In the words of the Wu-Tang Clan: Cash rules everything around me.
While it is true that as a musician, as an artist, your main focus will always be your creativity, working in that practice space, your bedroom, the studio, wherever it is that you work on your art, there is a clear need for independent musicians to reap at least some financial gains from the products you deliver to your fans and audience.
Everybody has rent to pay in some form ot another, everybody has at least one mouth to feed.
In this article we look at 5 avenues any independent musician can venture on to upgrade the contents of their wallet, to support themselves goign forward living the life of an artist.
This is by far the most popular way musicians think of to finalize the life-cycle of their music, and get to the stage of getting paid. Popular belief these days will tell you that album sales are dead, and nobody buys albums anymore, but I am here to tell you otherwise.
While it is true that album sales have taken a nose-dive in recent years, there are still plenty of them being sold every year, hell every day even.
Think about it, there is a huge part of the population that grew up buying vinyl, tapes, and cd's. Even digital downloads of complete albums was something that very recently was still the thing to do. It is exactly these types of fans that are still willing to purchase a complete body of work, especially if they know they are supporting an independent artist they very much enjoy, and the cherry on top is that these audience members are notoriously loyal.
In fact, given the new ways most of us will now distribute an album, in the form of a digital download, and the extra tools that come inherently with that, like the collection of contact details to add to your mailing list, these fans are easily one of the top priorities for you to cultivate and keep happy, because if they buy a complete album from you, most likely they will buy the next one to if you just keep them updates about any new releases.
Without being in any way paid or incentivized to promote them, I truly believe Bandcamp is one of the best ways to sell your music, album or otherwise, and build and retain your fanbase.
Rather than a main source of income, this can be a nice addition to your revenue stream, and as a happy coicidence a great way to promote yourself.
The best tool in my opinion to reap the benefits of advertisers paying you just to show off your content? YouTube.
Did you know that YouTube is the number two search engine in the world, right after Google? It makes sense since Google owns YouTube, but searches on the video platform are where most people get their entertainment content on these days.
It is a huge untapped source of both revenue, and maybe even more importantly, promotion. There are various ways you can approach this, with varying levels of effectiveness.
On one hand, you can opt for the high-quality, low quantity approach, occassionally uploading an awesome looking music video for one of your tracks. The chances of anyone finding out about you this way, besides friends and family you have on your facebiook, are relatively slim.
That is, unless you have some really great concept for a video that happens to go viral, but that is a different beast, and virality should never be assumed, as the internet is fickle.
The other angle you can take is to produce more, preferably covers that are recent, or songs that are timeless classics and people will always be searching for. Have you ever found yourself stuck searching for cover after cover of one of your favorite songs? I have, it is that effect where you love a song so much you want to hear different versions of it, almost to break it down and analize every sonic angle of it.
You could be taking advantage of that and get people through the door by finding you in this way, and then showing them the original work you have to offer as well.
YouTube will pay you some money from the advertisement revenue they make off your video, and the promotional value in this last approach is practically priceless.
Have you ever played a gig that was unpaid, or the timeless classic: for exposure?
Stop that right now! There is no such thing as getting exposure from a localized gig, in a place that is not on the map of the mainstream musical landscape. This is a farce, a way for venue owners to have quality entertainment without paying for it. I am having flashbacks now of playing for drinks, and then getting only three coupons per band member, with a whisky and coke costing two coupons.
Literally: fuck that shit.
Always, always ask for money if a venue wants to have you play there. Not only will it compensate you for the time and effort you are putting in, it will also show the owner of the venue that you value the quality of your music, and the quality of you as an musician. You will gain that reputation and it will stick to you, confidence is something that is very valuable in this industry.
Final tip, when you play gigs, have albums and merchandize ready to sell. Make an effort here, because this can be a great way to add to the winnings of the night. Everything should come with clear instructions on how to find you on the internet. We will look at proper online strategies in a later article, for now just make sure you have stickers and the likes that have all your links on them to give away with any t-shirts, albums, and other things you are selling at any gigs.
So lets talk about merch a little more.
I believe the key difference in the way we need to perceive our audience these days, compared to the past, is that we are now talking about dedicated followers of our art. Rather than in the old model, where we just drop an album and move on, letting the sales take care of themselves, the people who are buying our music now are people who do so because they want to support us.
This is why it is vital that you provide them with more ways to show that support to you, and merchandize is a great way to accomplish this.
These days it is rediculously easy to get things set up, with websites like spreadshirt and fanfiber, you don't even have to make any products first, you are not sitting on a huge pile of t-shirts and caps anymore, all you have to do is make your designs, choose some products you think your audience will appreciate, and set up your store.
All other logistics will be handled by the respective websites, for a fee of course, but it is a great way to make some extra income.
This one is often mentioned in articles like these, but not often exploited, and that is to branch out into different musical fields. Have you ever considered making music for films, video games, and other such media that benefits from musical enhancement?
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of content creators out there that need original music.
Connect with them, see what they are looking for, and if you can provide it. This can be a huge deal, there are plenty of examples of small artists that made music for a video game, or an independent film who got loads of recognition on the backend of that effort.
Always be creative, it is what you do, isn't it?