VÉRITÉ, otherwise known as Kelsey Byrne, is an American singer-songwriter taking control of her own music career. The 26-year-old musician has become the dictionary-definition of an accomplished independent artist.
This is largely due to VÉRITÉ’s two main goals before entering the music scene: create her own music and manage her own success. While this is usually an unattainable goal for new artists, it became VÉRITÉ’s reality. After releasing “Heartbeat” on YouTube and “Strange Enough” on Twitter in 2014, the singer/songwriter gained a large social media following and has since amassed 250M+ streams across all platforms.
For the reasons above and plenty more, we recruited VÉRITÉ to share 10 secret ways to survive without a major label.
1. You can do a lot on your own.
You are fully capable of starting to build whatever you want right now. You don’t need management, you don’t need a label, you don’t need an investment. You have a mind, a vision, online resources, social media, accessible and affordable distribution channels. What I’m saying is: if you’re at the beginning, you can start creating right now. Stop waiting.
2. You can self-fund.
A lot of independent artists ask me about money. People don’t talk about money enough in the music industry which has created a gap in understanding of how the business works.
So first, yes, you can self-fund. I did for years. my years at Applebee’s in Times Square funded my first three EP’s and touring for the first three years of my project. Yes, I was a dope server and yes, I didn’t sleep much. That being said, I invested ~40k of my earned savings into this project before taking financial investment from a third party. My money had no strings attached, it allowed me to retain ownership and control. It allowed me to build to a point where, when I needed additional capital to scale, I had options and was able to negotiate fair deals with eager partners.
3. Attract your team members.
This really ties back to #1. Don’t bring on team members before you’re attracting team members. Create your music, share your music, cast your net as wide as you can. Talk to everyone, develop relationships, walk slowly into the water instead of diving in. building a team is important and also binding in a lot of ways. You want to make sure you’re bringing on people who share your vision, goals, and values.
4. Find your tribe (and be good to them).
Being an artist is nothing without your people, your fans, your tribe. Even in the very beginning, find those people, talk to them, value them and let them know you’re grateful for their support. Do nice things for them. These people are the lifeblood of your project. I owe everything to fans of mine who consistently show up and support.
5. Know who you are, know what you want.
The music industry is a clusterfuck of ideas and identities. It’s really hard not to compare yourself and think you need to follow someone down a path or a trend in order to be successful. If you want to build something sustainable, you need to create something that is genuine and authentic to who and what you actually are versus what you think someone wants you to be. Your project is your ship to live or die on. Personally, I’m cool dying (failing… I know we get this metaphor) on something I built my way and not to pander to someone else’s idea of what will work.
6. Define success.
This one is a bitch. most artists, like myself, are almost psychopathically ambitious. We constantly want to be moving forward to outdo ourselves. Success is relative. It is a goal post that never stays in place. You reach one plateau and start staring down another mountain. The old definition of success is no longer applicable. In music, there are five thousand ways to carve out your career that have nothing to do with skyrocketing to the fame and universal recognition of Madonna. It’s just crucial to be appreciative of each step and grateful for the opportunities we’re given. I don’t do this well, but I try.
7. Educate yourself.
This seems so obvious, but I didn’t educate myself on anything in the beginning. I knew nothing about the music industry. I never thought to google anything about the business I was so desperately trying to enter. you can learn so much from reading other’s experiences. Learn the basics about publishing, royalties, deal terminology, standard practices, etc. Ask questions. You should be aware of everything that’s happening in your career and you need a basic understanding to be sure you’re making the right decisions.
8. Don’t sign anything…
DO NOT FUCKING SIGN ANYTHING WITHOUT A LAWYER. Don’t sign anything if you aren’t 100% informed and confident in what you are getting is worth what you are giving away (I’m writing this a day after Taylor Swift wasn’t able to buy her masters back and it’s a prime example of this). There is always a balance, always a risk. Contracts are a binding reference point for when things go badly. Unfortunately, people’s words and loyalty doesn’t always last once money comes into the equation. Accept this as a reality and be sure to protect yourself and your work.
Being independent means you will wear multiple hats. The creative and the business. This came easy to me in the beginning because I was writing music and working full time for years, it was a natural balance. You have to be able to turn off the creative and turn on the pragmatism. You have to be able to toggle between left and right brain because it’s necessary. As you build, you can add team members to lessen this back and forth, but it’s important to take these roles on yourself in early stages where there aren’t the resources to bring people on.
10. One step at a time.
Literally. Just do one thing at a time. Breathe. Sometimes I feel this massive sense of overwhelmingness coupled with a huge inability to make a decision. It feels like this whole thing I’ve built is on my shoulders. Sometimes shit is hard. I’ve learned is that all I can do is the next thing in front of me and there is always a step to take, even then the overall path is unclear. We’re all just human and create something the best we can. It doesn’t have to be so heavy.