Make more money with music – Steps 7-12

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In "Make more money with music – Steps 1-6," we shared concepts you can employ to buoy your music career and increase the amount of money you earn making music.

Here are another six practices successful musicians know about music income that you can use to make more money with your music and sustain your career.

7. Spend less/make more

No real business will last if it spends more than it makes. This is true whether you run a food truck, a Fortune 100 company, or a music endeavor. One truth we've learned in our interviews and research is that successful artists who make a living off their music are scrappy entrepreneurs. They keep track of what they spend and what they spend it on, they don't spend money when they don't need to, they're prudent with the money they spend when creating their music, and they take deductions to lower their taxes. When it makes business sense, successful musicians spend as little money as possible. With every expenditure, you should ask, "If I spend this dollar, will I at least make $1.01 back?"

8. Build a capable team

Maximize your limited energy and time by building a team to support your music business. Agents and managers might take a cut, but offloading tasks to qualified individuals should provide you more time to create music, pursue licensing opportunities, and increase merch sales. Find business partners you trust – booking agents, publishers, promoters – so you can make more than if you were doing it all yourself. This can help you grow other parts of your music career and focus on creating more great content for your fans while they seek new opportunities for you.

9. Get more from what you already have

You don't always need to produce a new merch item, product, or full-length CD to get more sales. It's also about boosting sales for things you've already created. With the right promotion of a quality video linking directly to a sales page, your CD and download sales can improve. Promotion and marketing are especially useful at generating passive sources of income, as we discussed in our earlier post. For every source of income you have, you should always ask how you might be able to boost it so you can make more.

10. Make decisions based on metrics

When generating promotional ideas for your music and act, it's hard to know where to begin. Our book, The Indie Band Survival Guide, can help you with the activities you need to do to get your music heard, your videos seen, and your band noticed so you can make more money with music. But you need real data and metrics to help you understand how your various marketing initiatives are doing in the real world. Sales numbers for your CDs and downloads are a straightforward example of what to track, but you can also use Facebook demographics, YouTube views, streaming numbers, and tools like NextBigSound to keep track of trends and traffic and get a better handle on how things are going.

Tracking these numbers and statistics also allows you to use A/B testing to try different offers or subject lines and find out which are most effective. It can even help you spot a trend about a particular track that may lead you to try things you wouldn't have thought of. Here's an example: when Beatnik Turtle (our band) noticed our song "Were All These Beer Cans Here Last Night?" had been downloaded 15,000 times, we realized something special was going on. The song is based on a board game from an indie game company, which led us to partnering with them, creating an entire album, and getting into a cross-marketing relationship. We would never have thought of this if we weren't actively reviewing our data, like the MP3 web stats from our website. Real business people take the emotion out of decisions and work off of the raw numbers.

11. Use the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule forms the parameters for the best decisions in business. An example (perhaps even true): 80% of beer sales are made by only 20% of the beer-drinking population. With careful review and analysis, you might find that 80% of your music income is coming from just 20% of your sources. Work to better understand that segment of your audience and refine your offers and how you approach them. These are the best customers to put your energy into. This rule also applies to your marketing, PR, and more. Focus on the items that are working well and see how you can continue to grow those opportunities.

12. Business-to-business or business-to-consumer?

Like many other businesses and service providers in the world, as a musician, you can focus on providing your music and services to businesses (business-to-business, or B-to-B) or directly to consumers (B-to-C). Selling directly to fans is what most musicians focus on, but many of the successful musicians we've studied put a lot of emphasis on selling to other businesses. This can include things like writing and recording music for a business or advertiser, licensing original music to a music supervisor for a film or TV show, or producing and recording other musicians' materials.

As you know, building a fan base is a difficult task that takes a long time to develop. It has a major upside: once you've built your audience, it not only can sustain you, but other people and businesses will pay you for access through advertising, sponsorships, partnerships, and more. Remember, building business relationships requires networking with decision-makers and providing their business something of value.

Read part 1: Make more money with music – Steps 1-6


Billboard magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Together, they’re musicians who are working on their 21st album, authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual For The Do-It-Yourself Musician, 2nd Edition (Macmillan), creators of the 15-hour online course, Making Money With Music (CreativeLive), and regular contributors to Electronic Musician magazine, including the free weekly web column, "The DIY Advisor."