I’ve gotten into several little discussions this week about why a “musician can’t make any money these days” (says the other side). The reasons are always external, of course.
- “THEY don’t appreciate GOOD music.”
- “My band is great, but there’s a conspiracy against us.”
- “Those idiot frat guys…..”
All that’s fine and I’m not going to argue with that as you can’t logically disprove these claims. I’d imagine all of these issue exist for successful professional musicians, too.
However, according to Forbes, here’s the kind of money the top earning chicks made in 2011 -The Top-Earning Women In Music.
- Lady Gaga $90 million
- Taylor Swift $45 million
- Katy Perry $44 million
If the article only proves one single thing, it’s that SOMEBODY is making money with music (at least as a front) and they did it recently regardless of piracy, “the economy”, and frat guys.
The Magic Formula For Cash In Music
The only thing you have to do to get paid well is make something that will change someone’s life, let them know it exists, and they will toss money your way.
All you need to do is write a song that makes people forget about 99% of their problems, even if for only 2-4 minutes. All you need to do is move people.
1) Present music that will change someone’s life.
2) Let them know it exists
That’s it. We can end the article right now. :p
The Super Shallow One-Genre Sucker
There are little hypotheses that say, “People don’t like my genre”, or “The crowd was there for the other band and didn’t pay attention to us.” With the exception of death metal, I’m of the opinion that notions of adhering to the party line are dead when it comes to musical genre. Is there ANYONE who only listens to one kind of music and is so shallow and uninteresting that they refuse anything different at face value? There aren’t many of these people. Go to any drunken redneck convention of people in their 30s and play Vanilla Ice. They’ll know more words than you do. The world isn’t nearly as divided as we like to pretend. (Don’t get me started on this new country rap business. I wish it was MORE divided. ;))
Strangers At Live Shows
The way I see it, playing a show for people who were there for another band is the entire point of #2. If you aren’t playing your music to strangers, what’s the point? You can con friends into buying your music just because. Most of us don’t have enough friends with $15 to go platinum. At what point of your band’s business plan did you plan on branching out to the global market of people you don’t know? It has to come at some point in the event that you indeed want to make a living out of this music thing.
While cliques that collide at typical local band shows may as well be sporting red and blue bandannas like some kind of Ice Cube movie, it was never made clear to me whether bloods or crypts were allowed to buy Dr. Dre The Chronic in ’93. My guess is that particular hip hop album, which was definitely a game changer in its day, appealed to both sides of a line so divided that they slaughtered one another. Opposing metalhead factions rarely do more than give dirty looks reminiscent of a Reese Witherspoon high school movie.
One hard part with this music gig is in the ages of steam or horses it wasn’t too hard to be the only fish in a small pond. Now there IS only one pond. Kelly Clarkson and Dimmu Borgir are 7 seconds away (depending on if I have to hit the “Skip Ad” button on Youtube). It takes me longer to yawn than it does to hear a song I want to listen to. People have no need to lower their musical standards and settle for the best thing locally when they have their favorite world-wide music a few clicks away.
The Biggest Problem
The problem is the music we make actually has to move people!!! It has to be GREAT and it has to be GREAT to total strangers in different cliques who maybe even listen to different genres. It’s one thing to make a song for our own amusement. It’s one thing for a song to be pretty-damn-good. That’s “Double A ball, boyyy”, says Fog Leghorn/Flava Flave. Why the hell would we listen to a pretty good song in 2012? The “pretty good” song is obsolete. Done. Over. It’s VHS. It doesn’t even make sense. We have access to ANYTHING we want. I’m not listening to pretty good EVER again.
You know the whores that say, “I need a hit.” It was a big thing in late 80s movies (back before Nancy Reagan was victorious in the drug war). I find myself getting stressed throughout the day. The first thing I say when I can feel I’m getting a little crazy is, “I need a fix.” I’d imagine some people reach for Tylenol or whiskey in similar situations. I reach for a song and I need one effective at solving my particular ailment. If that song didn’t solve that problem, it would be replaced with one that did.
Regardless of your personal tastes and preferences in remedy, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry provided that for quite a few people in 2011. THAT is the thing they got right and struggling bands most likely didn’t.
A huge breakthrough for me was realizing that a song had a function and purpose that went far beyond just existing. I’m of the opinion that very, very few local bands make music that does more than exist.
What About Me?
As mentioned above, all successful musicians offer a remedy to stresses of life. Good, local live bands can provide target-rich environment for those young, dumb, and full of vodka. Some bands provide laughs (Tenacious D or Blink 182 were fun examples). Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Deadmau5 are all known for light shows that keep your head spinning for days.
–If you want to make money at this gig, you must be providing a service or product that is so interesting that people HAVE to buy it. Your songwriting should make a real impact on a person’s life. Your live show MUST appeal to strangers and it must appeal to strangers who maybe listen to other kinds of music.
–If your recordings and live show “just exist”, what’s the purpose of putting it out in front of people? You can definitely make “art” at home that is for your own amusement.
–People are used to hearing music made for them. They are used to and expecting to hear music that EXCITES them, and all it takes is hooking the Ipod up to a PA to get that. It’s not impossible to be one of the bands on that Ipod, but many, many signed bands have failed to make it. What makes you so special?
I guess that’s the question and the answer. What makes you so special that I should bother paying you for your hobby? If you can answer that question, I may just want to buy your music.