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How to Make Money Selling Recorded Music

I’ll tell you the secret to selling music:

The most valuable music is paired with something else. Possible pairings:

  • Video - For example, every television show or movie since the invention of the medium
  • Identity - See Parrotheads or Little Monsters
  • Events - For example, concerts are not just music - they are a social activity that people do with friends, family, lovers, etc. People often buy music after concerts not just because they love the music, but because they had a good time at the event and want a souvenir
  • Theatre - Similar to video. Music is very valuable when paired with storytelling. Gone with the Wind has grossed $1,626,459,200 since its release in 1939. Mamma Mia, the Broadway show, has grossed $2,000,000,000 since its opening in 1999. Taylor Swift’s entire net worth is $17 million, according to I’d rather be Mamma Mia.
  • Video gaming - I can’t prove it, but I’d bet more people, worldwide, can sing the theme to Mario Bros. than Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

There are plenty of others. Furthermore, you’ll probably have the most success if you pair music with one of the seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. I can think of a successful band that exemplifies every one of those characteristics.

My most successful attempts at selling recorded music have been when I paired music with moviescell phones or mobile apps.

If you are only selling pure music, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get much traction. For example - look at the major U.S. symphonies. They are primarily selling pure music (although there is a little identity associated with their product). It’s no wonder they can’t find funding, and it’s no wonder they can’t fill the seats of their over-sized halls. They’d have a lot more success if they starting pairing their concerts with multimedia, apps, experiences, etc. Who wants to sit on one side of the room and watch people playing music on the other side of the room? Apparently 1.9% of the market in 2012, according to Nielsen Soundscan and

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Reader Comments (3)

I like the line "Being a musician who sells music is like being a restaurant that only serves sauce." So many artist starting out in the music business place too much importance on the music and miss the other opportunities you pointed out in this post

March 21 | Unregistered CommenterJohn P

Thanks John.

March 25 | Registered CommenterMusician Wages

The restaurant analogy only applies in a hypothetical world where pirates are giving away sauce for free on every streetcorner.

March 25 | Unregistered CommenterJesse DeCarlo

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