An Interview with Anitra Jay from The Crafty Musician
Anitra Jay is an acoustic soul singer-songwriter based in Eureka Springs, AR. She tours regularly up and down the US from Vermont to Texas and everywhere in between. Her music is a sultry down to earth blend of soul, pop, and gospel. After being laid off from her job in 2007, Anitra decided to pursue a career in music. She took her educational experiences in Public Relations and her professional background in marketing and applied it full force to her music. She’s found significant success in establishing a lasting fanbase using her special brand of marketing techniques which she shares freely with other artists. In addition to being a full-time performer, Anitra runs TheCraftyMusician.com, a blog for indie artists sharing actionable tips and advice on how to promote, develop, establish a fanbase, and more. Her passion is to inspire other musicians and build a community of like-minded independent artists to encourage and promote successful careers in the arts. She appeared on HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters in May of 2017 to share her music story and her Tiny House Journey with the world. Join Anitra on YouTube where she shares weekly DIY tips and secrets to move your music career forward.
I love your website so much! It’s such a well-made resource spot for musicians. How did the idea for it come about?
Wow! Thanks so much! I started The Crafty Musician Blog in 2015. At that time, there weren’t many blogs that approached learning how to be an independent musician with a personal voice. I thought our community was really missing that. I believe we should be open and talk about our experiences collectively so we can learn from each other. Also I noticed there weren’t many blogs available for independent musicians to learn business essentials that are used in the corporate world which would help us become better entrepreneurs. With my educational and professional background in Public Relations, and the fact that I love sharing what I’ve learned with other like minded individuals, it just seemed like the perfect fit.
What are you most proud about on your website? What are the main posts or pages you hope everyone sees?
I can’t think of any one page or post that I’m most proud of. All the components of the website come together to make one big resource for independent musicians all over the world. I’m most proud of the fact that the blog has been able to encourage musicians in their business and connect us all.
I love the backstory of you and your husband (and now baby)! how did you and Rob meet?
Rob and I met at a church in Memphis, TN. We were both living there at the time and went to the same church. We were assigned to lead a ministry together and that’s how we got to know each other. During this time, I was also dabbling with my guitar and decided to get more serious about being a musician. I asked him if he wanted to get a drum and play music with me. He said yes and we went to a drum store and got him a djembe. We’ve never looked back since.
I love that music brought you together. Who are some of your favorite artists that inspired you?
My music palette came from my dad’s old records. I would come home after school and play his records because I was bored and didn’t have anything else to do. He had The Ohio Players, KC and the Sunshine Band, Michael Jackson, Anita Baker, Barry White, and more. These artists helped me form my rhythm and a base. I also like Joe Cocker, Phil Collins, and David Byrne of The Talking heads. Lauryn Hill, Jill scott, Erykah Badu, and India.Arie also have made a huge impact on me. My music ends up being a mix of them all.
Is The Crafty Musician your full time job? Do you perform or record as well?
I’m a full-time musician. However, since COVID-19 happened, I’ve had a hard time defining what exactly is full-time. I stopped performing live shows during the pandemic and I also became pregnant. Now I’m a Mom with a newborn and haven’t performed consistently in over a year. I’m planning to slowly start up again in the fall, but as of now, my “work” consists of maintaining the blog, coaching, freelancing, consulting, and whatever else comes up. The pandemic has reminded me that life is not defined by what you do for a living, but how you choose to spend your time living. Earning money just helps you do that a little better.
What is a typical day for you now?
As a new mom my life has drastically changed. I’m up doing morning chores in the morning and tending to my girl. When I can squeeze work in throughout the day, I’m either writing articles for my blog, freelancing with my business clients, managing my music website, fielding entertainment inquiries, practicing, or making a video.
Scams are unfortunately common in our industry, especially now that ‘getting noticed’ is so difficult for artists. Have you ever had any experience with scams? What are some red flags artists should look for when considering business deals?
Oh my gosh, scams are the worst, especially those that target independent musicians. Most of us are already tight on money as it is. One of the most common scams I’ve seen is the one where this big show or music showcase comes to town and the promoter reaches out to you promising “exposure” and “money” but realistically it’s a pay-to-play gig. You agree to sell a certain amount of ridiculously expensive tickets and you buy them upfront in hopes to sell them all. But if you don’t sell them all, you’re out all that money. They take the money and go to the next city. That’s it! The money doesn’t go back into your economy. Your fans and friends just spent $30 (if you managed to sell them) for a random showcase that was more like a school talent show. You could have set the show up yourself, charged half that amount, and you could have made some actual profit. These types of pay-to-play shows disgust me. They come in other forms too, so we really need to be extra diligent about these to protect ourselves as musicians. I wrote a lengthy post about that here.
That’s great info, thank you!
For me, the hardest part of blogging has been maintaining a social media presence. I know a lot of musicians struggle in this area, either with branding, consistency or just confidence. What do you recommend for musicians who struggle with social media?
Branding, consistency, and confidence are all really big barriers when it comes to maintaining a social media presence. I recommend using platforms like Buffer to write and schedule all your content once or twice a month so it’s not taking too much time away from daily workflow. Check out social media content ideas and guides that others have created if you get writer’s block. Here are some ideas to get started. As far as branding goes, I suggest creating an artist persona which will be a guide of sorts to follow when posting to social media. That way you can keep a consistent look and feel across all platforms.
What is your favorite social media channel?
YouTube is quickly becoming one of my faves. I really like it because you can engage in live streams of other channels, do live streams on your own channel, and join in on comments under videos based on topics that resonate with you and your fans. It’s an easy way to find your ideal fans while just being yourself. Once you make yourself known regularly on certain channels that interest you, people will notice you, click over to your profile, subscribe to your channel and you’ll have followers. If you spend any amount of time on YouTube, you should definitely take advantage of the artist profile feature, get a music note next to your name to make your profile really stand out.
How do you handle “haters” or negative comments on your posts? What do you recommend for artists who encounter these issues?
Haters and trolls will always be there. Depending on how offensive the comment is, I might just ignore it and let my followers handle it. I may also delete and block if I get the urge. Alternatively, I’ve been thinking about using negative comments to my advantage by doing a montage of the meanest things people have said to me and repurposing it as content. There are lots of options. Just remember that hurt people hurt people. If you encounter haters and people being bullies, they themselves are very hurt and desolate people. You can just walk away and live your life. They have to deal with that negativity all day, every day. When they make these comments, they are desperately trying to release that negative energy on to you. Don’t accept it. Not to get too woo woo here, but you can send that energy right back to them by saying as much and visualizing it. Dust yourself off and move on. I like to remind myself that I’m not here for them. I’m here for the people who appreciate me and resonate with my music.
Your 5-Fold Strategy for musicians is amazing! I think it’s super helpful for musicians to know what exactly they need, but also to know what they already have and where they need help. What is your favorite part of the strategy, and/or where do you find artists need the most help from you?
Building a fanbase, artist development, booking, finances, and marketing are the five things in which I believe musicians need to focus and excel to be successful. The most exciting part for me is the artist development aspect of being a musician. You get to create a persona like the pros do! It involves the most creativity and imagination. The other stuff is more business oriented and can often feel like a chore. Artist development is the base from which everything else will follow. If you don’t have that, you won’t have a good start doing any of the other things. That’s where most musicians need to start and that’s where I find they are most lacking in.
What is a coaching session like? What type of clients are an ideal fit for you?
My coaching sessions are laid back and fun, but we also get to business. We’ll talk about your current challenges and I’ll give suggestions on different routes you can take to address those challenges. We decide on which one of those suggestions to execute and I’ll work with you each step of the way to make it happen. I, ultimately, force you to think about what your end-all dream is and then we dwindle down from there to identify what you can do now and what systems you need to have in place to get there. Music is a journey and I strive to support my clients on that journey in every way possible.
On the other side, who would NOT be a good fit for your services? What do people need to have in place before contacting you?
I specialize in helping solo performers, duos, and bands either just starting out or veterans looking to switch things up and make a new, bigger splash. My expertise lies in being an independent musician and making a living doing music apart from a record label. I’m not very knowledgeable about things like music licensing, getting a record label deal, or getting into other music industry careers like becoming a professional songwriter, becoming a producer, etc.