It’s been a while since I’ve played a gig, especially one where I was tasked with providing background music.
It was a fun and pleasant experience, though, one where there was virtually no pressure. If there was any pressure, it was self-inflicted. I have a history of over-preparing and expecting great things of myself any time I’m called upon.
Fortunately, I am able to relax more nowadays, thanks to the considerable experience I have under my belt.
I remember watching a Christmas concert on TV with my family one year. For the life of me, I can’t remember who was performing. It may have been Celine Dion.
And I remember commenting out loud, “she’s singing like her career depended on it.”
In the moment, I don’t think I realized how true that was. In a time when TV was still the main channel through which information was relayed, and entertainment was programmed, performing at Christmastime would mean having all eyeballs on you. You’ve got to sing like your career depends on it.
And that’s the way I’ve approached most gigs. I know there won’t be any A&R reps there. I know there may not even be anyone to impress. I’m competing with the toughest competitor of all – myself.
I was recently re-reading my New Year content from last year, and I thought to myself, “this is probably the best I have ever written.”
See, for example, 15 Holiday Reflections to Ring in 2022, or 5 Books I Read in 2021 That Made a Difference.
I’m up against something if I want to surpass that level of writing this year.
That’s how I think about live performance as well. I’ve done a lot of cool stuff in the past, so one upping myself is not going to be easy.
But I realized something tonight.
Playing for your friends or strumming the guitar around the campfire is one thing. Strangely it feels so ordinary. But playing your heart out at stage volume? Suddenly, you realize your playing holds up. Maybe you’re not Guthrie Govan or Tosin Abasi. But you know you’ve got something.
Collaboration is a bit of a buzzword in the music industry. But it’s often misconstrued and not always well understood by artists at the level it should be.
The tendency might be to roll your eyes or even cringe at the thought of co-writing a song, hiring a session player to jam out a killer solo on your latest track, or inviting another band to open for you. But once you’re aware of the total upside potential, you probably won’t think that way anymore.
Here’s why collaboration is critical to your success as a musician.
Being a Good Hang
Successful collaborations are a measure of your willingness and ability to work with others and be a good hang.
All things being equal, most band and project leaders are looking for easygoing bandmates. Skill can be taught, but attitude? It’s usually more trouble than it’s worth.
From sessions to live performance, your ability to land more and better gigs relies a great deal on whether others see you as being a good hang. It seems insane, but more opportunity will come your way if you focus on building a positive reputation.
Unless you plan to do everything yourself in your music career, including but not limited to writing songs, recording yourself, replicating your own CDs, and more, you’d better learn how to play nicely with others. Your ability to progress in your career may end up depending on it.
Ideally, you want to build multiple strategic connections with people who can help you move with velocity in your career.
Creating a Better Product
Collaborating with the right people gives you instant access to more and better ideas. Other artists may have experiences you don’t, skills and knowledge in areas you don’t, approaches and methodologies you’re not aware of, and more.
Collaboration truly is the name of the game in the music industry, even at a high level. Rarely if ever does one person write and record a song from start to finish anymore. Usually, there are multiple people involved, in a variety of capacities, be it writing, arranging, producing, or otherwise.
If you want to make better music, collaboration is the shortcut you’ve been looking for. By focusing on relationship, you can even ask for tips on live performance, booking gigs, resources, connections, and more.
Show me an artist with access to more of the right guidance and direction, and I will show you an artist who’s capable of creating better music, better live shows, better content, and more.
Leveraging the Power of Cross Promotion
An easy way to amplify your promo efforts is with the help of others.
Know it or not, there are plenty of secret alliances and “engagement groups” playing out online on blogs, social media, email lists, and more. If you’ve ever wondered how some people you see in your feeds get more likes, shares, and comments, now you know how that happens.
If you’re not forging your own pacts, you’re leaving opportunity on the table.
Participation in a project does not guarantee proactive involvement on the part of all participants, but all things being equal, someone who’s worked on something with you and is getting credit for it is far more likely to share it out than someone who hasn’t.
If you’re wondering who to ask, artists and bands who are eager to grow are far more likely to be receptive to arrangements like the ones just hinted at.
But the real question is – are you receptive to cross promotion and working with others to grow your music?
Creating Goodwill with Others
Most people who are vocal in any capacity tend to be self-interested. They are clueless when it comes to pitching, because they think it’s all about asking for what they want, before they’ve established what’s in it for the person they’re asking.
True collaboration requires empathy. We need to be willing to see things from the perspective of those we’re collaborating with. What would serve them? What would make a difference for them? How could we add value to them?
From that place, just about anything is possible. But if you’re only interested in what you can get out of the collaboration, you’re going to deplete even the few connections and resources you have access to.
That’s not going to help you build your career. You need to flip this on its head, and instead identify the circles of influence that exist around you. You want to stay top of mind with them, so comment on their social media posts, share valuable articles, send them the occasional gift, and the like. Be thoughtful.
If you effort to build up goodwill with others and make it your focus, you’ll be able to call in your own favors later.
In any collaborative situation, make it your mission to give more than you ask for.
If collaboration seems daunting, and you’re not even sure where to begin, remember this – all you really need is one partner. Even if all you do is retweet each other’s singles upon release, if you have the right structures in place, you can benefit from each other’s involvement, as well as resources and connections. What partnership will you be creating today?
The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a great deal of uncertainty. Live performance and touring ground to a halt, leading many artists to consider throwing in the towel on their careers. If I had made any predictions for the music industry in 2020, I probably would have been wrong about most, because I could not have seen widespread lockdowns coming.
2023 is already shaping up to be an exciting year, though, and there has truly never been a better time to be an artist. But my predictions aren’t all positive. Here’s what I’m predicting for the music industry in 2023.
Doomsayers Will Scream Louder Than Ever
I covered this in yesterday’s article. Sad but true – this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get you to empty your wallet.
Fear not – there will always be opportunities in the music industry. If someone like me can play over 300 shows in western Canada, be featured on The Antidote and CCM Magazine, and become an award-winning composer, imagine what someone who doesn’t spend the bulk of their day writing articles could do with their music.
This would be an excellent year to get your house in order, but don’t worry about the roller-coaster rises and dips that inevitably play out every single year. Focus instead on growing and bettering yourself, your craft, your fan base, and your brand.
Spotify Will Make Strides in Overtaking the Audio Space
Spotify is working hard to become the go-to destination for everything audio, be it music, podcasts, audiobooks, or otherwise (maybe even live streamed audio). And they are well positioned to do it.
I don’t think 2023 will be the year they completely overtake Apple and Amazon (if this happens at all). But I do think Spotify will be making some strides this year and will be broadening their stable of offerings.
It Will be a Rocky Year for TikTok
Most people in the business are making rosy predictions about TikTok, but truthfully, TikTok has a hard year ahead of them. Take for example this CBC News headline from last month:
U.S. lawmakers introduce bill to ban TikTok
Now, I don’t think TikTok is necessarily going anywhere. The more likely outcome for the year is that some company will purchase the rights to create TikTok North America or develop an entirely new substitute that isn’t China run. But we should not expect TikTok to remain in its current form for long.
Still, if you have yet to set up your own home on the web, you are in a position of compromise. Either create a SiteGround account, Bandzoogle account, or get some expert coaching around building your own artist website TODAY.
Web3 Adoption Will Continue to be Slow & Confusing
Just because we’re in 2023 does not make the confusing and difficult any less confusing and difficult than it was before.
Now, you and I know that Web3 isn’t all that bad, but the majority are not savvy to the extent we assume they are.
I have been sharing a great deal about Web3 based social networks and my ongoing experimentation for a couple of years now. But anything that isn’t push-button fast is at risk of alienating larger adoption, and Web3 just isn’t where it needs to be for it to be mass consumption ready.
Even all the “experts” just keeping saying, “oh, we don’t know – it will be exciting to watch and see what happens.” Thanks, expert. Pretty sure I could have figured that out myself.
I would still encourage artists familiarize themselves with the new ecosystem, though, because it is our future.
Live Music Will Recover & Grow Steadily
You might think this is a safe bet, but out of all the predictions I’ve made, this is the one I feel iffiest about.
COVID-19 set a precedent that the entire world can be locked down in a matter of weeks should there be any new public health safety concerns that drop in our lap.
Assuming there are no worldwide meltdowns, though, live music should continue to recover and grow. Artists and audiences alike will begin to feel more comfortable hosting and going to events.
Every year, enthusiastic predictions are made about A.I., virtual and augmented reality, and other emerging technologies. And the reality is, one year is a very short span of time. We’ll probably see some fresh developments in these areas, but not to the extent many think. It will be gradual at best.
I do think 2023 will be a year for great progress though!
What are your music industry predictions for 2023? Which trends only serve to annoy you? Do you think I’m out of my gourd with my predictions?
This year, you should expect to see plenty of colorful music industry personalities declaring 2023 the point of no return for independent artists.
They will convince you that if you haven’t put in the hard work of diversifying your artistic income streams to this point, you will quickly become irrelevant, smelly, toothless, and ugly.
These comments should be accompanied by dramatic headlines like “the music business sucks,” “the music industry is tanking,” “the music business is the worst possible business you could be in right now,” and the like.
Here’s what you need to know:
This is Marketing, Plain and Simple
Don’t get me wrong – it’s brilliant. But this type of marketing simply isn’t in alignment with who I am, and that’s why I haven’t ever taken to being a doomsayer.
I have, on occasion, gone on rants or aired grievances about things that haven’t gone as expected in my career, but I have never said “the music industry sucks” or anything even resembling that.
These colorful personalities have a platform (not just a soapbox) to shout from, so good for them. But so far as I’m concerned, the moment you’re given a platform, you have a greater responsibility to the people you’re serving. Giving the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong people is to take for granted that responsibility.
So far as I’m concerned, fear-based messaging is the precursor to tyranny, and I have unfortunately witnessed it firsthand.
And what these personalities are really after is your money. That’s it. They want to scare you sick so you will open your wallet and buy their course on how to spend the next 10 years of your life building sales funnels that don’t work.
Income Diversification is My Domain
This is not me saying “get off of my lawn.” This is me saying I am unparalleled and unmatched in this domain. I have developed many business plans, and coaches and consultants inevitably come back to me saying, “I don’t know anyone who’s been able to identify as many revenue streams as you have – people usually struggle with this.”
And let’s be as fair as we can possibly be here. Some of these personalities talking about the music industry today don’t have the benefit of having watched it for the last 15 to 20 years. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing songs and making content about the industry since 1997, playing guitar since 2001, blogging about the industry since 2007, and podcasting about it since 2009.
If you haven’t been following along, then you’ve missed out on thousands of ideas you could have already implemented and benefited from. Income diversification is not your problem. Lack of ideas is not the problem. Lack of implementation is.
Do Not Fear
The Smithsonian says humans were creating musical instruments as early as 40,000 years ago.
I personally don’t have much confidence in the idea that human beings have been around for that long. But that’s another discussion for another time. What matters here is that music has existed, in some way, shape or form, as far as time stretches back.
The music business will have its ups and downs. But music will be fine.
Like some hapless preacher who thinks the world is going to come to an end in 2023 (no one has ever been right about this by the way), the clueless will look at one short-term dip in a line graph and be shaken to their core (“I’ve got to warn my people! The world is going to end!”).
There will be bumps in the road, but music will always thrive. Don’t be moved. Don’t be deterred. Don’t be shaken.
I have repeatedly warned of shills and charlatans in the music business. And right now those people are saying the industry sucks. If the music industry really sucks, then why are they still in it? It’s almost as if they’re opening their kimonos – revealing how desperate they are for business. But I have no doubt 2023 will expose more and more of the corrupt.
Beware who you spend your money with. Because if they’re talking about how horrible the music business is now, imagine how much worse their screaming is going to get. They’re not going to shut up about it.
Spotify may well become the go-to source for everything audio. They are poised to take on Apple and Amazon, and they may even succeed. If there’s a reason to be excited about the platform, that would be it. That doesn’t mean your earning potential on Spotify is about to improve in a significant way though.
The reality is the odds are stacked against creators. Most platforms, including Spotify, require you to drive massive volumes of traffic if you expect to be compensated for your participation. The creator takes all the risk while the platform benefits from the addition of their content.
You need 1,000 subscribers to monetize your YouTube channel – which only amounts to $5 per day if you’re lucky. On TikTok, you need a minimum of 10,000 followers to monetize your account. Medium only pays $4.32 to $8.19 per 1,000 views. At every turn, you’re stepping into ecosystems that do not favor you, the independent artist.
You can take a stab at it, just as I’ve done with InfoBarrel, Medium, YouTube, Odysee, Rumble, DTube, DeSo, Steemit, BIGO LIVE, and others. So long as it doesn’t take over your life, experimentation is encouraged.
But while some of these platforms have dolled out $20 here, $30 there, I have never earned anything substantial on rented land where the deck is stacked against me. I shouldn’t complain about “passive” income, but the content I’ve pored over has easily swallowed up hundreds of productive hours I will never get back.
Again, while I’ve taken to experimentation, I don’t have much faith in the idea that one day I will go viral on any one platform, at least not to the point of earning an income that’s proportional to the effort invested.
Meanwhile, I can rely on my websites to earn me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in direct revenue, and five figures in indirect revenue. How do I know? My financial statements from the last six years tell me so. Even my affiliate marketing initiatives out-earn the “pennies on the dollar” model espoused by major platforms.
If you were looking to earn $10,000 in the next three months, which of these two methods would you choose?
- Sell 10,000 singles for $1
- Sell a live performance bundle for $2,500 to four clients
It’s grade school math, yet artists are choosing A much of the time, because they’re afraid to ask for B.
The vehicle matters.
Then comes the question of how to accomplish B, and that comes down to marketing.
This means identifying your prospects, designing a value proposition, and crafting your pitch. You’re not going to be able to sell a $2,500 bundle to just anyone. But if you know who you’re talking to, why they should work with you, and you can make a convincing case for your offer, you’ll find buyers. Your pitch may not be accepted every time, but that’s how business works. If your value proposition and offer are right, there will be takers.
Again, “if you build it, and promote it, they will come.”
“But no one else is doing anything like this.”
Inaccurate. No one in your network or immediate social circle are doing anything like this, that you know of.
Plenty of artists are beginning to think differently about their revenue model, and as they gain more confidence, they are taking bigger and bigger leaps.
So, it’s time to upgrade your association. Find artists who are:
- Making and selling high ticket offers
- Earning a killing from a minimum viable audience
- Forward thinking in their approach to monetization
Better yet, find a coach or a mentor and ask for expert guidance. By doing so, not only are you showing the universe that you’re serious about your commitment to earning an income from music, but you’re also affirming to yourself that you’re the kind of person that goes the extra mile when it comes to achieving personal success. And I don’t know too many people that don’t go the extra mile that end up there.
Big thinkers realize that time is short and small goals are wasted on the young and timid. Think big, act now, move with urgency.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. You’re clearly an intelligent, good-looking, and ambitious person. You even make great decisions when it comes to your music career.
But there’s no way I could possibly cover all the puzzle pieces required to form a complete music career picture here, and even what you have learned to this point may not be enough to take you to new heights. Things not implemented are quickly forgotten.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to set up revenue models that will work for you, then don’t hesitate in reaching out to me to book your first coaching session. I may not be cheap, but I deliver value every single time – just as much value as you’ve received from this series, if not more.
There are two paths staring back at you. One leads back to the familiar. The other leads to levels not yet reached. Which path will you take?
We can all overcome great obstacles. We’re more capable than we often give ourselves credit for.
I’ve survived a major earthquake, the death of my father (when I was 13), my cousin committing suicide at 18, persistent migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, being sued by creditors, filing for consumer proposal, and much more.
Life is difficult. But I stand before you a happy, healthy man.
Paradigm shifts aren’t easy, either. I know well the pains and ills of cognitive dissonance. I spent a summer in bed depressed, because I lost the girl, my business, and my faith, too.
But you can overcome it, and you will be better off for it.
What should you do to overcome limiting beliefs? Whatever it takes!
There are several factors that matter a great deal in making an income from music. A firm grasp of these will take you to heights never anticipated.
The Vehicle Matters
People say passive income doesn’t exist. Or if it does exist, it’s the result of hard work – there’s no ”sitting and waiting around” for money.
The second sentiment is correct. I’ve received substantial consecutive checks from the Amazon Associates and Amazon KDP programs. Mailbox money sure is sweet! It’s not always consistent or reliable, but to this day I am still rewarded for works completed months and years ago. And I’m only getting better at capitalizing on my content.
Intellectual property isn’t where the real income is, but that’s another topic for another time.
Either way, it illustrates the point well, that your chosen vehicle matters. One email campaign is one email campaign. But there’s a huge discrepancy between sending your fans to Spotify to listen to your music versus sending them to a $12.95 free plus shipping offer. Same amount of work, very different results.
Visual Capitalist says it takes roughly 229 streams just to make a dollar on Spotify. If your email list is 300 subscribers large, you’d need almost all of them to listen to your track once on Spotify just to make a dollar. You automatically make more if just one of your 300 subscribers takes you up on your $12.95 free plus shipping offer. And conventional wisdom says every email subscriber is worth $1 per month, so if you excel at relationship building and making offers to your fans, your email list of 300 is worth at least $300 per month.
It’s simple math, but it’s astounding how we all get caught up in the hype of streaming instead of applying a bit of simple logic to the problem. Accurate thinking is boring, but it’s the dividing line between the shrewd and the average.
Many artists are under the impression that if they (artists) build it, they (audiences) will come.
It’s a nice catchphrase, but it would be more accurate to say:
“If you build it, and promote it, they will come.”
Marketing, for better or for worse, is another paradigm shift that can take some time. It took the better part of five years for one of my best friends to accept that heading up marketing initiatives was an essential and fun part of growing her business.
I’ve sold hundreds of copies of The New Music Industry. I’ve helped crowdfund $15,000 for a jazz album. I also helped sell 188 tickets for a recent 200-seater artistic community event.
How was any of this achieved? Through marketing.
There’s the occasional artist or creator or blogger or podcaster that finds success without spending a dime on advertising, but they are the exception and not the rule. Or marketing was so baked into their project, they made it seem effortless.
The truth is most if not all your favorite “independent” artists that exploded in popularity had support from a label in some capacity.
Without the right vehicle, though, it’s quite likely you will get frustrated with marketing. Because you will spend untold hours promoting something that may never have the potential to reward you at your desired level.
Marketing, however, holds the key to the income you want to generate as an artist.
I’ve had good years and bad years as a session musician. But I’ve earned as much as $800 per gig, in a time when even some world renown session guitarists were having trouble charging more than $120 for an hour of their time.
How did this happen? I can tell you right now it didn’t happen because of how amazing I am. Sure, I’ve received my share of praise as a guitarist, but there are plenty of YouTube musicians that blow me clear out of the water in terms of virtuosity and speed. The bar is higher than it’s ever been.
Most opportunities, really the best opportunities, for me, have come through relationship. Some relationships have been worth thousands if not 10s of thousands of dollars to me.
I’m not blinded by dollar signs in building relationships. I’m genuine and authentic. I’m a good friend. I tend not to expect much in return. I’m private, so I don’t reveal everything about myself, but at this point that’s more of a personal idiosyncrasy than a strategy.
I have never been the boldest, handsomest, most popular, or even most charismatic.
I simply smiled, extended my hand, and if I was lucky, made a friend. I repeated the process of meeting one to five people every day for four to five years straight.
If you’re finding that making money in music is hard, it could very well be because you haven’t found the right people to hang around with yet. That’s fine, and it’s not your fault, but you should not delay in beginning your search.