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Doing Music Independently - Where’s The Money? B(L)og 030

Updated: Jun 9

On June 30th It’ll be six years since I’ve been doing music without any corporate job to fund it. Which makes it more than great timing to get into the topic of this edition of The Daydream Sound B(L)og.


What the topic you ask?


Here are some of my thoughts on the idea of being an independent artist in this day and age. And by the way! Thanks a million for hanging out here at The Daydream Sound B(L)og! Much appreciated!


Let’s get going!



I Wonder?


I’ve always been independent. And have truly never seen the logic of contributing to a music library that I could never own (that’s what a major label music company is by the way).


When I was younger (like pre-teen younger), I used to ask whoever I could -


“Can’t you just make your own records and sell them?”

Then I would get the industry answer. That went something like this.


“Yeah you could, but it’s all about distribution man! How are you gonna get your records into every store all around the world?”

Then I’d say:


“Hold on tho! How much does it cost to make records?”

They’d say:


“About $1000 dollars for about 500 records”.

Me:


“Then what do you need distribution for? Couldn’t you just sell those records some other way?”

Them:


“You need to be in the stores and you need marketing and promotion and a bio! Do you have a Byyeeooooo? Do you have a photographer for your artwork? Do you have a film budget and director for your music video? What about a music lawyer??????”

Me in my brain:


“?????”

At this point I’d be making a mental note that my question hasn’t been answered yet, and there’s no way that I would be the first person to ask this type of question.


So I’d just make a mental note to stay away from any music industry opportunities. And that’s what I did. I’m more possessive than I ought to be possibly; but the idea of not owning my music even then sounded eerie to me. Truthfully, I was afraid of it.


Kinda like the last line of the song “Hotel California” by the Eagles. You know the one that says:


“You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

I wonder if that song is really about the music industry? I have a hunch that it is. And the Eagles had the same feeling about it as I did as a kid.


You see. Being a musician is about taking care of an essential need. Artistry is who you are. You don’t deny yourself any essential need. You make room in your life so that you can indulge in that need. You make that room by doing what you would do for any other need. You work so you can afford a place to stay; Food to eat; and so on as the list usually goes.


A life in music is no different. As far as business is concerned, you create an avenue to fund your art. Just like the majors (or most companies in history) do.


The Daydream Sound music

From creation to packing, shipping, distribution & receiving. Independent artists tend to be involved in it all.



Well What About Selling Records? You Can’t Sell Enough To Make A Living!


Yes, no kidding Sherlock! In fact, selling records has never been enough. Like never ever! I think we’ve come to focus on this area of music as a legit metric because there’s so many opportunities that are based on record sales.


From awards, to artist plaques; To straight out fame! Record sales have become an easy way to qualify whether the juice is worth the squeeze in terms of a signed artists’ ROI for a label. Which of course could (and often does) end up in opportunities.


So let’s focus on these “opportunities” for a moment. What music related opportunities would be available to a high-ranking artist whose record sales have qualified them to be the recipients of such benefits? And what does that mean for an indie artist?


Well I couldn’t say what needs to be said better than will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.


In an interview for The Wall Street Journal, will.i.am describes what he calls the dirty little secret of the music industry as follows:

"The dirty little secret is that very very few artists actually made a really healthy living selling records in the history of music industry because people forgot that the music industry was always technology.
Like people forgot that RCA was technology that Americans used in World War I & II. And then, RCA became a consumer product, and then bought Victor's Talking Machine. And it also became our radio. And it's also the reason why artists don't get paid terrestrial radio rights in America; Because it was always the lost leader.
Here at 2013. If you didn't write the song you just performed it you don't get any money when it's played on the radio. Now if you were an act from 1960 and your songs playing on KDF 101. And right after it is a depends commercial because you know exactly who the audience is (older folks); That artist isn't participating in any of the revenue because America doesn't practice terrestrial radio rights. So, you have to look at the origins of the music industry being hardware.
Our music was made to sell hardware. To the point that if you sold outside of that circle you were deemed to “Sell out”. A sell out doesn't mean you change your morals. (It means) You sold out of the circle of things you were supposed to sell! Phonographs, record players.
We could have been signed to Cadillac. They’re radios in the Cadillac. But that's not what we were supposed to sell.
So, artists are supposed to make money when they come up with other things to sell and use their music to sell it. (Like) Dr. Dre and “Beats” (or) Me and “i.am+”. Or going out and selling out venues.
You want to sell out? Sell out the Staples Center. You want to make money? Do your own festival. Write your own songs! Because publishing was the first music industry. You wrote songs and they printed (it) on sheet music. And you sold pianos, trumpets, violins, violas, tubas, oboes. And people came together to play them and they “sold out” Carnegie Hall's. And architects-built cathedrals and theaters. Music was supposed to build Bars and you were supposed to sell other things with it.
Until the music industry figures out what we're going to sell (that’s) hardware; Then we are just a hired gun to sell somebody else's stuff!"

source - will.i.am on How to Make Money with Music - The Wall Street Journal - https://youtu.be/vHNiigP0ck0


And here we are in 2024 with our silly little “I’m an independent - I sell my own records” egos, thinking that we’re doing something outstanding by selling our own music. This is the wave that most are jumping on now.



Anti-Streaming Incels

Many people are now disgruntled with the idea of streaming! A better way of saying it is that they now feel disillusioned by the idea of streaming. Now that the streaming model doesn’t satisfy the need to be recognized anymore. A growing number have turned against it.


100000000000000000000 streams a month no longer feel important anymore. Why? Because it took the anti-streaming incels a minute to figure out that……..


That sort of thing is not important!!!!!!!!! And it’s never been important!


And no! You weren’t taken advantage of! You weren’t swindled. You weren’t even confused about what you were going to get out of streaming your music. You were simply presented with an outlet that would grant you fame and recognition. And you took it! For your own self-serving purposes.


And you know it. So, don’t act like you’re all “anti-establishment” now! Simply recognize that you were anti-Artist!


But back to making money from music. Based on what we’ve just discussed; I hope that you can now see a better path to making a living with your music, and not from selling your music exclusively.


TLDR version: Follow the physical. Whenever you see music being presented or sold. Ask yourself. “What physical item is this music selling?” Furthermore, if you see a musical digital product or service being sold to you as a musician; do the same.


Recommended supplementary listening: Ep.100 - Why Are You Streaming? - The Samplers Podcast https://www.thedaydreamsound.com/the-samplers-podcast



Okay So How Do I Make Money?*


I’d lay it out by recommending the following steps:


1. Start a business for your musical ventures (a corporation is best).

2. Find a way to fund the business. (this could be your job or saved money etc.)

3. Take note of every single musical (and non-musical) talents you have.

4. Use these talents to create products that can blend seamlessly with your music.

5. Market, promote and sell those products to those inside and outside of your audience base.

6. Reinvest your profits back into your now operational music business.


*These steps presume that you are already an artist and making music.


But, bu bu but Yohance!
I’m independent! I make my own money from music just like the Majors do! Just on a smaller scale! If they can do it, why can’t I? You know what? You’re just afraid to compete with the majors’ bro!

To this I’d respond by saying:


Yes you need to fund yourself or find funding outside of music.


By the way. All major music companies are publicly traded on the stock market. Which = Millions of people investing and shareholding in those companies and subsequently any artist signed to a major label.


Lastly. Don’t ever feel ashamed to work or create a business to fund your music. That’s exactly how it’s done. And if you feel ashamed of that. How should a major label feel about their funding sources?


I’ll wait for you answer…………..


Alright moving on.


Recommended supplementary listening: Ep.237 - The Art Of Music Sales - The Samplers Podcast https://www.thedaydreamsound.com/the-samplers-podcast



How Will You Know If Independence Is For You?


I don’t know. But I can share my self-actualization with you regarding the entire matter. It took me a good chunk of my adult life to fully accept that I just don’t like being the middle man! When you work a job, you are part of the middle. You don’t create/own or control the product and you don’t own the connection to the customer. Even though you can interact intimately with both of these aspects of that business.


When you leave. The assets stay with that company. Which is more than just. If a company builds their own product and client base; You can’t just saunter in with your employee benefits and guaranteed salary and demand anything more than your employment agreement specifies.


I like to create and own my stuff from beginning to end. I don’t want nobody to give me any money (not a dime!); in exchange any ownership or say in something that I created. That’s just how I’m built. And not everyone is like this. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for the way that I’m constructed; independence is ideal. The amount of control over the entire operation makes me feel fulfilled. If you control the operation No one can ever sabotage or cancel you! That’s a big benefit! Trust me! It comes in handy if you’re an outspoken person.


Of course, if the word control is too harsh for your ears. You can simply substitute it with the word “Freedom”.


Your reasoning probably won’t be the same as mine I’m sure. However, the main element of independence is fulfillment. If you find that you’re fulfilled by doing your own thing. And you love being an artist. Then independence may be for you.


In other words. Independence is the artistry not the industry.


Much appreciated for reading!


TDS


All rights reserved. Copyright 2024

2 Comments


Guest
Jun 12

wise words. thank you for sharing these reflections. you bring up some very objectively honest facts about creating art in the world we live in. i think many artists i know (including myself) bow out of the rat-race and "do it for the love" which is refreshing, because we get day jobs or create other means to survive so that we can keep our music completely separate from commerce.


however, it's also wise, as you mentioned, to realize that there may be an avenue for each of us to receive some compensation (even it's small) from our work and the products we produce that add value to our fans. this has given me a lot to think about.


thanks for…

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Unknown member
Jun 12
Replying to

What up Eddie! Thanks a million for reading man! Glad you liked it! Yeah man, there's so many ways to be an artist. Much appreciated! TDS https://www.thedaydreamsound.com

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