Being an independent musician is not simply an occupation but a kind of a crusade that demands stern resolve and resolute work-ethics. Artists with a weaker determination often fail to withstand the heat, the pressure, the stress it creates to do everything on your own — just for the sake of what
you love. Creating music.
Yes, it is as simple as that — because you want to do music, you do it. Come what may!
We talked to Pianist Steve Rivera about his life and his music and what he thinks it takes to be an Indie artist in the present world of technology revolution and changing landscape of the music industry.
Q1. How important is it for an artist to make music that sells?
That is a great question and I believe you can even apply it to any product or merchandise. When you are the person who has poured your soul, heart and passion into something it is that much easier to have passion and determination to do whatever you can to help to make it succeed. I personally believe that, regardless of anything else, you want to create music from a place that is personal and passionate to you, which will come out in your music and people will usually want to be part of that thereby buying your music. Someone can have great talent, but if they don’t have the determination to go with it, then no amount talent will help. You asked, “ How important is it for an artist to make music that sells?”, well in short, if the artist is making music to sell then they better do their best to make music that sells.
Q2. What do you think of the changing scenario of the music industry where technology and social are the new norms?
You are absolutely correct. The music industry is pushed on a digital & technology platform and on a social platform. It is good and bad. You can reach a vast new audience directly. But at the same time that “vast new audience” also has a world of options at their fingertips. So, to stand out amongst the rest and be in visible it takes time and effort. Sometimes it is challenging because as you said the music industry is now technology, meaning algorithms, playlists, digital platforms, digital social interactions. The independent artist can’t just create music. They have to know marketing, technology, video, audio, streaming platforms, digital interactions and online social and professional platforms if they want to be successful.
Q3. What kind of strategies do you adapt to market your music?
Well now, most of the strategies to market our music take place on a digital platform. You want to have as much of a presence on social media as possible. You also want to be easily acceptable on streaming platforms such as Spotify, I-Tunes, Pandora, Tidal.
Q4. As an independent musician, what do you think is the most crucial thing that helps in surviving?
What do they say, “don’t quit your day job.” Well, not only am I an independent musician but I am a single father who is actively involved in his daughters’ lives. So, I have to balance being a present dad and being able to financially sustain my livelihood. I have been extremely fortunate. That being said, I have to look for new ways to make money from my music. I actively try to think outside of the box. Continually asking myself can I do this with my music, can I do that with my music, I wonder if someone has tried this or I wonder if I can do this.
Q5. In the age of online streams and digital downloads, how important are live gigs for Indie artists?
Even in the age of online streams and digital downloads live gigs are always vital and very important. If no one hears you then no one hears you. The best way to get people to hear you is to play live. I remember Mr. Will Ackerman sitting me down and telling me point blank, “if you are supposed to go play a gig in the middle of nowhere for 5 people you go and do it with same amount of excitement. Maybe next time you play there, there will be twice as many people. And then it will keep growing every time you play there”. So, if you are playing your for one person or for 100 hundreds play with as much enthusiasm and excitement as possible. Even now, when I play at a restaurant locally, even though I am “background music”, I play the best that I can because I realize that there is probably someone there who has never heard me play before.
Q6. A message for our readers?
Never give up on your dreams. Dreams should seem out if this world and unattainable. That’s what makes them dreams. Just do whatever you can to figure out how to get transported there and sometimes that “transportation” has nothing to do with us. Create music that you love and everything else should fall into place.