Twenty years ago, to have a successful career as a musician in the metal genre, you needed a band, a label, and an ability to command the stage. In 2021, all you really need is a laptop. In fact, with band websites available to create in a moment, it is more intuitive than ever to grow a fanbase and make some cash. You can share your music straight from your website, allowing visitors to buy your albums and merch.
The thing about metal fans, however, is that we value authenticity. Technically, anyone can make music today and call it metal. What do you need in order to succeed as a musician who makes metal? How do you ensure it comes through as legitimate self-expression, even if you are trying hard to earn an income from it?
Here is what you need for a successful metal career in 2021.
A Home Studio and DAW
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is a relatively new phrase and can be used to describe anything from Apple’s GarageBand to a whole home studio setup. With a good DAW at home in 2021, you can make music that sounds like it was recorded in a professional studio.
In 2020 in particular, many musicians released music made at home due to the restrictions placed on them by the pandemic. Much of this music was indistinguishable from music made in a professional studio.
Even if you are the sole member of your band, you can create full songs with dense and elaborate production using your DAW, including input from many real and digital instruments. While some metal fans will never get on board with the idea of programming drums, others are coming around to it.
On the other hand, if you have a group, each member of the band can record their parts individually, and you can put together the best takes from each of them, using your intuition to mix and master your songs so that they legitimately sound professional.
There are now many platforms on which you can publish your own music (and we will get to them). However, that does not change the fact that the best place for your music is your own website. With a music website, you can take the opportunity to brand yourself, presenting yourself to the world with images, bios, and even a blog. You can share your most polished songs, as well as demos if your fanbase is interested.
A website gives people a place to learn more about you and your band, even if they are listening to your music elsewhere. In lieu of a Wikipedia page, which requires a certain level of fame, your website can serve as the landing page for potential fans.
It is also the perfect place to launch an online shop to sell your merch as well as physical copies of your music (vinyl, CDs, and even cassette tapes).
Bandcamp and Soundcloud
You can get your songs up on Apple Music and Spotify easily enough – you just need a middleman and there are many online companies which will do it for you – but these platforms are not great for promoting your music. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, musicians do get millions of streams on Apple Music and Spotify, but they are the vast minority. You are unlikely to see financial or cultural success on these platforms. Secondly, there is no real community to engage with.
Bandcamp and Soundcloud are different in this way. Both provide communities of music creators who just want to be heard. You can find those whose music you connect with and get to know them, and they will become more inclined and interested to hear what you are doing.
Bandcamp is particularly good for independent artists, as listeners use it in order to support artists financially by actually paying for the development of their music. Bandcamp does not take a big commission and it is the best platform for musicians looking for financial success.
That said, there is no reason not to publish your music on the major streaming services. Every single one of us can attest to how little patience we have these days. If something online takes a few seconds longer than we expected, chances are that we’ll lose interest. Potential fans who don’t find your music on the platform they use most often might give up pretty much immediately.
Live shows are coming back, and these are the real money makers for many musicians. However, there are plenty of artists today who don’t plan on doing live shows but just want to release music. This does make it harder to become known and loved but if you just want a fair amount of listeners, you never have to get up on a stage.
Metal fans do love live shows, though, and you are fighting against the odds if you do not ever perform.