Making Money in Music is Hard, Part 2

Making Money in Music is Hard, Part 2

Betraying the norm isn’t easy. To achieve personal success, there’s a mountain to climb. But most artists are gathered at the foothills, where they will stay for the rest of their career. Either it will not occur to them to climb higher, distant growls will scare them away, or they’ll come tumbling down from higher up, never to attempt the scaling of the mountain again. “Don’t go up there,” they’ll warn, “it’s too dangerous.”

The further and higher you go, the fewer people there will be to accompany you on your journey.

But there is good news. The further and higher you go, the less chance you’ll be drawn back into the familiar, like crabs in a bucket. Plus, there’s always plenty of room at the top.

The paradigm shift, though, begins with one simple, almost inconceivable realization, that there are other ways of monetizing your music career. Ways other than music streaming. It sounds absurd, it sounds crazy, and yet I can’t tell you how many artists are stuck on “streaming pays nothing” and can never make the mental leap from where they are to where they need to be.

From my vantage point, I can see that there are dozens if not hundreds of possible income sources. From my vantage point, I can see that for the same amount of work artists put into promoting themselves on streaming platforms, they could easily be earning 10 if not 100 times what they’re currently earning.

I’m not better. I’ve simply spent more time identifying all possible vignettes of opportunity.

So, what’s missing? What can you do to rise above circumstance? How do you reach new vistas?

Acceptance

There’s no moving forward without acceptance.

This isn’t to suggest that Spotify is fundamentally evil. They have it as their mission to liberate a million artists, and who knows, one day they might do it. But that’s a mission statement, not a fact. It’s an intention, not a reality. Truthfully, it has no bearing on your ability to succeed as an artist assuming you choose the right vehicle.

So, getting to the next step requires your full acceptance. Your acceptance that what you’re doing now isn’t working, that your current coach or mentor might not know what they’re talking about, that there are other ways, and that better income sources outside of streaming do exist.

Acceptance is also crucial because artists sometimes feel as though they’ve wasted years of their lives with their ladders set against the wrong building. So, sunk cost hits them like a ton of bricks and they have trouble walking away from the abuser.

But let me reassure you that this happens to virtually everyone. Once you’ve accepted that there’s another building, you can adjust your ladder accordingly and you don’t even need to postmortem the hell out of it.

Patience

You probably didn’t learn how to ride a bike in a day. It’s obvious to you now, but at one point it probably seemed an insurmountable task.

How do you go from not being able to do something to being able to do something? By trying and failing.

But it’s not failure alone that shows us the way. It’s a willingness to learn from the failure and adjust that makes the difference. It’s a willingness to fail forward that illuminates the path.

Trusting in the streaming model as anything more than icing on the cake is a failure to face the cold, hard truth.

There is no shortcut from where you are to where you want to go. There’s a transformation that needs to occur in between single source dependency and multi-source security. It can’t happen overnight.

The more teachable you are, the faster the progress you will make. But don’t expect it to happen in an instant. Have patience with the process.

Willingness

A willingness to change. A willingness to learn. A willingness to explore new options, to fail forward, to persevere through the inertia and discomfort everyone experiences in the early stages of a new venture.

No one was given a preset amount of willingness. At any moment, we can choose to be more willing or less willing. But we may need to give up what we think we know to get there.

If you want to see your music career with fresh eyes, you must be wiling to give up the need to be right. Stubbornness doesn’t serve us when we’re earnest about tracking down new paths to success.