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There is no money in the music industry: Are we all in it for the money though!?

It is a cold Tuesday morning here in NYC and on the typical walk from LES to Chelsea I notice all the boys and girls in their fancy suits and dresses. Money is evidently a huge motivator for people, the root of all evil some will tell you. It got me sighing - if only music was still swimming in pools of cash. But I am comfortable with that. My motivator is the challenges this industry faces. I love a challenge. So I think, is less money maybe a good thing?

Everyone moans there is no money in the music industry. I am one of them. I understand the problems that come from this; less money to reinvest in new artists, less risk-taking for new music, less money for artists’ creativity and intellectual property etc. Everyone needs a pay cheque and rightly so. How much of a pay cheque do we really need to do our dream jobs though?

This could be a great thing for the industry. A chance to take the trash out. The majors are suffering due to lacking any entrepreneurial intelligence, trying to acknowledge the social movements happening on the ground or having foresight.

The same goes with artists too. I went to Philadelphia last month to consult a band which was doing stadium tours and rocking #1 hits back in ‘05 and now playing to 40 people in 2k capacity venues. They bitched about not having enough money to record some new tracks, produce their old ones and to promote their latest album - something I could sympathize with if it wasn’t for the $1m bus they were pouring out these words from. Oh and the 600k+ advance blown away. The whole industry needs to smarten up.

I am loving the music industry personally. The days of writing a good track and sitting on your arse are over. There is still so much possibilities thanks to the internet. Artists do not have to do 360 deals, they don’t even really need record labels anymore. Yes, ten years ago a band could only get as big as a particular region or maybe a college network. They needed a label to get their music heard and distributed, they needed a label for national success. Not anymore though.

From the rubble now emerges a new media elite. Tech-savvy, passionate and enthusiastic. I am excited for music. This is a new era with more possibilities and opportunities than ever! Albums don’t make money any more, but then again there are more faces to music than just a disc with some songs.

How about the live sector, how about merchandise, how about licensing? We have been dwelling over what music once was for so long, its time we start moving forward.

Shea Warnes - -

Reader Comments (8)

Things are happening, tech-savvy, passionate and enthusiastic you say.

I add a handful of new music marketing resources, forums, blogs, the rest to my bookmarks every week.

We are working on it.

Just thought i would keep you updated, here is my 2p to 'some' of the current issues Music Marketing Guide called Autonomous Industry.

Its simple, to do is to evolve! With the internet backing us and new communication practices, those who do will prosper in their own way!

Nice to hear your thoughts Shea, keep it up.

November 8 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Great article. It's really up to individuals and collectives to pool their ideas and talents together to come up with something new and even more awesome than the old music model. Definitely going ot be a fun and inspiring era for the music industry.

November 10 | Registered CommenterNoah Lampert

loved it! as a new addition to the music industry it was a great advice piece!

November 14 | Registered Commenteramanda green

Great post..

Unfortunately I feel the real loser is the music lover.

In our attempt to adapt to the ever changing landscape of the music business, I wish there wasn’t this growing theme that musicians need to step up and be smart about marketing.

I really think the best music (meaning important records that will be around a while) happens when musicians are afforded the time to do their art.

I’ve worked with a lot of artists with and without money. From a producers prospective; you make better records when you’re not starting a recording session after already working a ten hour day. No matter how romantic that may seem.

I tell young artists to do what it takes to be a great artist and make sure your records and your show are mind blowing. Then the people that are good at marketing and playing on the internet will come out of the woodwork to help you.

November 29 | Unregistered Commenterdanny bernini

Danny, you're right.

But elsewhere on this site it's been agreed that they/we are no longer musicians, but Media Portfolio Managers.

Exciting? Sitting in front of this thing for hours on end? Getting less money than a call center worker to do the same thing? Exciting times, like the moment just before the recession kicks in and you celebrate just the fact that something is happening outside of the ordinary.

Exciting, like the Indian summer before the first, Great War kicked off, when young men dreamt of glory, not gory.

Exciting, like buying candles when I was a kid, ready for the blackout.

Still excited, when .com is in place, store on site, self funded gigs booked, FB page with 200 likes, self funded recording available online, self funded video (shot in daylight, to save on lighting hire) up on youtube (500 hits - woo!); google tells you you're on 3 blogs and someone has taken the trouble to make your music available for free; still exciting when you get the bill for the T's and hoodies you MUST sell or you can't pay back your mum; still excited when you head back to university to take a degree in something, anything, because there's no money in pop music for the likes of you - self funded, hard working, tech savvy, young and knackered Media Portfolio Manager.

The romance is killing you.

November 30 | Registered CommenterTim London


This article is incredibly unprofessional. There are errors in it and swear words. I can't take it seriously.

December 16 | Unregistered CommenterPATRIC

A valiant effort to try shine a light in a very dark place, but it just doesn't cut the mustard I'm afraid. A few posters above have really hit the nail on the head regarding the reality of music in the year 2014. It's very sad and exhaustingly depressing, and a transition I have personally had to go through myself. When I hit that sweet spot of writing that should really have taken me to the next level, the arse of the music industry was dropping like a sparrow with the shits. Bad timing is really all I put it down to, because it certainly had nothing to do with the content or calibre of song. I still write and play today, but I am abundantly aware that I have to put many more irons in the fire where a future career is concerned, and so a standard Monday to Friday work week, accompanied by recording on weekends is the only option.
I do not want to reach the age of 65 with no money, no career and poor health. The romance I have shared with music isn’t going to be reciprocated when I am ageing and penniless. I suppose many romantics would also then embrace the ageing and penniless image to round of the perfectly formed artistic circle of having fought and suffered for what they truly believe it.
That’s absolutely fine, but immeasurably impractical and somewhat prideful.
As far as I can see, any money made in music will come from live gigs, but wait….before you start getting excited; there’s a catch. As long as I have been in music there have always been middle men. Middle men are as crafty as they come. If they were to be illustrated in an animation they would be the agile, jumpy little character who whispers in one ear and stabs you with pin in the other. Being a middle man is an art in its own right. Middle men are never exceptional at the medium that they facilitate, but possess the wonderful ability to get a cemented on the threshold to the door way you need to pass through. Quite simply put, it’s extremely difficult for an artist to get from hypothetical point A to hypothetical point B without going through the middleman blocking the door.
I can only speak about London uk when I say that getting a gig on a weekend night at a hot spot venue in central London where you are bound to be playing to 50 - 300 people is virtually impossible unless you have a contact. That contact is the middle man who has formed a relationship with the venue. He’s really only going to let in bands who will bring him and the venue money, and so you have this crafty (evil) setup where the band have to sell X amount of tickets before they even get paid. I have even seen cases where bands have owed the promoter money for not selling enough tickets. Crazy Crazy setup going on here kids…
I won’t rant too much about that because I think we can all agree that what they are doing is just plain wrong. Even the opportunity to earn money at a live venue is being squeezed by non-musical middle men. I feel that the small amount of money that is available in the music industry is being grabbed by people who can grab it – and it leaves nothing to the artist.
Talk about a topsy-turvy upside-down setup.
You want to make even a small bit of money in music, here’s my two-pence. Pick 10 venues across a city or two. Make sure the venues have a live performance reputation and a nice bit of history. Make sure these places tend to attract music lovers who get excited when they hear an excellent act.

Get to know the venue owners of all 10 venues very well to the point where you are promised 1 weekend gig every 6 weeks….and I’m not including Sunday in that. It’s gotta be a Friday or Saturday night and you gotta have a slot at approximately 10pm onward so you have 45 minutes of prime to completely disintegrate your watchers. Get the rolling effect going so you have regular slots across a healthy cross section of venues for 12 months.
If your live performance is mind blowing and you support it with freebies like E.Ps, Flyers and Promotional material, people will become your extended sales force. Punters who enjoyed your gig 6 weeks previously will welcome the advertisement poster announcing you will be playing again; entrance fee £7.00. You get where this is going….baby steps…snow ball….branch out….

I know….lots of ideals, what ifs, maybes and luck all tied up into one big bunch of clever networking; but that’s where it’s at. The neck of the bottle is getting thinner and thinner, and you have to choose a savvy approach so that you are one of the bands that manage to escape the bottle. You have to create for yourself the scenario where your listeners are your extended sales force.
The number one challenge is to convince 10 venue owers it is worth their while giving you a hotspot weekend gig every 6 weeks

April 30 | Unregistered CommenterAidan, London

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