Connect With Us

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner



« Music Industry Trends have a Lesson for Radio | Main | Bus company sues maids for carpooling - sound familiar? »

Never have a limit on your income

A wise man said, “Never have a limit on your income.”

Example he gave:

If you sell pens for a living and someone orders a million pens, no problem! You just place an order with your manufacturer for a million pens, get them to the customer, and celebrate.

But if you do hands-on massage for a living and a recent spot on Oprah gets you a waiting list of 10,000 people, “you’ll wish you were in the pen business.”

Point being : if you make a living only providing an in-person (hands-on) service, you are limiting your income. If you were in a “while you sleep” business, there is no limit to how much you can make.

So… what about musicians?

For the last few years, many people have suggested that the products (CDs, even downloads) are now just the free giveaways to get people to go to the show - that musicians are only in a hands-on service-provider business now.

Of course I disagree because I watch CD Baby pay more and more to musicians every month (while they sleep).

Musicians MUST NOT buy into that “only earn by performing” belief because it limits your income.

I spend a LOT of money on music, but haven’t been to a live concert in years. The recorded music has great value to me, whether MP3s, CDs, or even subscription services.

What other ways can music be a “while you sleep” income-earner for musicians? (STUPID BRAINSTORM WARNING:)

  • write songs for others to perform
  • creating commercial-use music (that businesses will use in advertising, for example)
  • getting your music into film/tv
  • paid-area access to your web-archive with all your music, even works-in-progress
  • make it easy for fans to donate
  • create a recognizable brand once, then license the name or model to others (like “Chicken Soup for the Soul”)
  • franchise your band: train multiple bands how to sound just like you, then all can go tour, while you get royalty when they do
  • creating music-education programs used by many schools
  • release your unmixed tracks for fans to remix, letting them sell the remixes on a 50/50 split


Reader Comments (13)

Give your music away for free using your own patented 'better than mp3 or AAC' lossless audio codec, but charge everyone on the planet for the technology itself.

Create a new highly successful brand of anything, and give away a free CD of the theme tune that appears on the commercial with each one, which of course you wrote.

Busk and have some heavies enforce collection to anyone who catches a drift of a tune - in keeping with Radiohead they do have a choice to pay the minimum 49 pence, or more.

Write a trojan that attacks people's computers with popups of all your own music every time they open a browser. People pay you to turn them off via a simple 'Pay Now' paypal button.

Create a new kind of music that although based solely on your own snoring while you sleep, is incredibly catchy and great as a ring tone. Create a subscription model for those who want to stay in touch with your snoring throughout the night.

Invest in some musicians who are doing better than you are.

Write a song you will be remembered for. Then try again.


April 7 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Moore

* Multiple tiers of music purchases (limited editions, artwork, bonus tracks, autographed, audio lossless, CD, Vinyl) like the NIN model
* Have tons of merchandise for fans to choose from and pay for online.
* Open a CafePress store and let fans design and choose their own items.

April 7 | Unregistered CommenterSethalicious

Hey Derek,

I've thought about the same thing plenty of times before. The example that always comes to mind is a laundromat that can only make so much money (quarters..) in a day's span. Allowing the option for more gives you that added incentive to succeed!

Here's a couple more suggestions off the top of my head:

-elevator music/music in different business settings. Muzak and others specialize in this specific market
-Different Social network music sites such as AmieStreet & Ourstage are great outlets that have opened up the door for more and more ATTENTION (--> $$)

April 8 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Wexler

No one seems to be rising to this bait and this is my favourite question so far on here! How about:

Selling your own pdfs of your sheet music - basic arrangements, with chords, for guitar, for piano, all kinds of formats - use Payloadz to sell the downloads and Lulu to pick up the hard copies

Subscribing to work in progress: Superfans can buy a subscription to yet to be released songs and watch them develop as you work on them - you can do this with the upcoming build of Community Builder (Joomla)

You can do all kinds of things if you teach:
Downloadable videos of how to play the songs on guitar, bass etc including how to play the guitar solo etc
Downloadable videos of how you actually mixed the track etc

These can be monetized with ads if you use a service like brightcove or metacafe, and these downloads could also be serviced by payloadz as zip files, or even iTunes

You can write songs for fans to the highest bidder using eBay

You can let fans play on your songs, sing backing on your songs also on eBay

Play in peoples front rooms, even do a tour like this - using something like Eventful you can find who wants you to play where and design a tour around it - you get somewhere to stay, as well as a gig, and the opportunity to sell merch an hit local radio

Do one off performances on web cam for fans using a bidding model - highest bid at the end of the month gets the performance - again eBay could be good

Sell BESPOKE merchandising for the fan ONLY - ie have a clip at the front of an mp3 for CD only for the person who bought it - PERSONALISE - for an extra fee

You could do something that horrible tv channels like Bid TV do which is the OPPOSITE of Amie Street - sell songs in batches and start at a higher price which gets lower by the day (no idea how you'd do this!)


April 9 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Moore

For some reason,

While I’m not entirely certain of how to articulate what I’m feeling, the external ponderings of this Blog entry; seems to cycle less around delivering excellent audio-experiences from the creational aspect.

I don’t know that giving the individual buyer’s many choices is all that different from what happens outside the on-line territory, but somehow, giving them the best choice would defeat all things that you won’t (or don’t) have to do altogether.

People will either prefer the music or they won’t within a few clicks – No rocket science required; but the overall transaction?

Is there a preference on this aspect?

Respectfully & Sincerely,

- Ss

All these ideas are very interesting, and I often encourage musicians to go down the path of multi tasking their marketing strategies. But all this work must not bring them further from their real objective: making good music.
Music is in a transition stage for sure, the kind of transition where the artists must make the extra effort to get heard and make a living but if doing so lets them less time to perfect their product, their fan base wont follow.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterGigDoggy

Thanks for this post. I'm tired of all the music marketing information that focuses on bands and touring.
There are lots of people who write songs and teach and have no interest in playing in smoky bars for crappy pay (or free booze).
There is a movement afoot that all digital products should be free. I don't agree with that entirely, but you could do live broadcasts online for teaching an instrument, or performing your songs, or teach how you record using cubase, reason, or charge subscriptions, etc. Of course I haven't gotten this to a sustainable level by any means!

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterWill Kriski

Great ideas Derek/ everyone! I think many younger musicians are clinging to the dream that some label will come along and sign them and then all of their problems will be over. They are completely unaware that the music business is just that - a business and unless you treat it that way, educate yourself, and create passive income streams you will have to give up your precious time for every cent you earn.

I think the Reznor idea is brilliant, but that probably won't work great for a lesser known artist.

I agree a bit with Will K's post above. There are plenty of opportunities to make a living without having to tour if you don't want to. Teaching is definitely a big one, but you also have to be sure to create other income streams so that you don't have always be physically present to get paid. I personally am working on systems so that I can be still deliver quality lessons to my students (and get paid) while I am on vacation.

Again thanks Derek and everyone else. Lots of great stuff to ponder here!

This is great stuff!

The internet makes for a wide variety of options. And this works to the benefit of all independent artists. for a lesser known artist i think applying a multiple purchase options similar to Trent's is something that works on all levels, and is already working for us and we are only using 3 options. We obviously don't make a killing because we are unknown but it allows people to give us the most money or a little money so the listener is always comfortable.

You can set up a a really simple online store with your website using a system like drupal, wordpress, or joomla that make great content management systems.

Keep this Site going, its great.

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterAntony Hollums

this is like saying that most songs that get to number one in the charts are written in C major so all other keys should be abolished.

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterGregg Birch

can I link your article to a NING independent artists site I am part of? I am sure it would benefit many ppl who will come to the site after it is launched

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Russo

Who was this wise man, and why did he make such a stupid analogy
between Pens and Oprah?

Going along with that: If your driving passion in life is to give massages to people and
Oprah somehow got you a waiting list of 10,000 people, then who gives a fuck how much money you COULD be making "while you sleep".

That's 10,000 people willing to pay you for the service that you love to provide.
You'll be so happy to be giving so many massages that money won't even be a concern, unless you are horribly materialistic and don't really enjoy your work. In that case, you should quit being a massage therapist cause your lack of passion and consummation with earning money will only lead to un-fulfillment.

April 23 | Unregistered CommenterEdward

Its all fine and good...sell where u can. If your a musician and that may mean you had to understand technology it doesnt make u a marketer. and thats the "biz' not the art. but if u wanna eat....brush up on the biz bro. let me know when u get it..I could use some help there

August 28 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Vigil

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>