How To Survive The Underground Music Industry As An Artist

Rashaad Denzel

As music connoisseurs, we love to embrace the fresh talent of underground musicians. The music industry is changing – scratch that – the music industry has changed. There are new rules for the underground music industry. The Internet has changed the face of music. The underground musicians of the new era have to assimilate to the new culture. But before you adapt to the new culture, here’s a few tips to take with you along the way.

Don’t imitate your competitors.

Just like mainstream musicians, underground artists operate in another world, much like those of the mainstream. The underground music industry houses some of the most creative and purest musicians known-to-date. Use the idea that there are “no true rules” to your advantage. There is no need to remake the music that is already current.

Support your competitors.

Instead of imitating your competitors, you should spend your time supporting people in your creative lane. Don’t be encouraged by the behavior of mainstream musicians who disrespect one another on a consistent basis. There is room for more than one great artist in every genre of music. Involving yourself in feuds with other artists is counter-productive. No matter how much attention you may gain from beefing, the energy put into it is always negative. Negativity will destroy your reputation and will destroy the quality of your music.

Don’t sell your music.

You’re underground; remember? No one knows you just yet, except your friends who love everything you do. Locally, you are one big celebrity, but for those who haven’t discovered your talent, you’re just another musician making music. We purchase Drake’s albums because we know him, we know his sound, and we know his quality. You’re still building a rapport with your fans. Don’t limit your fan base as an underground artist because you want to make 20 bucks from selling five mix tapes.

Invest your money.

I can’t sell my music, so…what money? We understand, you’re just starting out and you don’t have big endorsements pushing your art. That’s okay. At some point, you will need a monetary advance to climb your way up, so face it. Believe it or not, your part-time low wage job can actually help finance your career if you let it.

The momentum it took to work that double shift for your spring break trip, your concert tickets, and the new tee shirt designed by Kanye West, is the same momentum you must channel when trying to invest in your career. High quality costs more, but the reward makes it worth it. You need a new microphone, a good videographer for your next video and a new drum set. These things come at an expense, but it could be the dollar you spend that could take you to the next level.

Stand your ground.

Unlike mainstream musicians, there aren’t any PR guys or record labels making decisions for you. Your time as an underground artist should be all about defining yourself as a musician and as a human being. If your goal is to be mainstream, then standing your ground in the underground industry will make you less moldable once you sign that corporate contract. This is the time to let record labels and your fans know what they are getting themselves into.

Don’t spam yourself.

You have a hot song, a new video, and a new EP. This is not the time to flood your social media timelines with links and photos everywhere. To be honest, most people won’t actually listen to it. If your social media followers are anything like radio stations or music-marketing companies, not only will they not care, they will also spam it if it comes through too many channels at once.


Now this sounds like a complete contradiction to the prior tip, but hey, this music thing is a science nowadays, so just pay attention. In the digital age, you are your best publicist. Only put out want you people to know about you and your artistry. You should be an artist 100 percent of the time if this is what you are passionate about. You want your image and what you do to be clear. Overly self-promoting yourself is confusing (as mentioned previously), and it has the ability to cause noise in your communication to you fan base. This is not the noise that comes from a speaker, but the noise that miscommunicates your message. Less is more, and slow self-disclosure is welcomed. Leave some things to the imagination of your listeners.

Have fun and learn how to do something else.

Exposure, fame, fortune, and notability are not guaranteed, so prepare for a possible career meltdown. The modern day music industry is a lottery. There are 1000 people competing for spots where there is only room for five or six. Don’t let those statistics discourage you from doing what you love. Make music for the love of making music. That makes more noise than pressuring people to play your music. Besides, only the good music comes from a place of passion. Good music will always make its way around, especially if you are delivering something that the industry needs. In the meantime, challenge yourself to learn something new. If it’s meant to be, you’ll end up right back where you started and you’ll be on your way.

Top Photo Courtesy: Instagram 

Rashaad Denzel


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