How to start earning money as an independent artist and/or producer

If you are an artist and/or producer that has begun its career within the last 5 years, then I want to congratulate you! Not because you started pursuing your passion (although I do applaud you for doing it), but for stepping up during the golden age of music.

To be more specific: The golden age for the independent artist.

How you feel when you receive 100% of your royalties

How it feels when you get 100% of your royalties

Music has become more widely accessible since the rise of the internet and especially when streaming came around the corner. Before that, music was almost exclusively plugged by radio stations and major record labels.

Which meant that they had a great amount of control over which music did and did not get consumed by the audience. Image how many great talents never have seen the light of day because they never have gotten the chance to prove themselves!

This can be you! Performing on stage.

Luckily for you we are living in 2020 right now, where you can basically become an independent artist and promote your music through the internet and specifically social media. The control that the big record labels, publishers and radio stations have, is becoming less significant by the day.

There are some prime examples like Russ and many others who make a good amount of money off their music and are able to fully live off their income from their catalog.

And you can do this too! The key is to become a real entrepreneur besides being 'just' an artist and/or producer. You need to work on your branding, build a real solid fanbase and have multiple revenue streams. You can still be 'just an artist', but you would need the right people in your team to help you achieve the things I just mentioned.

From my own experience I can tell that, at first, it looks like a big mountain to climb. A super hard challenge, maybe impossible in your mind. But you have to start believing in yourself and start trusting your intuition. Your gut feeling.

(side note: success is not correlated with IQ, you don’t need a college degree to become successful in life. It is all about the mindset and how you overcome setbacks!)

Becoming a successful independent artist and/or producer (or successful in general) comes down to 2 fundamentals:

1. You have to accept that you don’t know everything, so you have to find people around you who do have certain knowledge OR you have to learn stuff yourself (you can literally learn everything on the internet if you look in the right places). As the saying goes: You don't know, what you don't know!

2. You need to have a strong mindset and will. Start developing a positive self-image. There are some excellent books out there that can help you build up your confidence (reach out to me for my book list).
If you are able to deal well with setbacks and you don't take no for an answer, then you will find a way to make it work!

I won’t go into detail on number 2 in this post, but I will help you start with number 1.

Here are some things to consider if you want to earn money as an independent artist/producer:

Make sure you sign up with a “Performance Rights Organisation” (a.k.a. PRO) within the country that you live in. In the US the most prominent ones are ASCAP & BMI (you have to choose 1) and where I come from (The Netherlands) you have Buma/Stemra, but also Sena and Norma (each has his own set of rights that they cover). These PRO’s basically collect the royalties for copyright holders (which is you as an artist or producer), so make sure you are signed up with them and that you have your music registered with them so that they can collect your hard earned money for you. There is a lot of great information on the internet regarding how PRO’s work and how to sign up so don’t hesitate to Google around.

You can distribute your music across different streaming platforms with independent distribution services such as Distrokid for only $19.99 per year (7% discount with the link provided) and will give you the ability to upload unlimited amounts of songs and albums. Make sure your audience can reach your music by distributing it through these streaming platforms!

Look into publishing and maybe get a (admin pub) deal for your music. Keep in mind: You can be your own publisher and keep 100% of the publishing! But know that publishers are there for a reason. If you are independent, an Admin Pub Deal could be interesting. This is a deal where they solely collect your publishing and don’t do anything else for you. This will result in a higher % of publishing for yourself. In some scenarios a full pub deal can be a good thing, but be very careful and always talk to a lawyer. I am personally a big fan of SongTrust.

Try to build a team around you that aligns with your vision as an artist: Find producers with a similar work ethic and mindset as you and (if you need help with the business side of things) you can find a manager to help you out.

Start working on your brand as soon as possible! With social media being so saturated with so many people to follow, and such a low attention span from followers, you need to stand out with a consistent message and image that you are trying to spread. Don’t try to be something you’re not and be as authentic as possible and match your message with what is close to you as a person!

Build different income streams by (for example) start selling merchandise, doing shows, offering unique limited-time offers to those die-hard fans, you name it. It is as limited as your imagination allows you to!

The distributor I use for my music: Distrokid

I really hope this post will help you kickstart your career as an independent artist!

Have a great day!

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