For International Women’s Day, my all-women team and I are celebrating some incredible women in the music industry. These 23 women (plus yours truly) have been making a difference for combined centuries and we know our stuff. They all were generous to share their vision and advice today.
It leads off with some sobering statistics about the status of women in the music industry from Andrea DaSilva at Keychange. Then we swing into some golden nuggets. Read on for their predictions, best marketing, mindset, and strategy tips, and get ready to make the foreseeable future fantastic.
Happy Women’s History Month!
“Banking On Justice For Women & Gender Expansive Individuals In The Music Biz”
It’s 2023 and post-pandemic – the music industry is raising the roof on Diversity, Equality & Inclusion (DEI). Perhaps a bit perplexed on the how-to, the industry has not quite embraced a balance of women and gender-expansive individuals on stages or in board rooms. Women want the things that should have been theirs all along; equal wages to their male counterparts; a sense of safety in recording studios; options when juggling childcare and performing nights, and time to prioritize wellness and self-care in a 24/7 social media-driven culture. The difference is that in 2023, we aren’t just asking for it, we’re demanding it. Women and gender-expansive artists and professionals want to see their image and likeness in branding and on billboards – powerful reassurances for the future, signaling a level playing field.
Every conference, corporation, festival, and trade association is talking about DEI, eager to alert investors and stakeholders about proudly achieving 50/50 speakers, performers or board representation. Most struggle with how to expand authentically, in order to be more inclusive. These are not easy or comfortable conversations for many in a male-dominated industry. Discrimination is intersectional: race and gender identity must be addressed in DEI. Data tells the story and with audiences more tuned in than ever, there’s a growing body of gender justice research in music: see f.ex. The 2022 Be the Change, a report commissioned by Believe & TuneCore [The 2023 report will be issued shortly].
Women and gender-expansive-run small businesses are staking their ground. Women-led organizations consistently perform better financially and in employee retention, with higher work-life balance. Yet indie artists and professionals know the cards are stacked against them with a 10-year average of only 2.8% of women as producers, 12.8% as songwriters, 13.9% as Grammy winners, and 13% as TOP 100 DJs. In 2022, 30% of artists on Billboard’s Hot 100 Year-End Chart were women compared to 23.3% in 2021.
There’s a reason the field is filling up with gender equity groups in music. At Keychange, we strive to create safe spaces for women and gender-expansive individuals, bringing the underrepresented to viable opportunities in music. Consider what our sister organizations are doing: Linda Perry founded EqualizeHer, inspiring early Education & Producer tracks for young girls; Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and The Tantrums & Founder of Diversify The Stage, is opening doors for disproportionately impacted communities in Live & Touring; Lachi, co-founder of Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities (RAMPD), is advocating for Disability Inclusion in mainstream music; Jazzy at She Knows Tech is championing technical positions in AI/Engineering/Digital/Gaming; and Andreea Magdalina founded shesaid.so, a global community of women and gender nonconforming people. The list goes on and most represent indie artists.
If women and gender-expansive individuals are not at the table, your artists aren’t also black and brown people, and if you’re not factoring in queer and non-binary viewpoints, or your products and services do not cater to a diverse group of people, you’re losing out on $M’s generated from fans and progressive companies that extend social corporate responsibility to DEI dollars and genuinely want a fair space for indie artists to thrive in! You’re also on the wrong side of herstory. – Andrea DaSilva, who has been working with Keychange in Europe on a U.S. Expansion as Program Manager
Music Marketing Advice
You probably Don’t Need A Million of Anything to Get Ahead in Your Music Career.
In our frantic landscape of trying to force videos and TikToks to go viral, Spotify numbers to jump, and social followings to balloon, I see artists forgetting the most important part of their journey – real connections with people – fans, friends, or industry who may able to make profound differences. The skill is in focusing on who you know and creating individual blueprints for each person so you can connect and create mutually beneficial moments that then lead to success after success.
Start by identifying 5 people in your life who love you and your music and would like to collaborate, contribute and be a part of what you are doing. Create one thing that you can each do for each other or together and then execute. It can be as simple as a collaborative playlist, or an acoustic show in a friend’s living room in front of 10 new potential fans. Small successes lead to bolder asks and bigger ideas. – Ariel Hyatt – Founder, Cyber PR, Author, Blogger, Cheerleader
Don’t Let Big Tech Own Your Control
Looking at the continued chaos in big tech, I expect more and more people in the creative space will strengthen the level of control they can manage in their careers. Whether it be via the back-to-basics development of their email lists and newsletters, the management of their rights via recording or publishing deals, or one-to-one experiences with their fans, the ownership of one’s information and the ability to manage it as one sees fit will become increasingly crucial. – Molly Neuman, Chief Marketing Officer, Downtown Music Holdings
Collaboration is Your Growth Edge
Grow through collaborations. While you might like to collaborate with <insert big star here>, you likely have dozens of fellow artists at your level or a level (or a few) higher than you. THOSE are the folks to approach to collaborate with now. Record and release a track together, go co-live on Instagram, and encourage each other’s audience to follow the other, play a co-bill, or tour together.
Extra Tip: You want to work with people who are as excited and committed as you are. If you’re going to hustle the heck out of promoting a show, or invest X dollars into a production or video, or tour, be sure your collaborator will match your investment OR is committing other strengths and resources to the collaboration. You’ll feel more supported and share the onus of production and promotion. – Cassandra Kubinski, Singer-Songwriter and Women in Music: Global Co-Chair of Membership
Don’t Believe In Overnight Success (It Probably Took Years)
Everyone is on their own path – including you! It’s so easy to compare yourself to someone else. Especially on social media, where it feels like people blow up overnight. When you don’t have that same experience, it can feel like you’re a failure, doing something wrong, or not good enough. When the reality is you have no idea how long someone was working before that “overnight” success happened. Trust your path, and integrate self-care to stay grounded in one of my favorite affirmations: everything is working out for me.
Marketing-wise, I also think that brand deals and partnerships are going to become even more popular in music, with independent artists having the ability to further monetize by partnering with brands they love and creating social media content around it. This is happening big time in the “influencer” space and has been for years, but my prediction is that it becomes much more common for musicians to get in on it! – Katie Zaccardi, Music Business Coach
Brand Identity and Brand Association Are Everything These Days
Independent artists are becoming more and more aware of just how important brands are to their success. Artists can increase their opportunities with thoughtfully curated associations with brands (including causes). Finding brands (even small start up ones) that fit with the artist’s message and associating with those brands in a meaningful way is one of the most important steps an artist can take in their career.
Artists should think about who they are, who their fans are, and how they want to be thought about by their fans and followers. Once they have figured out what their brand identity is, they can structure a marketing plan which incorporates elements that reinforce the artist’s message and identity. The best advice for artists is to remember that their art is a business, and business now relies on the opportunities available by brand development and association. – Stephanie Furgang Adwar, Music Attorney
TELL Your Story Authentically
In the wake of Me, too, the media has been more open to hearing women musicians’ stories. So, this is a fabulous time for women musicians to revise their About pages and all their marketing materials to more authentically communicate
- Who they really are
- Why they do what they do and
- The truth about the impact they make.
To all female-identifying folks: Make a big joyful noise—Hear your own roar! – Angela Myles Beeching – Author, Beyond Talent, and founder of Beyond Talent Consulting
It’s Still Worth Having A PR Strategy
There’s one big, old-school channel that’s still alive and kicking. Yes, the media landscape has changed radically in the last 15 years. Yes, the classic pillars of music PR for artists have toppled or are tottering slightly, the alt-weeklies, blogs, and review-loaded music mags of yore. But there are still excellent critics and music journalists out there, looking for stories, and it’s still worth having a PR strategy at the right time, for the right project. I’m sure you’re shocked to hear a PR pro saying this, but every day, I see the difference it makes for our clients, and for my friends, and the artists I admire.
The operative word here is “stories:” if your album, single, tour, videos, what-have-you have a story beyond your creative process, PR is definitely worth exploring, even if it’s only a minimalist burst of outreach to media folks in your region. A short piece about you in your regional magazine or daily paper can be a stepping stone to bigger coverage and can provide validation for when you start hitting up the next tier of festivals or venues for bigger shows, for example.
If you’re in for a deeper PR dive, look for outlets and media that may not already be on your radar. There are music-oriented newsletters, podcasts, and other outlets that, like social platforms, are undergoing a period of intense fragmentation, one that will continue through 2023. Much like social media, this can be a good thing, even if their audiences are small. They may be the key to finding and engaging a meaningful community. – Tristra Newyear Yeager, Chief Strategy Officer Rock Paper Scissors + co-host, Music Tectonics Podcast
Keep It Short and Sweet (Or Not) But Keep It Short
Attention from outside the streaming platforms is what will lead to attention within the streaming platforms in 2023.
With 60,000 to 100,000 tracks supposedly released every day, artists need to bring attention to their brand and music outside the platforms in order to gain traction for their music within the platforms. Gone are the days when you could release music without any kind of fan following and gain recognition from editors and curators (even with a fan following it is challenging!). Many of the curation sites have disappeared (pandemic), and those that are still around are just inundated with artists and teams sending them content. Short-form videos that are funny or incorporate an educational element rule the day right now. They don’t have to be professionally produced to be found by platform algorithms, and they are an opportunity to utilize your music outside the platforms to get it heard. – Andrea Young, CEO, DPG Worldwide
Understand Where Your Music Is Being Discovered And Searched For
This year, independent music artists will be at the forefront of community marketing, utilizing various platforms and strategies to connect with their fans.
From maximizing the reach of new releases with drop platforms like Laylo to creating original video and lifestyle-driven content on TikTok, Reels, and Shorts or live streams on Twitch, artists will have multiple opportunities to engage with their fans and build lasting relationships.
Additionally, artists will continue to find ways to tap into new fan communities. Thematic, for example, matches an artist’s songs to influencers who then promote the music across social media. This type of organic influencer marketing campaign can unlock brand new cohorts of listeners and fans that may have been previously overlooked. Overall, we’ll see a more data-driven mindset underlying these marketing efforts. Artists who understand how their music is being discovered and searched for and which communities are resonating with their releases will be able to maximize getting their music to the right audiences. – Audrey Marshall, Co-Founder, Thematic
Your Email List, Unlike Your “friends” On Socials, Will Actually Respond
To say that people are inundated with information today is an understatement. When I started doing voiceover in advertising is when I received my first lessons in communication in media and how “the way you focus on your audience”, affects the way they will receive you. For example, when an artist posts about their music but doesn’t really share a personal story or anything relatable, I’m much less likely to check out their page or buy something.
The humans on your newsletter list, unlike your “friends” on your socials, will actually respond to what you share and engage when you give them calls to action, so take care to craft something personal, honest, and relatable. Ultimately all these tools and apps are only as effective as how well we use them. We must have the patience to be thoughtful in our use of them. – Ilyana Kadushin, Co-Host of No, I Know Podcast, Voice Performer, SheRo Award Winner.
Sell Your Merchandise Directly To Your Fans
Action Taking Advice
Focus On Your Artist Development – Grassroots Style
We are starting to see the trend again in organically growing the artist’s career and brand through Grassroots. Yes, the tried and true really does work and it’s the most direct way to really break a band. I’m not saying don’t pay attention to streaming (follower count and monthly listeners) and socials. Artists absolutely have to continue creating compelling short-form content that resonates and keeps growing their streaming audience, but we’re starting to put more weight on these other areas.
I’ve been in this business for 35 years and what I’ve truly missed over the last 15 years is true Artist discovery and getting behind an artist from the very beginning or at least with little national exposure. We’ll see artists being discovered by fans and the industry truly because of their merit, passion, raw ability, hard work, drive, amazing live show, great visuals, and great songs. It starts and ends with the fans. It’s that true one on one connection. The only way that’s happening is in person, in the market, on the road, and doing promotional visits. This year and going forward is about building fanbases and audiences not simply via streaming and social media stats but by honest grassroots! – Fiona Bloom, Founder, The Bloom Effect
The Musicprenuer Will Rise In 2023 And Beyond
In this post-Covid era having multiple streams of income is key.The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for artists who want to start building their portfolios. Here are three tips to get started:
- Entrepreneurship and networking skills are essential to the process. So are time management and decision-making skills.
- Start early by taking classes on how to market yourself, manage your finances, and network with other artists in your field online and in person.
- Plan out what you want your business to look like and how you’ll get there; then you need to execute on those plans every single day until they become reality. You should also remember that this is a marathon—not a sprint! – Danielle Tucker, Founder, The Unstoppable Singer
YOU Are The Unique Value Proposition
As an artist, what you offer is completely unique. It’s built into your business model. And NO ONE can offer what you offer. You are a category of one. Yes, there are plenty of other artists in your genre, in your local area, and maybe even with similar branding. But they are not your competition. You make YOUR music, not theirs. You have the sound, the vibe, and the experience that YOU have. I challenge you in 2023 to lean even more into your uniqueness. Double down on your personality quirks, your passions, and your one-of-a-kind perspective on life. Amplify these qualities on stage, on social media, on videos, and in emails to your list.
That means you can charge your worth, knowing that absolutely no one else in the world can provide what you do. I want you to sit with that idea for a minute…because when you get in comparison mode you can’t approach booking, marketing, selling…anything…like the badass that I know you are. – Bree Noble, Music Business Coach, Host Female Entrepreneur Musician Podcast
Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Break
The best tool is your authentic self and finding the right platform(s) to communicate that through. Similarly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by new apps, trends, and platforms – take a break! Let your audience know that you are and then pin a link to your email list so that fans will sign up there and you can retain their data and communicate with them directly when you’re ready.
Life is all about balance, and I think this will become even more important in 2023. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how will you be able to cultivate your authentic self for all in your life, including your audience? This isn’t necessarily easy to find in a world of social media FOMO, but it is what will connect you with your fellow humans for the long term. Take the time for yourself whether it’s prioritizing sleep, regular movement, time with a pet, or meditation to truly be your best self when possible. This is what your audience wants for you and is what will keep them connected to you for the long haul and beyond. – Emily White, Author & Podcast Host of How to Build a Sustainable Music Career & Collect All Revenue Streams; Founder of #iVoted Festival
Boundaries Are Just As Important As Transparency
I believe the connection between fan and artist is only getting more direct and more transparent. Artists are building careers without relying on big sponsors or partnerships. Whether by selling them exclusive ownership of an NFT or an intimate concert streamed directly into their living room or sharing a vulnerable post that lets them know you see them because you are them, marketing is about authentic connection more than ever.
The critical tip I want to share about this prediction is that boundaries are just as important as transparency. Decide ahead of time what you are and are not willing/comfortable sharing about your life (and those in it) with your audience. If you’re involving others in your family/inner circle, have conversations with them about what the boundaries are – what is off limits? While a deep connection with fans will translate into more sales and shares, it’s best to maintain a sense of separation between your work and life, especially when your art can blur between the two. Remember that you are the leader of your community, be sure not to get lost in it. – Suzanne Paulinski, Founder, The Rock/Star Advocate
Success is Not Pie – There’s Plenty For All Of Us
There is more music being created than ever these days which is incredibly exciting, but it’s up to each artist to determine how they wish to view that information. Mindset is going to continue to be deeply important for musicians who want to break through: they can choose to see all the other music being created as competition and less room for them – or – they can see other artists’ success as inspiration and proof that they can do it too. With so much content swirling around right now (on socials, streaming services, etc) – and even more coming – it’s going to be increasingly important for artists to focus on their own niche, create and speak from a place of authenticity, and know (really know) that there’s enough success to go around. – Marni Wandner, Holistic Health Coach
Strive to Make Personal Connections, They May Lead to Millions of Followers
Social media should be included in promotional plans but marketers/artists should not place their focus on these platforms as social platforms are limiting the amount of exposure to new audiences. I am anticipating that we will see the increased rollout of new features on streaming platforms that allow artists to connect 1:1 with their fans. We see this already with Anchor (a podcast hosting platform owned by Spotify). They rolled out a new feature for listeners to answer questions and take polls after every episode that they release. It is more about personal connections over the millions of followers. – Sydney Oberholtzer, Creator & Host of The Set Up Podcast
Music is About Creating Kinships
Music is about relationships, it’s about creating WORK that matters (to you and those you are suitable for), it’s about creating KINSHIPS and affinities, it’s about creating what MATTERS in this world – THE FREQUENCIES of your creative expression flowing forward into the world.
Always remember what is important: you as an artist, other artists, those who are like you and those who are different, and especially – your audience, your fans, and your supporters! With all your talent, with all your heart, with all your capacity, decide that 2023 is your year. MAKE some miracles happen for yourself – Julie Flanders, Founder, October Project, and Artist Coach
Tools And Trends Advice
AI and Chatbots Will Revolutionize The Music Business for Independent Artists
In 2023, AI and ChatGPT will play a major role in the music industry, especially on the business side. Musicians can leverage AI and chatGPT to streamline various aspects of their music business, including publishing, agreements, and distribution. This can reduce the need for middlemen, increase efficiency and control, and ultimately help musicians monetize their work more effectively.
For example, AI and ChatGPT can be used to automate contract generation, minimize administrative tasks, and optimize distribution strategies in a very simple way! In the future, musicians may be able to use these technologies to negotiate better deals, analyze industry trends and consumer behavior, and even manage their own digital platforms. By utilizing AI and ChatGPT in their business practices, musicians can gain a competitive advantage and drive their careers forward.
It is possible that AI will eventually enable musicians to directly distribute their music to distributors. This can be achieved by utilizing AI for tasks such as marketing, data quality, royalties tracking, and contract management, freeing up time for musicians to focus on their creative work. – Virginie Berger,
Discord Is Your New Personal Watercooler
I think Discord is about to blow up for the music industry. At its core, it’s what the industry has been craving. Community. Support. Togetherness. It might be controversial to say, but I see it is the same slow burn and then an initial wave of interest as TikTok was. Right now we’re hearing a lot of whispers about Discord and seeing different Servers pop up here and there, but it’s still relatively small and insulated. In 6 months or so I see it becoming a lot more saturated as music companies see what a great way it is to both help, nurture, and market to artists, and as artists see what an amazing way it is to connect with their fans. My prediction is by mid to late 2023, Discord will be huge for the music community. – Angela Tyler – MP Co—Marketing, Management, Press
Get In The Game(s) – Gaming, Metaverse, Virtual Worlds, and Immersive Experiences
I see no end in sight for how artists can benefit from growing interest in gaming, metaverse, virtual worlds, and immersive experiences. I predict continued growth and more diversified opportunities for musicians to get their music inside games and immersive experiences. Gaming companies used to hire composers and create custom music, but now they are increasingly open to integrating commercially-released music – in part because having music from artists in the game enhances the gameplay while also helping improve relevance and connection between music culture and gamers.
Getting music into a game is not only a way to earn money through a synchronization license fee, but it is also a way to reach tens of millions of people who play games around the world. The culture of gaming and the culture of music may seem far apart in some ways, but getting a perfect match of the right song for the right game is a huge first step. I also hear from a lot of musicians of all stages of their careers who are gamers themselves and want to be more immersed in not only gaming culture but the game itself. – Vickie Nauman, Founder/CEO CrossBorderWorks
We’ll say “AI” in more conversations in 2023 than we did in all the previous years in history.AI will automate and make some of our daily, repeatable tasks much more efficient. The market is quickly flooding with AI tools – don’t be afraid to test them out – take what works for you and adapt.
I also want to mention we will see a significant increase in tech startups, with over a quarter million tech layoffs in 2022/2023, we’ll see those talented techies trying their hand at developing some new platforms and tech. Keep your eye out for new tools that emerge and can help your business as an independent creator. – Aileen Crowley, Music and Data Strategy Practice Lead, Lark42