How to make money with music?

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Can you still make a living with music?

Fact: it’s getting harder and harder to make a living in music. Music is almost for free everywhere, YouTube, Spotify, Deezer .. your kids never, ever will pay for a song.. that’s old school.. music is for free in the minds of the young.. Nobody will be able to return to the old times. 

Money and “ a living” can only be made in other ways, not by selling tracks anymore.
Sure there is iTunes and it will be there for as while but since artists put their music on YouTube themselves and the majority of the people, esp. young people, are online 24 hours a day, sales will go down there also. It’s just a matter of time imo.
My own kids tell me: “dad, why should we pay for a song?, it’s for free on YT”!

Let’s talk about selling music, songs.
Here are some financial facts:
The Guardian march 2015:

Daft Punk’s Get Lucky was streamed 78.6 million times through its Play 50 chart, earning up to £660,000, which would be split between record label, publishers, collecting societies and the French duo.

A recorddeal is 360 degrees these days meaning that record companies want a share of everything an artist earns money with. These companies cannot live of sales anymore so they have to.
Artists with record deals get between 19% and 24 % depending on the deal they made.
So, even a worldwide hit does not make you rich as you can see in the above example. Not with streams anyway.

The Guardian:
Spotify says that its average payout for a stream to labels and publishers is between $0.006 and $0.0084 but “Information Is Beautiful” suggests that the average payment to an artist from the label portion of that is $0.001128 – this being what a signed artist receives after the label’s share.

You do the math…

First this:

YouTube is a great place to build a brand but a bad place to build a business!

This is a great quote and very true, anybody can use YT to become famous or sell his product. But, there is little money to be made!

You would need 1,000.000 views to earn 2,000 dollars.
But then you have to pay taxes and your costs for making the vids and music. And signed artists need to share with record company and publishing.

Spotify then…..

Spotify has 15 million paying customers and 60 million users overall. These 45 million free users take the ads for granted. Nobody really knows how much Spotify makes on these ads.
To make minimum wages meaning 1200 dollars a month a signed artist needs 1,117,021 streams and an unsigned artist needs 230,326 plays.


Here is a clearer view of what earnings are on Spotify and YouTube:

Plays Per play Total
Spotify to Performer / Master rights 1,000,000 0.00521 $ 5,210.00
Spotify to Songwriters / Publishers the same million as above 0.000521 $ 521.00
YouTube to Performer / Master rights 1,000,000 0.00175 $ 1,750.00
YouTube CSM master / recording (Ad Rev) 1,000,000 0.00032 $ 321.00
source: thetrichordist 

Adding more subscribers, also adds more plays which means that there is less paid per play as the service scales in size.

Meaning that Spotify and YT  retains it’s margin, while the artists margin is reduced!


In the above example the 3,000,000 plays ad up to $ 7,802.00 total revenue

You can make the same amount by selling 1125 albums on iTunes….

(However, if you were to sell 3,000,000 tracks on iTunes you would earn 2,100,000 dollars!.. but these days are gone..)


A couple of years ago most people thought that the Internet would bring a whole new middle class of independent artists, composers, painters, musicians, creative people, etc…
But, it actually brought us a whole generation of amateurs, hobbyists and semi-pro’s.
Only the big companies like Apple, Spotify, Google and YouTube make serious money. The artists are poorer than ever… That’s just the plain truth.


So, what can you do as an artist, a songwriter, a band that writes it’s own material? How would you be able to make a decent living?

Here are the answers:

1 Be on the radio all day and be on all radio’s worldwide.
That would bring you loads of royalty money… but.. it would take a while getting it. Somewhere
between 1 and 3 years. And, you would have to share with publishing, record company and collecting societies like ASCAP.
Most of the time you will only get on national or international radio when you’re a signed artist though! That’s the way most radio stations work, they get new music from record companies promoting new artists. So you need a deal first..

2 Gigs! Play live, play, play, play.. play as much as you can and ask decent or big amounts for your
live appearance. That’s what all the big acts are doing. They tour and earn much money with it.
That’s why all the old acts are touring again also. No more sales so they have to.
Built a loyal following and keep on playing and touring….
(Coldplay costs 1 million for a show!!!!)

But to be honest.. do these above answers really apply to you? If you’re a songwriter or composer but not a performer you won’t make money by playing live. And the only way to earn royalties would be to write a hitsong.
My guess is that for most musicians, composers, songwriters and bands the above answers would probably not apply…

So what’s my answer? What’s my solution? What can you do to make a decent living?
What can you do to make a life for your family and yourself with your own music?
I’m not saying to give up on all your goals. Do try to write a worldwide hit, be on every radio station, play gigs everywhere, be a filmcomposer…. but i am suggesting that you should learn more about the market and where the money is.. and take advantage of this knowledge.

So, again.. what can you do to make a decent living or even a great living with your music?

The answer is:

Go Corporate!

Films, tv series, commercials, games, corporates, brands, events, products, launches… they all need good and great music!
They need songs that are the same quality as the ones that are played on your radio, they need great orchestral music that’s just as good as the music in movies, they need dubstep, rock, singer-songwriter songs you name it.. There is a market and this market pays well! This market needs music!
Don’t think this is an easy market though! The stockmusic days are long behind us. You need to be good! Don’t think that these media composers only do 10 second jingles or 20 second commercials. These people, the clients and brands really need top notch tracks and real music! Music that is now, music that rocks… It needs to be up with the best. It needs to be like the music your clients listen to in their car. These brands work hard and spend a fortune on developing their products, so the music for these products needs to be great too.
They need epic tracks, instrumentals and songs in all styles from dramatic to dance and from rock to singer-songwriter.

There are 2 ways to make a great income with your music in the corporate way:
1 Write directly for brands or via event and advertising agencies. It will get you paid for your writing and use of music.
2 Synching.
Synch your music to tv series, films, commercials. It will pay you license money and royalties.

Questions you now might have:

Can i do this too?
How do i get clients?
How do i write for such a client?
How much time do i have when i get a composing job?
How much money can i ask?
How does it work with music rights?
How do i get synched?
Is my music good enough?
What kind of music do they need?
I don’t have clients, what am i doing wrong?
Can i make money too? And how can i make money too?
What should i be able to do musically?
What does a brand like BMW really want?
How does working with film or ballet, or a choreographer or advertising and event agencies go?
What should i know to pull it off? What’s it like?