How’s A Musician Supposed To Make Any Money Anymore?

Subway Musician

The Good And Bad News

It’s a common question. The answers are loaded with good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the days of a record company courting you, signing you for $1 million, paying for the studio, and funding your tour are pretty much over. If you’re part of the 1/2 percent of musicians who had that happen to you, that’s bad news.

For the rest of us, this isn’t such bad news. The good news is that now, the average musician can do a lot better than in the past. We can record our own music, we can release our own music, and we can pretty much make a living (maybe not millions, but it’s still ok) working hard at our craft.

Spreading out the wealth

The millions that used to be spread out amongst the top 1/2 percent, are now spread out amongst the top 20 or maybe 30 percent, so more people can make money as musicians, but less of it. And I think for most musicians, this is acceptable.

There are some interesting models. Digital downloads is a relatively new concept, yet already falling by the wayside in some markets, in favor of streaming. Some markets, like Bandcamp, are servicing those who still want to directly support the artist by buying albums (either in digital format, or actual CDs and even records and tapes).

We live in interesting times

So it’s a time in flux. While it seems like the streaming (read: Spotify) idea is completely taking over, bear in mind that the idea hasn’t actually made money (for Spotify) yet. They’re taking a little money and spreading it around pretty thin. And the artists probably aren’t as happy as they could be with the deal.

However, I do feel like streaming is here to stay. I just don’t know if it will always be $9 -$12 a month, or if it will always be “on demand”.

We may find ourselves back in a radio-like streaming model, once all the finance is vetted.

Pandora might actually win this one, lol.

So like I said, it’s a time in flux. We are getting to see some major change here.

Finding Balance

The thing is, everyone has to be happy. The fans have to be happy. The artists have to be happy. I feel like back in the 90s, the artists were more happy than the fans. Right now, the fans might be more happy than the artists.

If all the artists (however unlikely) were to boycott the streaming model, it would be a done deal. We’d have to go back to digital downloads and CDs. If the fans didn’t buy any, the artists might start to think about the streaming model again.

This is why I think there has to be a balance, and eventually a balance will be achieved.

The newest model

Another model we haven’t talked about is the Patreon model. Fans support the artists with a monthly donation, kind of a micro-payment, and for that they get extra communications from the artist, bonus tracks, pre-release material, releases for free, etc. Kind of like a fan club on internet steriods.

The average fan would pay more to the artist than if they just bought an album, and they’d get more in return. But there would probably be less of them as well, per artist.

Here is mine, I chose to use Bandcamp as my platform. You can support me for as little as $3 a month. You get everything I make for free as long as you’re a member. You get bonus communication with me. It’s another thing I am trying, and out of all the models, I feel the most excited about this one right now.

However, I’ll always be on Spotify. I’ll always be on Bandcamp. I’ll always be on iTunes, and Apple Music.

Cover your bases

I think that’s the thing right now – you need to be on all the platforms, available to your customer, at least until the “winner” is declared. Then you’ll already be there, and you’ll know how it works.

If you leave your music off Spotify, and only sell digital downloads, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Your music will just go unheard. People generally aren’t going to buy your album because they can’t get it on Spotify. They’ll listen to someone else, on Spotify.

The world is big enough to make you a good living off your music. There are enough customers on each platform. Bandcamp (which is dwarfed in size by Spotify, etc) pays out 6 million in revenue to their artists.

And we haven’t even talked about merch yet. We’ll talk later about that one!

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