13 ноя 2011

Music as a Loss Leader

How can musicians earn money from their music in the current environment? It will take a lot of luck, creativity, and re-thinking what musicians really offer to the public.

There's no question that major changes have shaken up the music industry and will continue for the foreseeable future.  Subscription based music services like Spotify and Rhapsody are growing in popularity as are services such as Pandora.  Musicians have varying luck getting listed on these various websites.  I have produced two albums which are available on Spotify and Rhapsody but cannot get listed on Pandora.

But, getting listed is no panacea.  As this article points out payments to artists from these websites are getting lower, not higher.  Music it seems is becoming a loss leader.  Getting exposure on such websites is seen as necessary to musicians for success but it does not directly translate to success in earnings.

This problem is not actually a new one as musicians for years have earned more money on merchandising than concerts.  But, with so many more artists releasing music the problem is becoming worse.  An album or track that generates a large amount of plays will earn an artist only a small amount of income.  This is true for even major artists.

How can artists use the concept of loss leader to their benefit?  I'm not entirely sure but here are some ideas:

Teaching:  Most musicians who have not "hit it big" know that one of their primary sources of income is from having music students.  This is as true today as it was when Mozart was struggling to make ends meet by teaching.

Writing: Now more than ever musicians can earn money through freelance writing about their music and other topics.  Websites such as Article Share and Helium provide good platforms for getting exposure and making a little extra money.

Collaboration: There are also opportunities for collaboration that can yield both exposure and potentially income as well.  Of course, musicians have always collaborated with other musicians but now there are opportunities for collaboration with other artists, software designers, academics, businesses.  Think about just a few possibilities such as:

Offering to write music to accompany an artists gallery showing.  Mussorgsky famously did this with Pictures at an Exhibition.

Writing music for gaming software or other applications.

Writing music for independent films or documentaries.

Writing music for training videos for businesses.

Other applications:  In addition to all of these possibilities there are other avenues for creative musicians to explore.

Art therapy is a growing field and music therapy is an important part of this.

Professional photographers may be interested in collaborating to produce multi-media products for their customers which will include music.

Painters still paint custom portraits for people, why couldn't musicians compose customized theme music for people and events?

Doctors offices usually have televisions in their waiting rooms.  Why not have "healing" music instead?

Book clubs meet to discuss books they have read, why not have musician led music clubs to discuss various compositions?  This could be a good way to generate consulting and teaching work in addition to some of the other work mentioned above.

The key to success in a "music as a loss leader" world will be to generate multiple sources of income and multiple means of exposure.  That means maximizing these ideas and using social media.  More on that later.



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