The art of pivoting as a musician: how to overcome uncontrollable curveballs and carve a path to success

Person playing guitar
(Image credit: Getty)

Between working several jobs to fund your passion and learning how to navigate the business behind music, being an independent artist comes with many highs and lows, moments of surety, and those times when nothing makes sense. Through it all, we constantly look for solutions to help us achieve longevity in pursuing our creative vision. 

For many, the art of pivoting – the principle of changing strategy or direction in face of difficulty to achieve success on a new path – can feel easier said than done. But, it is a tool that has the potential to guide artists through an ever-changing industry. 

When we find pockets of indie resources, we must sift through it all and give the good ideas a try. This is where we find the value of trial and error, and the parallels that will get us to the next step; as you continue growing through the obstacles, you ultimately build a process of finding opportunities that will get you one step closer to your goals. For instance, many artists in the indie community pursue the goal of having their music heard by some of the industry's most prominent labels – something that can facilitate future success.

Between their affordable prices, artists' rights to retain royalties, and providing access to music scouts, music distributor Spinnup (opens in new tab) immediately set itself apart from other companies in the game. Founded in 2013 as a Universal Music Group (UMG) subsidiary, the platform is unique in that it provides access to industry scouts who listen to artists, provide feedback, and in some cases, advance your career by providing marketing, production, and promotion support. 

Person playing guitar

(Image credit: Getty)

In fact, many artists eventually get the opportunity to be signed to UMG. This is predominantly why Spinnup became one of those great ideas that indie artists gave a try. For many, thousands of dollars in yearly distribution costs could feel like an investment, especially if there was potential to have your music reviewed directly by UMG. 

Alas, the sudden news that Spinnup would be switching to an invite-only platform (opens in new tab) threw indie artists for a loop. On May 18, 2022, Spinnup announced it was shifting from a “DIY music distribution service” to an invite-only platform, where artists must be selected to join the platform, thus limiting access to its distribution service and UMG music scouts. Its reason? To “reduce the number of artists on its platform as they move to a new chapter”. 

Thousands of indie artists that built their streaming foundation with this company would be given less than two months to find a new distributor for their careers’ discography. 

Not only did the primary source of artists' income get disrupted, but now, artists everywhere were forced to take time away from doing what they loved to find an immediate pivot to an unsolicited disruption in their journey. This is where the next level of trial and error would teach us a lesson in thinking forward and backward at the same time, reminding us that our response to our current challenges determines our subsequent outcome. 

Person playing guitar

(Image credit: Getty)

The next phase in the art of pivoting can quickly become overwhelming. In this case, countless hours are spent formulating a shift to overcoming this issue and making this challenge work to your advantage, all while not losing traction with your fans. Again, with the pool of indie resources comes the valuable opportunity to learn from others people’s strategies – another step in the art of pivoting. 

One advantage of this process is that artists and musicians have a creative mind. As creatives, we often see the world around us as infinite possibilities in the “big picture”. Maybe the big picture is made of limitless chord progressions that express a particular emotion, thus providing listeners with the sonic space to live in the moment via shared experiences. 

Or perhaps an oil painting that elicits a feeling an observer could never quite put their finger on. Your approach to creating something from nothing is not just a gift. It’s a tool with which you can address life’s unpredictable curveballs. 

You aren’t alone. You are surrounded by those in similar positions as you and that figured out a solution that can be applied to any person’s journey

As you enter the next few phases of experimentation, don’t forget that you aren’t alone. You are surrounded by those in similar positions as you, and those that figured out a solution applicable to any person’s journey. 

Bearing in mind that millions are trying to take advantage of the same opportunities, your approach to hardships is unique to you, and embracing each step of the journey helps to alleviate some of the subconscious stress that is natural to life’s processes. 

Protecting your mental, spiritual and physical health is essential and creates opportunities for gratefulness in the experiences we all are bound to see. One of the best ways I learned to adopt the art of pivoting is through my interpretation of the Socratic method: a philosophical approach to critical thinking in problem-solving developed by the Greek philosopher, Socrates. 

  • Step one: Identify your challenge
  • Step two: Ask yourself why this is challenging
  • Step three: Find the paralells and transferable skills that might be useful in problem-solving
  • Step four: Anticipate hiccups along the way
  • Step five: Do your best and celebrate yourself

There is reward in working through even the most complex challenges money can’t buy: a new perspective and the opportunity to create your path to success

Through this process, I developed a system that helped me secure a solid footing in my foundation. I learned how to forecast challenges more efficiently and prepare for them. I found many skills I was applying in one area. I learned a lot about myself along the way and picked up gems to remind me what I am working towards. 

So, what is the value of all this? There is reward in working through even the most complex challenges money can’t solve: a new perspective and the opportunity to create your path to success.

If you are an independent artist looking for additional resources, check out the below initiatives created below to support indie artists. 

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