My 7 biggest takeaways from the CD Baby “DIY Musician Conference” in Chicago

1. You don’t need a label to be successful. One of the biggest ideas of the “DIY Musician Conference” was that with all the technology around, it’s much more about building your fan base than working with a larger partner to get your message out there. Panelists had more horror stories about labels than I knew existed. Ari Herstand, musician and writer of “Ari’s Take”, said that 98% of artists signed to labels fail. That means ONLY 2 PERCENT of signed artists to major labels are successful. (Photo of Ari and I below).

2. Your content needs to be new, interesting, and different. I spoke with Peter Hollens, a YouTube star known for his “A Capella” videos, who made it clear that your content needs to be different that what everyone else is doing, and it needs to showcase what you’re about. If it’s not new or interesting, nobody is going to watch it.

3. Your live show needs to create “musical moments”. Tom Jackson, who has worked with artists such as Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, and more, told us that simply performing your songs isn’t good enough, you need to engage your audience and entertain them. You can do this by performing each piece differently, getting the audience involved, and changing your dynamics.

4. Be true to yourself. One of the main points the speakers discussed was that everyone has a unique story and instead of copying what somebody else is doing, being true to yourself is not only more interesting, but crucial to your success.

5. Musicians should support each other rather than be in competition with each other. I auditioned for “The Voice” a couple years ago in Chicago. The atmosphere felt very competitive even though none of us were really competing against each other. The atmosphere at the CD Baby “DIY Musician Conference” was high energy and supportive. Everyone felt like friends, wanting to help everyone else with whatever they were going through.

6. You don’t need to be professionally trained to succeed. Some of the speakers actually discussed how formal music training taught them to write a certain way, and that it sometimes limits them and their thinking. Sometimes being someone who wasn’t always a musician can give you a creative edge.

7. You can do it! It was great to be in a community where everyone was supportive, helpful, and facing the same problems that I was. If you’re doing something, and need some inspiration, seek out some people doing similar things and talk to them. Create a supportive community, and it will help.

Much love,


Some Photos from the Conference