There has been a massive shift in the music business over the past two decades. The powers that be have been persistently resisting this shift to the best of their abilities. But at the end of the day, it is the market that decides. It is the consumer of the music who chose to move from Vinyl to CD, from CD to downloads, and from downloads to streaming. The advances in technology made listening to an endless supply of music on your phone possible, and the people decided to embrace it. So what does the success in the music business in 2018 look like?
Don’t be a victim
I have heard so many musicians and industry people cry about how people don’t pay for music anymore. I understand why they would have felt that way ten years ago, but today? According to Statista, there are 70 million paying Spotify users and another 140 million subscribers, who drive ad revenue. That is over eight billion dollars people spend on music every year! Apple music is not far behind them. They are expected to surpass Spotify this summer. That alone is a massive amount of money people pay for music.
On top of that, people spend money on concert and festival tickets and merchandise. Many artists have turned their merchandise into a brand of its own at this stage. And that is precisely what most independent artists should be doing.
Build a brand
Social media has changed the game. You can not only build following on your chosen social media platform. You can build a tribe of people that want to be part of your journey. And that tribe don’t even need to be crazy big! Check out Kevin Kelly’s fantastic article 1000 true fans.
But even beyond that, if you build a strong personal brand, that people want to follow, those followers become your value. If every time you post something exciting on your Instagram account, 1000 people like it and leave excited comments, that becomes a valuable place for other brands. This is called influencer marketing.
Don’t focus on money, focus on time
The crazy thing is, in 2018 you don’t need to go out and try to sell records. What you need to do is convince people why your music is worth their time. People perceive time more valuable today than ever before. If we don’t like a video after first few seconds, we move on to the next one. It is precisely the same with songs. Why should they listen to your music?
Give people reason to listen
As an artist, we tend to focus on the creative side of the business. I get it, I have been there. But you need to be able to put yourself in the position of your potential fan. Why should they listen to your music? You need to ask yourself this a lot. Are you talking to them? Or maybe about them? If you can make an emotional connection with your listener, you are one step closer to success.
Few year back I built an inner circle on my website, where I shared some very intimate stories about my life with my audience. This resonated strongly with them, and suddenly they felt like they somehow knew me. I had built an emotional connection with them, and by opening up, I had built trust. So when it came a time for me to put out music, they wanted to hear what I had to say.
We all are aware that there is more new music coming out than ever before. So how do we stay in front of people? Put out more content! More engaging social media posts, more pictures, videos, behind the scenes stuff, vlogs, and most of all music and a lot of it.
Make sure your music is everywhere. Use reputable distribution platform like CD Baby, AWAL, Distro Kid… The List is endless. Aris Take blog has a great comparison post HERE. And whatever you do, do not sign away your rights to your music!
Diversify your income streams
In the past musicians made most of their money from record sales, radio play and live shows. Today things are far from black and white. Musicians need to create as many income streams as possible. Distribution from streaming services, YouTube, live shows, merchandise sales, licensing, royalties, online concerts, house concerts, corporate shows, getting your music placed in other YouTubers videos, crowdfunding, Patreon, affiliate marketing through Amazon and other sites, brand placements, endorsement deals… The opportunities are endless. The latest addition to the list is working as a session musician on Melosity.
Play the long game
Be patient. Overnight success in the music business is a rare thing, and usually a result of a lot of major label money. Most of us work years, before seeing success. Have an alternative means of making a living, and work hard on your music evenings and weekends. Commit to doing it for years. If you expect to go from nothing to being a full-time musician in six months, you will be disappointed. Play the long game and you will succeed.