Paying the Bills so You Can Play the Guitar
Most indie musicians don’t start playing for the money. Let’s face it, if finances were your major concern you’d have enrolled in business school, and not spent your college fund on a new guitar and a thirty year old touring bus. You’re an artist, not a business suit, right?
Unfortunately, ignoring cash flow is a great way to wind up stuck in the middle of Death Valley with no cash and a broken tour bus camshaft. Like it or not, producing music is much easier when you can pay for rent and studio time, even if you can’t afford both at once.
To listen to some sources, you’d think the music industry was in a tailspin. Music sales are down — a situation usually blamed on music piracy and not, say, decades of financial insecurity. Gigs aren’t as popular as they once were, and even merchandizing doesn’t sell as well as it used to.
What this gloom and doom scenario fails to notice is the shift in the music industry from sales to licensing. A wide range of services, marketing firms and entertainment venues need a steady supply of new music, and often they look to the indie market.
Who needs licensed music? Video games, online ads, television and web shows, corporate views, mobile phone apps and independent films all need a steady stream of new music. Buying licensing from established superstars would break most operating budgets, so creators in these fields look to the indie market.
How profitable is music licensing? Licensing fees of $500 to $5,000 are common for online usage. A larger, more established company might pay up to $10,000 for a single license.
Selling Out, Sorta
Not so long ago, musicians were accused of selling out if they associated their music with specific brands and products. Some people still take this view, but guess what? “Selling out” pays the bills, and with CD sales plummeting, many bands see brand association as a means to make some money and keep the tour bus rolling.
Brand association is now commonplace in the music industry, with companies such as Red Bull even creating their own indie recording labels. The brand, whether representing the latest in fashion or the top rehab centers, gets to link their name to up-and-coming bands. You, for your part, get a business partner willing to sponsor your next tour or recording session.
It’s a win-win situation, and should be considered as a viable business agreement, rather than the outdated notion of selling out.
Modernize Your Merch Table
While it’s true merchandizing tables don’t raise the profits they once did, the fault lies, to some extent, with musicians themselves. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to point out the merch table at the end of a gig, but many musicians don’t. Pointing out the table increases your chance of making sales, even with a self-depreciating “buy our junk so we can eat tonight” comment.
Make sure your merch table takes credit or debit cards. Fewer and fewer people pay with cash. If you can’t afford a dedicated card reader, a number of cheap (or even free) mobile payment apps allow you to take card payments from anywhere with your cell phone.
Michelle is a blogger and freelancer. She’s written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while she’s writing. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.