Posted: 22 November 2018
One of the biggest challenges you will face as a musician is making the cash last. Traditional ways to make money in music are changing, forcing musicians to get inventive. CD and record sales have long been a reliable source of music industry income, but in the US alone physical music sales have dropped by three-quarters since 2000. So how as a modern-day musician do you keep the pennies rolling in?
The internet may have drastically reduced physical sales but one positive effect is the rise of crowdfunding. For those unaware crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people.
Low risk – Most pledge sites do not take payments from contributors until a project has achieved their target amount.
High success rate – Kickstarter reports that music projects have one of the highest success rates of any category, with just over 50%.
Good reach – Your fans are your most valuable asset and crowdfunding is a great way to interact with your following in all corners of the world, especially those who may not get the chance to see you perform or access your music easily.
Fees – Commission rates and timescales for payments can vary greatly, based on the service provided. Make sure to do good research before committing.
Tricky timescales – Give yourself plenty of time to launch the campaign and fulfil the orders. Keep in mind some orders will take longer to complete than others, it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver.
As we’ve established physical albums aren’t exactly flying off the shelves at the moment, so one way to boost your funds is to offer special merch and experiences that your fans will love. T-shirts and posters are all well and good but offering a wide range of items means you can better satisfy every fans appetite.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to offer one-off experiences you should consider private performances, signed instruments and lyrics, or even a pair of signed gig-worn snakeskin boots, like the Quireboys have available.
If you really want to think 'outside the box' you could follow in the footsteps of hip-hop heroes Run The Jewels, who give their music away online for free but offer the opportunity to purchase incredible packages. They've offered the opportunity to set up a private detective agency with you and the chance to turn up uninvited at a restaurant and berate them Gordon Ramsey style. They've also re-recorded an entire album of theirs using only cat sounds, which fans crowdfunded to make happen.
Fans love it – This is a great way to give your fans amazing experiences, and strengthen the bond between them and your band.
It’s up to you – You can be as extravagant as you like with this. Just want to offer some signed albums? Fine. Looking to offer a wacky experience? Go wild!
Commission – Can be quite expensive on high ticket price items depending upon the platform you use. Of course there’s no commission if only available through your own website.
The price is right – It’s worth remembering that the more unique your offering, the smaller your potential reach. Offering something worth thousands will only appeal to superfans.
In 2017 the music industry reported revenues of $17.3 billion worldwide, so despite the changing landscape there’s still plenty of cash going around. You just need to think smart to get your slice.
A key recent development is the ability to analyse your audience through streaming services and social media. Now with a little number crunching you can develop a map showing exactly where your fans are located, and can even use this data to decipher which song you should release next or how to release it.
Knowledge is power – Arming yourself with all the stats helps you make an informed decision.
Less waste – In theory you should be able to make accurate predictions on how much merch to produce, how many vinyl’s to press, or even if there’s no demand at all.
Time consuming – Keeping track of all your social media stats, website analytics and streaming data can take a while. Even once you’ve collated it all it may be confusing to decipher and get useful information from.
No guarantees – Even armed to the teeth with stats and figures there is no promise things will go as you plan.
There’s no sure-fire way to make money in music. What works for one artist may not work for you but one thing all successful artists have in common is a solid and supportive fan base. Be sensible, be creative and be smart with your revenue streams to give yourself the best possible chance of making a buck.