Anyone can create music, and somewhere out there, there is someone else who will like it, but not necessarily everyone can connect with a group of people called an audience. Independent music, otherwise known as ‘indie’, is the DIY genre, where musicians take it upon themselves to get their sound out to the world, as opposed to their record-deal-toting counterparts.
What’s It Like to be An Indie Artist?
The great thing about indie music is freedom. Some of us (actually a lot of us) in the indie genre are untamable. We cannot be told how to write, how to play, how to dress, how to act… we are too wild, some even more so than others. The wildly independent music artist is brazen, bold, raw, unadulterated, unrefined, and possibly unhinged.
The problem with this latitude is that it’s an invitation to starvation. We have to eat, and so do our children and/or pets. We must creatively scrape our way into the minds of the masses, just enough to etch out a living. And if we work hard, and the stars align, we just might connect with an audience that adores us, who eagerly await our work, the music that spills from our mouths and hands.
How I Became an Indie Music Artist
It took me 38 years on this planet to realize I was an artist. I knew I was a writer from the time I was very young, and I’ve always been obsessed with songwriters and musicians, but somehow I considered those people to be separate and better than me, like gods. It took me a lot of maturing to realize that they were just people like me, but they were being wildly brave by sharing their innermost selves with the rest of the world.
Being an independent music artist does not mean you are fearless. It means you don’t care that you are crippled with fear. It means you don’t care if you are poor. The music, and the people who will ‘get’ it, are of the utmost importance. You are on a mission to spread your sound, two ears at a time.
How Do Indie Artists Feed Themselves?
So how does a wildly independent music artist eat? How do they pay rent? Well, unfortunately, we may not have a choice but to work an unrelated job, at least for a while, to support our livelihoods when necessary.
You may see us busking in a park or on the street. We may frequent Open Mic Nites or perform small gigs for pennies. Perhaps you’ll view our phone-recorded videos on YouTube grasping at the chance to run ads. You may stumble upon our merch stores. You may hear about us in passing and decide to purchase a song or an album. A few may even have found a large enough fanbase to play at the larger, more prestigious venues where ticket and merch sales are pure validation for an otherwise starving artist.
How Does an Indie Artist Create?
I can’t speak for all indie artists, but I’d venture to say that quite a lot of us access what I call the Creative Fire. It’s like you just stand back and let things ‘flow’ through you. ‘Flow’ is actually a psychological state coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that is a state of alertness akin to being ‘in the zone’, a mental state touted by artists and athletes alike.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Model
In this state, we allow our innermost selves to gain exposure: our thoughts hidden in deep trenches, our unspeakable emotions, our tender vulnerability. The Creative Fire flows, and we reflect it out into the world. Our sounds become something new that has gained expression, something that affects those who hear it, affects their inner state and, therefore, their lives. This is a sacred bond.
Who Can Become an Indie Music Artist?
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve seen at least some of the reality show singing competitions, which have proven that great, lovable music can come from literally any package. Any human who craves and strives for expression and understanding can find it somewhere. We all have an inner light. The artist is simply the one who is brave enough to dig down deep, pull the light out, and put it on display for the world to see (and hear).
Not one of us is without stories, without relatable hardships and gratitude. We have all found ourselves hurling through space on this rock with just enough self-awareness to understand how bizarre it all is. But we can’t change it, we just make the most of it. An independent artist has made a conscious choice not to leave this Earth before flinging all their stars out.
To be an independent artist you’ve got to be brazen, bold, raw, unadulterated, unrefined, and possibly unhinged. In order to let the Creative Fire flow down your river, first and foremost, you’ve gotta be wild.