The Life and Times of an Independent Artist

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The words “independent artist” get thrown around a lot these days. You might be wondering, what exactly that means? Depending on who you ask, you might get different answers, but I’m here to give you my definition based on what I’ve experienced during my time as an independent artist. First let me introduce myself: my name is Adewole Williams, Knit Marketing’s Director of Operations by day, and Graphik, an independent rapper by night.

In the beginning, there was a vibe. Every great song starts with friends in a room, just vibing. In my case, it means sitting with my producer friends and messing around with different songs, ideas, and melodies until we happen upon something that makes everyone look up from their phones. Once that happens it’s time to get to work! At that point, I work with producers to fill out the song, creating breaks, choruses, and hooks. It’s at this point where the content and subject matter begins taking shape. Sometimes at this point, I begin writing to the track. Going back to the “vibe,” I let the music dictate what my lyrics will be about.

Once the lyrics have been written, then comes recording. At this point, usually the instrumental is pretty much complete. Recording vocals is one of the most entertaining parts of being an artist. Recording rap vocals usually involves recording a verse, chorus, and adlibs, which is ear candy for the listener. Once the vocals have been recording and the song has been arranged, then it’s time for mixing.

Mixing is the part of the process that I personally have beef with, only because it’s time-consuming. At this point, a sound engineer will go through the vocals and the individual parts of the instrumentals such as the bass, drums, piano parts, and any other synths. This process takes time, a good ear, and a whole lot of patience. It’s at this point that audio engineers who are largely under appreciated turn a good song into a great song. They go through and highlight exciting parts of the song, and re-emphasize the catchy parts.

Once the song is mixed, it must be mastered. Mastering is the process of making the song loud enough to be played on your phone, streamed, or played on the radio at acceptable levels. I wish this process was as simple as cranking up the volume, but unfortunately it’s not, once again the audio engineer must you patience, and skill to using the tools available to make the track louder without resulting in the song sounding crunchy and distorted.

Finally, now we have a song! At this point, it’s nice to take a break from the song for a while to give your ears a rest! Once the song is complete, visuals need to be made for it. This could be anything from a lyric video, with simple text on a screen to a full music video with a budget. Here’s where the independent really is important. Most independent artists have little to no budgets for music videos. So one must be resourceful to use whatever they have even if it’s just an iPhone, to create visuals that might catch their audiences eye. Once the video is complete and edited then the song is ready to be released.

One of the biggest parts of being an independent artist that often gets overlooked is the balance that’s needed. Being an artist is a tremendous amount of work, that involves working with different people, going to different places, networking, creating relationships, marketing, and so much more. As fun as it looks, many don’t realize that it’s enough to be a full-time job. Heck, many popular artists have teams of people working with them full time, each dedicating themselves to one task or area necessary for the artist to be successful. That being said, it’s important for every independent artist much like entrepreneurs, to give themselves balance. It’s important to make time to create of course, but it’s also important to make time for family, friends, and hobbies. Only then will you truly be able to be an artist. Real life experiences are what shape the best music, so it’s important to live your life so that there’s something relatable to share in your music.

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