How to Achieve Artistic Freedom by Living BELOW Your Means

How to Achieve Artistic Freedom by Living BELOW Your Means

What can CD Baby founder Derek Sivers teach us about being frugal? How did he manage his finances? What was his mentality around income? In this video, David recounts what Sivers shared with him.

Transcription:

In 2009, I got to interview the founder of CD Baby, Derek Sivers. At 22, Derek quit his job, became a musician, and never looked back.

Now, I asked him how it is that he was able to do this, and what he told me was that he lived within his means. Many of us will interpret that to mean we should spend every dollar we make, whether we know it or not.

That’s how we think about living within one’s means, and that’s not how it works at all.

Derek said he didn’t get a car, he always took the subway, and he never went out to eat unless someone was treating him.

This is a commonality among many successful people I know, that they live below their means.

When you’ve got a year’s worth, or maybe even two year’s worth of expenses saved up, you don’t have to say “Yes” to projects that you don’t want to take on anymore. It’s a form of freedom you can’t earn any other way.

So, if you enjoyed this insight and you’d like more like it, check out my new book, Productivity, Performance & Profits Blackbook.

Music Industry News for March 27, 2023

Music Industry News for March 27, 2023

It’s #MusicMonday, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time to get caught up with industry news!

Here’s what caught my attention this week.

▶️ Sweet & Lynch Release New Single, “You’ll Never Be Alone”


A recent string of hard rock releases has me all worked up. With new singles from Extreme and Winger, the only thing that would supercharge my pulse now would be a release from Harem Scarem. They did recently come out with the Mood Swings bundle though… 🤯

In the meantime, a new Sweet & Lynch single will MORE than tide me over.

In case you don’t know, this super duo consists of Stryper singer and guitarist Michael Sweet, and George Lynch of George Lynch fame (I kid – he’s probably most known for his work with Dokken and Lynch Mob… but honestly, supergroup KXM also kicks ass).

As usual, in “You’ll Never Be Alone,” Sweet demonstrates his rare ability as rock’s leading tenor (something he isn’t widely recognized for, if only because of his involvement with a Christian band). Sweet sounds as good as ever here.

Lynch’s guitar work is tight, but the iceberg of his creativity is hidden from plain sight in this single. Here’s hoping the new album, Heart & Sacrifice, rocks even harder. It’s slated for a May 19 release.

▶️ DIY Musician VIP Experience

DIY Musician VIP Experience

CD Baby recently announced their DIY Musician VIP Experience, a reimagining of their DIY Musician Conference to be held in Nashville, TN from May 18 to May 20.

Now, I have great memories of going down to Austin in 2019, and I guess I’ve become somewhat of a “routine” guy because Austin in the summer, at least to me, is exhilarating.

Still, we all know that Nashville is the Music City, and it’s a great destination for musicians to visit – especially those who’ve never been!

For this year, CD Baby has settled on a smaller, more intimate gathering (thus the VIP experience), and if I had to speculate, I would say that’s probably because:

  • Setting up a big event is a lot of work and is quite costly besides.
  • CD Baby would like to dedicate more time and resources to their music distribution services.
  • COVID related restrictions. Officially, they’re gone, but unofficially, they’re very pervasive.

As I said, though, that’s just my perspective on the matter, and CD Baby may have entirely different reasons for testing out their smaller, VIP event.

A ticket will get you access to MusicBiz sessions, DIY Musician sessions (including panels, mentoring, and networking), fireside chats with industry pros, showcases, networking, Tom Jackson’s solo artist live makeover, and we assume, much more.

By the way, showcases represent a great opportunity to get your music out there, even land some licensing and placement opportunities. Given the scope of the event, though, we’re not sure how many decision makers will be at the DIY Musician VIP Experience, and we certainly make no guarantees!

Only 300 artists will be able to attend, so if this is a “hell yeah!” for you, get your tickets now.

▶️ The New Music Industry Podcast Interview with Emily White

287 – You’re the CEO of Your Own Music Career – with Emily White

In case you missed it, episode 287 of The New Music Industry Podcast features a conversation with Emily White, partner at Collective Entertainment and founder of #iVoted Festival.

I know her best for the phrase, “an artist’s email list is their retirement plan.” There aren’t enough emojis in the world to emphasize that point.

Highlights from this episode include:

  • Why data collection should be an artist or band’s top priority.
  • Why authenticity and self-awareness are key to your success as a musician.
  • Why artists should learn to record themselves.
  • How to stay on top of business communication.
  • How to make a green smoothie (without all the fuss).
  • How to meditate (without all the fuss).
  • The importance of sleep and the difference it can make, as well as a book recommendation on the topic.

▶️ Are You Committed to Having a Breakthrough in Productivity?

Productivity, Performance & Profits Breakthroughs

I just created the Productivity, Performance & Profits Breakthroughs Facebook group. I plan to stream and share updates weekly to support the launch of my first premium book, the Productivity, Performance & Profits Blackbook.

If you are committed to having a breakthrough in productivity, I invite you to join. What does it look like to be committed to having a breakthrough in productivity? It means showing up, engaging with the content, reading, watching the streams, leaving constructive comments on what worked for you, what didn’t, and the changes you’re making in your own life to be more productive.

▶️ Best of David Andrew Wiebe

David Andrew Wiebe

I blog daily on my personal blog. Here are my favorite posts from the past week:

Final Thoughts

And that’s what jumped out at us this week, but if there’s anything else you think we should have covered, leave a comment below and let us know!

Navigating the Music Distribution Minefield in 2024

Navigating the Music Distribution Minefield in 2024

The world of music distribution can seem like a complex one, especially for new artists…

Why do music distributors exist? What is their purpose? Why do you need them?

There are countless questions that can lead to decision paralysis and stop you from taking the next steps in your music career.

Which is why we put together this guide.

Here we will help you navigate the music distribution minefield.

What to Expect

Music distribution partners

Music distribution services get your music out to all the major destinations.

Music distributors charge a fee to get your music out to their distribution partners, which usually include a few dozen platforms, like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, TIDAL, Napster, and others, which are typically lesser known.

The exact fee structure varies from company to company.

Some services will charge you once and keep your music online perpetually. Others will charge you monthly or yearly and will take your music down if you don’t settle with them ongoingly.

Choosing a service that’s matched to your needs is important. I prefer services that charge me once to keep my music up forever but depending on your release schedule and marketing efforts, you might choose other routes.

Digital partners also vary from one company to the next. Some will get your music out to more. Some have fewer partners. That said, most if not all music distributors will get your music out to all the major platforms, and there usually isn’t a significant difference in the number of partners between services.

Do Music Distributors Care About Me?

I wish I could offer a simple “yes” or “no” answer here, but I can’t. There are just too many factors.

Understand – Alan Cross says 24,000 songs are added to streaming platforms daily. That means one million tracks per week! Translation: Music distributors have their work cut out for them.

24,000 songs are added to streaming platforms daily. Share on X

Small, independent, up-and-coming, boutique music distributors might be able to give you a little more personalized attention compared to more established services.

But a major player like CD Baby engages in ongoing promotion and marketing activity, maintains a website and warehouse, publishes blog, podcast, and video content, hosts a conference each year, and more. Even with a staff of nearly 150, I’m sure they keep busy serving their customers.

And that makes it sound like independent music distributors are going to give you more of a reason to stick around. But you still need to ask yourself whether you trust them. They’re not likely to have the credibility or clout of a major service provider, and they may not distribute as widely as a major player either.

As it stands today, your music career is in your own hands, period.

Do Music Distributors Provide Promotion for My Music?

JTV Digital

JTV Digital may be one of the “smaller” players, but they’ve been around for a long time now.

Generally, no. I’ve covered the difference between music distribution and music marketing before.

And this is one of the reasons independent artists wonder whether their distributor even cares about them. Because music distributors are not music marketing agencies.

Music distribution, for the most part, is a self-serve operation. You upload your music and artwork, provide release information, make your payment, and the distributor takes over from there.

Some new distributors like TuneGO are branching out by adding promotional services. But in most cases, you should not expect such services to be free, and like PR, results are going to vary. A lot.

Music is a subjective experience, and while there is a fan base for everything, building your tribe often takes many years – sometimes a decade or more.

It helps to think of distribution and promotion as separate, and to plan for both.

Why is the Music Industry so Disconnected & Siloed?

Analyst and editor Dmitry Pastukhov wrote an article on Soundcharts covering the 10 parts of the music industry, which he defines as:

  • Recording
  • Music distribution
  • Streaming
  • Live and touring
  • Licensing and sync
  • Artist management
  • Music publishing
  • Radio
  • Legal
  • Audience and fans

Although there are many subsets to each, and there are some sectors that aren’t even represented here (Performance Rights Organizations, for example), it’s a good starting point.

The main reason the music industry is so siloed and disconnected is because it’s slow to adapt. The major labels are beholden to tradition, and they’re not in a hurry to change, likely because they like control.

The Problem with “Just Go with XYZ Company”

Like most, you’ll probably talk to other artists, maybe even musician coaches like me, and hear someone say, “just go with XYZ company – they’re great.”

This is how many artists make critical career related decisions, including the courses they take, the coaches they listen to, the marketing agency they pick, the contracts they sign, and more.

If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with great partnerships. But just because someone says “TuneCore is best,” for example, doesn’t necessarily make it the right choice for you.

I know people that love TuneCore, and I know people that couldn’t get away from them fast enough.

TuneCore

TuneCore was established in 2005 and is trusted by many.

I would urge you to do your homework before committing, because “music distributors are all the same” couldn’t be further from the truth, just as “all musician consultants are the same” is categorically false. We all have different strengths and specialize in specific areas.

You’re not stuck with music distribution services. There are other ways of getting your music out there, and there are other ways of monetizing your music too. That said, the only way to get your music on major platforms (that’s practical) is to utilize a distribution service.

And more to the point, each distribution company brings something different to the table and specializes in specific areas.

How to Choose a Music Distribution Partner

If you’re looking for the right music distribution partner, here are the key questions you must ask yourself:

What Are Your Goals?

It seems like a “duh” question, but you should only ignore it at your own peril.

Do you take your music career seriously? Then shouldn’t you work with a serious music distribution partner?

If you’re a hobbyist, don’t really care where your music ends up, or don’t mind your music being taken down (for no reason), go ahead, risk it with a “free” music distribution service or a company that doesn’t specialize in the field.

If you take your independent music career seriously, though, trying to save money on everything is the wrong way to go. Music distributors like CD Baby, TuneCore, and Ditto Music are well-established and for the most part, trustworthy.

If you take your independent music career seriously, trying to save money on everything is the wrong way to go. Share on X

How Do You Want to Monetize?

Music monetization

Monetizing your music through streaming alone can be a big challenge…

This is a huge consideration many artists don’t even think about. If income is important to you, then you can’t possibly ask a more critical question.

Artists often love the idea of their music being on Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, etc. (because it gives them credibility) and don’t even stop to think about how they’re going to generate an income from their hard work.

The payout on a platform like Spotify is $0.0033 per stream. I’ve often called that “pretend money” because you can’t divide a penny.

But the point is – you need 1,000 streams just to earn $00.33, 10,000 streams just to earn $33.00, 100,000 streams just to earn $330, and so on.

If music is just a hobby to you, or if you have no intention of monetizing your career, more power to you. Otherwise, betting on streaming royalties alone to make a living in music is financial suicide. Let me know how it goes.

There are two key solutions to this problem, which are as follows:

  1. eCommerce. Whether it’s Sellfy, Shopify, Bandcamp, or another solution, the eCommerce route allows you to dictate the pricing of your products, sell digital and physical merch, set up memberships, and more.
  2. Direct response marketing. This is the more trendy but convoluted route espoused by the likes of Indepreneur. Creating and marketing sales funnels does work, but it also requires you become a fully-fledged digital marketer. Still, as with the eCommerce route, you have complete control over the pricing of your music. Plus, you can sell order bumps, digital and physical products, courses, memberships, and more. ClickFunnels is fine, but our recommend campaign builder is KLEQ.
10XPro

10XPro (now KLEQ) is the ideal solution for direct response marketing online.

How Much Music Will You be Releasing?

Many artists go on a yearly subscription with a partner that gives them the privilege of unlimited releases, forgetting that it can take three to 12 months just to record, mix, and master a great album, never mind release, and promote it properly.

If you truly are a prolific producer, and you’re constantly making new beats and other works from your home or project studio, unlimited distribution is a sweet deal. But it’s not that great if your release schedule is more like that of a conventional artist who has one release every one to two years.

Plus, most distributors like this will not keep your music up if you do not pay the yearly fee. It may be a small fee, but it’s a fee nonetheless.

If you’re going to be releasing 30+ tracks each year, there’s a good reason to opt for an unlimited plan. Otherwise, a one-time fee to have your music up perpetually is a better deal, period.

Examples of Music Distribution Services – Our Top 4 Picks

We could endlessly contrast and compare different music distributors and talk about what they offer (there are other articles for that), but at the end of the day, that may only lead to more decision paralysis.

Based on our experimentation, experience, and research (and we do love experimenting), the following four picks are the best:

CD Baby

CD Baby

After all these years, CD Baby remains one of our favorites.

CD Baby is the largest online music distributor, and still one of the best.

Pay a one-time fee to have a release distributed everywhere (along with a YouTube Content ID) and never worry about it again. Upgrade (for an added fee) to CD Baby Pro to have them collect your music publishing royalties (which are always separate from music distribution). Set up multiple artist pseudonyms under one account. These are some of the things we love most about CD Baby.

Ditto Music

Ditto Music

Ditto Music offers a free 30-day trial.

UK-based distributor Ditto Music was established in 2005. Their distribution service is very similar to DistroKid’s in that you can release unlimited music for one, low, annual fee. They also submit your music to playlists, help you protect your music copyrights, and can collect your publishing royalties with Ditto Music Publishing.

We also like that they have a 30-day unlimited trial.

DistroKid

DistroKid

DistroKid is a brand that’s full of personality.

Every YouTuber and their dog will tell you that DistroKid is bar none the best option, but it depends a lot on how often you release as well as what features you need.

Here’s what I like about DistroKid. It’s simple. It’s very musician friendly. When you go to the Bank section from the dashboard, you can see exactly how many streams each of your songs has gotten as well as how much money they’ve made (many distributors have more complex accounting dashboards).

The one-time yearly fee for unlimited releases is also attractive.

But there are a lot of extras you need to pay for that sometimes come included with other distributors. A YouTube Content ID, with DistroKid, for example, costs $4.95 per year plus 20% of your YouTube ad revenue.

It’s a great distributor and it’s full of humanity and personality, but seriously, it’s not for everyone.

TuneGO

TuneGO

TuneGO is looking to become your all-in-one solution.

This one falls under the category of “one to watch.” We had the opportunity to interview founder John Kohl on the podcast, and like many artists, he’s aware of the fact that the music industry is very disconnected and isn’t integrated all that well.

Which is why, in addition to music distribution, TuneGO allows you to create NFTs and pay for promotion (honestly, their rates aren’t too bad). Basically, they’re out to help you create as many streams of revenue as possible. And it’s hard to find a partner like that.

We don’t love that there’s a yearly fee associated with each release at TuneGO, but we do love what they’re trying to do.

Q&A

We’re about ready to wrap this sucker up but let me answer a few quick questions before getting back to my own music creation efforts!

Should I Use a Music Distributor at all?

Yes!

There are better ways to monetize your music, and we recommend exploring our training if you wish to learn more. But understand one thing – you can utilize both streaming and eCommerce solutions!

Music distribution is an excellent solution for promoting your music, getting playlisted, building your monthly listener count, and so on. But that doesn’t mean you need to distribute every track you ever make (e.g., “Hey, if you enjoyed our track on Spotify and want to hear what the whole album sounds like, head on over to Bandcamp and buy our album…”).

Is My Monthly Listener Count Important?

Yes!

Which is why we don’t fault anyone for trying to build their streaming numbers. For better or for worse, people do pay attention to monthly listener count, and it can be very difficult to attract more followers, book better shows, develop PR contacts, and so forth, without first building your listener count.

That said, you don’t necessarily need tens of thousands of listeners. 1,000+ can help you get to where you need to go.

What About Free Music Distribution Tools?

We don’t recommend them as we cannot vouch for their effectiveness. Plus, their distribution partners are often few.

Ditto Music has a 30-day trial. Give that a go.

What Are the Best Music Distribution Services for Independent Artists?

As noted above, our favorite solutions are CD Baby, Ditto Music, DistroKid, and TuneGO, in that order.

If we change our mind, you will be in the know!

Final Thoughts

There are countless music distributors out there with new ones popping up all the time. As with any business model in the music industry and creator economy at large, there’s more and more attention being directed to new horizons in music distribution.

That said, some of the best options are still the old standbys – the players who are well-established and have served artists for 10 to 20 years plus.

There are many new developing technologies and opportunities that make this field an exciting one to watch, but if you’re an artist, I’d rather see you dedicate time and effort to building out your strategy than endlessly scoping out music distribution partners. Rest assured, your time would be better spent on your branding and marketing.

So, with that, I close this guide on music distributors. I hope you enjoyed it!

Breaking the Toxic Patterns of Trying to be “Better” in Your Music Career

Breaking the Toxic Patterns of Trying to be “Better” in Your Music Career

This might fly in the face of a lot of things you’ve heard before. But you’re a creative mastermind, and a brilliant abstract thinker, so I trust you as a keeper of this knowledge.

What I learned from author Mark Manson (you might have heard of a little book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), is that there’s a toxic pattern hidden in many personal development methodologies. And I can honestly say I’ve sometimes been caught in that toxic pattern!

Again, I know this is paradoxical because what are we talking about here if not self-betterment – strategies and tactics for a better music career? What does it mean to be a musician if improvement is subtracted from the equation? Nothing, really, because it’s our job to show up better than we did last time! And make no mistake – practicing your instrument or voice every day is a form of personal development!

What I got from Manson is that trying to be better all the time can be a depressing way to live. And even beyond the hype-based, rah-rah weekend conferences that light you up for a mere week before you crash and go back to “normal” life, there is something about being in constant pursuit of more that disagrees with one’s identity, spiritual path, and desire to be happy (which many have entirely written off).

One of the reasons for that is because it’s human nature to play the comparison game. “Look how much better they’re doing,” you say, recognizing just how far you must go to be at their level, whoever they are, and whatever they’ve accomplished. And I do mean to say you don’t have the context to even understand how or what they’ve accomplished, because you are not them.

Either way, the question is, can you be content with where you’re at? Can you enjoy the journey of kaizen, of being a little bit better today than you were yesterday, and staying in that process over the long haul?

Because the thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re not going to be much happier at the destination. You might experience a fleeting sense of relief or joy, maybe even victory or celebration, but it will be so brief compared to the long, hard road it took to get there, it will hardly feel worth it.

The thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. Share on X

As hard as it might be to believe, every day can be a holiday. It takes some deep, intellectual work for this to sink in, but if you’re up for the challenge, have a read through Reality Transfuring, Steps I-V by Vadim Zeland and Joana Dobson. I don’t know what they were smoking or what planet they were sent from to write this work, but it can really open your eyes to the possibility of going through life with a carefree sense of joy and excitement.

Now, Bruce Lee said:

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

And his point is well-taken. Diamonds are forged under pressure. We all transform under pressure.

But I think what Zeland was saying is that even in challenge and difficulty, the events themselves are neutral, and we can make them mean whatever we want them to mean. You can go through any event in life with a sense of discovery.

What I learned from Manson is, instead of trying to be better, be curios. At some point, we all start to feel like we’ve seen it all, heard it all, or tried it all. But that can’t possibly be true when our lives don’t seem to be working at the level, we see others working. There’s always more to discover, more to learn. And sometimes it’s the simplest things.

In an interview with author Tim Ferriss, former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers said it was a profound discovery for him that women like sex. Like I said, the simplest realizations can sometimes alter your course for good.

Being curious is still personal development, but it’s a different approach. It’s coming from a place of humble discovery versus all-knowing arrogance.

242 – Going to Conferences to Grow Your Music Career – with Darryl Hurs of Indie Week

242 – Going to Conferences to Grow Your Music Career – with Darryl Hurs of Indie Week

Are you actively making new connections to grow your music career? Have you made it a point to attend conferences and events to build your rolodex?

That’s what we’re going to be looking at in this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast.

Podcast Highlights:

Coming soon.

Transcription:

Coming soon.

Closing Segment

We just launched a new program called Elite Players: All Access Pass. And what this should really be called is Digital Marketing, Mindset & the Business of Music Academy for Musicians because that’s what it is.

This is a new platform where you can access courses, eBooks, members only audios, a community forum, personalized coaching, archived trainings, and more.

This is a premium program that carries a premium price tag. So, it’s not for everyone. But if you’re ready to learn more, head on over to davidandrewwiebe.com/Elite. That’s e-l-i-t-e.

We are currently accepting applications, but there isn’t much time left. I think there’s literally a day left. So, head on over to davidandrewwiebe.com/Elite and I look forward to seeing you on the inside.

This has been episode 242 of The New Music Industry Podcast. I’m David Andrew Wiebe, and I look forward to seeing you on the stages of the world.