I recently moved back to my hometown from Los Angeles to kickstart my music career, which I’m sure sounds counterintuitive. Aren’t you supposed to move to the major music city, not away? Before I left for college, I was so ready to leave my hometown and explore music scenes elsewhere. However, after I quit my full-time job this year to be an independent artist, I decided to go home to save up money and work in a space where my creativity can flourish. If you’re a developing independent artist who either by choice or by chance lives in a small town or outside the likes of Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville, I want to share with you some ideas I have about making the most of your musical environment from my own experience.
Connect with your local music community.
The main challenge I’m facing now that I’m outside of Los Angeles is remote networking. I miss attending my friends’ and colleagues’ performances and connecting with other independent artists who follow a path similar to mine. Even though the music scene in my hometown is different, there are still opportunities to network with other artists. Here, many restaurants and non-profit groups host large community-building events that often have live music, so I can attend these events and meet local musicians this way. Many gigs around me require musicians to play mostly covers for long periods, which can be really exhausting, especially if you are trying to share original music in a non-acoustic genre. Even if this style of gigging isn’t something you want to do, it’s really easy to use the Facebook Events tab, add your location, and find these gigs in your area to attend. I’ve found that supporting other musicians at gigs while I’m working on recording and producing at home keeps me inspired and reminds me of how loved the live music scene is in my hometown. I also feel that bonds with local musicians lead to a unique, lifelong support system.
Set up a remote rig
I think setting up a small home studio no matter the quality is essential, even if you’ve just got a USB microphone, your laptop, a DAW, and some headphones. If you don’t intend on producing, you can still keep track of new ideas you have and you can seamlessly send off recordings or demo tracks to producers or industry professionals to work with remotely. I recommend looking for good beginner bundles on Sweetwater to get you going in the right direction. I’m a firm believer in investing in long-term gear, so I think it’s best to find an affordable starting place and then build on your home setup if you want to. You can isolate your sound for recordings by using closets and blankets to reduce room noise. While I hope to work with mixers in the future, I’m currently a one-woman recording studio with my bedroom setup. I can easily record my vocals, arrange MIDI tracks in my DAW, mix on headphones and speakers, and send off my prints to a mastering engineer. Even though I’m home, I’m still putting out new singles on Spotify and other streaming platforms with my rig.
Get on TikTok
If you’re like me, then the idea of making a video of yourself makes you cringe. I’ve avoided posting myself, video content, and ultimately my music on social media for most of the time I’ve been making music. Something I’ve learned recently is that just like performing in front of a live audience, taking videos of myself for TikTok takes practice to build confidence. Something else I’ve learned in the past year is that confidence isn’t absorbed from others, it’s generated within yourself when you take risks and do the things that scare you. Posting on TikTok scares me, but it is the largest audience for musicians, producers, and artists of all kinds right now. As independent artists, it is vital for us to adapt to the changing industry. So I’ve followed some tips I’ve learned from other friends who post regularly on TikTok and am developing some consistency and some confidence! It’s not every day I can really get myself to make a video, so a few days throughout the week when I’m really grounded, I will make a few videos at a time to have multiple to post for the week. Besides clips of my music, I share insight on my songwriting, recording, and production process, and I like to keep the material as authentic as possible so I can engage with an audience that is similar to me.
When I first moved back home, despite my determination to start putting out music, I was fully expecting to feel isolated from the entire music industry for a while. With an open mind, I feel more akin to the music industry than I expected. I know that being in a small town and shooting for the stars can feel hard when it seems like all the stars are concentrated in a big city or on a different coastline. However, as independent artists, we have the power to use all the incredible resources around us and step into the spotlight.