The dream for any artist is to make a living from their music but how do you actually start making money? Besides physically selling the music, what can you do to start bringing in a wage for yourself, whilst still creating music that you love?
The key for musicians in 2018 is to diversify their streams of income. No musician makes money strictly from Spotify or only from touring, so by following these top tips, you’ll find yourself earning money with your music in no time.
1. Digital Streaming
Digital streaming is behind the biggest rise in UK sales for two decades. Spotify pays an average of 0.00437p per stream, meaning if you get 1mil streams you’ll receive just over £4k. This may not sound like a huge amount of money, but in the grand scheme of things, Spotify is an easy way to gain exposure and springboard you into other opportunities to gain money, such as live events. Spotify generated $40million+ in tickets sales in 2017, showing that it is an effective gateway to many other income streams in music.
To really start seeing the money come in from Spotify, pitch your music to user curated Spotify playlists, sharing your Spotify on socials and blogs and in in time the Spotify algorithm will pick up that your streams are increasing, that you’re getting added to playlists and what bands may be similar to you, meaning you appear on Discover Weekly, Top Recommendations and eventually Official Spotify playlists.
With the new Spotify submission tool allowing you to submit your upcoming material to Spotify officials, Spotify promotion is a lot easier to do yourself. You may find yourself on a major playlist, generating a large number of streams in no time, which eventually leads to receiving payment.
People sometimes complain about the royalties they receive from Spotify but besides paying a distributor to have it uploaded, the platform is free for your music to be on. You’re being offered an opportunity to make money on a free platform and that’s an opportunity you cannot complain about!
2. Live Shows
People love hearing live music and musicians love playing it, so it’s a perfect match for the creator and the consumer. Gigging is one of the most obvious but most profitable ways of making money with your music. Chances are that most of the money you’ll get from gigs is from the ticket sales themselves. You can collect money from the tickets sold online, paying at the doors or agree a percentage with your promotor/venue owner.
Alongside gigs, there’s also festivals which pay well. Festivals bring in the chance to play alongside bigger bands, receive music promotion and also collect an audience which wouldn’t be possible at a gig. All of these lead to different income sources.
There’re also copyright royalties for performing. If you’re signed up to PRS and perform a song that you’ve written that is PRS registered, they will pay you for this performance. Every venue has a PRS licence (well they should!) to cover the costs of paying out these royalties, so make sure you do your research and take advantage of this. Every little penny counts so don’t be afraid to ask your promotor, booking agent or the people at the venue itself.
Tying in nicely to live shows is merchandise. So many bands do a terrible job of designing, creating and selling merch. If people are at your live shows, they’re going to be fans of your music and this means they’re proud to say they listen to your music, so surely, they’d be proud to wear your merch, right? Wrong! They won’t be proud to wear a poorly designed, cheaply made t-shirt with just your band name plastered across their chest.
Be creative with your merch designs. Create a design that not only represents you as an artist but is a design that people would wear even if they didn’t know your music. At the end of the day, merchandise is something that can be very profitable so don’t cheap out on it, perhaps hire a graphic designer to jump on board or buy more expensive t-shirts than you’ve done in the past. If you make something that is visually pleasing, good quality and overall a strong product, you can end up charging more and people will still happily invest.
Years ago, artists who wanted to get discovered would have to send off their demo tapes to the labels and then sit and hope they get signed. In today’s digital age, you can use so many more innovative ways to get your music out there, allowing you to make money from loyal fans and listeners globally. One platform that works perfectly for this is YouTube.
YouTube works with artists across the world to generate revenue and help the musician earn more. Artists that put their music through third-party distributors who can submit your music to YouTube can collect money from ads and YouTube premium. Additionally, distributors who use YouTube’s Content ID system can collect revenue from other YouTube videos such as vloggers who may use your music.
Bonus Tip In the case of collect Content ID revenue from YouTubers who use your track and have a large subscriber base, we always suggest not collecting the revenue as the promotion from a YouTuber with over 1mil subscribers is a lot more beneficially than the amount of money you’d receive. Getting your name out there as an emerging artist is a lot stronger and will reward you financially in the long term.
Another way to make money via YouTube is to actually start creating content on there yourself, which will generate a source of income. You don’t actually make money based on the amount of views you get, you make the money based on people’s engagement with the ad before or during your video, which will obviously be higher if you have more people watching your videos. Therefore, creating high quality content which engages a large audience, will start to bring in money for you. Easy ways to start doing this as a musician is creating tour diaries, vlogging your day to day life as a band or even doing Q&As from questions submitted by your fans on Twitter. Be imaginative with your content and you will be rewarded with a loyal fan base and soon an income.
Crowdfunding is basically generating a small amount of money from a large amount of people. In the situation of a musician, this means fans donating a small amount of money each, with the end goal to collect a large amount. Your fans want to support you and your musical career, so crowdfunding is a fantastic way to collect money, whilst connecting and giving back to your fans. Bands like Kid Kapichi used crowdfunding to completely fund the recording, promoting and tour of their release so it works!
So how do you do it? Firstly, you need to establish the platform you want to use to crowdfund. There are many to choose from, but Kickstarter is the most established and easiest to use. You set a goal of how much you’d like to achieve and a deadline. If you meet your goal in time, you’ll receive all the money you managed to collect (Kickstarter takes 5%). However, if you don’t meet your goal in time, every donation made by your fanbase is completely refunded. So, don’t be an idiot and set a target of £1million but also don’t be stingy and set a target of £100 so you can make some money quick. Prove to your fans that you want to work together to do something and set a challenge that you can achieve together.
One thing to really think about is why should a fan give you money? If someone randomly came up to you on the street and asked for £5,000 to create their next EP, would you give it to them? The answer is most probably no, and your fans will react similarly unless you’re offering them something in return. Be imaginative and work with your fans to see what they want. Perhaps anyone that donates over £10 gets a recorded message sent to them saying thank you. Anyone that sends over £50 gets a song sung especially for them. Anyone that donates over £100 gets a live session performed at their house. It’s easy to set up a crowdfunding page but it’s not easy to get the donations, so prove you’re working for it and that you’re thankful for every penny coming through.
5. Sponsorship/Brand Collaborations
You have a large following, you’re selling out gigs and you’re starting to collect a solid amount of money from streams, but where do you look to next to start creating a better income? It’s time to approach sponsors and brands that you want to collaborate with.
Start with your local area. Identify local brands that fit with your style, image and lifestyle. If you’re a surf rock band from Australia, perhaps you introduce yourself to your local surf shop. If you’re a large indie rock band from the UK, maybe you approach a clothing line, such as P&Co who have recently collaborated with The Hunna to release exclusive merchandise.
Call people up and offer them something they cannot resist. Whether that is social media posts that will increase their following or wearing their clothing at gigs, which will grow their overall brand. Work with the brand to agree on a deal that works for both parties.
Before you approach a company, look into who they already work with. For example, Jägermeister and Dr Martens work exclusive with rock bands so if you’re a pop duo, don’t embarrass yourself by contacting them. Similarly, find a brand that are at an equivalent level to yourself. If you’re only just reaching the 5,000 stream mark and you have less than 3,000 Facebook likes, the chances of Coca Cola giving you a $1mil brand partnership deal are very slim!
Writing a pitch to a potential sponsor is similar to pitching to blogs, radio stations and Spotify playlists, you need to sell yourself. Use parts of your current press release, bio, social media and Spotify statistics to persuade them you’re worth investing in.
Below is an example of The Lids who secured a brand collaboration with premiere league winning Christian Fuchs for his clothing line #NoFuchsGiven.
6. Create Value
Music sales isn’t the problem for indie artists, it’s obscurity. No one really knows or currently cares about who you are so won’t pay for your music. Instead, treat your music as a marketing tool, rather than a form of income. If your entire business model for your music is to sell albums, your model is old-fashioned and unsuccessful. Instead, make your music available to everyone and then you can focus on creating value.
Think about the long term. If you charge people for music that they’ve never heard, it won’t get bought but if you create a dedicated fan base, giving them as much music as you can, your product will soon be in demand, meaning you can start thinking about sales. If you make something valuable enough, people will pay for it and this works exactly the same with your music.
An example many can understand is YouTube and the business model of a YouTuber. YouTuber Alfie Deyes creates daily vlogs on his YouTube channel. His vlogs are completely free to the viewer; therefore, his product is given away at no cost to the consumer. However, Alfie has created such a large fan base of over 4 million subscribers, that he has started selling products to them that are now highly in demand. Because his fanbase are so loyal and dedicated to his free content, they buy his merch, they pay to come to meet and greets and even purchase his many books. This is proof that giving out free content creates a fanbase, which creates a strong income in the long term. This theory is relevant to the music industry and should definitely be put into practice.