When Will Musicians Learn How to Make Money?


Is it possible for a musician to be all about the music and the money?

Most musicians do not know how to make money. “It’s all about the music,” they say. This is naive nonsense, and the evidence is in the 99% failure rate of musicians trying to sustain careers.

We need to change musician culture. Among composing, performing and recording, it’s time business takes its rightful place in musician culture as a skill worth mastering.

In the long run, our ability to make money as musicians by turning our songs and our fans into a business is what dictates our ability to make music, period.

The key words are “in the long run.”

When we’re actually composing, performing or recording music, money is the furthest thing from our minds. When we’re young and have few responsibilities, we dive headfirst into creativity and ignore the financial ramifications. As it should be.

Even as we get older and take on more of life’s responsibilities — particularly, the bills — it’s still often enough for us just to write the song, play it for a few people, or record it for wider distribution on the Internet.

Eventually, though, there comes a time when nearly every musician has to choose between music and money.

If you are comfortable with music as a hobby, it’s an easy choice. Hobbies are things you spend money on anyway.

If you love being a starving artist, it’s an easy choice. The lifestyle is more important to you than the size of your audience or the longevity of your music career. You find personal fulfillment in being a musician and don’t really concern yourself with what other people think. That’s cool.

If you want music to be more than a hobby, and if you don’t want to starve, you eventually come around to realizing that it can’t be all about the music. Money matters because money is what makes it possible to spend lots of time composing, performing and recording for a wide audience.

The only musicians that don’t have to make the difficult money vs. music choice are the ones that figure out how to make money from their music somewhere along the way. They might be DIY entrepreneurs, they might have a great management team. Many will do ten different things at once, teaching, scoring, performing, recording, and writing jingles. Somewhere along the way, these musicians realized that their long-term goals required just as much investment in music as a business as it did music as a craft.

It doesn’t “just happen.” Nobody is going to walk up to you after the show and say “you got the goods, kid” and take you to a steak dinner with a record contract. The musicians who succeeded in the past were always the ones who established themselves in the business of music.

If you need one more reason to learn how to make money from your music, think of it this way: If 99% of musicians don’t understand the music business, you’re going to have an enormous edge on the competition, and a real shot at creating a sustainable career for yourself.

The reason musicians are suffering is not piracy. It’s that musicians don’t understand the music business, (and, as you’ll learn, the business is corrupt.) We have the power to change that, for ourselves and for the greater musician culture.

(CC-BY-SA) photo by Alper Çuğun