Indie-rock artists must be more business savvy, says report

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A new academic study has found that independent rock musicians are likely to struggle with communication skills and business acumen.

The study, carried out by a researcher at North Carolina State University in the US, surveyed a group of indie-rock musicians aged from 18 to 43.

It found that audience development, slow growth and an uneven balance of power emerged as key themes underlying the recipients’ professional lives.

When it came to developing an audience, the musicians said they spent time finding and maintaining their fan base through various social media efforts, including Facebook adverts, though not all respondents felt this approach worked well.

Musicians’ networks, whether measured by Facebook likes or their contacts like managers, booking agents and record labels, expanded only gradually.

The study also found an uneven playing field for musicians, where venues, labels, technologies and other third parties held all the leverage, partly because musicians couldn’t afford to hire publicists or booking agents.

Stephen Carradini, a music journalist and the study’s author, said he hoped his work would raise awareness about the music business among both listeners and musicians.

‘This is part of an ongoing conversation about what it means to be a musician,’ he said.

One key takeaway for musicians is that they need to start paying attention to business communication, according to Carradini.

‘So, thinking along the lines of business strategy: “How am I going to pitch this to my audience?”’ he explained.

‘Thinking in terms of developing a brand. A lot of bands do that, but a lot of bands still don’t.’

Carradini’s report An Organizational Structure of Indie Rock Musicians as Displayed by Facebook Usage, was published in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication last week.

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