Make Your Music Profitable - The Fundamental Theory Needed to Monetise Your Music
So much focus is on Spotify and getting your streams up, as if it’s the be-all and end-all of your music career. It is very important, but it’s not the thing to rely on if you want sustainability. Paying fractions of a penny per stream, we all know the situation with royalties is bad, but it’s not something that’s going to change overnight. If you’re putting all of your mental energy into streaming and relying on those royalties to break even on your music, you need to shift your focus and your mindset. Today, I want to share the fundamental theory you need to know if you’re going to be in this for the long run.
Where should my focus be?
Don’t get me wrong, streaming is definitely important - if no one's listening to your music you’re going to struggle. Just don’t rely on it for income. There are a ton of smarter ways to monetise your music and start making it profitable, all while forming a more engaged and loyal fanbase that are eager to support you. You can sell subscriptions for exclusive content on Patreon, stream and take tips on Twitch, create thoughtful merchandise and bundle it with hard copies and of course, play as many gigs as possible. Here’s a post I wrote listing some great income streams for independent artists.
How can I make this work?
Let’s talk more practically about how you can make this work. You can’t just set up a Patreon or announce that you’re selling hardcopies and expect the money to start rolling in, there’s a bit more to it than that. You need to understand that there’s a marketing funnel behind everything you’re doing and it’s your job to move people along it. If you haven’t heard of a marketing funnel before, here’s a diagram that explains it pretty well:
At the top of the funnel, we have awareness. This is where people discover your product. In the middle, we have interest and evaluation. This is where they decide it’s something they’re interested in and decide to explore it further. At the bottom, we have commitment and sale. Once somebody has discovered your product, explored it further, they might decide to commit to it and spend their money. So how does this apply to your music? Here’s how I see it…
Top of Funnel - Awareness
Your top of funnel is where people are discovering you. A large portion of this should be a direct result of people discovering you in Spotify playlists. On top of this, you should be generating awareness through blog placements, interviews, radio play, gigging, social media and all important word of mouth.
Middle of Funnel - Interest
Once somebody has discovered your music and decided they like it, they should be welcomed into your community. This is where social media will play its biggest role. You need to make it as easy as possible for people to find your social media channels from all of the sources at the top of your funnel. Once they follow you, they will be getting to know you and evaluating whether or not you’re an artist they want to truly invest in. You need to be keeping your followers engaged and entertained while making them feel a part of your community, nurturing them from listener to fan with every post, story, comment and direct message. This is also a good point to get them onto your email list, so that you can keep them updated without Mark Zuckerberg playing the middleman. Here’s more on that.
Bottom of Funnel - Commitment
This is where the majority of independent artists make the biggest mistake. They treat Spotify as the bottom of their funnel, where they’re making the sale. The issue with that is, even if every loyal fan plays the song 100 times a week, you’re still going to be making pennies and your music won’t be making a profit. Sure, you can say you’re not doing it for profit, which is absolutely okay, but it’s not sustainable and isn’t going to let you do this for the long run.
Instead, the bottom of your funnel needs to be something special. Something that your fully fledged fans can purchase to feel like they’re supporting you and investing into your music. It could be merchandise and hard copies, a subscription with exclusive content and benefits, a ticket to your upcoming show or even a donation to a kickstarter campaign for your next single.
While streams are important, be aware that they’re only the starting point. This commitment stage is what you need to ultimately aim for and drive your listeners towards. It can take a while for people to reach it, but when they do, things start to become profitable and your career can really start to move forwards.
As far as I’m aware, there is no quick way to make money that’s legal and ethical. This takes time and effort, but if you’re aware of your funnel and you’re driving listeners to the bottom, it works. So long as you have a long term mindset and are willing to put in the work, you will succeed!