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Understanding Artist Development and Why You Need It

May 1, 2023
3 min read

Long gone are the days when publishers and record labels held all the cards. Independent artists still face an uphill battle when it comes to getting their music heard, but artist development is an effective way of building a brand and establishing a successful career in the industry. In fact, IndieFlow recently launched its own artist development program in March 2023, offering aspiring musicians guidance on everything from building their image and finding their sound, to playlist pitching, strategic release management and connecting them to monetization opportunities in the realms of sync/licensing and brand partnerships.

An artist development plan is a multi-faceted process, covering everything from building an image and brand, to songwriting, voice training, performance coaching, and more. This step-by-step approach might seem counterintuitive to creativity, but it's the best way of turning musical talent into a profitable business. 

Ready to learn how artist development can help you? Below, we'll explore the key pillars of the process and you can put them into practice. 

The Purpose of Artist Development

Many artists who are just starting out need help to cultivate their brand and refine their abilities as a performer. Artist development targets all areas that an individual needs to work on to forge a successful career in the music industry. 

Now that record labels don't hold the same sway that they used to, artist management services are becoming the preferred choice for many independent musicians. They can help aspiring musicians find their sound and create a unique persona. For more experienced performers, artist management sharpens skills that are lacking, while also offering insights into networking opportunities and marketing. In short, artist management allows singers, songwriters, and musicians to become the best possible version of themselves. 

The Different Aspects of Artist Development

Music Education

One of the most crucial elements of an artist development program is music education. Simply put, having a good ear for a great tune isn't enough. Getting to grips with music theory is always a good idea. It'll let you recognize key musical elements like scales, harmony, and melody. It's also invaluable for anyone looking to pursue a career as a songwriter. 

Some musicians are self-taught, while others can refine a rudimentary understanding of musical instruments with online tutorials. However, if you're looking to succeed in this industry, you'll want to invest in professional study and coaching. 


Even if you're a solo performer, you need to remember that the music industry is a collaborative ecosystem. The fact that you write and perform your own material and can accompany yourself on the acoustic guitar, doesn't mean you won't need to work with other people down the line. Making the right connections is critical if you want to do well in this industry. Thankfully, artist development services provide clear guidance on how to make the right moves when it comes to networking. 

If you've committed to a step-by-step artist development plan, simply writing and performing consistently can bring new opportunities your way. However, you need to be proactive about things. Live gigs and local events will bring you exposure, while also introducing you to other musicians and industry insiders. If networking opportunities are limited in your part of the world, you can turn to the online sphere. Start with virtual networking events for singers and songwriters to forge relationships that can be nurtured in the future. 

Brand Development

Effective branding allows artists to create a strong identity and artist persona that's unique to them. It also helps set them apart in a competitive industry. More importantly, it's vital for connecting with audiences. For independent artists, brand development makes it easy to find and engage with audiences. However, for independent musicians in the early stages of their careers, branding takes real effort. 

Authenticity is key there. For independents, a strong story is often just as important as great music. However, you'll need to be credible if you want to attract the right fans. What's more, you need to stay true to the image you create as you continue in your career. 

Consider your USPs. What's unique to you and what sets you apart from other artists? More importantly, why should this matter to audiences? You can take inspiration from similar performers you're influenced by but don't feel boxed in by your contemporaries. You also need to think about genre. Each musical genre has its distinct trends and tropes. You may feel like you're compromising yourself by adapting your brand image to fit these, but it's necessary to have an understanding of them. 

Performance Coaching

Understanding the finer points of music theory is all well and good, but being able to put this into practice is a different matter entirely. Writing a killer song is no guarantee that you'll be able to work a crowd into a frenzy or set the streaming world alight. This is where performance coaching comes into play.  

A performance coach instills musicians with confidence, giving them honest feedback about what's working, while singling out areas that need attention. It's incredibly valuable for inexperienced artists who, beyond audience feedback, often don't have a real idea of how well they're doing.

A coach can introduce musicians to pre-performance routines, helping them deliver confident sets. They can also help musicians master stage movement and advise on song arrangements. Need help making more of a connection with your audience? A performance coach can teach you ways to build rapport with a crowd in between songs while pushing your delivery to its peak as you work through a setlist. 

The Benefits of Investing in Artist Development

Improved Skills

What is an artist development plan going to include? One of your main priorities should be fine-tuning your skills. A comprehensive plan will imprint good habits and ensure musicians are committing to regular practice. Unless there's something truly unique about your artist persona, your performance skills need to be in tip-top shape. 

Rather than focus on a single skill, such as your vocal ability, artist development makes it easy to polish other abilities like songwriting. As well as honing your vocal technique, artist development will introduce you to instruments. This is all-important for solo performers who need to accompany themselves during live performances. 

Increased Exposure

A solid artist development program will take the hassle out of gaining exposure. You can identify lucrative channels that can be exploited as you build an audience. What's more, you can turn to other artists' audiences for a quick exposure boost. Social media channels are one of the best ways to get yourself noticed. Many high-profile acts like Shawn Mendes, Halsey, and Calvin Harris all found fame after being discovered on social media. 

Even if you think you're using these platforms effectively, your channels probably need to be optimized. You'll need to rethink how you're using tags to ensure your content is getting good coverage. What's more, artist development encourages you to keep at it. It's not as simple as uploading a new song and putting out a single post to market it. 

You'll need to promote the same track many times to see any real gains. If something is taking a while to gain traction, think about repurposing it into new content. Scheduling tools are useful for ensuring you've always got a steady stream of content ready to be deployed.  

Tapping into other audiences is another great way of increasing exposure. An artist development program will actively encourage collaboration, allowing you to cross-promote with other emerging performers. 

Increased Revenue

You might be focused on realizing your artistic vision and bringing your music to the masses, but you'll ultimately need to make money if performing is going to prove a viable career path. In the past, musicians who handcuffed themselves to artist development deals typically signed over a significant chunk of their income for the privilege. 

While these deals are initially quite valuable for artists, they eventually feel the sting when labels and publishers continue to pocket high royalty shares and exclusive rights to intellectual material. 

An artist development plan will introduce you to all possible revenue streams that you can realistically capitalize on. Today, the majority of musicians make most of their money from digital performance royalties thanks to the rise in download sales and streaming services. For independent musicians, there are many different revenue streams to exploit. 

As well as streaming royalties, there's revenue from merchandising, sync deals, crowdfunding, and more. An artist development program allows you to focus on the revenue streams that are most important to you. This might not always be the most profitable, but will always steer your career in the right direction. 

Real-Life Examples and Case Studies

Global superstars like Lady Gaga might seem like they arrived fully formed on the world stage. Back in 2007, Gaga signed a development deal with Island Def Jam but was dropped from the label within a few months. Nonetheless, this award-winning self-starter took artist development into her own hands. 

She threw herself head-first into live performance, forming one half of Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue where she pioneered her signature electro-pop sound. Getting a feel for what audiences actually wanted, she spent two years putting together her debut album, releasing The Fame in 2007. This same year, she established the Haus of Gaga, a creative team that would help define her ever-evolving persona. By 2011, she was named Top Artist at the Billboard Music Awards.  

Tips and Resources for Investing in Artist Development

Interested in seeing how an artist development program can help you? There are many different options out there. Some artists choose to sign up with an artist development agency, offering programs that cover everything from developing basic skills and branding to outlining record release schedules. 

However, many aspiring artists might not be ready to commit to a long-term plan. Mentorship programs offer a better alternative. You'll benefit from the expertise of a more experienced performer, offering you insights on how to plug the gaps in your knowledge. Crucially, you'll also get honest feedback from someone who's walked the path you're just starting on. 

Ultimately, you need to consider what your objectives are before you settle on an artist development plan. Are you still struggling to find your sound or having trouble establishing a distinct artist persona? You'll want artist development services that will educate and nurture you. If you're more confident about your position in the industry and the trajectory you want to take, look for a partner that can help you with marketing and networking.

Advance Your Career With an Artist Development Plan

Artist development is an essential process that provides aspiring musicians with all the skills they need to secure a lucrative future in the music industry. It can provide much-needed musical education, from basic music theory to instrumental lessons for solo performers. What's more, performance coaching makes it easier to connect with live audiences. 

An artist development program will also aid with networking. The music industry is a collaborative environment and artist management services ensure no musician is isolated from other creatives. 

The best artists have distinct identities. However, most inspiring acts have yet to create a persona that sets them apart from the rest. An artist development plan makes it easy for musicians to create an authentic brand that's true to them. 

There are many reasons to invest in an artist development program. Improved skills make for a better, more credible performer. Furthermore, the process can help unsigned artists access new audiences, increasing exposure via social media channels and cross-promotional endeavors. 

Ready to take charge of your career? Now's the time to choose artist development services that can shape you into the recording star of tomorrow.

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