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Going Digital: The New Ways to Earn as a Musician

Last year, it was estimated that a six-month shutdown would cost the music industry more than $10 billion in sponsorships. The pandemic has taken from musicians their very lifeblood: crowds. But in the wake of empty concert halls and vacant bar stools, new avenues of revenue have emerged. If you’re still determined to earn as a musician then it’s time to take some notes.
Building Your Brand
For modern musicians, the digital space is where you live and eat. Learning to navigate social channels and distribute on streaming platforms is key to finding listeners but also for building your brand. With minimal cost and effort, musicians can create a digital presence for themselves that can be used as a first point of contact for agents, publishers, labels and fans. Most artists like to have a central hub to link all their profiles such as LinkTree or a website built through one of the many custom site building tools.
If you’re serious about turning your brand into a business, you should also look into forming a limited liability company (LLC). Forming a registered company is key for musicians who want to save on taxes, cut down on paperwork, and move forward with reduced liability from debt. Depending on where you’re located, the regulations differ. Using a formation service can help you to navigate these and save on hefty lawyer costs - the LLC cost NY is as little as $49 with a site like ZenBusiness.
Endorsement Deals
Once upon a time, endorsement deals were reserved only for the biggest of artists but, since independent music is growing so quickly, companies are more frequently looking to sign young stars early in their careers or to sell their products via micro-influence. That means even for unsigned musicians, there is the possibility of earning through partnerships with companies. To land an endorsement deal, you need to first show that you’re a viable commercial investment for their organization. Yes, your Instagram numbers matter but so does your style, your sound and your potential.
Involving yourself with a company is no small undertaking and getting the attention of companies will require the building of a one-sheet. This online document contains your bio, genre, links and images. Then you’ll have to network via social channels to get the attention of company representatives. If you can get to the deal stage, make sure to do your research or work with a music manager to help iron out administrative processes, promotional material and fair splits.
Publishing Deals
For some artists, the dream is a paid contract songwriting for a major publishing company. A publishing deal refers to the assignment of some ownership of your songs to a company in exchange for a share of the royalties generated. This can represent a great deal for the songwriter because although you may be able to write a true zinger, you may not be so well equipped at marketing, distributing or even performing the track. These deals can provide lucrative income and will help link you to major players in the industry.
The flip side to many publishing deals is that the draw and demo budgets work like loans. This means that the cost of paying for the recording is recouped through royalties by the publisher. Your track will have to find some success in order for you to actually earn from it. Music software company Output notes it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the different types of deals commonly practiced in the industry.
The above represents just a few ways to earn without ever stepping foot on a stage. Remember, the digital space has all but eliminated the constraints of physical distance - if you can work the virtual crowd, you’ll always have an audience with influential people working in the field.
Are you in the New York area looking to improve your instrumental abilities? Sign up and receive professional instruction at www.millerschoolofmusic.net.
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Article by Charles Carpenter