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Today, indie and DIY artists have the potential to bring in more money than ever before, but sometimes all the potential revenue sources can be overwhelming and difficult to manage.  This article describes the three most profitable revenue sources for indie musicians.

1) YouTube

Complain all you want about musicians making YouTube covers and goofy videos instead of being “serious”. The reality is many of them make a good living from this. Costs are minimal compared to professional studio time. Distribution costs are near zero. The casualness of the content also allows for more rapid creation than one might find for “official” recorded work.

Companies such as Maker Studios and Big Fra.me have grown to help these artists monetize their music with better-leveraged ad rates, production assistance, and channel cross-promotion. Once ramped up with a lot of content, successful artists in this area can clear mid-to-high five figures in revenue. Since they are often solo artists, they also don’t have to split it up much.

To find out the other two revenue streams, visit Music Think Tank.

This guy is always so over the top, but he delivers the message.

“What happens when the labels stop paying an advance?

You know that’s gonna happen. With such limited revenue from recorded music, no one’s going to pay you a fortune to make it. There’s no incentive. Live Nation might pay you a fortune to TOUR, but who, in their right mind, is going to pay you a few hundred k when the only thing selling is singles? Hell, not one album released this year has yet gone PLATINUM! Do you expect Universal to be ponying up millions of dollars in the future?

Don’t be surprised if the major labels morph into management companies. In a way, they already have. That’s what a 360 deal is. That’s what the manager has ALWAYS had, a share in all revenue streams. You only get paid if there’s success. Are the majors going to follow this paradigm?

Of course, there could be a bidding war, generating large advances, but Live Nation/Ticketmaster is always going to win that one. Until the majors merge with a touring company, they’re fucked, they just don’t have enough to offer, their costs are too high, their margins too thin. If I were a major, I’d be calling Jerry and Arny, maybe even Seth right now. After calling Phil Anschutz, of course. In order to survive, labels have to play in the touring arena.

But the foregoing is all about money. Don’t you realize that’s what the album was about, money? That’s how you got paid, by delivering an album. Of course the public didn’t know this, but this was the game for eons. Sure, the Beatles made a STATEMENT with “Sgt. Pepper”, but Capitol was more interested in the revenue. Selling 33’s was much more profitable than selling 45’s. And the high-priced/low royalty CD was even more of a moneymaker than the LP record. That’s how we got here. Pure greed, not artistry.

If you want to record a full-length statement, be my guest. I see nothing wrong with that. But are you really interested in laying down ten tracks on wax if you’re not going to trigger a payment?

Please don’t be blinded by history. If your goal is to make money, and seemingly everybody e-mailing me is focused on bucks, how are you going to make money in the future? I’ll tell you. The public is your bank. And people don’t pay solely for recorded music, they may not pay for recorded music at all. How are you going to get paid?

By building an audience.

An album’s worth of material usually does not build an audience. A TRACK builds an audience. If you’re a career artist, people will want more tracks. But only if they’re good.

So the focus is no longer on cutting ten songs, but cutting GOOD songs! There’s an unlimited audience for GREAT songs. Still, how do you nurture your audience?

Playing every night in a single town is not going to build heat. You’ve got to go away for a while to increase demand. But you can’t go away for TOO LONG or you’ll be forgotten. Same deal with music. How do you deliver enough to keep people interested, but not too much to overload them?

DON’T tell me how much you love albums. That’s like labels saying no one will ever download music from the Internet. The album is history, you just don’t know it yet. STATEMENTS are not history, but are you really making a statement?

Innovate in the new sphere.

If U2 weren’t getting paid by Universal upon delivery of an album, they’d be better off releasing tracks in fits and starts. You get continuous publicity. AND, the way they just did it didn’t work, the album’s sales are small. Imagine going on Letterman EVERY MONTH, not for a week straight. BUILDING, instead of blowing your wad.

Imagine rewarding a fan who buys all ten tracks over the course of months. Maybe buying all ten delivers a code that allows you to purchase guaranteed good seats at the pre-sale. Maybe there’s a quiz regarding the content that allows people to qualify.

Maybe when you do that commercial endorsement, the reward is someone can go to the company’s Website and download YOUR NEW SONG! The insta-collection of ten tracks is no longer the starting point, rather you dole out your tracks in drips and drabs, making each release a minor marketing event, that keeps people interested, that keeps them going to the show.

If you’re a star, maybe you announce that you’re going to play the new track at the top of every show. And maybe then not again for a YEAR! So you’ve got to download to be familiar, and come if you want to hear it live. Don’t you see? Giving up the album delivers FREEDOM!

No one says a fan can’t create a playlist of ten tracks that he plays ad infinitum. Maybe the fan creates the album, and posts it to your Website, delineating why he picked this running order, imploring you to play these tracks in this order live. Hell, if the album were such a defined success, how come almost no act plays their latest opus straight through at a gig? BECAUSE ALMOST NO ONE CARES!

People don’t know the music. They want to hear some old stuff too. Just like you do when you make an iTunes playlist. You mix it up. Why shouldn’t the artist mix it up?

As for Record Store Day… How laughable is that. If you’re salivating over this, you’re living in 1990, and hoping we go back to 1970. Record stores are dead. As dead as your Apple II. Some will survive, as dealers in antiquities and tchotchkes, but essentially everyone will buy online.

Point being, how can you lambaste Doug Morris for missing the digital revolution when you too are stuck in the past?

People only want to hear good music. On demand. This has decimated radio. But the album went first. We’re just feeling the full effect now. And it’s only going to get worse.

Newspapers saw a crisis coming. But they figured it was always in the future. That crisis is now. Newspapers will probably not survive. I get three a day. But I know the paradigm is history. I lament the loss, but look forward to the future, wherein more people report upon more stories in a constant 24 hour news cycle.

You too should look to the future. Not one in which you deliver product to get paid by a middleman, but one in which you and your handlers are all in it together, and you build an audience fan by fan, which lasts. Toyotas were a joke in 1970. Now GM is a joke. Toyota built its brand based on reliability, word of which was spread slowly from mouth to mouth. Toyota took decades to surpass GM as the largest automobile company in the world, but GM will never regain the crown.

So don’t tell me about ancient paradigms. Please look to the future. It’s coming. It’s about great. Fans want more music by the acts they adore. Release all the live stuff, all the alternative versions. They don’t taint the original, they allow fans to burrow deeper, the revealing of all your warts burnishes your image!

We live in an information society. That’s what your fans want, information. They don’t want a CD dropped every few years with canned hype, they want continuous info. Don’t get locked into the album syndrome. You’re missing the future.”

– From The Lefsetz Letter

If you are into music as a career, you got to watch this.

Narrated by Forest Whitaker, BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES is an unsettling and inspiring look at today’s popular music industry featuring interviews and performances by Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Branford Marsalis and a wide variety of others. The documentary film has built a passionate following as “the most important film a music fan will ever see” (XM Radio) by providing “a balanced overview of the state of the rock scene of America” (WSJ) and adding “passion to the eternal debate about the industry” (NYTimes).

Since its release in November 2006, the film has screened over 200 times in over 130 North American markets with hundreds of additional events anticipated worldwide during 2007. (I wonder how many times this is going to be watched now?)

Use this site to learn more about the film, where you can see it, ways you can own it, and – most importantly – how you can get involved in sharing it with others.

Before the Music Dies

Corey Smith

Bob Lefsetz posted in December about Corey Smith, a fantastic artist who is blazing a new trail through the music business using entirely new ways of thinking.

Corey’s whole business model is based on giving away lots of music for free and building relationships with his fans. Last year he grossed $4.2 million with a team of seven people. He does it primarily through touring and developing seriously close relationship with his fans.

Lefsetz said “Corey was a high school teacher. Playing gigs on the weekend. Marty Winsch (now his manager) was booking a venue. Was there any way to make headway, for Corey to support his wife and two kids playing music?

Absolutely said Marty. But first they had to release the equity in Marty’s recordings. They had to make them free on his site. To everybody.

And it was this giving away of the music that was Corey Smith’s tour support. They didn’t need a nickel from a label or a fat cat. Because once people heard Corey’s music, they had to see him live.

Which they did. In 2007, Corey Smith grossed $1.7 million. This year, not even half a decade into Marty’s management of the act, Corey’s going to gross $4.2 million. Free music built the base. Fan rabidity blew the act up.

You can buy the tracks on iTunes. They’ve sold 420,000 so far. When they experimented last summer, and took the free tracks down from Corey’s site, iTunes sales went DOWN! So, they put the free tracks back up. Actually, people e-mail Marty every day, asking for a track. AND HE JUST E-MAILS THE SONG BACK!

Not everybody’s ready to commit right up front. The free music allows people to try Corey out.

They don’t want radio play. They gave a station in a city sixty tickets to give away, but only on the condition that they DIDN’T play the songs. Marty wants people to experience Corey Smith live. That’s where it happens.

And Marty wants it to be easy. So therefore, he sells FIVE DOLLAR TICKETS! Yes, he rewards fans. Tickets are CHEAPER on the on sale date. And let me ask you, how many people are going to tell their friends they scored such a deal? And maybe drag them along with! That’s your marketing. Your fan base. It isn’t about hiring a PR firm or using Twitter. Actually, Marty pooh-poohs most technology. He says you’ve got be wary that the technology doesn’t get ahead of, doesn’t overwhelm the act. He doesn’t use Google Analytics to find out where each and every fan is. Marty goes on feel. He, and his uber agent Cass Scripps just go into a new territory, and although the first gig might be soft, the one after that never is. Because Corey delivers.

Actually, that’s important. Marty has tried releasing the equity, giving away the music of other acts. But they haven’t succeeded. Because they’re just not good enough.

If you’re truly good, you don’t need anybody else’s money, your recordings can be your tour support, they can put bodies in the seats, you can build a career.

Whenever anybody e-mails Marty and asks if they can meet Corey, Marty always says YES! He tells them when to show up for the meet and greet. This is the new paradigm. Eliminating the gulf between the act and fan. Trusting your audience. That if you’re damn good, they’ll give you all their money.

You don’t have to play by the old rules. You don’t need any money. You just need good music. And good management.”

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The Future of Music Book

Corey recently gave a lecture at a UGA Music Business class and talked about his philosophy and career. He mentioned that he has been influenced by “The Future of Music” book. Yeah Baby!

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Check out Corey’s Website here and be sure to get one of those $5 tickets to see his live show. This is the future of the music business.