Should You Hire a Professional For Your Music Career?
I received a concerned email from a subscriber regarding my DIY guide on How To Make an Album Cover.
They didn’t like me advising artists to use Canva and AI instead of hiring graphic designers or visual artists.
This brings up a larger question about the DIY mentality that I thought I’d cover in today’s post.
The Downside of DIY
Doing it all yourself is HARD.
After teaching thousands of musicians and producers how to mix, master, and release their records by themselves, I’ve realized something:
“You probably shouldn’t do it all yourself.”
Doing things by yourself in a vacuum is not only incredibly difficult because of all the skills you need to master.
But it’s also lonely.
And when you’re alone, it’s easy to second-guess yourself. It’s easy to let the negative self-talk take over.
Then, before you know it, you’ll look at the music you were so excited about a week ago and think it’s all garbage.
So one of the biggest things I’ve changed my mind about in the last few years is that you shouldn’t do it all yourself.
Knowing How ≠ Do it ALL Yourself
However, DIY is a great mentality to have.
I do think you should KNOW how to do it yourself. Knowing how to do it yourself means that it’s easier for you to delegate and find quality people to work with. You understand the “definition of done” because you know what you’re looking for.
But if you’re only doing it yourself, you’re doing your music a disservice because you can’t be great at everything.
The learning curve to get ALL your skills up to a professional level is simply too great.
When Should You Hire a Professional?
Audio Issues was built to help musicians, producers, and aspiring audio engineers make better music.
I am a musician who became an audio engineer. I have also been a teacher for most of my life in some capacity, starting at age 20, so it’s not surprising that I turned around and started teaching audio engineering. Throughout the years, and riding the wave of the home studio revolution, I attracted an audience of DIY home studio musicians who wanted the power to make their own music. Although this may have ruffled some feathers in the “commercial studio curmudgeon” community, I don’t care.
I want to empower you with the knowledge you need to create your best work.
So, if you believe the “Starting Artist” stereotype, you believe that artists usually have limited discretionary income.
This forces them to DIY as much as possible. In this scenario, they don’t have the money to hire a visual artist to help them, so they do it themselves. As I said, I’m all for empowering any artist to create and release their work, so I applaud them for overcoming any obstacles along the way.
So responding to my subscriber’s concern, my stance is:
If you believe you have the chops to create your own artwork, then you should be empowered to do so.
It’s the same ethos that Audio Issues is built on. I help you transform your recordings into finished, released records. I do that by helping you understand the audio engineering and step-by-step mixing tools you need.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire an audio engineer if it makes sense to do so. If your mixes sound like demos, and your tracks sound quiet next to other records, maybe it’s worth it to hire an engineer.
The same goes for any member of your team:
- Graphic designer
- Video Editor
- Booking agent
If you’re bad at something, only keep doing it if you believe you will truly improve to a professional level. Otherwise, hire a professional.
Once you surround yourself with quality people who can help you do the things you’re not good at (even though you know how it works), you will become more efficient and effective at your craft.
The Selective Hypocrisy of Paying Professionals
It’s interesting to receive an email from someone who believes musicians should not make their album covers but believes they can mix their own music.
If you believe that it’s okay to mix and master your own music, you should believe it’s ok to do your own artwork. Anything else is hypocritical. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay for help.
My subscriber writes,
I can totally understand if people want to use AI and amateur design tools to make artwork when they just don’t have the funds to pay someone (I’ve been there!) but if musicians can buy plugins and pay for mix/mastering courses, they can pay a designer/painter/photographer $100 for an album cover. It would mean supporting a real human who’s trying to make a living from their art (just like professional musicians do). And it has a much better chance of looking better, too.
I’m not saying paying $100 for an album cover isn’t worth it. It’s a steal. I also think it’s important to collaborate with others because it may open opportunities unavailable to you if you’re always going it alone.
But they’re comparing apples to oranges. Buying plug-ins and paying for mixing courses to do it yourself is not the same as hiring someone to do it for you. Hiring someone to mix your record is. So if you’re going to DIY everything, then you’ll hopefully pay to learn how to do it well.
The Value of Outsourcing
I’ve paid designers thousands of dollars in my career because I know there’s a lot of value you can get from a visual artist.
They’ve spent their careers mastering their craft, and I want to leverage that expertise to make my brand look better. It’s valuable to me to work with them because of what they bring to the table.
They’ll have a different perspective that enriches my brand. They’ll have more experience with what’s trending and what works.
Simply put, they’re the expert. And I’m not.
Let DIY Be Your Teacher
If you think you can do it ALL yourself, by all means, knock yourself out. You will burn out quickly, but you’ll learn a lot.
I’ve talked about this before in my article, I’ve Run an Audio Business For 13 Years. These 2 Things Actually Move the Needle in Your Career, and it’s a good example of why you should know how to do it yourself, but you shouldn’t actually do it all yourself.
One of the best things you can do is surround yourself with capable people who know more than you about the things you can’t focus on.
Outsource as much of your work as possible when it makes sense to you, but don’t dismiss the DIY mentality as a path to increase your skill set.
Learn how for the sake of the knowledge you gain, then turn around and figure out what you need help with and who you can hire to grow your career.
Strike a Professional Balance
This debate isn’t about one or the other. Like with everything else in life, it’s about balance.
Indie artists need to be self-sufficient in every way, even if they don’t do it all themselves. That includes album artwork. This knowledge helps you make better decisions, whether you choose to do it yourself or bring in professionals to elevate your work.
There’s a lot of value in collaboration and in leveraging the skills and expertise of others. Hiring professionals, be it graphic designers, audio engineers, or other specialists, can bring a new dimension to your work, enhancing its quality and appeal.
Recognizing when to DIY and when to hire out is a skill all on its own.
In the end, you should do what suits you best. Your journey as an artist is unique. You’ll have to balance your DIY spirit with the power of collaboration to develop your unique approach to your art.
Whether you’re mixing your own tracks, designing your album cover, or enlisting the help of experts to help you promote you music, the goal remains the same: to produce music that resonates with your audience, fulfills your artistic vision, and makes an impact on your life.