Author Topic: Monetizing Music-- Is It Possible?  (Read 178 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Monetizing Music-- Is It Possible?
« on: August 07, 2018, 09:37:54 AM »
Music gets talked about on this blog, and there have been several very thoughtful posts & repsonses.  Summary, which I agree with, is the best (possibly only) ways to make money through live music (without winning the lottery via viral videos or being "discovered") are to play in a popular cover band to large audiences, or by monetizing your music through royalites.  Wondering if there's any other way to do it.

Try to maximize money obtained from the following side hustle: Musician in a 5 piece band, playing c. 10 years.  We play covers, but play them in an original way, along with several actual originals. Goal is for each member to gross $500 - $600 per month from this venuture (about 2x what we get now).

Financial Situation:
Income: $15K - $20K per year gross ($3K - $5K per person).  CDs/Merch/online sales are about $500 a year.  Expenses are alot-- eqquipment + travel to shows/rehearsals.  Some years expenses have exceeded income.  When we make money, it's not very much per person.

Emotional Aspect:
Music is awesome.  Playing with a group of people whose company you enjoy (not easy to find/do) like is awesomer.  Playing with a good group to an audience who clearly likes what you are doing is the awesomest.  Even if we don't make much from this, it's a way to enjoy the activity we do and essentially get reimbursed for the (regrettably, sometimes significant) costs.

Venue Selection: To this point, we've approached our shows in a somewhat mustachian way.  We go for guarnateed pay outs of minimum $500 per show compared to the places that force you to "bring an audience" or don't get paid.  Very tough for us to justify that aspect of it since we don't know if we'll get money AND the business model for these places is terrible.  Imagine if you had a business where your main source of income required making your hired help perform their service for free AND bring along THEIR friends/family/fans/supporters to your establishment to enjoy your hired help's labor (not your own) and you make the hired helps friends/family/ you for it ... and you give your hired help a portion of that.  Yes, it is that backwards, and these places usually shut down.  If you don't believe me, I included some exerpts from one such venue at the end of this post.  The only problem with NOT playing these places is that people who pay to see live music usually go to these places and bands we compare ourselves with usually play at these places (granted, we are not privy to their financial situation).  At our usual spots, the audience does not need to pay to hear us.  Thus, they essentially get used to not paying to see us which could be a problem if we want to make more money.  We've also stretched the budget of the places we usually play.

Building An Audience:
This is something we've struggled with, as our "metrics" (to the extent they are reliable) are behind other groups we compare ourselves with.  We engage regularly with the fan base we have, but we aren't confident that if we played a show, we'd have a good number of fans show up.  We struggle to reach and identify new people who havent heard of us, but who we think would really like us and would pay money to see us.  It's like we are in sales, looking for new markets-- we've already sold what we can to our core customers.  We wonder if this could be the result of playing too many shows that are free to the public.  Anectdotally, we feel our audience is bigger than what our metrics say (metrics = Facebook followers, email subscribers, etc.)

Online Sales
If you believe the narrative that the online streaming services are out to screw the ordinary musician ... you're right.  Check out these numbers for a three year time span:
Song Downloads: 711 downloads = $498.28
Song Streams: 4,917 = $21.98
As you can see, streaming is not really worth it, but there's no way to know that without streaming, our download numbers would be worse, etc., still, to know it's been listened to almost 5,000 times and made only $22-- ouch.  Also, these numbers exceed what we assess our fan base to be, so if it's "exposing" us to new fans, we don't know it. 

Ideas We've Considered:

Virtual Rehearsals: This would be so great if there were technology out there where you could essentially "Skype" together and rehearse in real time; however, the "delay" associated with all of these makes a virtual rehearsl impossible-- if you saw the movie "The Rocker," that technology does not exist in any reputable format.  That would at least save us from driving our cars far distances just to practice together.

New Audience Foucs: We would love to do this, but don't know how to reach people outside of our existing fan base.  We are considering playing ticketed shows for this purpose ... we think we've focused on the venues themselves as our clients (since they pay us for services) vs. the fans themselves who, without which, we wouldnt really exist.

Royalties: We have explored this and have had some interest along the way; however, it's somewhat risky in that submitting to royalty consideration (talking about films, commercials, etc.) requires you to give up some of your ownerships rights.  Since we only have a precious few recordings, we haven't been willing to do that to this point.  We do get royalties from being on Pandora, YouTube, etc., but the money received from that is even lower than the money we get from streams.  Also, recoring an album?  Wow is it expensive.  You'd think all the available technology would cut down on those costs, but it really hasn't.  The time to rent a place, amount to pay a studio engineer to record, mix and master a recording for decent quality costs big time money.  I accept that this is the way music is today, but I'm sort of wondering how the motion picture industry hasn't suffered a similar reckoning that the music industry has.  Presumably, the available tech should be able to wreck that as well?  I digress ...

Play Weddings: We are not opposed to playing weddings, but for those who hire live bands vs. djs (dont get me started on djs ...), they tend to favor those who are more traditional vs. a more niche sounding group.  We tell people we are open to it, but the only inquirires we've had want to pay us really, really low (dj) type rates.  We have half-joked at times that we should advertise ourselves as DJs since we have the equipment and we have iPhones.

Go Out On Our Own/Teach: This makes financial sense, but I should say that personally I was considering giving up music prior to joining this band because I was exerting all this effort in groups and people whose company I didn't particularly enjoy.  In short, it would seem way to much like "work."

Going Forward:
Would love ideas/advice from the board.  We have a hunch that there's something out there we're missing.  We know that people don't pay as much for music like they used to-- due to technology, etc.   We like what we do, but we sure do put a lot of effort into this and are seeking ways to make what we do more efficient.   As promised, this is from a venue with a decent reputation:

As much as we would like to be in a financial position to just book bands based on their desire or self-confidence, or even just on their talent...honestly, we arenít, and we can't. We would love nothing more than to live in a world where people just came down to The [Venue] every night purely to hear new music, without preconceived expectations. Sadly, not the case.  It used to be that way back in the day, but now The [Venue] is like a movie theater. People don't just walk in to see a movie they have never heard of, they go to movies that they already know about and want to see.  Quite simply, if you think this is pay to play (which it isn't) and you are against that, don't apply. If you can't sell 25 tickets, don't apply. Honestly, if you can't draw an audience of 25 people, you really shouldn't be on a high horse and making all these judgements about "the music industry" and "greedy club owners" etc, etc, etc.  THE ONLY WAY WE CAN AFFORD TO TAKE A RISK ON YOUR BAND, IS YOU SHARE THE RISK.  IF YOU AREN'T CONFIDENT ENOUGH THAT YOU CAN SELL 25 TIX, WHY SHOULD I BE?  This is honest advice from over a dozen years in the business. If you are a new band, with no known verifiable audience draw and no history of playing the honest about it. Honestly figure out where you fit in this program and work WITH us to make the program work. If you come into any venue with a bad attitude or diva personality and you are only bringing in 20 people....that just won't fly. Save that stuff for when you are selling out the place. Every venue has its own system to build bands. This just happens to be ours. Whatever the venue, whatever the system...don't come in throwing shade. It is the quickest way to not get booked.