What bands and musicians can learn from software companies

“Release early, release often” is what they say in the software game, if you’re applying a LEAN approach. Having a product in the market, and receiving customer feedback, is better than having nothing out there for customers to see, test and give feedback on. “If you’re proud of your MVP, you’re doing it wrong” is another similar quote. This implies that your first version should be quick and dirty, focussing purely on the core concepts of what you’re aiming to achieve, without too many bells or whistles.

For many years, I’ve been involved in and passionate about the alternative music scene in South Africa. While there are a few bigger bands who have “made it”, as it were, there are many independent artists who organise their own events, record their own albums and do everything else themselves to try and make ends meet. These are the musicians who have to keep a day job to sustain their passion for music (ie: they don’t always choose to keep their day job) and have to make sacrifice after sacrifice to realise their dreams. The music industry in South Africa is a true labour of love.

There are, however, a few take-aways from the world of software development, which musicians can apply to their own business, for an almost guaranteed success (provided folks like the music the artist releases).

Release early, release often

If you have a track, record it. Don’t waste time dilly-dallying. Just do it. If it’s not “your sound” in a week or two’s time, that’s okay. At least you’ll have feedback from listeners, and have another track under your belt for your discography.

Each track released is a gateway to the rest of your music. Whether the listener likes it 0% or 100% is irrelevant. There is a chance that they’ll click to the next track (or seven) and love it. Don’t waste that opportunity.

Focus on your MVP

I know bands who have spent years in the recording studio, only to put the recordings aside and focus on something new. Your listeners have been waiting for years for your album. They listen to your tracks at the concerts and they get to know certain songs, so when the album comes out, they expect those songs to be on it.

Rather than searching for the “perfect sound” and ignoring everything else in the way, get something out there.

Listen to your listeners

Now that you’ve taken the plunge and got some tracks out there (even for free, on Soundcloud or Bandcamp), it’s time to gauge feedback.

Be sure to place your music wherever there is a channel for listeners to give feedback. Soundcloud is great for this, as listeners can comment on specific sections of the track, which is great for a finely tuned analysis.

Let your sound be your brand

Looking at many software companies who provide web apps, for example, they often build the app and name the company after the app. Buffer, for example, is the name of the app as well as the company.

While it’s not really possible to emulate this to a tee (ie: not every band can be called “melodic punk-rock with a metal twist”), it’s more of an ideal than a label. Let your music be the focus, rather than cool photographs of yourselves or other fancy stuff. If your music and branding feel right together (ie: you don’t have a grungy logo for your classical music duo), you’re good to go. Let the music decide.

Executive summary

All in all, the music industry (particularly independents) moves quite slowly. It’s possible to record a track, get some basic branding and a website all done in well under 1 week. It may not be perfect, but it will be launched somewhere, at least. Being independent, the world is at your finger tips and you’re in full control with no record label red tape.

Focus on getting your music out there to the world, release early and often and listen to your listeners’ feedback.

More music in the world is never a bad outcome. 🙂

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