Real World Applications From A Real World Working Independent Artist

Read on anyway! It may give you new ideas for your own business, or plans for one. If you know any aspiring musicians, struggling songwriters, or nearly jaded indie artists, do them a favor and forward this to them.


“Self awareness is the primary pillar for emotional intelligence. Then, one needs to be aware of others and be able to manage/self-regulate. This, together with respect, is so needed today.” —Claire Knowles, Executive Leadership Co.

And self awareness is something I always push on my students. It's an absolute necessity for any creative artist. But, it's also incredibly beneficial to anyone in business. Hell, we may as well say it; In order to effectively grow in any endeavor or simply as a human being, self awareness should be a given.

Every day I get up a couple hours before anything appears on my schedule. During that time, I look over things I may have planned, read some inspirational or informative stuff, spend a little time doing things that keep me mentally and spiritually fit, and see what's going on in the world. My resource for a quick daily rundown is just that; The LinkedIn Daily Rundown. I like that it leans away from partisanship and towards generally what's up in the world. It's largely business, but I'm in a business. I like the trends towards purpose driven work and more progressive ideas beginning to fuel peoples' motivations. I see some very positive stuff happening... believe it or not.


How am I surviving as an independent musician? Well, of course, my book tells some of it in the "On The Biz" chapter.

But, as the linked review above states, my book is more about my personal journey and less of a instructional text. So, I've decided to share my various resources. Once again, please feel free to forward this to anybody you know who's an aspiring or working musical artist. And keep in mind, you can contact me anytime about this stuff! I answer all emails.




You should always have a project in the works. There's got to be a song you're working on, recordings to sort through, or an album idea germinating. Maybe you're editing some video from live shows. Maybe you're practicing for an upcoming show or looking at new material to add to your sets. Keep the creative juices flowing. New stuff will emerge. Otherwise, you'll turn around one day and years will have passed without releasing anything or you'll be sitting on a backlog of material, which can be very overwhelming; Where do you start? What's worth looking at? It becomes a big stack of potential future recycling. So, I've always got something in the works. It doesn't matter so much how far along I am. As long as I'm working towards a release of some kind, I'm going to be able to take advantage of a nice sum of money coming in by committing it to the studio or some similar thing.

Here are three people I've recorded with in Chicago:

Sean Morrison produced and recorded my debut in the 90's and several releases since, including my current single, "What I Mean."

George Belle is a retired sound engineer from Los Angeles who lives in Chicago now. His list of collaborations is impressive and too long to share. He also holds an Oscar and two Grammy Nominations for his work. He produced and recorded two albums of mine.

Lem Roby of Jack Salamander also owns Practical Music Studio and has recorded plenty of tracks for me. He's also been my musical collaborator on most of my albums and in most every band line-up I've had over the last 20 years.

While in Wisconsin I recorded a couple albums with Evan Middlesworth. Most recently, he was touring with The National, but he still has a working studio in Eau Claire called Pine Hollow.

Whatever the case, find someone you can trust to understand your work when you choose a studio and/or producer. Don't be taken in by a nice lobby, fine wood trim, and a Kourig in the corner. Shop around and listen to their work. And no, price is not really an indicator.


You want to get it out and make it widely available. Since I have very limited available time and still remain a bit dim about how many places music is downloaded, streamed, and sold, I make it a one stop shop.

CD Baby gets my music out to every outlet immediately. Their rate is low. They get you set up through BMI, ASCAP, or whomever. My single was on iTunes and Apple Music within a couple days of my paying for the service. It's mindless and easy.

Disc Makers now owns CD Baby.

They also own the company who prints and distributes my book:

Find whomever you like. I'm lazy or overworked, I'm not sure which. So I keep it all with one place. It's also easier for importing my music to my website.


Once again, I love an easy process. While they cost $20 a month, I love their templates and their designed for music. And a web dummy like myself can easily design and edit a site really fast. Also, they give away a certain amount of free music distribution for using their service and you can pay for a year and save.

Whatever the case, you absolutely need a landing page to send people to. While ReverbNation is great (I love their email service and it's what I send my regular messages through), and so are the other sites from which you can distribute; nobody will EVER take you or your music seriously if you don't have a proper site with your own domain.

Don't get too clever for your own good, either. If you think you're going to have time to go learn this or that and it's going to save you a few bucks a month, you're probably kidding yourself. Get it up and running now and make sure it looks great. Also be certain that your domain will forward to it properly. And it never looks professional when there's someone else's domain before yours (a hosting site, for instance). Do some worthwhile research. This should include asking other artists you know.

For so much of what we're all doing, our interactions with each other can become an on-going source. I actually read every email I get from other artists! Okay, so maybe it's often more of a scan, but I open them and look through. I like to see what's going on, but I also find new outlets to submit my music to or discover an idea I'd overlooked or simply hadn't thought of. We are all each other's best resource. We're all in this together.



I'm everywhere I know to be; Or at least everywhere I care to be. The tough thing about social media is the time involved in keeping things current. The rule of thumb is simple: If you're not going to use it practically every day, then don't make an account. Inactive social media is far worse than not having an account. I see tweets from record labels and promo companies pop up with notices from Twitter that they haven't tweeted in a while. WHAT!? All I can think of is, "Huh, they must not be very serious about the work they do," or "They're probably a fly-by-night operation."


See if any of these work for you. If they do, let's exchange follows and likes and all that jazz. And remember, always respond to requests of this sort. It takes seconds to let people know you're paying attention to them and they appreciate it.

Notice how I've listed each to let you know what's on there?


Single Song Purchases

I utilize their Fan Reach Tool to manage my mailing list and send out these weekly messages. It handles any duplicate or dead email addresses and unsubscribes those who wish it. I can add to it anytime manually or with a CSV file.
I also have ReverbNation set up so I can do a status update and it goes out to Twitter and Facebook, too.


Lessons • Music Updates • Streaming

I use this for my Music Lessons page and my Band/Musician page. You'll also see stuff about my acting and my book when there's something going on there. If you offer a music related service, even from a promotional end, add that to your Facebook page through your settings. Then be sure you get verified through Facebook in order to legitimize your business. Getting reviews can be attached to any other reviews you ask for. For instance, I ask people to review me and remind them that they can cut and paste one review and drop it in another business page of mine. For example; You can review me on Facebook, cut and paste, and then drop it in my Phil Circle Music page on Google. Give it a try. Thanks!


Quick Updates, Mostly.

My Twitter feeds also go through my website and Facebook page.


Pics of the What and Where and Who of My Work.

Of course, you can set this up to share to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

YOUTUBE (Subscribe)

Live Show Clips • In The Loop • Music Coach

Every time I add something on YouTube, people who subscribe get a notice. it also appears on my Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

So, you see, there are many ways to link these various pages and show activity without running to each page every day. Needless to say, having a smart phone can be handy. If I'm sitting in a waiting room, on a train or bus, or just awaiting a commercial during downtime, I can easily enough glance at my apps and shoot something out. It's great to be able to jump on in a moment of inspiration or when someone else shares a clever idea you don't want to forget. Time management is partly about doing what's in front of you before you have an overwhelming pile and no idea where to start.

You don't need to be an attention sponge to draw appropriate attention to your work.


Here's a past student of mine who's now back in Brazil. I love it! I'm contributing to the world economy! Email and whatever cloud service will do the trick for working internationally. PayPal converts the money at the appropriate exchange rate. While I can do very basic design, I want my album covers, posters, and such to look professional. Treat your business like a business. Don't be halfway on things. Do it up right. It's really worth it. I've begun using Pedro for everything. You'll see some changes on my site and other places soon. He did my book cover. I can't tell you how may compliments I've gotten for it and how much attention it gets just by the eye-catching graphic. We're also about to begin collaboration on a guitar method book I've been stumped by, due to the graphics question. Here's Pedro Bopp's site...


As you can see, I send out regular messages to catch up with folks, notify them of upcoming shows, updates or reviews, radio interviews, and the services I offer (including this free DIY stuff!). I get responses and I always respond. So should you. It's very simple, really. If you feel anyone may find it worth reading, send it out. As far as bothering people; That's why we have unsubscribe buttons and why people have free will. Don't sweat it too much. Be polite and consistent.



Here are some sites and services I use. How do I find them? I watch what other independent musicians are doing and where they're getting exposure! If someone I know or follow is getting attention from a particular site, station, blog, people, place, or thing, there's a damn good chance I can get the same or similar attention if I'm of the same genre and have as much to offer.

MusicSUBMIT - These guys get me tons of airplay and a fair number of features. Their success rates are pretty high. In this business, if 8% of your emails are opened (watch analytics) and more than 10% of submissions are accepted, you're rocking it.

Jango Radio Airplay - Paid Radio Airplay that's much like Pandora. Here's the thing; Most radio play online or on air involves some money crossing palms. It always has. Now you get to decide your demographic and attach yourself to the right kinds of fans. From this one, I build up my fan base worldwide and send them messages a couple times a month. I'm growing an impressive following at a grassroots level; the way it's most effective.

If you're an artist, sign up for them here:



Radio Avenue and you'll find me in Folk Tyme and Jazz on First.

Celtica Radio
and you'll find my music in a few shows and my interview in The Underground Edition or The Archives.

NBTMusic and they rated my single in their top 300 for 2017 (out of 4000).

752.2 Radio and they have me on a featured page.


I make a comfortable living, but my income can fluctuate like mountain weather. So, I do some simple things that I've picked up from other independent artists. One is to use rewards programs for places you shop or services you use. Who cares if it takes six months to build up to that $5 bonus. You're going there anyway, grab all you can from them in return for your loyalty. I'm to the point where by just doing my usual running about town picking up the usual items each week while using the various points I can accrue, I'm snagging a bonus every month from one place or another.

Do you have a credit card with points? Make purchases with it and pay them off before the bill posts. I do that and on a fairly regular basis I'm converting my points to a partial payment. And remember, if you're an independent artist (and therefore a business), your interest on business debt is a tax deduction. Don't have a credit card due to poor credit? Use Credit Karma to find options. Mine was in the sh*thole. By monitoring it, I was able to sort out things and snag a card that paid for some business expansion and has re-established quality credit... all tax deductible.

Got a Smart Phone? I do and it's a Samsung. Samsung Pay offers rewards that have gotten my wife and I a couple free nights out. See if your iPhone or Google Pixel or what-have-you, does the same. It probably does. There's also Android Pay.

Don't wait on it. If you have a Samsung, you'll rack up goodies right away. My wife and I exchanged all these app-based services and had a ball adding up the real dollars we raised through their various promotions.

HERE'S A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE (Only the actual dollar amounts have been changed)

I recently went to the pharmacy where I get my prescriptions and various other stuff. I handed them my rewards card for their chain. I paid with my Samsung phone pay app and added to my points for a Visa gift card (I'm already good for $10, but want to let it build). Through my Samsung Pay, I used my Visa that gives points (which I pay right away). If my purchase came to $14.50, my Acorns app rounded up to $15 and put 50 cents towards the next $5 it'll grab and invest in very low risk funds that simply put me a step ahead of a savings account.

So, I grabbed points in three places and put money in my savings with one purchase. It really does add up. Once you've gotten in this habit, it's pretty mindless and a few months in, you'll start to see rewards popping up and should notice a fair amount saved. My wife was looking over our rewards plan from the pharmacy. In the last year, rewards points alone saved us enough to pay one of our monthly bills. All we did was buy what we normally buy. This is the way to approach spending, really. Get in the habit of spending to save and earn. Think forward. If I can grab a gallon of olive oil and it saves me the equivalent of a half tank of gas (we have a small car) versus buying the smaller bottles all the time, I'm in! I use olive oil all the time.


New to SamsungPay?
Enter my code 753E5D before your 1st purchase to get $5 in rewards.


This app rounds up dollars I spend through all my accounts and cards and deposits the money into very low risk funds for me. I don't even notice the money going out.

Invest with Acorns

I have this set up to remove small amounts from my bank account and then I choose where I want to put it. I started with $5 and have money now in several funds. Again, it's not huge money, it's just always setting some aside and I can remove money anytime. It has tips on saving, too.


Invest with Stash
Here's $5. Try this out:

This one deals with stocks and bonds, mostly in low risk mutual funds and bonds. You're buying pieces of shares with as little as $5. This one also has a lot of great information about how to invest carefully and how to understand the market.

Acorns and Stash can both show you the potential long term money you'll have based on current input, too. That's fun! You may be surprised how soon you could have some real money set aside.


Even though credit card interest on business debt is tax deductible, it doesn't make sense to tie up your money in debt for too long. Make large payments after any large purchase and have a plan to pay it off quickly. The money you save can become money you save. Get it?

Have a business account and a personal account to keep things separate. I opened a business checking and savings account for free with no minimums through Capital One. It's all online. Look around. I'm sure there are plenty of options out there. Research. Always.

Have some savings and be sure you're saving up for taxes if you're completely self-employed. I try to save more than I estimate my taxes to be. The worse that can happen is I've got too much saved at tax time. I can just keep it, invest it elsewhere (new album?) or pay off a credit card. Why do I opt out of making estimated payments to the IRS? I'm not recommending it, as I'm not a tax attorney or CPA. But, my Dad was an economist and he insisted on never doing this because he could at least grab a little interest while holding the money. The IRS doesn't give any interest on your money when you pay in advance, and that's what you're doing when they withhold.

Have money in a few places. This is easy to do these days. I have two checking accounts, a business savings, PayPal, low risk mutual funds and bonds, and a few tiny streams of income that just trickle in randomly here and there. Typically, there's no great financial emergency because I'm prepared for it.


I respond to all messages. I also coach people in all of these topics and more. For $60 I'll spend 90 minutes with you in person or via Skype looking over your career plans to help you find real world solutions and make real world plans with this real working independent musician who's making a real living. Come up with a few questions and send them to me. I'll send back a few more. Then we can meet.

Peace and music,


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