The 12 Different Artists Types

I was going through the daily brief emails ASCAP sends me to find some good reads. And I found this, which offers a nice summation, and range of what artists you’d filter yourself into. And of course, the information to really be an artists’ artist and conjure up a new type, if that’s possible. An interesting reference overall. Mega and I gotta learn the ins and outs of this game y’know?

Via Digital Music News

The direct-to-fan space is crowded, and that means more options for artists. But it looks like a number of companies are just starting to specialize around different types of artists – an early sign of maturation among competitors.

For example, Topspin is only working with artists that have considerable traction or backing, while CD Baby welcomes any DIY.  Nimbit is currently dialed more towards professionals and serious musicians, according to CEO Bob Cramer.

But what are the different types of artists, exactly?  That is, beyond the genres and musical styles?  Most artists fall into more than one bucket, but here’s an attempt to describe the various levels.

(1) The Unsigned, DIY

Do-it-yourself (DIY), and totally direct-to-fan (DTF).  Not affiliated, this soloist or band is handling mostly everything themselves.  Typically very early stage, with very low levels of income but ample inspiration.

(2) The DTF With a Team

Still direct-to-fan, but with a team of supporters – compensated or otherwise – working the strings in a hopefully coordinated manner.  The beginning of a more serious marketing approach, and at a more advanced level, a great model for creating and controlling different distribution, marketing, DTF, and even label partnerships (like Arcade Fire).

(3) The Professional, Gigging Musician

A dolled-up boy band can skip the musical talent.  A tenor saxophonist playing jazz clubs in Chicago can’t.  The professional has the chops to play gigs and make money, and can use DTF platforms to create better fan relationships and even expand income.  But these are working folks, so f**k the fame.

(4) The Hobbyist

Maybe a serious musician in the past, now it’s just a recreational thing.  This sounds like a good market to tap – after all, proceeds are typically coming from a day job, and everything is sort of a toy – whether a new tuba, TuneCore account, or Disc Makers-pressed CD.

(5) The Hobbyist-In-Denial

Essentially, an artist with little chance of generating a serious audience or sales, but carrying lofty aspirations nonetheless.  Foolishly looking to quit the day job, if they haven’t already.

(6) The Signed Artist

Actually, DTF relationships matter for every tier of artist, but the signed artist has potentially serious resources to draw upon.  Depending on the relationship, that means money, creative connections, and access to a (hopefully) knowledgeable team.  This type of deal has traditionally been signed with a label, but can involve any company (gaming company, publisher, Live Nation, even an advertiser.)

(7) The Superstar Signed Artist

These are the ultra-elites actually selling out gigs, shifting hundreds-of-thousands of albums, and getting terrestrial radio play.  Still less money than before and a tricky terrain, but a lucky spot for any artist these days.

(8) The Songwriter

Sometimes a performer, oftentimes not, this breed of musician is putting songs and lyrics together and hopefully scoring some hits.  And, in the process, minting some serious publishing revenues.

(9) The Post-Label, DTF Artist

“Off label” can be a great category, depending on how successful the label was at building the artist in the past.  And, some have the luxury of leaving quite successful partnerships – a prime example being Radiohead.  Still, far smaller artists have ex-label equity to bank upon.

(10) The Producer

Typically behind the scenes, but oftentimes grabbing the spotlight – especially in hip-hop.  Either way, this is a different type of animal, based on lots of connections to a range of different artists.  That changes the contractual discussions dramatically, and also introduces a far broader range of revenue possibilities.

(11) The Legacy Artist

The glory days are over, but hopefully the revenues are not.  Or, if they are, reunion tours and remastered releases are always tricks to consider.  And, reawakening and recreating DTF relationships also makes sense.  We’re getting the band back together…

(12) The Celebrity-Turned-Artist

A category we could live without.  Is the musical world better because of Paris Hilton, Tila Tequila, or Shaq?  Exactly.


Enjoyed? Cool.


3 Responses to “The 12 Different Artists Types”

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