Do you want your life as a musician to be uncomplicated, like a breeze?
Well, who doesn’t?
But here is what you’ll learn the hard way… being an artist is not a privilege in today’s world.
Things were already difficult earlier, the 2020 pandemic made them even worse.
Finding some work as a musician is harder than finding a regular job.
As much as everyone loves this artistic field, it can be tough for the people involved in the industry.
Whether it is a musician or manager, an agent or a promoter, all people experience setbacks in their particular fields.
Sometimes, it’s the lack of proper resources that doesn’t let an artist climb the hill or sometimes it’s the people who criticize them for their efforts.
But don’t lose hope! Here’s a list of difficulties that musicians face in the industry and measures you can take to avoid them.
1. Low Revenue Payout From Streaming
Streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, JioSaavn and even YouTube are great for helping independent artists get discovered but making a living off them seems like a really daunting task.
The small amount that these streaming services provide still needs to be divided between the distributor, record label (if any) and the artist.
The actual amount of money that reaches the artist isn’t good enough to sustain a decent lifestyle.
According to loudest.in – you need 90,000 streams per month to earn a minimum wage in India.
There is no way an artist or a band can rely solely on streaming royalties for a decent lifestyle.
The solution to fixing this problem is by monetizing your audience through other methods.
Here’s a list of ways through which you can make money as an artist:
- Sell your merchandise: I know this sounds like a cliché, but if your merch looks nice and resonates with your audience; you can make a lot of money from it.
- Sell digital products: Create valuable content for your audience once and sell it over and over.
- Do more gigs: Spend half of your time gigging, and the other half creating new music.
- Work as an influencer: The only qualification you need to be an influencer, is to have an audience. If you have a good number of followers on Instagram or YouTube, you can strike up deals with brands and work as an influencer.
2. Not Having Enough Money
The most common problem budding musicians face is trying to build a career but not bringing in enough money to do it the way they want.
It becomes even tougher when you have to pay backing musicians for rehearsals, recordings and performances.
Travelling through the city (with your instruments) for gigs can also get expensive.
To avoid shortage of money, try to have a source of regular income.
Make sure that some amount of money is always flowing in.
Secondly, manage your money wisely.
How To Generate a Regular Cash Flow?
I know this might be tough for some people, but until you’ve made it big, you’ll need to take up some kind of side jobs.
I’m not asking you to take up regular, non-music related job because once you go down that road it becomes tough to get back to music.
Take up music related jobs: teach music for 5 hours a week, take up some studio jobs (perform as a backing musician) or anything else that falls in your comfort zone.
Spending 8-10 hours a week wouldn’t hamper your music career but it will ensure a positive cash flow.
Manage Your Money Wisely
Take time to budget all your expenses, make a spreadsheet for all projects.
Every trip to the studio should be accounted for.
Record every expense you make while doing a gig.
Once you know how much you spend on what, it will be easier to cut down expenses.
Categorize your spending: expenses that are necessary and expenses that can be avoided.
Avoid as many expenses as possible and you’ll be saving a lot of money.
3. Getting Ripped Off By Your Manager or Record Label
The music world isn’t fair.
Everyone out there is trying to take a chunk of the artist’s money.
A greedy manager could pocket all your money if you don’t pay attention to your accounts.
The same goes for record labels – the ultimate goal for most musicians is to get signed by a label; people would sign any contract thrown to them.
The contracts weaved by record labels are designed to rip off the musicians. More often than not, you will find that you owe the record label money even after a big hit.
The solution to this problem is to be aware of everything happening around you.
Start treating your music as a business.
Work only with people you completely trust.
Look into your accounts from time to time
For music contracts, always have a lawyer to help you out – and make sure it’s one that specializes in that business.
The music industry has a reputation for being a ruthless business, run by greedy people with contract language that can kill an artists’ career.
The help from a good attorney will avoid those problems.
4. Gigs Getting Cancelled
If you’re a working musician, at some point in your life, a gig will get cancelled.
These setbacks happen for a multitude of reasons beyond your control.
The worst cancellations you can encounter are the ones which were decent paying or high-exposure gigs.
There’s nothing much you can do after a gig has been cancelled but there are a few measures you can take to avoid undesirable situations:
- Set your standards and be clear about your terms BEFORE the gig. If possible, send an invoice to the organizer with the terms and conditions stated on it.
- If you feel disrespected, don’t play at the venue again. Ask your friends to boycott the event/organizer to save them any troubles in the future.
- If you are a somewhat of a superstar artist/band, ask for some percentage of the fees to be made in advance.
- Lastly, keep the infuriation to a minimum, don’t personalize it, and go to the next gig or practice as planned.
5. Managing Multiple Social Media Profiles
Take note: your audience is glued to their smartphones.
Facebook has 2.3 billion monthly active users, Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users (as of May 2019).
If you’re not on social media, you’re missing out on new audience for your music.
Although it is important, being on multiple social media networks isn’t simple.
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest – How many accounts can one person/band manage?
The key to being successful on any social platform is to be consistent.
Being consistent on 2 (or 3, or even 4!) platforms can be time draining, and that is a big problem.
Narrow Down The Platforms
Choose your favorite two social networks which resonate nicely with your personality and be consistent on them.
Interact with your fans, don’t be there for the sake of it.
Focus on lesser social media platforms but be focused on the few that you have chosen. Quality is more important than quantity. Being everywhere isn’t helpful until you’re making an impact.
Hire a Social Media Manager
You can easily appoint someone for social media management.
Hire someone or get a friend can help you to do so.
This manager doesn’t need to take over your accounts 100%; your fans will eventually realize that and you’ll start to lose connection with them.
This person/agency only has to do two tasks:
- Create regular content for all social platforms. This content should be about upcoming shows, new merchandise, album release etc.
- Remind you to post consistently.
6. Expensive Tours
Full time musicians go on tours pretty often. These tours can be domestic or international.
Even though musicians love playing live for an audience, it can cost a lot of money.
When you are not an established artist, handling all that cost might get more expensive than expected.
Try to tour in group with another band/artist. This would divide up the living and travel expenses. You can also share the equipment this way.
Try creating a partnership with musicians in different cities.
Crash on a fellow musicians couch when in their city, return the favor when that person tours your city.
Try platforms like couchsurfing – you’re an artist, people would be happy to invite you to their homes if you promise a magical night of music.
These ideas might not sound lucrative, but they surely help in reducing the touring costs tremendously.
7. Under Appreciation Of Your Art By People Around You
No matter how good you are at whatever you do, a few people will always under value your work.
Some people are intrinsically motivated and have the desire to move forward – regardless of whether or not they get recognition. But not everyone. Many people can’t stand being underappreciated even after putting in hours of hard work.
Keep a straight head and keep working towards your goal.
Try not to get affected by these people. If possible, distance yourself from any negativity.
Create a Set of Goals
Set your own goals and find joy in accomplishing them. This will help you stay focused and stray away from negativity.
Focus On Small Victories
Focusing on small victories tricks your brain into releasing positive hormones. Once you feel positive, you can accomplish any goal.
Convert hatred into constructive criticism.
Your haters might give an insight into your mistakes. Once you know your mistakes, it is easy to avoid them.
So, all you need to do is take the hate and turn it into motivation.
Take note of these above measures and stop worrying about the issues.
Stay motivated, stay hungry and keep making kick ass music.
Hello, I’m Rohan. I’m an entrepreneur and coder with two failed startups. I write about music as a side hustle. Why? I love music.