There are two types of thinking when it comes to being unsigned, independent or DIY:
Learn how to do it OR pay someone to do it.
Which one should you do? That depends. When you are just starting out you need to consider keeping your costs down. Make sure you can afford the avenue you take. For example, when you first record songs. Some bands are self produced; they record themselves instead of paying a producer or engineer.
A great compromise would be to reach out to students at a local recording school. Often times, students of a recording or engineering school have to do projects that include doing either a live or tracked recording of a musician or band. This means you get someone who has some experience under their belt (more, if you are me) and you can keep costs low or free.
Pay Someone To Do It
Get referrals. Ask similar bands or friends of yours for recommendations on who they have worked with. The worst thing you can do is look for a producer blindly. Some work to collect the hourly rate and others have a spot in their heart for new artists.
Make sure you can afford it. Don’t hire a producer who is out of your budget. Don’t hire a graphic designer that will charge more than your potential profit on a run of shirts. Don’t hire a manager if they charge more than they are helping you bring in. It isn’t always about what you want to spend, or how much you can afford. If something is unrealistic or depletes your profits, don’t do it. (There’s a reason younger bands tour in vans and not busses!)
Hire someone to do something if you can’t do it well. If you know how to do graphic design or you know how to record music, make sure you are producing a quality product. Even if you can professionally record music, an experienced producer and engineer may be able to do better because they do it for a living.
**For taxes, I highly recommend hiring a CPA. Things can get complicated if your band is filed as an LLC and you begin paying taxes without prior experience.
DO IT YOURSELF
As previously mentioned, make sure you are producing a quality product. If you can book your own tours, but get an offer from a well connected agent, you should at least consider what you could gain from it.
If you are die hard DIY, there are so many ways you can learn to do things without even taking a class.
Read a Book. There are so many books out there. Spending $10 on a book and learning a very valuable lesson, even if it is only a single lesson, is worth it. This book taught me many of my networking skills. Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
Watch Tutorials on Youtube. You can learn so much on Youtube these days. If you are a vocalist wondering how you can get improve your vocal abilities, you can look up videos about vocal warm ups or exercises. (ex: Professional Vocal Warmup 1 – “Opening Up The Voice”) Eric has a number of videos that can help any vocalist. Trying to figure out a new trick on Photoshop to help cut down merchandising/advertising costs? (Ex. Spotify Duotone Photo Effect Photoshop Tutorial)
Ask someone for help. Reach out to someone who knows how to do something rather well and wouldn’t mind giving you advice. Ask other bands for help! Seriously, you’d be surprised how many bands might be willing to share their advice. Especially touring bands, although they made be a little preoccupied at a show to sit down and walk you through their pedal setup. Going back to step 1 always helps, a solid referral should be much more open to chat.
Best of luck!
ps. I may do a blog on booking tours if anyone would like to see a simplified explanation of my process.