Making Money in Music is Hard, Part 3

by | Dec 26, 2022 | Uncategorized

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.

Marketing Matters

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.

Relationships Matter

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.