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Six Skills All Indie Musicians Need Today 

Six Skills All Indie Musicians Need Today

Today’s indie music artist needs to understand branding and marketing, community building, live ... [+] GETTY IMAGES 

Guest post by Roberto R Hernandez (Robonzo) via Forbes Magazine

A rapidly changing music industry and technology-driven consumer preferences have forced a great deal of new skills on today’s independent musician. It’s been over a decade since record labels, PR reps and managers could help the average indie artist find and reach their audience. Today’s indie music artist needs to understand branding and marketing, community building, live video streaming, home-recording, digital distribution and entrepreneurship. This on top of staying creative and delivering a great product. 

I have been an independent musician for over 25 years, having personally witnessed many changes in the business of music. In 2016 I started the Unstarving Musician project to help other musicians get better paying gigs. The hundreds of conversations I’ve had with other independent musicians and industry professionals has enlightened me to the broader picture of industry changes, the latest skill requirements and opportunities therein. This is a high-level view of my most recent observations, based on personal experience and interviews with other musicians. 

Branding and Marketing 

Musicians with a solid understanding of branding and marketing principles have always had a leg up in the music business. Career musicians in fact require an increasingly in-depth understanding of these principles. Artists who lack this understanding are less likely to get the attention of record labels, PR reps, artist management or artist development professionals. Fortunately, independent musicians are not as dependent on these professionals as in past years. 

Artists also need to be versed in the nuance of developing a fan-based community of supporters via social media, email marketing, membership and patronage platforms. Savvy musicians use good branding to amplify their unique style and weirdness in a way that connects them to a niche audience of supporters. Most artists and industry professionals agree that without branding, we have nothing to sell.

Community Building and Fan Based Supporters 

The art of building community is no longer solely about building an email list, although musicians are advised to keep some of their focus on email marketing, rather than social media alone. While Facebook is still a popular community building platform, services like Patreon, Bandcamp and Bandzoogle cater directly to the artist in pursuit of creating a fan-based community of supporters through membership. The challenge here is that artists must learn how to engage and sustain unique communities that support their work.

Financial fitness for most indie artists relies on fan-based community. Musicians must actively engage followers to build real relationships, while creating awareness about exclusive offers for fan-based tribes. This is a proven model for creating a recurring stream of income. It’s not just a matter of asking for support, however; artists must consistently give something special in return. Artists typically offer followers exclusives and first looks at music releases and live performances. 

Building community also means giving varying levels of access to themselves. A growing number of artists are offering music lessons, mentoring and coaching to their supporters. These types of offers can lead to added income for artists, but also add to the balancing act of community building, sales funnel execution and more. Artists like Shannon Curtis and Pomplamoose are pioneers of this new model. Pomplamoose is a top-ranking act on Patreon that creates monthly videos for new songs in various collaborations. Curtis has made a name for herself by funding yearly recording projects and promoting them with house concert tours, all made possible by a supporter fan base she and partner producer Jamie Hill have built. 

Live Video Streaming 

Live video has long been important for many artists. Now it’s arguably a must. The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the adoption of live streaming and the technologies surrounding it, as the future of live music has been dramatically altered. Musicians who wish to perform for fans have been forced to learn and embrace live streaming. They’re also faced with evaluating several platform choices, including Twitch, YouTube Live, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, Periscope and Crowdcast among others. Thankfully, services like Restream offer solutions that allows musicians to live stream over multiple platforms simultaneously. 

Live streaming has big upsides, allowing musicians to connect with previously distant fans happy to show their support through online tipping. Quality of live streams is of growing importance, and companies like IK Mulitmedia are helping artists make the experience better with specialized audio interface products like the iRig Stream. This exemplifies changes in consumer preferences that impact both fans and musicians. Fans are consuming music and related products, while musicians are consuming services that help them create and deliver their art to fans. 

Home Recording 

Recording music in a home studio was relatively affordable 20 years ago, but an explosion of new products and technologies has made home recording even more accessible. A growing number of music artists are entering the world of home based recording, which has also been driven by Covid-19. This isn’t limited to an endeavor in learning new technology. It’s about understanding physical setup, mic placement, proper form, production, the physics of audio and more. Fortunately, the allure for home recording has been accompanied by seemingly unlimited learning resources, including YouTube and education platforms like Udemy, Coursera and Lynda. 

Digital Distribution 

Streaming is now the primary source for music distribution, and today’s music business has largely bypassed labels for the actual process of distribution. Digital distribution is now very much a DIY activity, not too unlike self-publishing books. On the upside, independent artists are much less dependent on gatekeepers. The downside is that distribution is yet another thing musicians need to understand, as not all services align optimally for all music artists. 

Entrepreneurship 

Musician Mawk (Marc) Phoenix, who spent many years as a Los Angeles based producer, recently returned to creating and marketing his own music. Phoenix sees a career in music today as an endeavor in entrepreneurship. He’s diving into a new learning curve that includes the creation of music production courses. This is a beautiful example of re-purposing skills and pivoting. Singer songwriter Eli Lev puts his entrepreneurial skills to work as an artist development consultant and coach, obtaining clients and partners from within his growing community of supporters. 

So where do music artists find the time to invest in the art of actually making music? A career in music relies heavily on goal setting, prioritizing, re-prioritizing, creating and collaborating, one project at a time. The arc of a career in music is longer and in many ways, more fulfilling than in past years. The opportunities are boundless. Niche audiences are waiting to be served. Music artists are striving to discover these audiences and to deliver their music in this new entrepreneurial model.

Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz on the New State of the Music Industry 

Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz on the New State of the Music Industry

Guest post from the Midem 2020 Digital Edition Keynote. Kobalt founder Willard Ahdritz looks at the radical but not altogether negative effects the pandemic will have on musicians and the music industry. 

Willard Ahdritz: 

There is definitely a lot of passion at Kobalt for our mission to change the industry and make it better for everyone, from fans to rights owners to creators, so when I came up with the idea for Kobalt in 2000, I saw three clear themes. First, I strongly believed in the digital transformation and the opportunities that came with it. As you know, it was doom and gloom up until 2015 – people said streaming was death. But already in 2000, I thought that having access to music on a global scale was a huge opportunity. I also understood that there would be a problem of high volume, low transaction values that could be solved with technology and a centralized global platform. 

Second, I feel for creators and musicians and, having been in the industry both as an artist and having run an independent record and publishing company using the major’s systems, I wanted to introduce transparency into the industry. Technology needs transparency, and I thought transparency drives liquidity, drives volume. And in this, I also saw a huge opportunity for creators to improve their relationship with fans and be able to go directly to them and actually for the first time in music industry history, have the upper hand in being the content creators. I always wanted to be a service provider in order to be aligned with creators. 

And lastly, I also thought it was very important that, to be successful in this environment, Kobalt should be both a music company and a tech company. I wanted to have respect both in Hollywood and in San Francisco to work with creators, understand their needs, take care of their copyrights, and at the same time speak the language of tech people and create tools that would allow everyone to benefit from the opportunities I saw. 

Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz 

How the pandemic has changed the way Kobalt works 

So as you know, we take care of 40,000 creators. Every week, we represent 50 – 70% of the Top 100 on the charts. We have 14 offices around the world so we have an organization to take care of and I think we all feel sad for all the suffering we see everywhere. Not just in the music industry but physical suffering, so it is a tough time for a lot of people. At Kobalt, we closed our offices around the world on March 10th. Being a tech company, all employees have a laptop and we are all used to working remotely, globally, across borders. Within 24 hours we were all up and running remotely and after a week, our productivity actually went up. I think that shows Kobalt’s great spirit and we realize that supporting our creators and making sure they receive their distributions is even more important during these tough times. 

How the business has changed during the pandemic 

If we talk revenue side first, there are some financial reports out in the market that say publishing will be up 3% this year and 3.5% next year. We see a bigger impact in areas like synch, given that major film and TV productions have stopped. We know that live, which in certain territories in Europe is a good income for publishers, is lost for the time being. Performance fees from restaurants and bars have suffered but having said that, 

PROs are delayed and only very few societies pay out directly what they have. Most pay out six months, twelve months after they have collected. So we see this being drawn out but overall, I think we can say that if we are -10% this year, we believe that we will be at +20% next year, that people will bounce back, and we see certain productions starting again around the world. There is talk about production hubs where people work and live to start TV production again. 

We are lucky in publishing and in recording. At AWAL, our recording arm, it’s very much business as usual. It’s a digital streaming label and we are working marketing remotely so overall, we are doing very well. What is exciting is that we do get a lot of songs. Creatives have continued to create even more today so I believe later in the year or next year we are going to see some fantastic songs, fantastic music that is just now being written. 

Reports on the global music economy 

Don’t worry, the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to music and streaming. My comment on Goldman’s report, which is a very detailed report and has a lot of good data, is that overall I believe that short-term publishing will be negative this year rather than the 3% growth they mentioned just because of the impact on synch, live, and the restaurants and bars I mentioned. Having said that, I think we are going to bounce back and have 20% growth next year in publishing overall. I agree on the longer term growth they see in the coming ten years. In recordings, I’m actually more bullish than the Goldman report this year; I think they are too conservative as the business has moved so much to online or streaming, so I think we are going to see bigger growth than they are seeing on that point. And one very interesting take-away from the IFPI report that came out a couple of weeks ago is that independents have grown 38% last year and artists direct 42%. And if you include that 12% of what the majors do is distribute independents, it was really a fundamental shift for independents and access, which I thought could happen when I started Kobalt. I think there is a huge opportunity now for the middle tier artists that I have pushed for and believed in to live on their music. We can see now hundreds of thousands of artists that can live on their art. On average, we saw that at AWAL, artists are getting twice as much from recording royalties than from their touring income. So that is a fundamental change in artist economics, and that was pre-pandemic. And obviously that is even more important today. We have artists that you have never heard of – even if you’re a huge fan of live music and cool bands. We have hundreds and hundreds of bands that you have never heard about making $100,000 or more per annum in royalties. And for me, that is a great success in itself for fans, for culture, and for the artists and creators. 

How AWAL artists are making more from recording royalties than steaming 

It is about what kind of contracts you have entered into and how you are making sure that your money is reaching you. We have full transparency at Kobalt so for example in publishing, within our management, we have our own global digital society called AMRA. AMRA has deals with the 30 biggest DSPs in the world. We take in the global usage files, we match, and we send one invoice to Spotify for the global consumption and claim. I have audit rights on my society, our clients have audit rights on the society, and 

as you maybe know, that is not the case in the traditional society environments. We have control of the cost, control over the information, as do our clients. That obviously drives more. On the AWAL side, we are a service provider and we deliver a different kind of deal. Having said that, there are also great record labels who put in big risk money upfront to do that so obviously the deals are different in a way but I have always said that breaking online globally is very different today. Today, you can be #1 without having one video. You have to know how to navigate, how to promote, to work gradually cross border in one go instead of working in one territory and trying to replicate that in a different territory. 

Why independents had so much growth in 2019 

I think it is the access to music that people can see today. You know yourself how you explore music, how you access music, how artists are recommending other artists they like or fans are recommending. And the latest data suggests that half the people in the UK listen to music through Facebook today. There’s more interesting access to music coming. Think about Tik Tok, where were they on the map two years ago? And in this pandemic, I see people are investing in how they can enjoy live streaming, how they can use new tools and new services. I think the pandemic will fast forward the transformation. I believe that the music industry will be even bigger than what we thought it would be pre-pandemic. Fundamentally, 85% of people think that music is essential or very important. Fundamental human behavior has not changed, so I am positive. 

How Paul McCartney came to Kobalt 

I can only say what I believe myself, that I met his advisor and lawyer, Lee Eastman, who followed me over the course of 5/6 years where I told them what we do, how we work. They did their due diligence, saw us delivering. In the end, they came on board and they were very happy that we delivered what we had told them we would. I like to say that Kobalt is the smart people’s platform, and clients recommend clients. 

I think up to half of our clients have been recommended by someone they trust or they work with and they see on our apps or portal what we have delivered for them. It is very humbling that Max Martin and Paul McCartney are competing for who has the most #1s on the Billboard charts, and they are both clients. 

What I find exciting is that technology treats everyone the same. I am pleased to say that whether you are Paul McCartney or the new young band, you keep your copyrights and get the same great service. We learn something new, we develop something, and we roll it out to every client. 

That is how I think we create a great industry, how we create value for everyone in the industry.

SPOTIFY’S $100M+ JOE ROGAN DEAL REDEFINES ITS PODCAST STRATEGY. SONGWRITERS AND RECORD LABELS SHOULD BE WATCHING CLOSELY 

SPOTIFY’S $100M+ JOE ROGAN DEAL REDEFINES ITS PODCAST STRATEGY. SONGWRITERS AND RECORD LABELS SHOULD BE WATCHING CLOSELY

It’s interesting, when you think about it, that many of Spotify’s biggest rivals – Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tencent Music – have proudly chosen to singularly define their brands with one type of content: music. 

Guest post by: Tim Ingham of MBW

Spotify, of course, is now much more than a music service. It’s “the largest audio platform in the world”. 

That’s how comedian Joe Rogan described SPOT when making the game-changing announcement yesterday (May 19) that one of the globe’s biggest podcasts, The Joe Rogan Experience, is moving exclusively to Daniel Ek’s platform. 

From the end of this year, both audio and video versions of The JRE will only be available on Spotify, via a licensing deal that the Wall Street Journal suggests will cost Daniel Ek’s company over $100m.

Rogan’s ‘cast is known for its sometimes fascinating, always freewheeling conversations with figures from across the spectrum of politics and celebrity. The show’s typical length runs between two and three hours, with previous guests including Elon Musk (who famously smoked a joint during recording, pictured), plus Bernie Sanders, Candace Owens, Kevin Hart, Mike Tyson, Russell Brand, Malcolm Gladwell and Michelle Wolf. 

It’s also hugely popular. In April last year, Rogan stated that his podcast was being downloaded 190m times each month. The JRE was the most popular podcast on Apple platforms last year, beating the New York Times’ The Daily into second spot. 

Meanwhile, Forbes suggests The Joe Rogan Experience is currently making $30m in revenues per year, though whether Spotify will get a cut of that number – and how SPOT’s own podcast ad tech might affect it – currently remain unknown.

Spotify’s Joe Rogan scoop, then, is a major blow to Apple Podcasts, and will also disgruntle YouTube, where The JRE’s ‘vodcasts’ have attracted over 2 billion views to date. 

What, though, does the deal mean for the music industry on Spotify, still the largest music subscription streaming platform in the world? 

Both record labels (and artists) and music publishers (and songwriters) should be watching the Joe Rogan deal – and Spotify’s current predilection for spending big on exclusive podcasts – very closely. 

Here’s why, for both sides of the industry…

1) MUSIC PUBLISHERS (AND SONGWRITERS) 

“Spotify is not making a fair income, and [music] publishers are doing better than ever. Not a single [streaming] service has managed to reach profitability… certainly not Spotify.” 


“All [streaming] services have struggled in large measures because of the enormous royalty rate for licenses. In Spotify’s case, those royalty payments constitute 70 percent of its revenue. For Spotify and other streaming services to have a viable business, they will need rate reductions, not increases.” 

A couple of telling quotes, there, from Spotify’s attorney, John P. Mancini of Mayer Brown LLP, speaking in front of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) in March 2017, arguing why Spotify shouldn’t pay music publishers (and their songwriters) more money. 

Spotify went on to lose this legal tussle with US music publishers – who were repped by the National Music Publishers’ Association – regarding improved rates for songwriter payouts from its service. 

Yet SPOT still hasn’t given up its fight to pay songwriters less.

“SPOTIFY IS NOT MAKING A FAIR INCOME, AND [MUSIC] PUBLISHERS ARE DOING BETTER THAN EVER… FOR SPOTIFY [TO] HAVE A VIABLE BUSINESS, [IT] WILL NEED RATE REDUCTIONS, NOT INCREASES.

JOHN P. MANCINI OF MAYER BROWN LLP, REPPING SPOTIFY, IN MARCH 2017

In March last year, we learned that Spotify had clubbed together with Google, Amazon and SiriusXM/Pandora to appeal the CRB’s rate decision, which was set to bring songwriters and publishers a 44% pay rise from these services between 2018 and 2022. 

That appeal is ongoing (it reached the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March this year), but, for loss-making Spotify, it’s wrapped up in a key argument: there is only so much money, as a percentage of its revenue pie, that SPOT can pay out to artists, labels, songwriters and publishers, combined, while still running a functioning business. 

If the CRB-mandated songwriter payout figure rises too high, suggests Spotify, it could threaten its very existence. 

An obvious question, then: Does this argument really hold the same amount of water when Spotify is simultaneously spending hundreds of millions of dollars on podcasts? 

Spotify has spent approximately $600m on podcast-related acquisitions in the past 18 months, including its buys of Anchor FM ($154m), Gimlet Media ($195m) and Parcast ($55m) last year, plus Bill Simmons’ sports podcast The Ringer (up to $196m) in Q1 2020. 

The $100m Joe Rogan deal, which isn’t an acquisition but a licensing deal, reportedly takes this podcast spend up towards the three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar mark.

“EVENTUALLY WE WILL GET TO MORE OF A POINT OF MATURITY WHERE WE’LL FOCUS MORE ON PROFIT OVER GROWTH, BUT FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS IT’S GOING TO BE PREDOMINANTLY GROWTH FOR US.” 

DANIEL EK, SPOTIFY, SPEAKING IN APRIL 2020

Spotify founder Daniel Ek recently stated that SPOT has no plans to curb its M&A expenditure in the face of what he sees as a major opportunity to steal away traditional radio’s ad dollars with a podcast/music combination on Spotify. 

Ek said last month: “We’re in the growth stage… Eventually we will get to a point of maturity where we’ll focus more on profit over growth, but for the next few years it’s going to be predominantly growth for us.” 

That’s all very well (although, 12 years on from Spotify’s launch, that’s one lengthy “growth phase”). Yet at the same time, Spotify is telling the CRB that pay rises for songwriters are impossible, due to its status as a perpetually loss-making company. 

According to Spotify’s annual report for 2019, it posted a €73m ($82m) operating loss last year. That’s less than the amount of cash it’s just committed to spending on Joe Rogan alone. 

The logical next question: As Spotify attempts to deny songwriters a pay rise because it supposedly can’t turn a profit, are those same musicians actually subsidizing Spotify’s huge podcast acquisitions, and therefore its rapid market expansion?

2) RECORD LABELS (AND ARTISTS) 

If you want to know all about how podcasts could destabilize the market share of record labels on Spotify’s service, this piece from December last year will fill you in

The highlights: a recent surey from Edison Research showed that, in 2014, 80% of the US population’s listening hours were dedicated to music, with 20% going to spoken word. 

Yet in 2019, largely thanks to the popular eruption of podcasts, music’s share had fallen to 76%, with spoken word growing to 24%.

In its Q1 2020 results, Spotify gave away some important updates to this narrative, with two key data points: 

(i) 19% of Spotify’s total Monthly Active Users (MAUs) engaged with podcast content in Q1, which equates to 54m people (out of 286m total MAUs); 
(ii) There are now more than a million podcasts available on Spotify, with SPOT’s fully-owned distributor, Anchor (cost: $154m), powering 60% of them. 

The big worry for record labels here will be the potential volume of music track plays that these growing podcast habits on Spotify are now erasing. 

For example, if those 54m people in Q1 each played an hour’s worth of podcasts in the quarter – and we say that songs are on average three minutes long – these podcast plays could have ‘blocked out’ 1.08 billion music plays. (This is obviously a hypothetical, where we assume, if these people didn’t have access to podcasts on Spotify, they would be instead playing songs.) 

At Spotify’s approximate current $0.0035 per-stream recorded music payout rate, those 1.08bn hypothetical streams would have made the record industry in the region of $3.8m. 

I remind you at this point that each Joe Rogan Experience podcast – and there are some 1,477 of them in the can, all presumably coming to Spotify on September 1 – lasts in the region of three hours. 

Of course, Spotify doesn’t actually pay out ‘per stream’, as it were, instead paying an agreed net percentage of its revenue to labels and distributors (around 52% for the majors), allocated against their market share of plays. 

How podcasts affect this payout calculation is thought to have been a serious sticking point in Spotify’s long-dragged-out renegotiation with Warner Music Group for the twosome’s recently-agreed global licensing deal. 

The major record labels want a guaranteed minimum percentage of Spotify subscription revenues, regardless of how much music (versus podcasts) the platform’s subscribers actually consume. Spotify reportedly takes a different view, suggesting that if a subscriber listens to nothing but podcasts on its service, the labels shouldn’t get any money. 

Adding to the intrigue: Goldman Sachs just published an update to its influential Music In The Air report, in which author Lisa Yang and others comment that they believe record labels (and artists) will be “the largest beneficiaries of the growth of music streaming given they receive 52%-58% royalty rates from the major DSPs”. Goldman Sachs adds: “[We] expect no major change to these rates in the near term given the competitive dynamics amongst the DSPs”. 

To put it another way, with a 35% market share of global music subscribers today, Spotify isn’t dominant enough to try and reduce that 52% label rate any time soon (in Goldman’s view, any time over the next decade). 

Yet what if Spotify reduced the majors’ payout via stealth, by giving them their 52% revenue share, just not of all audio plays on the service (i.e. not when it comes to podcasts)? 

According to Spotify’s year-end filings, as recently noted by Midia Research’s Mark Mulligan, the combined market share of annual streams on SPOT cumulatively claimed by Universal, Sony and Warner, plus indie agency Merlin, is already falling.

“WE’RE NOT ON SPOTIFY, AND THE REASON WHY WE’RE NOT ON IT IS BECAUSE IT DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.” 

JOE ROGAN, SPEAKING IN 2018

These four parties claimed approximately 87% of streams on Spotify in 2017; they claimed approximately 85% in 2018; and they claimed approximately 82% in 2019. 

So what happens if Spotify’s investment in podcasts, especially big-money flagships like The Joe Rogan Experience, now take this figure below 80%, or even below 70%, in future? 

It will not be welcomed by the major labels – aka Spotify’s biggest customers. Ahoy, there, commercial tension! 

Those same majors are unlikely to forget that, in February 2019, Daniel Ek told his investors: “We believe that, over time, more than 20% of all listening on Spotify will be non-music content, and we strongly believe that this opportunity starts with podcasts.” 

The good news for Universal, Sony et al in the face of these issues? Daniel Ek and his team can clearly be pressured into paying out big checks by dominant market players who take no nonsense. 

Joe Rogan knows this better than anyone. 

He’s just inked a $100m-plus deal with Spotify for The Joe Rogan Experience, almost exactly two years after telling Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (see below) on the very same show: “We’re not on Spotify, and the reason why we’re not on it is because it didn’t make any sense. 

“They were like ‘We want to put you on it, it’s gonna be great for you!’ And I was like, how is it great? 

“You guys are gonna make money. You guys are making money and you don’t give us any.” 

And then they did. All nine figures of it. 

Now that’s what you call negotiating in public.

How To Make Money Making Music Online 

How To Make Money Making Music Online

If you're like me, a musician whose livelihood as a live concert performer has been erased by the COVID-19 pandemic, you've probably applied for numerous sources of government and private financial relief... and you still haven't received any. I have yet to see an IRS Stimulus check. I've applied twice for an Artist Relief Grant. I've applied for the SBA EIDL and PPP, and although more than a month has passed, I've yet to receive a penny in assistance. I've emailed, called, howled at the moon, but my cries for information and help seem to simply evaporate into the white noise generated by millions like me who are wondering if help will ever come.

Freelancers in the music industry are finding it difficult to secure government assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, finds a new survey conducted by the nonprofit Freelancers Union.

The survey, which was conducted April 22–29, elicited responses from a total of 2,755 freelancers, 411 of whom work in the music and performing arts fields. Of respondents in the latter category, 93% reported that they have lost work as a result of COVID-19, with 34% having lost over $10,000. 

Nonetheless, government assistance has been slow in coming. Of the 85% of music and performing arts freelancers who reported they had applied for government relief as a result of the pandemic, 84% have yet to receive any funding, the results show.

So what can we do?

For me, I've begun teaching music, arts, and music business online from my home. I set up an LLC, opened a bank account, built a website - www.pickeringarts.com, and began by offering free lessons during the month of March. I began charging for lessons in April, but also offer a Pay-What-You-Can option to help people who want to take lessons but have lost income as I have. And I have to tell you... I'm having a blast teaching my new students! While my nascent teaching income won't yet support my family of four, it certainly has provided much needed financial support, unlike the support promised but not delivered by state and federal bureaucracy. 

Below are additional ideas for making money making music online from a blogpost at www.bandzoogle.com. I hope the ideas shared here are both encouraging and practical ideas to help you navigate and stay afloat in our industry's stormy seas. Please feel free to reach out to me with questions, ideas, tips, tricks, or just to say hello.

- Michael Pickering

The following was posted by Dave Cool at Bandzoogle on Apr 29, 2020 in: Music Career Advice, Selling Music Online 

Virtually nothing else in history has shaped the music industry more dramatically than the internet. But as much as it’s played an integral role in countless musicians’ careers, the coronavirus crisis has now put us in a position where, for the first time ever, the internet is our only option to reach music fans. 

The unfortunate reality we have to face is that it could be quite a while before live performances, tours, and festivals will be back in full swing. If gigging has made up a good chunk of your income up until this point, it’s crucial that you start laying the groundwork now to make money from your music online. 

The good news is that once we come out on the other side of this pandemic, all the effort you put in now to supplement your income will continue to pay off over time. So how can you make money with music online? Here are some of the best ways to get started. 

1. Sell music through your website 

If you don’t already have one, you should build a website for your music. It gives you a little slice of the internet that you own and control, and you can also sell music directly to your fans (commission-free through Bandzoogle). 

But more than that, you will own the data and emails you collect through it. This is essential to have long-term success in your career, as you can use that data to let your fans know about new music, upcoming tours, crowdfunding campaigns, and more. 

2. Make your music available through online music retailers 

Fans don’t buy as many digital downloads as they used to, but they can still be a meaningful revenue source for DIY musicians. 

Distributing your music to major online retailers like iTunes and Amazon helps you come across as a more legitimate artist, gives you access to detailed analytics, and gives your fans a convenient way to support you. 

3. Make your music available for streaming 

These days, the vast majority of listening is happening on major streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Amazon Music. This means that making your songs available on them is essential to reach your current fans, as well as potential new fans. 

We have a long way to go before streaming revenue replaces the money that artists used to make selling physical albums, but the business is growing every year, and it’s income you don’t want to miss out on collecting. 

Once you distribute your music to these platforms, you can boost your stream count with tactics like pre-save campaignsaudio ads, and playlist features. 

Artist: Bandzoogle members Warbringer 

4. Monetize your YouTube channel 

How can a hardworking musician get their hands on some of that sweet, sweet YouTube money? The first and easiest step is to upload all your music to your channel. From there, you need to build up your subscribers and set up YouTube monetization on your account. 

Anytime music you own is used in a YouTube video — whether on your own channel or someone else’s — you’re entitled to collect your fair share of the ad revenue generated by it. A digital distribution company such as CD Baby will help ensure that all the money you’re owed ends up in your bank account. 

5. Finance your next project through crowdfunding 

If you have a supportive fanbase, crowdfunding can be a great way to cover the costs of your project. The key to successful crowdfunding is to build excitement among your most engaged fans by showing them what’s behind the curtain and inviting them into your creative process. It takes a lot of planning and proper budgeting, though, so don’t think of it as a quick fix that’ll solve your immediate cash flow problems. 

6. Offer fan subscriptions 

One of the hardest things about making a living as a musician is that most income streams are unpredictable. Fan subscriptions have emerged as one of the few reliable sources of recurring revenue, making it an especially attractive option for artists in such uncertain times. 

Subscriptions (sometimes referred to as memberships) give your most loyal fans access to exclusive recordings, performances, videos, merch, and rewards in exchange for a small monthly contribution. 

It takes a lot of effort and dedication to consistently churn out new content and creative ideas for rewards, but if you’re up for that sort of challenge, it’s an excellent way to form deeper relationships with your listeners. 

7. Sell tickets to live stream shows 

With venues shut down around the world, music fans are more willing than ever to support artists online right now. Selling access to exclusive live streams of your performances can help you make money without having to leave home. 

Experiment with debuting new material, playing through a beloved album in its entirety, and even taking audience requests to get a better sense of what your fans want to hear. 

Learn more: The complete guide to live streaming for musicians 

8. Offer free live streaming concerts with a tip jar 

If you don’t feel comfortable asking for payment up front for your live stream shows, hosting it for free and setting up a virtual tip jar is a great way to go. 

On Facebook Live and Instagram Live, this can be as simple as sharing your PayPal.Me link, Venmo username, or website link with your viewers. Or you could opt for a platform like Twitch with built-in monetization features. Here’s a full breakdown of how to monetize each of the most popular live streaming platforms

9. Monetize your Facebook and Instagram videos 

A lot of musicians don’t realize that they can earn money when their music is used in videos on Facebook and Instagram, just like on YouTube. You can even get paid when people use your songs in their Instagram Stories. 

Check with your digital distribution company to make sure they offer social video monetization

10. Sell digital merch 

There’s so much more you can include in your band merch store than the standard t-shirts, posters, and stickers. Challenge yourself to think beyond physical goods and explore possibilities like digital sheet music downloads, video lessons, or a nicely designed e-book of your lyrics. 

11. License your music 

Getting your songs licensed for films, TV shows, and ads is easier said than done, but even one placement could be a game changer for your music career. Some musicians earn most or all of their income from licensing alone. 

Hitting the right music supervisor with the right song at the right time certainly involves some luck, but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances

Final thoughts 

Don’t feel like you have to throw yourself into everything at once. Some of these ideas might be more doable for you than others, depending on the kind of musician you are, how far along you are in your career, and what your big-picture goals are. 

Start by exploring just a couple of avenues that excite you the most right now, and double down on whatever seems to be working best for you in the upcoming weeks.

Licensed to Stream? Clearing Rights Can Be Tricky In the 'Wild West' Livestream Age 

Licensed to Stream? Clearing Rights Can Be Tricky In the 'Wild West' Livestream Age

Many of us are, or have musician friends who are, performing cover tunes live on social media platforms as a means to generate income, bring some joy, and stave off cabin fever! Our world needs our live music right now! It keeps us connected, it helps us to feel, to express, to remain in touch with our hearts and humanity. But performing copyrighted material can also be risky because copyright law clearly states that permission from copyright owners must be secured in advance through a variety of licenses. Further complicating the matter is that not all the powers that be can even agree on which licenses must be secured for which purposes! But wait! There's more! Some social media platforms already have licenses in place, while others do not, or have only partial permissions from publishers and copyright owners. The bottom line is that a musician's live online show can get shut down or worse, fines might be imparted!

Clear as mud? 

So how can we keep the music playing while also avoiding copyright infringement issues? This article orginally published in Billboard Magazine can help guide.

With venues closed, more artists are turning to livestream performances — some without the proper licenses. "There's probably a lot of infringement going on." 

To make sure acts like Elton John, Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish could perform the songs they wanted during Global Citizen's April 18 "One World: Together at Home" concert, Julie Wadley and her team worked 12-hour days for over a week. "I woke up early, I worked late," says the owner of Say Yes! Music, who cleared the rights for 130 songs so the event could be streamed live and shown on demand all over the world. 

Over a month into the pandemic shutdown, livestream music performances have evolved from cool curiosities into an essential way for artists to reach fans, and sometimes even make money. Besides the Global Citizen event, which raised $127 million from mostly corporate sponsors for food banks and coronavirus-related causes, Diplo and Major Lazer have performed over a dozen "Corona World Tours" on YouTube for between 17,000 and 88,000 viewers each. A Bandsintown survey showed that almost three-quarters of fans say they'll continue to watch such performances once real-world venues reopen. But as Wadley's workload shows, clearing the necessary rights can be complicated. 

Live performances online, like those at traditional clubs, need public performance licenses from collecting societies like ASCAP and BMI, which platforms like YouTube and Twitch have. Making those same performances available on demand on a continual basis also requires mechanical licenses from publishers — as well as synch licenses if video is involved. (DJs also have to get similar rights to recordings.) 

Mechanical licenses vary in cost: "A couple hundred bucks to a couple thousand bucks, depending on the nature of their use," says Barry Slotnick, a Loeb & Loeb attorney who represents artists, songwriters, labels and publishers. But they require the performer to track down the publisher, which isn't always easy. 

The law isn't always entirely clear, either. Some rights holders believe that all livestream performances involve making a copy, and thus require mechanical rights, or synch rights in the case of video. "It's like the Wild West out there, and some of this is evolving," adds Ben McLane, a music attorney who has represented numerous artists and labels. "You don't always know which of these licenses are applicable or necessary." 

Some of the big platforms, including YouTube and Facebook (which owns Instagram), have the necessary licenses with almost all publishers, so artists don't have to worry about what songs they perform. Other platforms don't. "You've got companies like YouTube and Facebook checking all the boxes, and there are some that say, 'What boxes?' " says a label source. Twitch, which focuses on livestreaming, although not only with music, said in a statement that it "requires users to stream content they have the necessary rights to stream — for example, music they've written or licensed." If that's not the case, rights holders can issue takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

The complexity of the issues can be intimidating. If an online live performance requires a public performance license, and an on-demand stream involves both a public performance license and a mechanical license, what licenses do time-delayed live performances require? "It can be a thicket," says Eleanor Lackman, who handles music litigation for Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. "There's probably a lot of infringement going on. We've had this flood of use with the stay-at-home orders, and there has to be a lot out there that isn't licensed." 

So far, there haven't been many legal threats — because livestreaming isn't yet a big business and labels and publishers don't want to interfere with their artists trying to make money during a crisis. A representative for a well-known singer who recently performed a livestream says the team didn't bother to clear rights. "We just did it and no one has come after us," says the representative. "No one has contacted us about clearing anything, either." 

Clearing rights can be even more complicated when DJs incorporate snippets of existing recordings into performances. For a recent livestream, Diplo played parts of recordings like Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up," in addition to his own compositions. Since those performances are available on demand, his team has to clear the relevant rights with both publishers (of the compositions) and labels (which own most recordings). In this case, Diplo's manager, Andrew McInnes of TMWRK, managed to pull it off. "The big companies have been helpful and supportive of what we've been doing," says McInnes. "Pre-coronavirus, it was complicated to do things like this, but everyone's working together to keep some positive music experience out in the world right now." 

Publishers say they're doing their best to streamline their licensing processes during the anxious period of no concert revenue. "We're trying to clear as quickly as possible and be as accommodating as possible because of the status of the world," says Kelly Baden, vp worldwide licensing operations at Concord, which administers the publishing for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and Leonard Bernstein's catalog. "We have definitely had discussions about, 'How do we take this out of our normal process and expedite this?' " 

As livestreaming grows, however, rights holders will probably balance this kind of goodwill with their desire to get a piece of a promising new business. "If I'm Beyoncé and I say, 'Everybody show up,' and we're going to see her and Jay-Z and the kids playing in their living room, if I were a [label or publishing] executive, would I call them and say, 'I know you had to cancel your tour, and I know that's a loss of income for you, but I want a piece of this'? That's a tough call," says a publishing source. "I'm guessing the executives would say, 'Wait a second, this could be the future.'" 

This article originally appeared in the April 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.

Bandzoogle Now Offers Live Stream Ticket Sale Feature on All Plans 

Bandzoogle Now Offers Live Stream Ticket Sale Feature on All Plans

 

I am both a fan and client of Bandzoogle, the website builder created by musicians for musicians. I've been using their platform to build my websites for a number of years. I've also recommended Banzoogle to DIY students and clients involved in a variety of creative industries. And no, I am not being compensated to promote their services. I'm simply a believer.

Today, Bandzoogle announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has updated its ticketing options so that Bandzzoglers can now sell tickets commission-free to live streaming events - directly through their websites. While normally a Pro plan feature, ticket sales will be available on all plans, to all Bandzoogle members during the pandemic.

This feature is a fantastic resource for all of us performing creatives looking to find ways to continue generating revenue while sheltering in place. In fact, I would go so far as to say that being able to generate revenue from digital performances is going to be a significant part of performing artist's futures. 

Many artists are currently relying on Facebook Live and other social media platforms to host and promote their streaming shows. While convenient, relying on platforms one does not own or control is also problematic. There are licensing issues (that won't always be overlooked as they are now), algorithm issues that create audience access unpredictability, TOS, and other uncontrollable components in the social media space. 

Being able to host live streaming events from one's website provides some solutions to the aforementioned problems. It also helps to generate web traffic, build an artist's permission-based database, nurture community, and engagement, all of which can lead to present and future monetization from numerous income verticals. 

There are other live streaming options available, Stageit and Bandsintown being two reputable sources worth looking into. But one of the things I appreciate about Bandzoogle is, as with all of its e-commerce features, selling tickets through your own website is 100% commission-free, forever. That means all revenue goes directly to you. 

Hit me up with any questions or comments. I'm happy to be a resource.

AMAZON MUSIC OPENS UP STREAMING DATA WITH AMAZON MUSIC FOR ARTISTS APP 

AMAZON MUSIC OPENS UP STREAMING DATA WITH AMAZON MUSIC FOR ARTISTS APP

Here is some much needed good news for today! Amazon Music has announced the long-awaited beta launch of Amazon Music for Artists – a new mobile app for artists and their teams designed to help acts “better understand their business on Amazon Music”.

Guest post by Tim Ingham of Music Business Worldwide

The music streaming landscape just got more transparent.

Available on both iOS and Android, the app serves up information regarding artist streaming performance on Amazon Music’s various tiers, as well as insights into each act’s fanbase. 

According to Amazon, its features include: 

  • New success metrics, including the Daily Voice Index, which illustrates how an artist’s music is performing on Amazon Music with Alexa – including insights into voice requests by artist, album, song, and lyric. 
  • Access to near-real-time streaming data, providing artists with the latest streaming data across their entire catalog. 
  • A fan insights tab, which provides a breakdown of an artist’s most engaged listeners –Fans and Superfans – so they can focus on growing these segments over time. 
  • A custom date filter, so artists can choose specific dates, or length of time to track performance in near-real-time, including the last 24 hours of a release. 

CD Baby is a verification launch partner with Amazon Music for Artists, meaning any artist who is distributed through CD Baby can get expedited access to join.

The launch is coupled with a companion website (artists.amazonmusic.com) where artists and their teams can learn more about the app, as well as opportunity areas, best practices, additional resources, and more. 

In January, Amazon Music confirmed over 55m global ‘customers’ were now using the firm’s various tiers; this number included an estimated subscriber count of approximately 50m, up 16m year-on-year. 

Last August, Amazon Music rival Apple Music launched Apple Music for Artists, which in turn was designed to rival Spotify’s analytics tools. 

And in November, Universal Music Group revealed its own data/insights app. 

The Universal Music Artists (UMA) app can be used to view personalized, global data insights from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and YouTube (with data from Deezer set to be included in 2020). 

At launch, Amazon Music for Artists is available globally in English to download via the mobile app store on either Android or iOS

Tell @Spotify and @AmazonMusic to #StopFightingSongwriters 

Tell @Spotify and @AmazonMusic to #StopFightingSongwriters

Songwriters - You must develop and flex your music business muscles or you’ll continue to be pinned down by those who do not have your best interests at heart. On Instagram tell @Spotify and @AmazonMusic to #StopFightingSongwriters

50 Income Streams Music Creatives Should Know About - And Where to Find Them 

50 Income Streams Music Creatives Should Know About...And Where To Find Them 

Music royalties, licensing fees and the numerous other streams of revenue available to songwriters, performers and producers can be difficult to navigate. The good news is, the rapid growth of technology has produced more opportunities for distribution, new forms of music royalties and more ways than ever to track and collect monies due to you. The challenge is in knowing what types of royalties and fees are out there. 

In the world of music royalties, it all starts with the song. Each song is protected by copyrights in two categories: 

A copyright for the songwriting, or “composition”, categorized as the Composition 

A copyright for the performance, categorized as the Sound Recording. 

Depending on your role in the writing, production or recording of any given song, you may earn royalties in one copyright category or both. 

Beyond copyright royalties, there are a wide range of fees and profit centers that can encompass the earnings of a music professional. It is critical for creatives to be familiar with these revenue sources and have expert help whenever possible to track and collect the royalties, fees and income to which you are entitled. There is much to know, but there is also a wealth of information online, whether through sources like Wikipedia, official websites for Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, or right here, in this royalty income guide that Sound Royalties has put together for you. 

In the new digital music economy the creator is king. As an artist-friendly company, Sound Royalties is dedicated to the empowerment of creative talent. To help you flourish and sustain your career, here is our guide to royalty and revenue streams all music creatives should know about. 

Click here for a fantastic Income Stream resource from Sound Royalties!

Show Business is a Lot More Business Than Show - I Can Help 

Show Business is a Lot More Business Than Show - I Can Help

For most of us, making a full-time living making music is the goal. But in order to achieve this, it is essential to identify whether or not you're on the right track. 

As an exercise, think for a moment about why you're not currently making a full-time living making music... 

  • Do you know how to make a full-time living making music? 
  • Do you have a strategy for getting started and building a sustainable music career? 
  • Do you understand the different income streams available to you? 
  • Do you have a strategy for growing and nurturing a community of fans and followers? 
  • Do you have a strategy for monetizing your community? 
  • Are you marketing effectively? 
  • Do you have clarity about to whom you should be marketing and how? 

I would love to talk with you, hear your story, and help you move your career forward. If this sounds interesting to you, contact me today and let's create a plan to help you make a living making music.

Contact me today for a free no-obligation consultation.

Michael Pickering, M.A., Music Business, ACUE 

BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC 

Michael Pickering, President and Chief Creative Officer of Lionsong Entertainment, Inc., and former Director and founder of the Music and Entertainment Entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora, is a creative leader, entrepreneur, educator, and musician. He holds a Master of Arts in Music Business Degree and a B.P.S. in Interdisciplinary Music Studies Degree from the Berklee College of Music. He has served on the boards of local arts and entertainment organizations, authored post-secondary music curricula, and spoken at many local and national music industry events. He also provides music and entertainment business and performance consulting services (www.mpickeringmusic.com). Michael and his wife, Amy Pickering, remain active as national headline music and clean comedy performing artists for corporate, theatrical, educational, outreach, cruise, and private clients worldwide — www.michaelandamy.com.