As Chicagoans, we are spoiled with great music and great music festivals. Whether it is a local street fest with unknown but talented local bands, one of the many venues (Metro, Bottom Lounge, Park West…), Pitchfork Festival or the grandaddy of all commercial festivals, Lollapalooza, the Second City has to rank as one of the best music cities in the world. As a music fan the choices are too numerous to count. Often we are left with a sense of regret if we choose to check out Schubas while there is a great show going on at Double Door or we pick the wrong stage at Grant Park and find out that MGMT actually tried during their live set this year.
As fans, these dilemmas are pretty minor. As a band, getting noticed or better yet, getting booked can be overwhelming, frustrating and just flat out depressing. There is a wicked catch 22 situation between labels and bands these days and booking gigs is just one part of it. Labels and investors look for many things when determining whether to sign a band. The label will look at the number of units sold (digital/physical), the number of fans (facebook/myspace), the amount of press garnered, and the number of shows booked (taking into account the quality of those shows).
So a band is then faced with proving itself by doing a lot of work itself. The band and management (if management is in place) must grind it out to show that it can sell or give away a sufficient number of albums, generate its own press and social media statistics and book its own shows. Booking agents are out there but agents will only take a band onto its roster if the band has already proven itself by booking a ton of shows on its own. The band is left with the nauseating decision of whether it is better to not play at all or to play their uncle’s picnic just so it can “book” a show. All of this has to be done while also factoring in that touring and playing live shows may be the only source of income for a band. (You sure you want to be a musician?)
The best advice that we can give to a band who is in this type of crappy situation is to forget labels and booking agents. Just pretend they don’t exist. Once that impossible task is completed, the band can focus on a plan of attack. Let’s assume that the band is talented, has a local following and can book a few decent size venues on a regular basis within its home town. No band is going to make a comfortable living doing this, but being able to take up a residency at a solid venue in a metropolitan area is a really good first step. The band then has to find other bands from the same city and from surrounding cities and states and get them to play at their venue with the hope of reciprocity. Assuming that goes well and the bands from other cities like your band, you now have an invitation to play in a new city or state. As momentum grows, small local tours can be arranged all without the almighty aid of a booking agent or a label. The band has to team up within its own community. Take solace in the fact that there are a million other bands in the same situation as yours. When you team up you are that much stronger.
Now that you have a plan of attack (which may take several months or more to put together), you can attract more fans, sell more merchandise and book more gigs. Wait a second; isn’t that what labels and booking agents are looking for? Ah-ha. Obviously, this takes a lot of hard work, committment and organization. If those attributes are not your strong suit, you better quit the business or get a team together who can help. As we consistently tell our clients, being in a band is a lot of hard work. We turn down clients who are looking for a quick fix or for someone else to get them to where they think they want to be. If you are not committed to making music a full time job, it most likely will not happen for you.
Hopefully this was more motivational than depressing. Either way, we are off to Lolla to make some bad decisions about who to check out and marvel at hipsters in skinny jeans.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION (SORT OF) OF THE WEEK:
THE BOTTOM LOUNGE – CHICAGO
L4m is psyched to partner with one of Chicago’s best live music venues, The Bottom Lounge. The place is large yet intimate, the beer list is large and amazing and the staff is not large but also awesome. We plan on working with them to showcase both our clients and other bands who will eventually be our clients (or not). If you haven’t gone to a show there yet, shame on you. If you have, then you are super smart. Stay tuned for updates on our collaboration.
Welcome to the first volume of the L4M: How to Make Money as a Musician.
The music industry has fundamentally changed. Because of this shift, the way musicians make a living (and consequently the way all of the people that depend on artists to make money) has changed. The goal of this series of postings is to provide a forum amongst musicians, managers, lawyers, accountants and anyone else associated with music to discuss how to make a living in today’s new music industry.
Building off of my last post (Concerts are the New CD’s), the number one way that a musician can make money is by performing live. Most artists are not selling out Wembley Stadium, the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden. However, even in today’s economy, the clubs, bars, theaters, and parks of every size are still booked solid for most nights with live music. Part of the reason that live music is not as effected as other segments of the industry is that it is usually associated with or tied to alcohol sales. In a bad economy booze is king (think of people drinking away their sorrows). To get people to spend their money on alcohol at their venue, club and bar owners will try to attract patrons with music. So whether it is your local VFW, the town pub, or the neighborhood street fest, as long as their is liquor, there will be live music.
Concerts, specifically summer concerts, are still a huge part of the teen and college age crowd’s social scene. For example, Lollapalooza ’09 sold out every day. If you were here in Chicago during Lolla, you would have witnessed some of the most horrible weather in recent memory (torrential rain followed by Amazonian heat). Yet the kids and their discretionary income were still there in full force.
Concerts and festivals still draw enormous crowds. They have become a place to be seen and to discover new music. For an artist, booking a gig at a festival or on a tour, such as the Warped Tour, will expose them to new audiences who are now discovering music by going to concerts rather than hearing it on the radio. Musicians have told me that they sell more of their cds after a show then they do for an entire month at store. Which brings us to another reason why playing live is still the number one way for a musician to make money.
While the asking rate for a band may fluctuate depending on their “hottness”, the possibilities of making more money by playing live is always there. The obvious secondary income stream from playing live is to sell merchandise. I haven’t been to a concert in recent memory, whether at a stadium or in a dive bar, where there wasn’t a booth with a pissed off looking girlfriend or boyfriend peddling t-shirts, cds, stickers, etc. Direct merchandise sales at a concert combined with directing new fans to a band’s website, can account for a good amount of cash. Maybe enough to keep touring.
The not as obvious income stream that may develop from playing live is that you never know who is in the audience. The dream of being discovered by an A&R guy cannot come true by playing in your mom’s garage. Bands are discovered by playing live and getting a reputation for putting on a good show or having a unique sound. It is true that with the Internet you can get your music out to more people then ever before without ever performing live, but once you are discovered by a label or an investor, the first thing they are going to want to see is you playing live. In addition, you will undoubtedly develop relationships with other bands by playing a lot of concerts. Booking with other bands, that are maybe more popular than you can lead to bigger venues and more money.
The bottom line is that people still love going to concerts. Last time I checked, Ticketmaster and Live Nation were still in business, so that means that people are still willing to pay the ridiculous service and “convenience” fees just to go see their favorite band play. Festivals are still selling out and clubs are still packed with thirsty fans. Playing live not only can pay the bills, but can lead to even better opportunities.
Let me know what you think. Leave a comment or shoot me an email about how you make money as an artist.
A not so new fact in the music industry is that musicians can make more money touring then they can selling music. Whether it is digital or physical sales, fans just don’t want to spend the money. One thing that I write about a lot is the fact that giving music away for free, if done correctly, might be the best move an artist can make (See these posts Turn Your Music Into A Virus and Free Today, Paid Tomorrow).
As witnessed at the summer’s festivals, bands who do not necessarily top the Billboard Chart are still able to pack the open fields in front of their stage. Bands that have a habit of giving music away or making it available at a discount (NIN, Andrew Bird, the Decemberists, Radiohead) have a large following and make good money from touring off of that music.
As a precurser to my next posting of How to Make Money as a Musician, I thought I’d share these thoughts and a great article that was in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Check it out here: The Music Festival Grows Up. Read what Jim Fusilli has learned from today’s musicians who rely on touring over selling their music.
Also, keep the thoughts and ideas coming on how you make money as a musician. I need some more info for my next post. Either leave a comment or write me at email@example.com
This weeks shameless self promotion goes to….Me! I am so dedicated to my clients that I braved the torrential, monsoon, like conditions yesterday at Chicago’s Grant Park to support my clients.
Well, maybe that’s a bit over the top. It was pretty nasty, but I certainly was not the only one willing to endure the elements in order to take in some great music.
The Self Promotion Plug really goes to Hey Champ. They are a great example of a success in the new music industry. While they are signed to Lupe’s First and Fifteenth, they continue to create their own opportunities through their connections with CAA and a dedicated management team (Bandit Productions). This is a band that created their own buzz with great music and an awesome self-produced video. The hard work has landed them national tour, spots at All Points West and yesterday the main stage at Lollapalooza. Check it out below (plus the bad weather):
Man am I sick of reading, listening, and writing about that crappy economy. If you don’t know that our economy is bad then go back to your Y2K bunker and hunker down for another 4 or 5 years. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
The music industry has been hit HARD by the recession. All facets of the business have been effected. Labels, distributors, marketing companies and venues have shuttered their windows and locked their doors. Still, the concert scene has been relatively healthy. Lollapalooza and Coachella had record crowds again this past year. Madonna made a ridiculous amount of money on tour (nice move by Live Nation) as did the Boss (nice work Azoff and Ticketmaster), the Police and Metallica. CMJ was packed with a lot of promising new artists and some main stays who have some exciting new material.
Which leads to my surprise about the rather unorganized and lackluster roster for the premier music conference, South By Southwest. In the past independent artists and freshly signed artists flocked to Austin for the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of the industry big wigs and peers. This year the industry big wigs may not be able to afford the air fare and hotel prices (which surprisingly have not gone down). So the result seems to be a scaled back festival.
Not to fear. Rather than bash blog about SXSW and complain from a far, I am going to take Obama’s lead and do something about it. I have taken it upon myself (with the help of Catharsis NYC, Big Like Giants, Music Dealers and my colleague Brian Troglia) to provide SXSW with an amazing showcase featuring artists that are both brand new, on the cusp and already established.
I give you the first annual (hopefully) Lawyer 4 Independent Musicians Showcase!!!! On March 21, 2009 from Noon to 6pm at Momo’s on 6th Street we will be showcasing amazing music and demonstrating how important a good legal team is t the success of a musician (but mostly amazing music). Already confirmed are: Whatsizface, French Horn Rebellion, Hey Champ, DJ White Shadow, Fat Lip, and Kidz in the Hall, with several more surprises in the works. Its free (obviously) and will be sponsored by L4M, Stahl Cowen and Music Dealers (read more about them below). So if you are coming to SXSW, you have to come to this showcase.
Let me know your thoughts about this year’s SXSW or if you need more details about the L4M showcase.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION OF THE WEEK: MusicDealers.com
The future of music licensing can be found at this site. Its a must for any independent band or artist. You sign up for free and submit your music for licensing opportunities that Music Dealers finds for you. Its non-exclusive so you don’t have to worry about signing over ownership of your music. Brilliant, check it out.