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10 Truths About “Making It” In Music

Don’t believe the hype – the music industry isn’t dead! The digital age is quite simply the best time for music and musicians. Ever. We can’t get enough of new music, there’s never been more of it available and artists are retaking control of themselves.
A DIY career in music is possible but you have to be self-starting, entrepreneurial and creative-as-hell to stand out. This book will give you the tricks and advice you need to get started and help you turn your passion into a viable, sustainable living.

Success is NOT in the charts anymore

Getting signed? Number one in the charts?
Forget it.
Welcome to the new digital age where traditional measures of success don’t really apply anymore. The music industry looks a whole lot different to how it looked five years ago yet we are still judging artists by how many records they sell and whether or not they are ‘signed’.

What good are charts and record labels when people are barely even buying music anymore! Charts and labels represent only the record industry, which is a very small (and shrinking) tangent of the music
Doom stories about the death of music are simply recounting the woes of the record industry. Music as whole is booming. We love it! We’re listening to more of it than ever before, just in a myriad of different ways.

We’re in a transition period where record sales are shrinking and, admittedly, the future’s a little cloudy as to where the next pay-check is going to come from, but five things are assured:

  1. There’s more music than ever before and it’s mostly being discovered and consumed online.
  2. The next generation of music listeners won’t expect to have to pay for downloads.
  3. People will always watch live music.
  4. Your fan base will always be your most important asset.
  5. But they will expect more content, at their convenience, with your interaction.

Bear these things in mind and you’ll be able to generate a sustainable income from music.

The Decline of Sales

Traditionally, you could only consume music through buying a physical copy of a CD, cassette or vinyl. These figures compiled national charts and represented, quite accurately, the music consumption
patterns of a country. Now, music has moved online, file sharing is rampant and three times as many people listen to music on YouTube than legally download it. Artists are having to generate new streams of revenue and find alternative ways of making money from music.

So what does that mean for artists?

Actually it’s pretty great for artists. There are more opportunities than ever before and you retain more creative control over your music. There will be less importance attached to the actual selling of your
music and more awarded to what else you do with it and how you use that music to generate alternative income.
Artists in the future will have multiple revenue streams and we’re moving back towards a place where the most creative will make a sustainable career, not just those with the big bucks behind them.
With record sales declining it is important that you are generating other creative content such as videos, creating new ways of packaging and distributing your music and finding innovative ways to harness your
The future of music will revolve around you – the artist – not the record label, and you will have a much stronger hold on your career. With income generated from different outlets, record labels won’t be able to get a stranglehold on you. It also means you don’t necessarily need a record label anymore, you just need fans!

How many ‘super fans’ do you have?

There’s a famous sciencey article floating around the internet that explains how you, as a musician, can make a living through having 1000 ‘super fans’. This applies in the digital age more than ever. A ‘super fan’ was traditionally someone who bought everything you put out, attended every gig within 200 miles of them and wrote you fan letters. Now these fans are online and not only are they following your every move online and still buying your content, but they are sharing your content with hundreds of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

The whole nature of marketing has changed in the digital music age. As an emerging artist, your fans are your number one marketing tool.

They are free marketing for you! 78% of people trust peer recommendations where only 14% trust traditional advertising. And because conversations have moved online, the reach of one fan is further than ever when your content is shared through social media.
‘Super fans’ are a better advert for you than a banner ad. Fans are your income stream and your marketing strategy. This means that connecting with your fans is now as important as making music; it’s part of your job. You’re not just a musician but a 24/7 entertainer, providing content and interacting with fans as often as possible. More than anything, fans are starting to expect this content and your interaction.
Your number one target as an artist is growing and nurturing your fan base. They will help generate the buzz that will then lead you to all kinds of income opportunities.

So, where are all these income opportunities?

Luckily, thanks to the internet, you now have complete control over your fans. You control where they buy your music from, what content they engage with and your relationship with them. You can find out how many of them there are and where they live. Good analysis and control of your fans will show you where your main streams of revenue are likely to come from in the future. This book will help you identify where they might be!

Therefore, instead of focusing simply on record sales, “The measuring stick could be mentions in the press, traffic to a website, email addresses collected or views of online videos.” (Tim Nordwind, OKGO).
It’s then a case of how you capitalise on these numbers to make money from them. It’s not as simple as just record sales any more.

Don’t forget live!

Live music is, and always will be, at the heart of a musician’s career no matter the state of record sales or the nature of online marketing. In my opinion, a band or artist still lives or dies by their live performance.
As Puddle of Mudd guitarist Paul Phillips explains, “Honestly, I don’t even look at [Billboard]. I have no idea where the single is.

I have no idea how much MTV are playing our video. As long as I wake up and play a show and people are there and they know the words to the song and they’re having a good time, then I’m happy.”
That’s your measure of success right there. But because fans might only see you live once every couple of years when you tour, online marketing and generating those other forms of revenue is absolutely fundamental to your survival and a sustainable career in music.
This means that not only do you need to be a good musician, but a good business person! So on to the business section. It gets more exciting. I promise.