Whether you’re a band/artist or working behind the scenes as a producer, engineer, mixer or songwriter, the music industry has changed dramatically over the last 15-20 years. And perhaps the most important thing you’re wondering about is how to make money in music.
Our incomes are all linked, so we need to understand all of the ways the landscape has changed and is continuing to evolve. Artists are partnering more and more with people in music production—we have common goals and this is the certainly a big part of the future of the music industry.
You can figure out how to make money in music as an artist if you’re willing to do a bit of homework and arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can.
Is a major label record deal an option?
For decades, the major label record deal was the holy grail for almost every musician regardless of genre. Pop, hip-hop, rock, metal, R&B, country, and alternative artists were represented strongly on every major label. Artists honed their songs, their sound, and their look to be cutting edge to garner the interest of a major label A&R.
Record deals through the 90s into the early 2000s could typically be $500,000 for a band that the label felt had the right sound and look. A following wasn’t needed because the label provided a huge marketing budget to promote their new signees.
These days, bands in particular are finding it increasingly hard to get signed—only artists with the broadest appeal are getting signed by major labels. The majority of bands that do get signed have large followings in place and have revenue already generated from film and TV placements, touring, and merchandising sales and other revenue streams.
So what if you do want the big record deal?
If your goal is world domination and you want it to be funded by a major label, then you have to be prepared to play the game; be an artist with a broad appeal. Still, you shouldn’t consider this a fast-track to making money—there’s lots of grinding necessary to gain a following and the attention of a record label.
Part of this is writing radio-ready songs and being prepared to co-write music, or even cut songs by other writers. Despite the obvious increase in competition from platforms like Spotify and many others, radio does still have a place and it is still a big way that majors push their artists’ songs.
What do you have to offer a record label?
So let’s say you have the songs, you sound current, and even cutting edge. That’s great, but the first question an A&R person will ask is, “what do you have going on?”
They want to know that you are active on social media, that you post frequently, you create unique content regularly, and you engage and cultivate your fan base. Even the biggest artists post frequently on their social media pages.
No one (especially not alLabel) is going to be able create interesting, behind-the scenes, content like you can! They will rely on you to do a huge amount of your social media. If you have have a following in place, you’ll be on your way to potentially making money in music as an artist.
Social media promotion is essential
Whether you are going to remain an independent artist or sign with a major, working your social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the other myriad of ways we can engage with our audiences, is a hugely important way to grow your brand.
Giving free away content rewards them and builds loyalty with your fan base. You’ll want to create an email list and get people’s information in exchange for free content. When you build a loyal base by offering something people want, they’ll be more likely to spend money on your “premium” content later on.
Register your music with a PRO and/or Sound Exchange
Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) help songwriters and publishers get paid for the usage of their music by collecting a very important form of publishing revenue: performance royalties.
You as a songwriter, composer, or lyricist, will be owed what is called a “performance royalty” any time your music is played on radio stations (terrestrial, satellite, and internet), used in a TV show or a commercial, or performed live in a enue, whether it’s a coffee house or an arena!
Performance royalties are paid by radio stations, venues, and TV networks to Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN (in Canada), and PRS (in the UK). They then distribute the money to their affiliated songwriters and publishers. Each country will have a PRO associated with it and they will have agreements across the world to collect income for you, so be sure to register your songs!
Sound Exchange will collect money for you as both a performer and a producer in the digital world. It is a huge thing for you to be involved in, as money is increasingly being generated in the digital domain. Sound Exchange is collecting that income for us as artists and producers. Here is a link to the main site where you can register as an artist.
If you are a producer, here is a guide on how to create an LOD and a pre-designed template. That is a Letter Of Direction—an agreement you make with the artist that will enable you to collect money as a producer.
Licensing your music for film and TV
Being an independent artist is an advantage in film and TV Licensing. Major label artists struggle with the increasingly smaller budgets for TV. On the other hand, an independent artist doesn’t have a huge team of people to communicate with and can move swiftly and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ very quickly.
Research heavily anyone who is offering you a ‘licensing deal’ wishing to represent your music. They often promise the heavens without any guarantees, so make sure you sign your catalog with someone that will work your songs and not just have them languish in a library. They will have huge power by having a massive catalogue, but your music could get easily lost.
Consider teaching for an alternative source of income
Teaching is a really rewarding way to make extra income. Another benefit is that it can increase your focus, as you’ll be reminded of areas that need to be improved in your own learning process.
Another massive benefit is the reward you get from helping people! Being a part of a community like we have here at Produce Like A Pro is wonderfully satisfying. Watching people’s growth and development, being part of their process as they overcome hurdles, is truly incredible!
How to Make Money in Music Today: Think Outside the Box