It is no longer about the music.

DIY musicians

The artist music business model has been in a flux for years now. The record deal dream that most artists sought is no longer the viable alternative that it once was. The levelling of the music distribution playing field by the Internet is virtually complete. So what next?

People now access and consume music from multiple sources – usually for free.  And this is not just the case in India alone. Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) solutions are everywhere, but for many artists it is hard to integrate these tools into their daily lives. An artist today has to become everything – right from the creator to the promoter and also the seller!

i have come across many a artist who ask for purchase discounts every time claiming that “they live a musicians’ life”. But the intelligent artists are moving up the ladder using newer and innovative means to not only make a mark in the music circuit, but also get noticed everywhere and thereby, get more work… and money. Yes, money.

Where does this leave the average independent artist? At the beginning, every artist wants to know how he or she can make music, make money and survive to write and play another day.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of possible income streams:

• Publishing
• Mechanical royalties
• Digital sales – Individual or by combination
• Music (studio & live) Album – Physical & Digital, Single – Digital release
• Ringtones
• Video – Live, concept, personal
• Graphics and art work, screen savers, wall papers
• Lyrics
• Merchandise – Clothes, USB sticks, Posters, others
• Live Performances
• Studio Session Work
• Sponsorships and endorsements of pro audio equipment
• Advertising
• Blog/Website
• YouTube Subscription channel for more popular artists
• Mobile Apps
• Music Teaching – Lessons and Workshops
• Music Employment – Orchestras, etc.
• Music Production – Studio and Live
• Any job available to survive and keep making music

Below is an excerpt from a great piece from Wyndham Wallace of The Quietus on how the music industry is killing music and blaming the fans. This rather dark opinion is spot-on in so many ways and raises some very difficult questions about the future of the music business that most people do not want to talk about.

“All the time the industry talks of money: money it’s lost, money it’s owed. It rarely talks about the effects upon artists, and even less about how music itself might suffer. But no one cares about the suits and their bank accounts except shareholders and bankers. People care about their own money, and the industry not only wanted too much of it but also failed to take care of those who had earned it for them: the musicians. And it’s the latter that people care about. Because People Still Want Good Music.”

Record companies alone cannot afford to invest in the future of artists. The business model that drove the music industry for the last 70 years is almost dead. Unfortunately, the economics of today’s popular digital music splits (iTunes) do not make any sense for artists. Why make $0.06 off an iTunes download, when you can make $0.70 doing it yourself? If you don’t own your masters then you have nothing.

Today, artists can establish meaningful virtual relationships directly with their audience by building an online fan base and answering online posts and comments and taking the time to interact with their fans. The reach of a live show can be magnified with the orbit and power of a networked online community. Personal connection with a fan base is the hallmark of the masterful entertainer.

Over time, newer online tools like Facebook Live help fans connect directly with their loved musicians – provided they are made aware of the schedule in advance. There are some musicians who do an overkill by posting photos of their flight seat numbers also. So the right balance of information updation on work in progress or concerts needs to be shared instead of posting how many times you burped last night after that fancy looking meal pic share.

How does this help?

The “recording” has lost much of its perceived value and musicians are going to have to struggle with this new reality. Sales of CDs will never again be the cash cow the major labels got fat and happy on. In India, there are still some genres like devotional and classical music that sell on CDs. Rest has moved to streaming on local services.

Today, musicians need to always keep their thinking caps on.

With inputs and contributions by Dave Kusek (founder of Berklee Online and co-founder of MIDI).

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