In an article previously featured on Mieux Mag, we told you why you should monetize your music. In this article, we’re going to tell you what to expect when taking these steps in your career.
You can make music for love, or you can make music for money. That choice is a personal one, and depends entirely on the artist. Call it a dream: we all want to make money doing what we love. If you’re a musician—especially a young one doing it on your own—this can be unimaginably difficult.
Music has always been a shared resource: in the 1960s and 70s, we lent each other records, and tapes recorded from the radio; in the 90s we circulated cassette tapes underground; in the 2000s, we went digital with Napster, and sites like Limewire. In the face of all this, young musicians often get lost on the idea of monetizing their music.
“Many independent artists choose to work with a distributor who can make the process of monetizing your music across each platform pretty seamless.”Janette Berrios (Symphonic Distribution)
Monetization means different things. If you post videos on YouTube, it means authorizing, and being paid for, the placement of advertisements on your content. If you record and release your own music, “to monetize your music is to generate revenue from your songs,” says Janette Berrios, the corporate marketing director of Symphonic Distribution. That means building your brand, attracting fans, and selling albums.“When it comes to a distributor being able to help out,” Janette says, “We help in placing the music in 100s of outlets around the world like Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL; help in collecting additional royalties the music is making, and helping monetize it in platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud.”
“There are a lot of different ways to monetize your music.” Janette says. “To name a few: you can do this through a music streaming platform such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, a video platform such as YouTube, or even see if your music qualifies for sync licensing opportunities in films, commercials, and TV shows. Basically spreading it to the world, while collecting every penny your music is making.”
But that old idiom still rings true: it takes money to make money. “The cost to monetize your music will vary depending on the services you use and the platforms you want to monetize on. Some services can be paid for on a flat rate basis while others take a percentage of your earnings—it depends on what services you’re seeking out. Many independent artists choose to work with a distributor who can make the process of monetizing your music across each platform pretty seamless. Symphonic Distribution takes a 15% of the royalties that your music generates.”
Those are the logistics.
But before you get to any of that, the main thing is honesty. You must be honest with yourself. Your music has to be good enough to sell. (Are the songs as good as they can be? How is the recording quality? How are the performances?)
An underdeveloped project isn’t going to sell.
Lock yourself in your apartment (don’t think about the studio right now, that will come later), and study your craft; learn your instrument, wear your voice like the new skin of an old ceremony, write the best songs you can. Get feedback on your material: book shows (get a manager if you can), go—frequently— to open mics, enter music competitions. Do any and everything to get your name out; build your brand.
Create the market before you create the product.
Once your material is polished, and a fan base has been secured, book some time at a cheap (not too cheap; you do still get what you pay for) studio and record the best mixtape you can.
Don’t think you’re going to sell 14 million copies of your first mixtape. Focus on selling one, bask in the temporary euphoria of being an artist paid to work— then sell 200 more.
Music is still a business. It’s up to you to turn your art into an investment.