This week, we've invited Bree Noble - award-winning musician, speaker, podcaster and founder of the Profitable Musician Summit - to write a blog post as a guest contributor on Cloak + Dagger. Read her expert tips on how to become a profitable musician and stay afloat in an ever-changing industry.
Being a profitable musician can mean different things to different people depending on their circumstances and goals for their music. If you’re a full-time musician, it probably means paying your bills and living a comfortable life. If you’re a part-time musician, it may mean building up steady income from music so you can quit your day job. Or maybe, you’re a hobby musician and you just want money to fund your passion projects.
Whatever being a profitable musician looks like for you, being “profitable” is both a fiscal state and a mental one. If you feel fulfilled in what you’re doing AND the money you’re making, to me, that’s being profitable.
So, how do you get there? Here are 5 tips that helped me go from starving artist to profitable music entrepreneur in less than a year.
1. Stop Waiting For Permission
Most artists, myself included, have spent years waiting for permission to start their music career. All those long-standing artist hopes like getting “discovered”, getting your “big break” or thinking that landing a record deal means your “ship has come in” no longer hold water. Reality check - you’re probably not going to get “discovered”, so you’re gonna be waiting around for that ship to come in until you’re old and gray.
In the old music business model, inking a record deal was the holy grail. In fact, it was almost exclusively the only way to “make it” as an artist. This was a huge barrier to entry for Indies.
The idea that industry “decision-makers” hold the keys to the kingdom is outdated.
Nowadays, that barrier has been lifted. There are loads of successful unsigned artists making a living from music, hitting the radio and records charts and touring the world. The playing field has rapidly expanded, and with it, come massive opportunities for artists.
And how do the labels fit into this new music economy?
In the new music business, the record labels don’t have budgets like they used to have for developing new talent. They are looking for artists who have already honed their craft and built a sizable following online and offline.
So, whether you decide to eventually pursue getting signed to a label or not, you’ll still have to do the hard work to build a fanbase. So, stop wasting time waiting for permission and hop to it!
2. Go Grassroots With Your Marketing
One of the biggest mistakes I see artists making is wanting grow their fanbase in anonymity. That seems pretty counter-intuitive for performers doesn’t it? Yet, I’m constantly working to change the mindset of artists who think that online marketing is a magic bullet to build your audience without actually talking to their fans.
I remember it well. It can be extremely uncomfortable to ask people for their email address at shows or to talk about your CDs & merch from stage. It can be daunting to write newsletters to fans or send private messages to friends and acquaintances asking them to come to your show, join your list or support your crowdfunding campaign. But, especially in the early stages of your career, this is absolutely what you need to focus on to rapidly build a strong following.
I’ve got a few great examples for you of how grassroots marketing can make all the difference, especially early in your career.
In my interview with Greg WIlnau during the Profitable Musician Summit, he explains how he got over the awkwardness of getting people on his list and selling CDs at shows. Once he started thinking about the potential transaction as a value exchange instead of asking them for a favor, it instantly made it easier for him and massively increased his signups and sales. You can hear the full interview during the online summit.
Another great example is Shannon Curtis. She got tired of performing at bars and bistros where no one was listening and she couldn’t form connections with the audience. So she started her own grassroots house concerts movement. This allowed her to personally connect with each fan in the intimate setting. Plus, everyone who came to the shows not only became a fan and joined her list, but many offered to host their own house shows.
This grassroots approach has snowballed into a very profitable business for Shannon. You can hear the whole story and learn how you can copy her strategy during the Profitable Musician Summit.
3. Think & Act Like An Entrepreneur
If there's ONE thing you learn from me, I hope it is that you, as a solo musician or band, are an entrepreneur and are running a business.
I find that most musicians start out a bit mystified by all the planning, goal-setting and strategy creation that go along with being an entrepreneur. As creatives, we tend to want to “go with the flow” and let inspiration dictate what we are working on. But this can often lead to overwhelm and a pile of unfinished projects.
The process I take my students through to combat this natural tendency of scattered creatives involves brainstorming ideas, then organizing, then prioritizing and then focusing on only 5 goals for a 90-day period.
Finally, breaking down the 5 goals into bite-sized action steps will help these seemingly unreachable goals feel approachable and do-able.
This goal-setting exercise will allow you to map out your time for the next 90 days so you can be sure that what you’re spending time on is actually going to get you closer to achieving your goals and finishing projects.
4. Diversify Your Income
As musicians, it’s important to not put all of our eggs in one basket. There are actually many ways to make money from music - not just performing live - that we can combine to make a sustainable income.
It’s important to diversify because, with each type of income, there are always things outside of our control.
Live performance income tends to be seasonal. It can ebb and flow depending on the kind of venues you perform at, the kind of show you put on, tourist habits, personal life demands, and more.
For example, you may make a lot of income at summer festival or during the Holiday season, but the other months might be lighter.
Or maybe you are primarily a music teacher. Your student pool may dry up during the summer or during the Holidays.
And there are some income streams which are smaller but may not be affected by the seasons such as streaming income, studio work, sponsorships, music licensing or monetization of live or recorded video.
Combining several of these income streams will help you create a profitable business and sustainable income year-round.
5. Learn From People Who Are Successful
Why reinvent the wheel? I’m a big believer in seeking out experts and mentors who are already successfully doing what you want to do. It’s how I finally got my career off the ground and stopped wasting time and money on things that didn’t work.
For the Profitable Musician Summit, I brought together musicians and experts who have already mastered 32+ income streams that are working today for musicians to cut the learning curve for you.
Here are just a few topics you can get the inside scoop on during the summit:
- Monetizing Live Video
- Streaming Income
- House Concerts
- Corporate Events
- Teaching Online
- Studio Work
- Music Licensing
And SO many more...32+ from experts like Rick Barker, Ariel Hyatt, Louie LaVella, Suzanne Paulinski, Benji Rogers, Shannon Curtis, + many more (including me:)
So why not check it out. It’s totally FREE. www.profitablemusiciansummit.com
Bree Noble quit her corporate job as a Director of Finance to pursue music. After a successful run as a touring singer/songwriter, she founded Women of Substance Radio to promote quality female artists in all genres. She hosts the Female Entrepreneur Musician Podcast where she teaches music marketing strategies and interviews successful Indie female artists and industry pros. Drawing on her extensive experience, Bree has created online courses to help musicians learn to make a living from their music. For more, visit www.femusician.com
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