Regardless of how much you make music for the "love of art," you release it publicly because you want to make money from it. A big part of declining music sales can be attributed to the availability of music for free. In the last 15+ years the idea that you should build anticipation for your album by giving music away has run rampant. You must always set the expectation that your music is for sell. And when it isn't you have to make a way to generate income.
Rule 1: Give the consumer the option.
Some people would buy your mixtape even though it's free if they had an opportunity to. Print physical copies and take them to local stores to be sold. Also make them available on digital stores for those your may not be able to reach with a physical.
Rule 2: Merchandise
Much like making CDs to sell or even give away, having merchandise can help in several ways. If you sell the items they are automatically an advertisement for you, spreading awareness of your project. Depending on what types of items you create this can be costly up front but if properly executed the money will make itself back and then some. Also, if the music is given in a package with the merchandise you can possibly count those as album sales.
Rule 3: Register Your Music
A lot of money an artist, especially an independent, makes could come from spins, streams and views. You must join one of the performance rights organizations in order to get paid. Even if you aren't getting radio play but your music is being played on other outlets registered for licensing be it online or TV. you can make money. If you don't have an affiliation with one of the performance rights groups, you won't be paid.
Rule 4: Placements
Long before you break out as a star you can get big checks by having your music on movies, TV. video games, & more. The easiest way to accomplish this is having an agent. They can get your music to the music directors for other media outlets and shop for placements. With placement on less traditional outlets you can reach more people organically and make money at the same time without as much legwork.
Rule 5: Features
Once you build enough momentum and become in demand, you can start charging for feature verses on other artists' songs. Much like the other rules these guest appearances expand your brand and make you money. Unlike some of the others this usually won't cost you anything.
With so many online outlets giving away music, artists have conformed. When mixtape started out, as a tool to expose an artist it was usually full of remixes to already popular songs and only a few originals. Now what would have been an album in the golden era and sold commercially is free to anyone interested in it. Some artists have given away more much than they even have available to buy. To offset the low sales artists branch off into other revenue streams as discussed in these steps and more.
Written by Karyn Shanks (@MeanGirlzMedia) for The College of Hip Hop
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