Things are tough out there.
There are still many ways to make money as a musician, but if you aren’t proactive and innovative in your approach, you could easily find yourself without sufficient income to sustain your art.
To avoid this situation, you should educate yourself on the various income streams available – not just those that are obvious, like live performance and streaming royalties, but also those that are less obvious, like blogging or affiliate marketing.
Why? As you learn about some of the headlines that have been popping up – not just on music sites, but also on publications like Forbes – you’ll see why. Let’s have a look.
If after reading this you want to learn about some of the best ways to monetize your music career, you should definitely check out The IMA Music Business Academy.
BandPage Got Swallowed Up By YouTube
If you were an active user of BandPage, then you already know – they were acquired by YouTube, and since March 2017, they’ve been revamping their platform.
If you’ve never heard of BandPage, it was effectively a tool that allowed you to share your songs, photos, videos, and touring schedule on Facebook. It was the go-to Facebook app for musicians, but even more than that, it helped you get your information out to many sites. You could get your tour dates on lyric sites, for instance.
Now, before you get excited about Google owning BandPage, let me remind you that YouTube takes a 45% cut of advertising on your videos. So, if you were making $5,000 gross, you would be making $2,250 net. You can see why Jack Conte started Patreon. YouTube has also been in the news recently, and apparently, they’ve been exploiting legal loopholes to pay artists poorly.
Ultimately, this could still go either way. BandPage could improve as result of collaborating with YouTube. But it also might not reclaim its former glory.
Does this change represent a major loss for musicians? That depends on who you ask. What I will say is this – both social media platforms and tools will continue to change.
It’s fun to be on the cutting-edge of social media, because being first to a platform can have its advantages. But as we’re seeing from this example, that rug can be pulled out from under you, just like that.
So, if your traffic and audience-building strategy isn’t diversified, you could find it difficult to recover from a loss like this (remember Vine?).
Becoming too reliant on any tool can be a problem.
Microsoft Groove Music Isn’t Paying $4 Per Stream Anymore
That is, of course, if they ever were. I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting myself, and my reports do show a higher payout from Groove compared to other streaming platforms. But never have I seen numbers as high as $4 per stream. If you can get your fans to stream you on Groove versus other sites, though, that is the best bang for your buck.
If you hadn’t noticed, there was a bit of a stir on Digital Music News about this last summer.
If you’ve never heard of Groove Music, it’s Microsoft’s music streaming platform. It used to be called Xbox Music (among other things). In the wake of Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, TIDAL, and others, it got overshadowed. Unsurprising.
But reportedly, some labels were seeing an average of $4.67 per stream from Groove in their reports. It’s possible that this was Microsoft’s ploy to attract more artists to their streaming platform, but there’s surprisingly little information out there about this. It may have also been a mistake or a glitch.
There was a follow-up article on the topic that also came out last summer, indicating that you could earn more from streams on Xbox gaming versus streams on the Android or desktop app, though earnings from the apps were still higher than most other streaming sites (I can confirm that much).
Bottom line, it doesn’t matter whether anyone ever got an average of $5 per stream. What matters is that it’s a false economy. I can’t see why Microsoft, or for that matter any streaming platform, would want to sustain something like this over the long haul.
Should artists earn more per stream? There’s no question in my mind. But we can’t count on exploits, glitches, or short-term campaigns to sustain us. Streaming needs to improve as a whole. We need to see all sites adopting a transparent (and potentially uniform) compensation scheme.
Standardization is a bit of a scary word in context of what I’m talking about here, but would it be so bad, especially if it meant that we all got paid 20 to 30 cents per stream or something like that? Maybe I’m dreaming, but that’s what I would like to see happen.
One stream may not equal a digital sale, but you can’t convince me it’s worth less than 1% of song that can sell for 99 cents.
Radio Is Looking To Pay Songwriters Lower Rates
According to an article published on Forbes in November 2016, the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) sued Global Music Rights (GMR) to reduce the amount they’re paying to music composition creators and rights owners.
RMLC claimed that GRM had created an artificial monopoly over works in their catalog.
Sure, but even if RMLC is right, they aren’t the only ones looking to reduce payments to songwriters. Even online companies, visual productions, and smaller bars or restaurants are either lowballing licensing fees or just trying to get away with paying less. Some probably haven’t even purchased their blanket license and are playing music in their venues illegally.
I’m not sure how much money we’re talking about here, and there are a lot of intricacies involved in the amount songwriters are paid, which is a combination of mechanical royalties, performance royalties, and synch fees.
But I also happen to have met Bob Halligan, Jr., who wrote “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” by Judas Priest. He said the royalty checks were “nice, but not enough to pay the bills.” Bob wasn’t complaining or anything, but this says a lot.
To be fair, we’re not talking about the world’s biggest hit. But it was a hit nonetheless.
Are there benefits to being a songwriter? There’s no question. But if someone who wrote a Judas Priest song isn’t making the big bucks in the music industry, who exactly is robbing radio stations of all this money?
I don’t know much about GMR (except that they’re a performance rights organization founded by Irving Azoff), but if they’re working to get songwriters paid more, that’s a good thing. Naturally, commercial radio stations wouldn’t agree with this though.
My point here is that I doubt we’ve heard the end of this. We’re probably going to see more lawsuits and attempts to undercut artists in the future. This is happening under our noses, and if we don’t do anything about it, the suits are going to have the final say.
Music Streaming Is Now Generating More Revenue Than Digital Downloads
The latest data is showing that digital sales in the U.S. peaked in 2012 at just over $3 billion. Last year, in 2016, streaming generated $3.93 billion.
This is great news, right? Well, I don’t see artists celebrating. If anything, they’re more cynical and skeptical than they ever were. Where is all this money going? Not to the artists, apparently.
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