I’ve been producing music for 12 years. Soon, I will be able to say 13 years. Here’s the thing though… I just started making money in 2020. That’s a lot of paying it forward and it’s part of why the music industry has a bad reputation as an extremely hard field in which to gain traction. Even just today I was talking with the IT director of a large academic institution who told me that their entire budget for music production software like Pro Tools and Sibelius had been slashed because it is so hard for students to really grow into a sustainable career in music.
One of the most common criticisms of careers in music is that a single stream is hardly even a drop in the bucket financially. Ad revenue, touring, merchandising, publishing, and pretty much any stream of income in the music industry is not enough to create a great lifestyle on its own. Everything in this industry is a drop in the bucket, so you have to fill the bucket with A LOT of drops if you want a full bucket. Understanding this and finding all the different buckets I can fill has taught me how to make a real living in the modern music industry.
So, going into 2021, I want to bring you these 5 tips that are the keys to unlocking real income in this business:
#1: Track All Your Income and Spending
When I started making music, I kind of had this idea that I just needed a lucky break and skill to have money pouring out the wazoo. I blame Hollywood for that. However, the fact is that anyone who has a sustainable career in this industry is taking their money moves very seriously. If you want to make money, you need to know what’s going on with your money. Use software like QuickBooks or Wave to make it easy and manageable. I really don’t know anybody who is successful long term in music who doesn’t account for themselves or have an accountant.
#2: Post Revenue Creating Content Daily
Recently Gary Vee said that (I’m paraphrasing) anyone who wants to make waves online needs to post content 50 times a day. This is of course hard to do unless you have a highly skilled team around you. Still, the more active you can be online the better. Better still, consistently create high quality content on platforms that will pay you passive income. Platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Medium, and Anchor will pay you ad revenue for creating great content! It takes time to scale, but those drops in the bucket matter!
#3: Sell in as Many Places as Possible
Creating new streams of income is easy, all you need to do is put yourself out there in as many places as you can! Posting content will help you direct traffic (and yes it really does take a ton of quality content to scale). Yet, you still need to actually sell stuff to scale your income as much as possible. This includes beats, merchandise, sound packs, memberships, services, and anything else you can put a price tag on. You can use tools like BeatStars, Airbit, Simplegoods, Invoicing Software, or Clickfunnels (I use all of these) to create your shopping system. Once you’ve set up your system, you need to SELL. It takes time to learn this skill, but it’s necessary. Remember it’s better to try and fail selling then to be too afraid to try.
“He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well, is not so apt to get the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers.” — Ancient Proverb
#4: Both Quality and Quantity are Key
It’s a Catch 22 because quality content gets attention, but you can’t have quality without learning through quantity. I recommend having platforms that you are serious about and post to regularly. A brand can be helpful for this. For example, I run a podcast called Producer Cast and YouTube channel for my production company True Vine Music Group. Between these, this blog, and daily activity on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (just starting here as I write this), I am able to create a ton of content. Some of it misses and some of it hits. Just create a ton of content — putting your best foot forward every time — and over time you will have a stellar batting average.
#5: Trust Your Heart, Not the Crowd
The fastest way to lose money is spending money to pretend that you have money. Of course you have to spend money to make money. But if you’re spending money make sure it’s for things that are actually beneficial and that you’ve accounted for. You will have to spend money occasionally for the sake of your growth, but make sure that you’re accounting and have a strong focus on growing your net worth. Don’t follow the crowd when they say that you need to be dropping big money in clubs to gain traction. You need to build your net worth and do what is best for you.