Tommy Byrnes is an independent musician with a love of traditional Irish music, the owner of a music services/recording company, and a speaker at the 2010 IMC! We asked him a few questions about recording, how to make money while staying true to your music, and what he’s learned from his own path. In return, he gave us some invaluable advice…


1) You give consultations in the “business of music”. This is sometimes a tough concept and even tougher to implement. What are a few brief recommendations you have for artists trying to fit business into their music?


If you want to get paid for your music you have to accept the fact that your music career is your job and smart business strategies are essential. First and foremost, any artist or band should treat their music careers as a small business. It really is a lot like opening up a shoe store or any other business. Sound business is sound business regardless of the field or industry. Many artists don’t pay enough attention to this philosophy. “I’m a musician not an accountant. I just want to make music!” In today’s independent music environment, that rationale can be very self-defeating.


2) What steps can artists take to allow themselves to focus on their music while still having ample opportunities to get their music out to the public?


Creating a good strategy for your career is the best thing you can do. If you spend most of your time running around willy-nilly without a business and career plan there will not be much time left for the music.


I think an artist should have a six month, 1 year, 2 year and 5 year plan for their career. Be honest and realistic with your goals.


It is imperative for today’s independent artists to realize that in order to be successful (whatever that term means for you personally-nobody else can or should define that for you) you have to have a plan and the tenacity and fortitude to implement it.


3) What challenges and advantages can recording pose for Indie artists?


The challenges are pretty much the same as they have always been. Money is the first issue. How do you raise money to pay for either going into a commercial studio or building your own?


I have been involved in the home studio movement since 1980 when I built my first studio. Today’s technology has made it possible for nearly anyone to set up a personal recording rig. The big caveat to this: understanding the learning curve that’s involved with having your own recording setup. It takes a long time to learn the software involved as well as how to record.


4) What should artists do to ensure that their recording experience is as positive as possible?


Be prepared! Know your parts and be well rehearsed. That alone will save time, money and aggravation.

Also, if you choose to use a commercial studio find an engineer or producer that you feel good about working with. Music is a highly personal thing and working with the right people behind the glass as well as in front of it goes a long way. Most importantly, and this holds true for everything, have fun!! Recording can be stressful to be sure, but it’s also a hill of fun.


5) You picked up and moved to Ireland and played in pubs and on the street in order to learn traditional music – a courageous move. What advice would you give to musicians turning toward new styles?


Great question! Be true to yourself and true to the music. Never be afraid to learn. Ever. Seek out those in that style who really know what they’re doing and devour everything they can teach you.


I knew I would never learn such a complex and subtle form of music as traditional Irish dance music in music school where I was headed after high school. I figured the only way to really become proficient was to skip school, go right to the source and learn from the great players in Ireland.


Do the same thing with your music. Get it from the source if at all possible, whatever and wherever that may be. Also, check your ego and be humble. The people you want to learn from will be more apt to help you.


6) What are you teaching at the IMC this year that Indie artists can benefit from hearing?


I’m giving a workshop entitled Digital Recording and the Home Studio. I will be discussing the pluses and minuses of the home studio, what equipment is needed, and basic information about digital recording. This is the route an ever increasing number of independent musicians are taking.


7.) How do the purpose and goals of the IMC fit into your reasons for teaching, as someone who is both a musician and someone who teaches, counsels, and records musicians? What is your motivation for teaching at the IMC?


I have been enthusiastically independent for my entire career. I played in a working band for over a decade but in recent years I have devoted more time to studio work and teaching because of the complications touring and gigging can impart on family life. I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter, a 19 year old son in college and the most wonderful, supportive and understanding wife any musician could ever hope for. Being away from them is tough.


I don’t want anyone else in charge of my career which is why I have always been a disciple of the independent music movement-and it is a movement! At least this way, if things go south I have no one to blame but my dumbass self!!


But mostly, I am a very big believer in the adage “give something back”. I have been very blessed and lucky in my life. I feel very strongly that I should share the stuff I’ve learned over the years with other musicians, engineers and producers in the same way so many have shared with me and taught me through the years.


I would also like to say what Noel Ramos does with IMC and the philosophy behind it should be applauded. He is a real champion of the indie artist and I am honored and very grateful to be involved in any way with the IMC.


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Thanks again to Tommy for his excellent advice for sharing his experiences with us! You can find him with his music at TommyByrnes.com and with his Massachusetts based company Sovereignty Music Services, which offers a wide range of services to musicians across the country. Again, just a little taste of the benefits of the 2010 Independent Music Conference!

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