The world is changing... Jem and the Holograms are a distant memory.
The amount of people able to share their work with the wider population of the world has never been greater. You don't have to be picked up by a major record label in order to distribute your music anymore. Anyone with a simple home recording set up can produce hig quality recordings at a fraction of the cost that it used to, and even better with downloadable music and streaming sites the need to invest in physical copies of your music is quickly becoming obsolete. I imagine that in five years time no one will be playing CD's or DVD's and either digital or vinyl (which still remains unique and awesome in it's sound quality) will remain. Many computers are now sold without DVD or CD drives with most people relying on streaming sites such as Spotify or Apple Music for their listening candy. Simply by paying a low monthly premium you are able to listen to your choice of millions of songs.
So if this is what is happening in the world of the music listener, then what is happening in the world of the music creator?
Ever since the digital revolution, the music industry has been struggling to get a hold on what direction we are headed in and how a sustainable income can be made for artists in a world where music is available for practically nothing.
The world is changing and we can't sit here and complain about it, and we can't withhold our music from the world.... We must change with it.
The question is, how do we change? And how can that change sustain a career in songwriting. In order to become better at writing songs we need to dedicate time to it, in order to dedicate time to it we need to earn enough from the proceeds of writing to pay for rent, for things to eat, gas, electric, council tax and heaven forbid an occassional night out... the problem is a purely mathematical one...
The sums just don't add up any more.
So what are the ways to support the creation of our music in the digital age? The answer is... I'm not sure. For artists working at my level it's a constantly changing tectonic plate where money seems to be slipping through cracks that open up at our feet at a moments notice...
So I thought I would use this blog to explore some of the options that are available... the good news is that it's not all bad news!
STREAMING MUSIC SITES
Streaming services are going from strength to strength with more and more people hooking into this low cost way of keeping up with their favourite bands. This is how the majority of the world now consumes its entertainment, from movie streaming services like Netflix and Youtube to music streaming sites such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music. Unfortunately, for the independent artist the streaming sites present a new challenge in creating a sustainable career...
The ultimate streaming service, fans pay a low monthly premium for all the music they can handle. This is a one-stop shop for most fans and listeners, and it'll likely be the go to place when someone is told about your music. If you aren't on it, the average punter (unless they are particularly dedicated to finding you) will probably just give up the search and stream some Rihanna. So you have to be on it to be heard at all, unfortunately for the artist the amount we receive is between $0.006 and $0.0084 per listen. Which means that a fan would have to listen to your songs 2000 times in order for you to accumulate the cost of buying one album ($12.00). Sadly, there's no point in trying to tell your friends to cancel their Spotify account, it's just not practicable and looking at the evidence it's not going to go away anytime soon.
The article below is an interesting read for anyone looking at learning a bit more about this...
2016 posted a thundering decline in the digital download of both albums and songs which is not good news for the artists themselves. As an example in March this year I sold 9 copies of one of my albums and made approximately £38 from that. In the same month, songs from the same album were streamed 5384 times and I received £5.81. The takeover of the streaming market has been devastating the income of many artists... Have you noticed that alot of the big bands from the 70's and 80's are suddenly touring again? This is not a coincidence. Their incomes are being decimated by streaming services and touring is one of the only ways they can make a respectable income. There are less options available to those artists who don't have a massive historical fanbase.
The Apple application revolutionised the music industry when it first arrived on the scene, now it is being hit by the streaming obsession sweeping the world. The worst thing about itunes is that it will not allow you to post your music on it's site without also allowing your music to be available for streaming on Apple Music. Itunes is still a go-to for many listeners but it seems like it won't be around for too long, and that it is quickly losing its place in the market to the cheaper streaming services.
This article will give you a basic overview of what's going on...
An excellent service which allows users to listen to a song once for free and then offers them the chance to buy the song/album at a price set by the artist, the majority of proceeds go directly to the artist. This is a great initiative and one that I am grateful for. Unfortunately, whilst a good portion of songwriters know about it, the general public don't. This means that your music is going to be listened to by other impecunious writers, few of whom are earning enough themselves to be able to support the careers of other hungry writers. In order to make any income from this you have to tell your fans about it directly and encourage them to use its services as opposed to the streaming sites that are far more convenient for most people... this also assumes that you know who your fans are and have a way of contacting them which many smaller recording artists do not. Still it's worth putting your back catalogue up there just in case since it doesn't cost you anything to set it up.
This is a really interesting article that talks about the difference between BANDCAMP and SPOTIFY and the pros and cons of each...
A long time ago, Kings and Queens, nobles and the gentry used to patronise artists. This wasn't the condescending term that we understand it to be today, patronage was seen as a way of supporting the career of a promising artist whilst at the same time boosting your own cultural kudos. The gentry would pay for struggling artists to paint their portraits and write them songs... at some point this stopped being the norm.
However, given the new digital world order that is coming about as a result of the increased global connection of the internet, patronage is making a comeback in a big way. This is great news for artists who are struggling to survive as a result of the decimation of their album and song income.
Patronage seems to be happening in two big ways at the moment...
Crowdfunding is now happening in the creative industries all over the world and artists are learning to utilise it to their advantage. It takes a lot of work, a lot of pride swallowing and alot of emailing, social media posting and follow-up-thank-yous but the rewards are often worth it. Not only is it a way to fund a specific project that you've been dying to create, it is also an excellent way of creating an invested fanbase in the final creation itself. All of those people who invested in your project have proven their interest and you now have a legitimate reason to contact them about your future work. In order to get over the idea that it appears to be little more than begging to the internet for money, all you need to do is look at it from your supporters perspective... they are pleased to be a part of the creation of something new in the world and they are happy to contribute financially to your work. If they weren't they wouldn't have done it in the first place, so quit worrying and get crowdfunding. There are various platforms that you can use including:
Go Fund Me
When choosing which site to use I'd recommend looking at a few of them and figuring out which terms and conditions are best for you. Some allow flexible funding goals which mean you don't have to hit your target in order to get all the money that has been pledged, others are more strict. Each have their advantages.
I've been involved in two successful crowdfunding campaigns this year for two theatrical projects and one thing I would definitely recommend is being part of a team. Splittling the responsibility of the work means a lot less pressure and a larger network of people to contact, the larger the network the better your chance of success. Personally, I've used Indiegogo twice and have no regrets...
Below is an article comparing some of the crowdfunding sites...
This is a relatively new site and one that I am hoping will really help to change the creative industries for the better. This is patronage in the truest sense of the word. Rather than funding a particular project, Patreon encourages its patrons to invest in you as a creative artist. There are not necessarily any rewards for your patronage (although the artist can make these available if they wish) beyond the simple fact that you are helping an artist make a living from their creative contribution to the world. This is usually done in a monthly debit on your account from as little as $1.00 per month all the way up to $1000.00 per month. This is a way to get your fans to help you out and provide real financial support to your career, I hope that sites like this will help more artists in our creative industries move towards a sustainable career.
Here is my page if you are interested in checking out how the system works...
I hope that this has been useful to some of you and if you have any other ways of sustaining a career in songwriting please do suggest them in the comments below! All suggestions welcome!!