02 Jun Scalable Music Income In The Streaming Age
A visible pattern in the habits of wealthy people is that they showcase the premium our society places on speed and efficiency.
There are only 24 hours in a day, whether you build luxury cars on the factory line, or are being chauffeured through rush hour traffic in one. So then, if someone has the financial means to not have to spend time on a task they resent, they will do it. From offering the neighbour’s kid a couple bucks to mow your lawn, to hiring a professional accountant to do your taxes, to paying extra for a theme park’s deluxe pass that lets you skip the roller-coaster lineups, this trading of time takes place everywhere you look.
The same absolutely holds true in music careers, and is facing issues due to the overall lack of money in this industry, compared to decades prior. In the days of record sales, scaling a musician’s income was simple: sell more albums. These days, even a million streams can’t pay the bills.
Despite many people (incorrectly) using these two words interchangeably, there is a massive difference between growth and scale.
Growth: A band would need to individually play their parts and sing on each recording to create an album.
Scale: A band goes into the studio once, once the final masters are deemed perfect, the files/disks are duplicated as many times as people wish to purchase them.
Growth signifies that as your income goes up, so do your expenses, as well as the amount of time and energy required from you. No matter how talented and in-demand a session drummer is, he can only physically play on so many studio records. An artist manager can only manage so many artists at once while still offering care in her work. A songwriter may not be able to keep up with popular demand from vocalists without his song quality suffering, or starting the sound the same as previous compositions. Growth is good at first, but if your calendar is consistently overstuffed and you need to start turning down offers, that’s a lot of income you’re leaving on the table, and it is now time to scale.
Scaling means that you are able to offer the same experience to more people, without sacrificing quality or needing to figure out how to be in two places at once. In the digital age, many forms of scaling your music business come in the form of passive income as well.
Scaling strategies for musicians:
Play larger venues. Don’t get me wrong, developing a reputation for consistently selling out your shows is great. However, it could also mean that you’ve outgrown these familiar 100-cap bars, and it’s time to try somewhere a little bit bigger (no, not a stadium).
Sell digital merch. Lugging physical merch around from show to show is worthy of applause in itself, don’t get me wrong. But if you’ve got fans from all over the world who are hesitating on purchasing physical merchandise from you due to shipping costs, maybe it’s time to look at things you can create once, and then duplicate to the heart’s content of your fans. The session drummer from an earlier example might look into creating pre-recorded sample packs of his playing, then sell the .wav files to bedroom producers without the set-up or skills to record quality drums themselves. A solo artist might start a subscription fan club, where rough works in progress and old content is rebranded as “exclusive.” A songwriter could write an e-book.
Scaling strategies for music business owners:
Have you considered a tier strategy for your services offered? The main philosophy is that the top tier stays exclusive and high quality, building the brand for others to buy into the low tier, impersonal stuff.
For example, the highest, most expensive and exclusive tier would be one-on-one services, such as artist management, life coaching, etc. The middle tier would be comprised of short-term, quality products and services, such as bio writing, advice on this very defined issue, etc. Finally, the lowest, most accessible tier would be where the scalable pre-made products are. These could be books, online courses or access to webinars.
No matter where you are in your career, scaling your talents to some forms of passive income is an idea worth entertaining. Now, go be an awesome part of the entertainment business.