How To: Monetizing Your Music

Navigating the music industry can be challenging for most new bands and artists due to the many facets of the industry. No matter how long you’ve been in the business you always learn something new in one way or the other. As such, in today’s How To guide we look at the steps you can take to monetize your music and maximize your income from your art and your hard work.

It goes without saying that the music industry can be rather lucrative should you approach it in the right way. In 2019 alone the total revenue of the recorded music industry amounted to $21.5 billion. Although it’s unlikely you’ll become a billionaire at the end of this article, the aim is to leave you with a decent understanding on how to navigate the industry and capitalize on your hard work and talent (However, should you become a billionaire off this article then please slide me a share)

PROs

At some juncture in your music career you will without a doubt come across the phrase Performance Rights Organisation, or more commonly PRO. The role of PROs in the music industry is to collect royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers. There  are various Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) around the globe and the role of PROs is to collect public performance royalties when your music is played on the radio, streaming services and even in the local business that broadcasts music.

You are owed royalties any time your music is performed in a commercial environment and that is where the PROs come in to collect on your behalf. Apart from collecting royalties, PROs also have other responsibilities such as licensing the use of the music composition in question and monitoring how the license in question is used.

Something to bear in mind is that PROs are only one type of collective management organisations and there are several others. While PROs deal with collecting public performance royalties, other collective management organisations such as MROs (Music Rights Organisations) usually deal with the collection of mechanical royalties (mechanical royalties are generated whenever your music is streamed, downloaded or pressed on a CD, vinyl etc).

Take your time to research and learn about the different CMOs that exist so you can make an informed decision when registering your music. Like we mentioned earlier there are different CMOs with different purposes and each can contribute towards your income.

Sync Licensing

There are many aspects of the entertainment industry where different forms of media and art intersect. For instance, music is often used in movies, TV series, advertisements etc to help tell a story and evoke emotion in the audience. Getting your music in TV, film or advertisements can be rather lucrative and it is worth considering.

With that being said, Sync Licensing refers to the act of music being used in conjunction with moving images. The immediate benefit of receiving a sync deal is the financial income you can make from it, a lot of sync deals offer upfront payment and this is usually a considerable amount.

The other benefit is the exposure you will receive from your music being in a film or TV show. Your music is being exposed to millions of viewers worldwide which, in turn, potentially means millions of new fans and listeners. I personally have a habit of Shazam-ing any music I find interesting in movies or shows and as a result I have discovered a tonne of great new artists across multiple genres.

There are various avenues that you can explore in a bid to land a sync deal, namely:

  • Music publishers: Publishers will usually take a certain percentage of your royalties as well as your sync income. They however actively pitch your music to their contacts as it is in their best interest that your music lands a sync deal.
  • Sync Agents: As the name suggests, the role of sync agents is to pitch your music to their many clients, including music supervisors. Their aim is to ensure your music is placed as they in turn take a percentage of your sync fee.
  • DIY – Do It Yourself: Taking the DIY route when trying to land placements will be difficult, but not impossible. This will entail a great deal of research on your part to find relevant sound supervisors of the shows you want to pitch to, find their contact details, draw up a pitch etc. It is tasking and time consuming but the rewards are worth every moment spent labouring away.

You can also submit your music to various Sync Libraries. These are usually companies that have a large catalogue of music with the aim of securing a sync license. Different libraries have different agreements for creators but these are usually ‘Exclusive’ and ‘Non-exclusive’. As the former suggests, signing an exclusive agreement means that you cannot license that particular piece of music to another sync library.

Below is a list of different sync libraries you can submit your music to. For someone of these there is an application process and that will determine whether or not the library in question will be interested in your music:

  • Songtradr: Songtradr is a truly fantastic platform that offers independent musicians the chance to land their music in TV, films and ads. On top of that they also offer digital distribution so it’s like killing two birds with one stone.
  • Artlist: Artlist is a well established sync library that is used the world over by a variety of content creators. In fact, the first time I heard about Artlist was from a filmmaker friend that heavily relied on the platform for all his audio needs.
  • Pond5: Pond5 is a sync library that offers it users music, videos, images and a lot more. If you’re a musician that also creates art in these other mediums then it is definitely worthwhile to look into Pond5.
  • Jamendo Music: Jamendo Music is a library that offers royalty free music for commercial use to its users. The beauty of Jamendo Music is that it is non-exclusive so you can also submit your music to other sync libraries to increase your chances of your music being used.

There are literally hundred of sync libraries across the globe and there is no shortage of places to submit your music.

Merchandise

Merchandise is absolutely essential when it comes to generating income as an independent artist, and even if you are established in the industry merchandising is still a sure-fire way to make money and simultaneously please your fans.

Merch doesn’t have to be anything too fancy or costly to produce, you want to create products that your fans can afford without compromising on the quality of said items. This can include t-shirts, posters, hats etc. The list of what you can create in terms of merch is practically endless and it reminds of the time Kenyan blues band The Beathogs gave out free thongs at a show.

Thanks to the internet, there are thousands of resources to help you create and sell merch to your adoring public. Even if your band is based in Nairobi you can still create and sell merch to your fans in Tokyo, New York, London, Cape Town etc. With a bit of researching you can find a variety of services that will fulfil your orders for you in terms of the production and distribution of merch.

Social Media Monetization

So it goes without saying that social media can help propel your music to a new and much wider audience. Social media has made it possible for your music to go viral virtually overnight. You can also generate a decent amount of revenue should you get enough engagement on your music.

Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook allow you to monetize your music and get paid whenever someone creates content with your music.

YouTube

Every single artist should have a YouTube page! Despite being a video hosting platform, YouTube is the preferred method of consumption for many listeners, after all it is free and it is easily accessible.

Apart form creating your own channel, you should make use of YouTube’s Content ID feature. This feature allows copyright owner’s to identify YouTube videos that include content they own. The automated feature will then apply your preferred action when said content is found and this allows you to block, track or monetize the video in question.

Content ID also allows potential fans to easily find out more about the music being used in the video, I have found a lot of great new acts thanks to the Content ID feature.

Facebook and Instagram

Unbeknown to many new independent artists, Facebook and Instagram can help you generate income by allowing your music to be played on these platforms so that when someone posts an Instagram Story with your music you make a certain amount. The same goes with Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

Usually the way you go about this is to sign up for Facebook Music with your preferred digital distributor when submitting your latest release. This is usually free of charge.

Digital Merchandise

Earlier in this article we talked about physical merchandising. Another side of merchandising that you should consider can be digital merchandise. In 2020 pretty much everything is digital and as such you have to gear your products towards what the market demands. CD sales have largely declined over the years and most consumers prefer to stream music online. As such, it makes sense to capitalise on this to your advantage.

Digital merch doesn’t have to be over the top and could be something as simple as an eBook with stories from your band of your last tour, how you went about creating your latest record etc. You could also offer your fans your entire digital catalogue at one price with added extras such as bonus tracks, music commentary etc.

You should also look into sites like Patreon when your fans can pay a fixed amount to gain exclusive behind the scenes access to exclusive music and videos. These videos can be tour diaries or a day in the life of your band. The music can also be B-sides that have never been heard before.

Digital merch is also a cost effective approach for many independent artists as you will not have to spend money on physical production of merch or the related shipping costs.

Making money off your music is 100% do-able, although it takes time and a lot of concerted effort to truly maximise your earnings. Although this guide isn’t exhaustive it will give you a good understanding on how to approach monetization.

Conclusion

Are there any practices you currently have in place that we haven’t mentioned in this guide? Or perhaps you have a better way of approaching some of the things we talk about. Let us know in the comments!

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