Piecing together an income as a musician can take a piece of your heart. Many musicians in the US are stuck working day jobs when they’d rather be recording, playing gigs, or even giving lessons, just to be doing what they love—making music. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only 187,600 full-time musician jobs in the United States in 2018, with no growth projected over the next ten years. What’s even more depressing? Orchestras, operas, and other organizations that rely on public funding are in a tough spot these days. Jobs in the non-profit sector are actually expected to decline.
But there is a bright spot on the horizon. The explosion of digital music streaming platforms has decidedly amped up the opportunity for you to earn money doing what you love. If you haven’t yet jumped into the big stream, here are a few tips to get you started.
*A Guest post by the folks at ConsumersAdvocate.org
Decide which streaming platforms you want to focus on
The best music streaming services for you may depend on the type of music you make and the listeners individual sites attract. While most of the larger sites like Spotify and Tidal feature massive catalogs, a few sites do specialize in particular genres. If you’re into death metal, you may want to focus on GimmeRadio. Dubstep is the king of EDM, while Apple calls Spinrilla the 800-lb. gorilla of hip-hop. Getting your music in front of the right listeners is a great strategy for reaping the rewards—also known as royalties—of streaming your music.
Compare royalty rates—but don’t be ruled by them
When you place a tune with a streaming music site, each time a listener downloads that tune you are entitled to a royalty payment. Each streaming site figures royalties in its own idiosyncratic way. Tidal and Apple music tend to pay the highest rates. But don’t ignore sites (particularly YouTube) that pay less per stream but also expose your work to a much wider audience. YouTube engages 1.5 billion users per month, while a site like Amazon Music only captures about 32 million.
Get yourself a distributor
Sure, you could try to do it yourself. But chances are you’ll want to upload your tunes to a variety of streaming sources. That’s a pretty time-consuming undertaking, made all the more complicated by the fact that some streaming sites will only work with distributors and not individual artists. Digital distributors come in a lot of different flavors and you’ll want to compare the costs and contracts each of them offers. You can work with multiple distributors simultaneously, though only one per song. Distributors demand exclusivity on any work you give them to promote. (Cooper – personally I use CD Baby and I think that they do a great job at distibuting)
Align yourself with a Performance Rights Organization
There are two kinds of royalties you can collect when you publish a song. Your distributor(s) will collect and pay you mechanical royalties, which accrue every time your song is downloaded or a record company duplicates one of your albums on vinyl or CD. But you’re also entitled to something called performance royalties. Performance royalties are generated when one of your songs is played in a bar, restaurant or other public space. To collect performance royalties, you need to register your music with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) or Collective Management Organization (CMO.) These organizations are paid by public performance spaces to gain the rights to play recorded music. Registering your music with a PRO or CMO simplifies the process of capturing performance royalties, which are notoriously difficult to track and collect.
Expand your social media presence
like you really mean it. Just because you’re streaming music doesn’t mean people will listen to it. Promotion is part of your job as a musician. Let your fans know each time you make one of your songs available through a streaming service. Announce it on your own website—you do have a website, right?—accompanied by an audio clip. Tweet about it. Put a photo of your new album cover on Instagram. In the parlance of our times, if it’s not on Instagram Facebook, it didn’t happen.
Hope this helps!