One question I’ve been getting asked quite a bit is what do I expect from independent artists going into 2015? It’s taken me a bit of time to narrow it down, but I think I have a solid 5 I’d like to run with.

Step Your Presentation Up
Take some pride in what people see when they look at your single/EP/album cover. If the very picture that represents your song or album is bad, then how do you think they’ll perceive the music itself? In the age of digital music, you are competing with EVERYONE in the marketplace. There are services/designers out there who can do wonders with almost any budget. Take the time to research who can work within your budget and give your project that extra oomph!

Have A Budget
Someone reading this is going to say “Easier said than done.” That’s not necessarily true. Did you go out to eat today? Could you have really eaten at home and taken that extra $10 and put it in an account? Did you REALLY need those new shoes? What about that vacation you were planning? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy the spoils of life, but have some discipline. You’re trying to put out an album, so EVERY penny counts. Go and get a part time job. Even at minimum wage you can bring in a few extra hundred a month. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, no one else will.

Set Focus Groups
I’m sure mama, papa, sis, bruh-law, and even Uncle Jimmy Jack with the glass eye are great music tastemakers. That being said, they should not be the only ones to give you a critique on your music. Set focus groups with people you don’t know, and don’t know it’s your music that’s playing. Let them give you an honest response to how they feel about your records. If you don’t know how to organize a focus group, take advantage of Tunecore’s Track Smarts service. You can get detailed reports from real music listeners on the potential of your songs for as low as $15 per song.

Stop Trying To Fit In Circles
I’m not saying don’t network, but what I am saying is don’t force it. It may seem appealing to be associated with the more established crowds, but remember that they all got their start somewhere. Be cordial. Be professional, but work on building up your circle. Help to elevate those around you and they should in turn do the same.

Make Better Music
This should go without saying. Challenge yourself to make this project better than the last. Let your fans see growth. As you grow your discipline, your fan base will follow.