Everyday, I work with singers, songwriters, musicians, beat producers… And they all want to sell their music all over the world.
For this, they pay a distributor like CDBaby and sell it on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Rhapsody and other big platforms.
The thing is that when you ask them the question “How much do you expect to make from it?”, the answer is always “Not much.”.
This answer comes from the fact that musicians, singers and artists have zero idea of what they are doing when it comes to selling their music, just because this has never been their focus.
Musicians never sold Music. Businessmen sold Music.
When the Radio was invented, a few years later, stations were airing songs from different artists signed with labels.
Do you think that these artists were paid for airing it on radio? No.
As a matter of fact, majors rushed to have their singers and bands sign contracts, prohibiting them to distribute their music on radio because sales were dropping for labels, due to the fact that people could hear it for free.
Businessmen were in control on both sides. Artists pretty much had to shut it and keep going.
The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 required manufacturers of digital recorders to pay a 2 percent royalty rate to copyright holders (the majors) to compensate for the ease of piracy that digital recording allows. In addition, digital audio recording devices are required to include a device that prohibits serial copying.
In 1993, the music industry filed one of the first lawsuits challenging digital technology. Frank Music Corp. filed a suit against the online service CompuServe on behalf of the more than 140 music publishers of the Harry Fox Agency. The suit argued that CompuServe’s music forum allowed users to download music files without the consent of the copyright owners. The suit is settled in 1995, when CompuServe pays the Harry Fox Agency more than $600 per song allegedly infringed.
In 1998, the RIAA filed against the Rio MP3 player manufacturer, Diamond Multimedia, stating that the MP3 player does not contain the prohibitive device required by the Act of 1992 and therefore cannot be distributed. The case brings to light the fact that the wording of the act limits the requirement to digital audio recording devices that can accept input from a consumer-electronics device such as a stereo. The Rio, designed to record audio from a computer, which is not categorized as a consumer-electronic, is exempted.
Until then, those battles are systematically made by businessmen and majors while artists can’t do anything but to follow how things get distributed.
More recently, Spotify came in the game. Artists decided to rush on it in order to have their music on the app, hoping they could grab some money at the same time.
The truth is that labels and majors have deals with spotify where signed artists don’t touch anything since their sales are based on record sales.
But we don’t produce CDs anymore, let alone CD players.
Musicians are left alone, one more time, facing their own strategies that they in fact never had.
This time, businessmen are running the game with insane deals and artists can only follow up with the new technologies and adapt with what they have and can do.
If they want to survive, they will need to learn some business techniques, starting by self branding and how to promote their own brand, just like a business.
Think like an artist, act like a businessman.