6 Steps To Tap Into Your Soul & Find Success As An Indie Artist.
I’ve been an independent artist my entire adult life. Musician, photographer, filmmaker. Sounds glamorous, right? It pretty much isn’t.
Although it’s great to follow your passions — and I very highly recommend it — any working artist will tell you that they spend most of their time hustling gigs and marketing themselves.
Since I’ve managed to find a fair amount of success in many of my endeavors, I’ve finally figured out a few things about a few things. This is what you need to know.
1. Be different, and find your weirdness:
You’re kind of weird. Face the facts. Like pretty much everyone else, you’ve spent a good portion of your life trying to fit in, in one way or another. If you’re doing that with your art, stop now. Why would you want to be like everyone else? You’re an artist, whether that’s a musician, filmmaker, or whatever.
If you’re not tapping into your true self, your uniqueness is not going to shine through. And this is always a component of great art, music, film, etc. So dig into your quirks, your passions, your love, your heart, your curiosity, your obsession. That’s where the magic lives.
This brings me to my next point.
2. Find a niche:
The world is big. Really big. And connected. Especially since the Internet took over.
So once you figure out who you are and how to express yourself, you’re at least halfway to the gold. You are your own niche. Or perhaps you kinda fit into a niche that’s already there.
Taxidermy animal masks. I know a woman who dropped out of college to do this — much to the chagrin of her parents. Weird and crazy, right? She just bought a house.
I know another woman who is fanatical about baking pies and teaching the world that the love that you put into your pie is actually more important — and delicious — than the pie itself. She just ditched a sweet corporate gig to do her thing full time.
I made a movie last year called Mystic Coffee. It’s about a wise and magical barista who offers advice along with her beverages. I’m a life coach, big into personal empowerment, spirituality and coffee. So it was sort of an obvious project.
It got shot down by two dozen film festivals. Ouch. Then I get a call out of the blue from GaiamTv.com, the global leader in conscious media. They licensed my film for a ten-year, non-exclusive deal.
What did I learn? Mystic Coffee is really not gonna fly with a general audience. But for people who get it, this is a fantastic little film. Is it going to win Oscars and play at the local multiplex? Not likely. But it still found an audience. It’s making money. And bringing me new opportunities.
Which brings me to my next point.
3. Shoot for sustainable, not superstar:
It seems like everyone who makes things wants as many people to see it, hear it or eat it, as possible. It’s a noble goal, but after spending the last twenty years chasing this idea, I recently realized it’s not about being a superstar with your thing, it’s about connecting with people who care, sustaining a career doing what you love, and getting paid for it.
Of course, I wanted to be rockstar. But that didn’t happen — although I busted my ass for years, I never quite made it to the big stage.
Although it was a bit of a disappointment, other amazing things came around that I couldn’t have predicted. I was named Best Independent Electronic Artist in the World by a major website, and scored lots of gear and cash as prizes. My music catalog got tons of action in the world of film and tv.
I landed a gig teaching college students how to write better songs and record on a computer. And my U2 electronic tribute album continues to sell without having to do anything to market it. That means checks every quarter because people are loving on my tunes — and Bono’s — enough to pay for them.
I would call that success. Even though I didn’t make it to the cover of Rolling Stone.
4. Pay people:
This one might seem counterintuitive. And it took me forever to figure out. So listen up.
It saves money if you can talk your pals into helping you on a project and not paying them. True. But here’s the downside. In most cases, they simply won’t care as much. They’ll show up late. Or they’ll just plain flake out. You know what I’m talking about.
On top of that, your creative friends are artists just like you. And you want to be paid for your skill and time, right? So why wouldn’t you honor that and pay them as well?
Do your best to pay people what they’re worth. If you don’t have the cash, offer up a barter.
Things will get done faster and better. And that’s worth more than some extra beer money.
5. Love the process:
When all was said and done, I basically learned two things in college. I’ll share one of them with you now.
My poetry instructor told me that being a poet is not about having a pile of poems on your desk. It’s not about the books you publish or the readings you do or anything else. Being a poet — or a musician or a filmmaker or an artist of any kind — is about one thing… writing poetry. Or painting. Or making films. Or whatever.
Only when you are creating are you actually being an artist.
So love the process, not the product. Not the outcome. Okay, you should probably love the product and the outcome too. But whether or not you’re a superstar, or barely make a dime from your efforts, just remember what got you fired up to do your thing in the first place.
Which brings me to my next point.
You may have heard of Kickstarter or any of the other crowdfunding sites. Crowdfunding is a concept where people contribute to ideas and projects that they want to see in the world. It can be video games, CDs, inventions, apps, anything. In the past half decade or so, more than a billion — yes, billion — dollars have been pledged to these kinds of projects.
People love to contribute because they become part of the dream. With their money and support, they empower the creators to make the things that they love. So they can share it with the rest of the world.
This is entirely different from buying the thing after the fact. When someone does that, they are simply buying what they like, what they want. When someone contributes to a Kickstarter campaign, they are actually helping to create. To steer the world.
I am currently nearing the end of my Kickstarter campaign for Mystic Coffee 2. I put up every cent of the $10k budget for the original film because I believed in the project. After two years of struggle, my vision is now being shared with tens of thousands of people. Your vision can be shared too!
Here comes the plug:
So, you’re the kind of person who believes in empowerment, inspiration, positivity and spreading goodness. Right? Perhaps you’d like to kick into the Kickstarter for Mystic Coffee 2.
We would be very, very grateful for your contribution. Very grateful. And if you’ve got a few clicks left in you, please share, share, share the link on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, whatever.
We’re all in this together, ya know.
Hope this post was helpful, inspiring and enlightening. And I hope you love Mystic Coffee!
Jeff Leisawitz is an indie musician/producer, filmmaker, photographer, healer, empowerment coach, teacher and all-around creative force. Ask anybody. Driven by dreams of inspiring the world with beauty, love and awesome tunes, Jeff banged away on his 4-track cassette tape recorder, his grandfather’s hand-me-down camera and whatever else he could find during the early years of his ‘formal education.’ Since then, he was awarded ‘Best Independent Electronic Artist in the World,’ landed three international record deals, had thousands of music placements on film and TV, and chronicled Seattle’s alternative music scene for a major radio station. Jeff is also a certified life coach, a college prof (songwriting and recording), and an internationally distributed filmmaker. Among other things. His attitude comes down to three letters… NFA. Not. Fucking. Around. The Kickstarter campaign for ‘Mystic Coffee 2′ can be found here.