3 Ways Your Band Can Use Creativity to Make More Money
Money. Many artists struggle with it: either we’re poor at managing income or we lack creativity in getting it. It’s clear that with the shape of the music industry, most artists aren’t making a living from record sales. So how are they getting the support that they need?
You might argue that some bands make their money from performing: they command large guarantees when playing a show. Another popular idea is that most bands survive because of merch sales (few promoters provide a decent guarantee, if one at all). Others see crowdsourcing as the new golden calf.
I don’t think there is a one-size fits-all model for all artists. What artists need is something that is personal, transparent, and appropriate for their career. In 5 Non-traditional Ways to Promote Your Music, I called upon artists to use their creativity when it comes to music promotion. I think the same could be said of your sources of income as well.
Here are three ways to do that:
1. Get some diversity
People often warn you to not have all of your eggs in one basket: don’t rely on one social media site to do all of your band’s communication, don’t invest all of your time playing only in one city, don’t depend on the idea that some major record label will launch your career. It’s the same with sources of income for your music.
Sure, it takes a lot of work to manage shows, licensing deals, recording/releasing music, merchandising, and to create an online shopping cart for fans (or work with other sites to do that), but the more ways you can allow fans to support you, the safe you’ll be if one of those options don’t pull through. You’re never going to get rich off of Spotify or Pandora streams nor TV or radio broadcasts, but registering for Sound Exchange is still a good idea. Those pennies add up. As a bonus, you can see how often your music has been played in a variety of areas.
Not everyone likes t-shirts and CD’s, some might want a tank top or download. Get some variety in your merchandise as well by focusing on items that you think will appeal to your specific target audience. Don’t just sell what every other band is selling. Get creative, don’t be afraid to take some risks.
2. Stir up some controversy
This image, shared by Ventachinkway, exploded on Reddit today. It was a brilliant move to make an important point about what values we hold dear. Of course, the obvious point is that most people are willing to make some contributions so that their entire community doesn’t look bad.
However, on a deeper, psychological level, this man was “gamifying” panhandling. People naturally respond to competition. They don’t want their “team” to lose, even the connection is weak at best. They want to win. This is why social media has changed the way we think: people strive for likes, shares, and retweets because it fills a craving in the mind. How can you use gamification to boost engagement? How can you create a little “competition” to increase music sales?
In our band, we started creating individual buttons of each member. Fans could buy them individually or as a set. Because we interact with fans so much, they often have a “favorite.” So of course, those are easy to sell. However, when there are an unequal number of buttons for each person, some fans feel bad for the member who isn’t selling and will pick an extra one up. Simple, but it works.
3. Don’t be let go
In March, Amanda Palmer delivered an inspiring (and semi-controversial) TED talk about her business model. In short, she compared it to a digital version of street performing. She says, “A lot of people are confused by the idea of no hard sticker price [on my music]. They see it as an unpredictable risk, but … I see it as trust.” Rather than fighting against piracy, she decided to work with it. She encouraged fans to share, arguing “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we LET people pay for music?’”
There is comfort in the price list and having an inventory. You want to know what comes in and what goes out. You should have a certain price margin to ensure that you’re not losing money with every sale. But that doesn’t mean that rules can’t be bent or broken. What are some creative ways that you can rely on fans to support you?
Whatever you decide to do, don’t be afraid to experiment. Use you creativity and find what fits your music career, don’t someone else’s.