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For independent music artists with small fanbases, there is a common issue with finding the best way to monetize that fan base in today’s digital era. In 2016, Billboard wrote an article titled the “U.S. Record Industry Sees Album Sales Sink to Historic Lows, But People Are Listening to More Music Than Ever.” In the article, they cite that album sales decreased 16.9 percent in only the first half of the year and track sales have seen a 40 percent decrease. We all know why these numbers have decreased so drastically and will continue to fall because most of us are music consumers ourselves. If you’re still confused about it, pause your Apple Music playlist and pay attention.
The primary way consumers are listening to music is through streaming services because these platforms give you an endless catalog of your favorite projects for the price of about one album a month. As a music fan, why would you pay individually for each album when you can pay once a month to your favorite streaming service and have them all. For the average music consumer, this is a great thing but for the average small name independent artist, this can be extremely detrimental.
A small named artist who was able to pay his rent every month from 100 CD sales at $10 dollars per CD would not be able to do that with streaming platforms. When it comes to streaming, an album or song is not considered a sale until it reaches about 1,500 streams, not to mention that each streaming service pays a different amount for each of those streams. When it comes to being an artist, no matter how passionate you are about your craft, it is always the ideal goal to be able to make a living from it but if the consumers aren’t even buying music anymore, how can you expect to get the most profit from your hard work?
Don’t get me wrong, an independent artist can still make money from streaming services, but if you’re not getting a few thousand plays a day, it is likely that you won’t be able to make a real living. Here is how much the most popular streaming platforms pay per 1000 plays:
Tidal = $11
Apple Music = $6.40
Google Play = $5.90
Spotify = $3.80
Youtube = $0.60
These are the most popular streaming platforms and even with Tidal at the top of the food chain, it would still take 1000 streams to make the money you would normally make from one single album sale. If you’re an upcoming artist it is unlikely that you’ll be receiving thousands of streams daily on the platforms that pay you the most. Your physical CD sales are probably down because of the drastic shift in the way music is consumed and if you’re not a big name artist, it is probably safe to say you’re not selling much merchandise (if you even have it to sell). So what would be the solution? To be honest, I can’t give you an exact formula or one step trick to help you find the best way to monetize your fan base, but I can give you my advice and a few alternative ideas that you may not have been previously aware of.
First things first, you need to create a website for all of your music releases. If you’re an artist you should have a website anyway but with today’s social media generation, it is understandable why it may not seem completely necessary. Your artist website will become your own platform to release all of your music, videos, and any other content you want your fans to have access to. Think of the website as your own streaming platform created solely for fans to listen to your entire catalog whenever they want.
Once you have the website up and running, the next step would be to monetize any incoming traffic to your website with ads. I know some of you may be against running ads on your website but how else do you think most of the popular streaming platforms pay you for your streams? Most popular streaming platforms will allow you to choose a free option or whether you wish to pay monthly for the subscription. Regardless of your selection, there is a good chance that you will constantly see ads or paid promoted content while using the service. These ads are what generate revenue for the platform and it gives them a way to compensate artists without paying directly out of pocket. With that being said, why not cut out the middleman and place ads on your content yourself? In that position, you don’t have to worry about being paid whatever percentage that Apple Music, Spotify, or any other service has pre-determined you deserve. My advice is to do this in a few different ways. There are tons of ad companies and services that you can use in combination with each other on your website to maximize profits. You’ll want to find an ad service that offers “entry” and “exit” pop up ads, meaning that every single person who visits your site will see an ad as soon as they enter and as soon as they leave the site. You’ll also want to place “Google adsense ads” throughout your website. You probably receive a small check from Google adsense every month already if you upload music and videos on Youtube, but with placing these ads on your own website you’ll be paid a higher percentage since Youtube is not there to take a big chunk of it.
Most of these ads can be placed on your site with just a simple plugin or embed code and then you’ll be making money off all of your traffic sent to this website. Next thing you’ll be using to monetize visitors on your site is something called “affiliate marketing.” Affiliate marketing, simply put, is just placing ads on your site that promote popular products and you will receive a commission from any sales of these products that come from your site—meaning fans may log on to your site and in the midst of listening to your music see an ad on the side for a new laptop that they want. Once they buy the laptop from the company advertising it, you will receive a commission since your site is responsible for directing the customer to the product. I completely understand if you don’t want your site overcrowded by ads but you can always change the design of your website to better suit the ads.
A high-paying streaming platform may be able to pay about $11 every 1000 streams but the proper website ads can you pay you upwards of $14-$15 per 1000 visitors. Notice the difference in the words “streams” and “visitors.” On a streaming platform like Apple Music you would only get paid each time someone clicks your song and plays it. On your website, you’ll be getting paid each time anyone even visits your website but the trick is that you’ll be making money from your website along with all of these popular streaming platforms.
For each single or video release that you place on your website, you should create an individual landing page that gives your fans the option to listen to the release on either your website or their favorite streaming platform. Regardless of where they listen to your music, as long as you direct all of your fans to your website FIRST upon release and give fans the option to listen on the site or their favorite streaming service, you will receive money from the website ads as well as what you would normally receive from your music being streamed on a platform like Apple Music. You could even turn your website into a mobile app that your fans can download to listen to your music anywhere and anytime.
Notice that I mentioned combining the money you make from streaming along with the money you make from the website ads. You will need to go about monetizing your fan base in multiple ways to maintain a certain level of income. Not to mention, even though CD sales are decreasing very fast, your die-hard fans will still want to purchase a physical copy which you can sell directly to them or from your actual website. If you work hard at the selling of physical products, building your own platform, monetizing it and using third-party platforms like Apple Music or Spotify to distribute music, you will probably see a great increase in your music earnings. It may take some hard work but don't be discouraged by the words “website,” “mobile app,” or anything else. This is all pretty simple stuff. Building your own platform nowadays is so easy with the extensive amount of site builders that can be found with a simple Google search.
This is not a guaranteed way to make money from your music but it is a solution for a smaller known artist trying to get the most out of their fanbases to make a little bit more. Besides, in today’s digital age, what else would be a better solution? Feel free to send us some suggestions or opinions at [email protected]