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Secrets to making money in the music industry Print E-mail

Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00

Written by E.D. Cameron

The secret to making money in the music industry can be boiled down to a simple mantra: think outside the box. The last count (according to Myspace CEO in 2008 Wired Interview) of musician profiles was around 5 million. Even if you took in to consideration dis-banding, fake music profiles, etc, it still gives you an astronomical figure of bands out there trying to do the same thing as you.

And unfortunately, a goodly portion of those self same bands are getting the same advice about music promotion and making money in the music industry.

I have read e-book after article after book about making money in the industry, because as a record label owner I too wanted to learn the secrets of other's success. But after a while the pages seemed to blur together in a cacophony of undistinguishable tripe.

Contrary to popular opinions, the kind more often than naught espoused in these pages, there are four fundamental, insurmountable truths to making money.

I learned these the hard way, through failure, success and a lot of conversations with other failures and successes.

The first is to know your own potential and your own limitations. A publicist friend recently called and was relating how a client was skyrocketing to "the next big thing." Instead of the raptures of bliss most bands suffering in relative obscurity might think they'd feel at this rise to success and fame, the band had the opposite reaction. After giving the fourth interview of the day, the lead singer complained to my publicist friend, I didn't realize it would be this much work.

The point of my story? Unless you are willing to put in work - a whole heck of a lot of work - then perhaps you should set your sights considerably short of platinum record status.

In fact, most music professionals can find the old adage about growing a business one brick at a time to be true. You can make a decent living off of guarantees and minor merch sales by touring regionally or getting a regular monthly gig.

The best way to figure out potentials and limitations is to draft a music development plan and a band financial projection or pro forma to identify and solidify your dreams, goals, expectations and the level of work and money you are willing to expend to reach said goals.

The second music industry money making maxim is to pick your battles wisely in order to win the war. The most sensible recommendation (and one I wish I would've heard) is to pinch pennies where you can and splurge where you must. If you can record at home or a buddies studio, do; spend money on quality mastering. Don't short yourself on artwork or photos if you plan to do any sort of promotion, instead save by reducing total number of units or taking a more DIY manufacturing approach. You can achieve a great sounding product through mastering. And you can achieve a great looking project with stellar artwork: if you photocopy artwork into booklets that you slide in recycled jewel cases, you can save a whole heck of a lot of money and be eco-friendly. Then, make a nice black and white cd stamp and duplicate a couple hundred in bulk fashion.

Viola, you have cut out anywhere between $2000-$20,000 dollars of regular indie label expenditures on recording and manufacturing.

The third fundamental to making your music work for you? Think outside the box. Computer monitor, that is.

Ever seen those become a millionaire infomercials? The reality is the only one getting rich is the advice hawker. There are a lot of similar prophets in the music industry who suggest you can bring in boatloads through a few simple clicks of the mouse.

Sure, the digital age has made promotion a lot more accessible to the every man. But therein lies the rub. It's more accessible to every man. Over 5 million every men (or women) if the myspace CEO has his count right.

The only surefire way to promote is through a triple hit approach: radio, publications, and gigs. This tried and true tri-fecta, plus any other creative avenues you can hit up (like viral and guerilla marketing), is the only way to really gain exposure and therefore make money.

I read an article today about a solo DJ who has been streaming his own release gigs from his basement to subscribers all over the world. His ingenuity has resulted in broad exposure, and consequently some big bucks.

Don't get stuck in the rut of thinking you have already done too much. Chances are, you probably haven't.

Finally, the fourth critical point is one that ties the first three together. The only clear and steady path to making money in the music industry is to know your identity, target your audience, deliver a quality product and inform folks through dedicated promotion. Throw in a lot of networking and nepotism, and you have a recipe for success.

 

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