as you are. Also, your fans can add their freshly purchased music to their collections, and this makes their profile visible on your release page under 'supported by', and your release becomes visible on their page for their followers to see.

This community-oriented interface creates a positive feedback loop where everyone stays up to date with new music and new faces on the platform. If you release an album on Bandcamp, not only do you see your money right away, you also build a fanbase you can see, hear and feel. I mean, whenever you sell a record through a physical store, you never know who buys it, so it's nice to know for once (and put that information to use). You will also notice Bandcamp has an in-house magazine, which runs everything from weekly round-ups to features, reviews, and even live streams. I suggest liaising with their editors since anyone can get involved and feature their music. Especially if you are very active on your artist page, check out Bandcamp Daily and other editions they've got on the rounds. One of my favourite features of the platform since you can increase your outreach without ever leaving the website. Get paid, get promoted, and know who's who. It's as if iTunes and Resident Advisor had a baby, insane!

Get sounding on internet radio.

Getting involved with internet radio is one of the best things you can do as an independent artist. Global lockdowns have made this new medium much more influential and important, bringing different communities together in broadcasting segments that cross geographical boundaries. You know, if you could get a bunch of brand new people from around the world to attentively listen to your track from start to finish, you would do it, and radio does just that. You expose your music to new audiences, make new friends, get your tracks permanently archived onto tracklists, get invited to do your own shows, which means more airtime for your tracks, which means more people are discovering you as an artist. Cool stuff, right? Did you know London-based NTS Radio has around 1.5 million monthly listeners? And they're pretty out there with the stuff they play! The more rotation your tracks have in these stations, the more people will check out your socials, buy your music, and come out to your gigs.

Go listen to:

● Dublab

● Cashmere Radio

● NTS Radio

● Rinse

● Skylab

● lyl.live

● Netil Radio

● Radio REA

● Radio Flouka

● Radio Alhara + many more, keep digging!

You can't ignore corporate streaming

While one might seem tempted to boycott exploitative techno-capitalism and its ever-reaching tentacles, indexing your music on the biggest music recommendation algorithms on the planet might not be such a bad idea if you're already getting money from selling your vinyl and playing out gigs. Uploading your releases to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and other services not only formalises your profile as an artist, but it also puts your music into people's ears without you having to do anything.

Here's how it works.

You release your new EP on Spotify, put it onto your mate who religiously listens to DJ-Kicks features and Cocoon compilations on the platform, and your 'Fans also like' section will now show and be algorithmically related with big names like Ricardo Villalobos and Seth Troxler.

This makes your tracks show up on a bunch of different recommended radios, generated playlists related to these artists, and so forth, democratising the playing field and giving the listener on the other end control of what they want to listen to or skip.

Extremely important, recommendations, whether personal or algorithmic, are the most critical factor for music discovery in the digital space.

If you think you are too edgy for streaming, know that some of the most well known vinyl-only labels like Yoyaku, Eastenderz, Minibar, Pleasure Zone, Pressure Traxx and BodyParts have been following and putting up their catalogues on streaming. So why not do it yourself? Guys like Traumer and Archie Hamilton now have like 40k monthly listeners. It's literally free money.

Optimise that search engine

You might even want to change your artist moniker to something so unique it becomes really easy to Google yourself, like something Elon and Grimes would name their newborn child. Get your releases on Discogs and Allmusic, as this will help with scattering your metadata through the web. It is also very important to get verified on Resident Advisor. You just need to get a friend to add you on a tracklist or event, and you're set. You can then make yourself an Instagram, claim your Google knowledge panel, and make a Youtube page for previews and other media you produce for your artist brand. Make yourself so easy to find you can tell people at parties "Google me". Use Linktree or Linkfire to put all your sets, features, interviews and other "assets" on a single landing page, then put that link on all your social profiles, making it easy for people to find your work!

Closing thoughts

Pimpin' ain't easy, neither is making music, but you have to do both if you don't wanna be independent in this industry.

Keep releasing records and expanding your creative potential, but also make sure to put in the work and make use of these supersonic digital gems I've been dropping all along with this article. It'll make a world of difference in a few months' time, I promise!

Big thanks to Zabam for the space and the good vibes.

Follow Mauro Ferreiro