Posted: 2 August 2018
When you’re starting out in a new industry, you’re going to have some burning questions and working in music is no different. There's no instruction manual for budding musicians so inevitably questions crop up especially about money, rights and royalties. After all, you want to know how you can cash in from that hit song or flawless performance. But sometimes it’s hard to find any real answers. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. That’s why we’ve scoured the internet for some of the common questions people have about this topic and answered them below.
A royalty is a sum of money you get paid when your music gets sold or performed. There are royalties for record sales, radio coverage, syncs etc. One thing to remember though, is it’s the people on the legal paperwork who are entitled to different types of royalties so if you contributed to a track, make sure you get credited correctly.
Merch always seems to divide opinion. Some people think it’s a great way to make money and others think it’s a great way of haemorrhaging it. In truth, it all depends on your individual situation. If you can create demand for merch at your shows, then you have a great opportunity to earn some extra cash and get your name out there.
All sorts of musicians feature on film and TV soundtracks, from multi-platinum selling artists to unsigned singer-songwriters. It’s a whole secret market that musicians don’t seem to know about but it’s worth doing your research on sync libraries and agencies. Although it can be competitive, just think about how many bands you've discovered after hearing them on your favourite TV show. Music syncing isn’t just a good way of making some extra cash, it’s a chance to get your sound discovered by a wave of new people.
Music ownership is a complicated issue, especially as more stakeholders get involved. That’s why it’s important to communicate with your bandmates, record label and any external producers or songwriters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about who owns the right to different tracks and get advice from copyright experts.
Sometimes when we go searching for information on the internet, we end up more confused than when we started. So where can you go for more advice? The good news is there’s plenty of charities out there offering advice on royalties, finances and contracts. It’s also worth looking out for successful musicians in your local circuit. They’ve been where you are right now and found a way to make it to the next level. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they did it.
Talent is lurking in every corner and that’s great news for your band (and your bank account). A friend with an artistic eye or a way with words is a great person to approach for your PR needs. You might even stumble across university students or budding freelancers who are willing to help you out with photography, bios and website design for a fraction of the price.
Every live show is different. Some promoters will pay you a percentage of ticket sales and others will pay you a fixed rate. Even gigs where you don’t get paid can be invaluable in terms of the experience you receive. Every performance is an opportunity to open up your sound to new audiences, build up a fan following and maybe even get spotted by a music mogul.
When you’re trying to get your head around music streaming, there are a few things to keep in mind. Putting your music online isn’t just about making money from streams. It’s an opportunity to create hype about your music and attract new fans to your band. In a time where every day people can dictate the latest trends, there’s no telling how far your songs will reach if it features on the right playlist. When it comes to the nitty gritty details of payment, each streaming service has its own policies set out in their legal documents.
Ultimately that’s a question only you can answer. Not only do we all have different motivations, but we also have different responsibilities. But before you let money get you down, look at some of the big players in the music industry today. Artists that have come from some of the poorest backgrounds have still found a way to turn themselves into stars.