The question I get asked more than any other question is ‘How Do I Make Money in the Music Industry?’
Whether you are a Band or an Artist or working behind the scenes as a Producer, Engineer, Mixer or Songwriter, the music industry has changed dramatically over the last 15 years.
Our incomes are all linked so we need to understand all of the ways this has changed and is continuing to evolve. Those of us in Music Production and Artists are Partnering more and more, we have common goals and this is the certainly a big part of the future of the Music Industry.
So how do you make money?
Is a Major Label Record Deal an option?
For many 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, 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 90’s into the early 2000’s could typically be $500,000 for a band that the Label felt had the right sound and look, a following was not needed as the Label provided a huge Marketing budget to promote their new signings.
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 then you have to be prepared to play the game, be an artist with a broad appeal. To fulfill this you will need to write Radio ready songs and be prepared to co write songs or even cut songs by other writers. Despite the obvious increase in competition from platforms like Spotify, Pandora and many others, Radio does still have a place and it is still a big way that Major’s push their Artists songs.
What Do You Have Going On?
So let’s say you have the songs, you sound current and even cutting edge, great! Well yes, that is great, however the first question I hear every time I play a new Artist to an A&R guy is ‘What Do They Have Going On?’. They want to know that you are active on Social Media, that you post frequently, you create your own unique content regularly and you engage and cultivate your fan base. Even the biggest Artists like Taylor Swift post frequently on their Social Media Networks. No one (especially not a Label) 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, only themselves doing Show and Release Announcements and other basic information.
Social Media Promotion
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.
Register Your Music With a P.R.O. and Sound Exchange
Performing Rights Organisations (or P.R.O’s) 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 in live in a Venue, 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 P.R.O. 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 L.O.D. and a pre-designed template. That is a Letter Of Direction, an agreement you make with the Artist that will enable you to collect monies 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 TV and an Independent artist who doesn’t have a huge team of people to communicate with 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 if you do 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 catalog, but your music could get easily lost.
Start Making Music Now – Don’t Let Lack of Equipment hold you back
My journey has been a long one and since I started as a kid 30 years ago I’ve collected a huge amount of recording equipment over those years. A few years ago most of this gear was a huge necessity to make an incredible sounding album. But that was the past and now these days, unless I’m recording live drums, I find myself recording 99% of the time with one mic, one mic pre and a compressor. I rarely need more than one or two inputs at any time and increasingly great mixers such as Neal Avron and Andrew Scheps are mixing entirely in-the-box. Plug ins are becoming cheaper and every manufacturer is offering a subscription service where you can access everything they offer for a monthly fee. Now vintage recording equipment is becoming something so highly emulated that people reach for the originals purely for the tactile experience of twisting a knob, playing the equipment like an instrument itself!
Multi-Tasking is a huge advantage
Being multi talented, having the ability to not only record, edit and mix music is huge. Throw in being a multi instrumentalist and a songwriter you increase not only your chances of making great music, but also your chances of getting the gig in the first place. Of course you don’t have to play an instrument, but I can tell you my experience is Artists and labels gravitate towards people that play and can co write. I love to learn, so after a multiple occasions when I couldn’t get a Drummer down to a session when I need one, I decided to learn. I have a kit set up here in a small live room, about the size of a kids bedroom, it has mics on it ready to go and if I need to do something on the fly I just step in there and try ideas, it’s both fun and liberating being able to record any time I need to.
Getting Paid to Produce
If you have a good skill set you can get a lot of work with local artists helping to develop them. There are many young up and coming artists who want to showcase themselves, so being a great vocal Producer is an extremely important skill. Know your tools. Whatever DAW you choose to use, know it well, learn the quick keys so you are listening to the music not looking down at the keyboard or staring at the screen. Developing young artists will help you hone your skills and you may find a great young artist or band that you can take to the next level and introduce to a Label, this is a great way to get yourself in front of people so they can hear your work.
Composing For Film and TV
Writing specifically for Film and TV is a dream job for many of us. I just talked to C.J Vanston and hearing him talk about the amazing creative relationship he has with Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer making music for movies such as ‘Best In Show’; and ‘Waiting for Guffman’ is truly inspiring! While no one can guarantee that you will get into the same kind of creative team the odds are still that you will be paid very well and get a large residual (passive) income from a show if it goes into many seasons and eventually syndication. It’s a highly competitive business and the ability to play instruments is of course a must.
Teaching is a really rewarding way to make extra income. I also love the benefit that it brings by increasing my focus, as I am continually reminded of areas that need to be improved in my own learning process. Another massive benefit is the reward you get from helping people, for me 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!
The New Music Industry – Think Outside the Box
These are exciting times! We have the opportunity to the break rules every day!
I’ve created a Youtube video discussing this topic in even greater detail, you can watch it here:
Please leave a bunch of questions and comments below. Have a marvellous time making music!