IT IS EASIER THAN EVER TO RELEASE MUSIC, BUT ISIN'T IT AS HARD TO GET NOTICED?

The growing popularity of streaming services, Spotify in

particular, is no secret since the augmenting “Do It

Yourself” (DIY) artist community has gained significant ground

in recent years, and it is rapidly expanding to reach the

title of "billion dollar industry"

Therefore, it is safe to assume that this new trend is

becoming an inherent part of the process of starting a music

career.


Without a doubt, it is nowadays easier than ever to self-

release music, however as smooth as it may be to begin the

music journey, it turns out to be just as difficult to become

noticed.


For some years now, DIY artists from various levels and

backgrounds have been able to self-release their songs quickly

and affordably through a distributor, without necessarily being

signed. The distributor will already have a deal in place with

the online stores rather than having the stores sign a contract

with each artist.


All artists need to do nowadays is open an online account and

upload their songs (which need to meet certain audio quality

criteria), and the mission is accomplished: the material could

be streamable worldwide in a matter of hours. It is worth

mentioning that in most cases, these new types of deals allow

artists to retain the full percentage of the streaming

royalties.


For instance, the company Distrokid - which I, personally, use

regularly, allows unlimited distribution not only to all major

online stores, such as Spotify, Amazon, Apple or Google, but

to more than fifteen others, and this for a yearly fee as little

as £19.99.


However, the question remains, especially for starting DIY

artists, as to how to market their music to become noticed

and create a following audience on a platform that uploads

some 40,000 tracks per day, considering that

in the vast majority of cases there isn’t enough marketing

budget available.


There seems to be a misconception that publishing your music

on the internet is all you have to do to get known out there,

or possibly be discovered by a sponsor that will make you

famous.


But uploading songs to the formidable cloud of digital

platforms alone is not enough to create a community of

following fans or become a hit; it is crucial to attend relevant

events, play live shows, as well as be present on other social

media platforms.


A detailed, well-planned strategy needs to accompany your

product for it to have a chance to work. The artist needs to

start changing the way they feel about their music and start

seeing it from a business point of view. An efficient marketing

strategy is undoubtedly achievable on a low budget.


“While music is an art, it is also a serious business”.


In the digital era, streaming services like Spotify have now

become the equivalent of manufacturing and selling physical

CDs. Even the term ‘mechanical royalties’ referring to album

sales has remained unchanged and extends to streaming

royalties.


This new system has revolutionised the recording music

industry to become the DIY culture of today.

The expansion of Spotify is indisputable, however, there is

more to it than meets the eye. In addition to recorded music,

Spotify is stepping into new terrains, incorporating more options

such as podcasts, videos, and live

concerts.


If it continues in this fashion, it would be logical to

assume that soon enough it will become an omnipotent

streaming platform, if it hasn't already. Indeed, Spotify is

starting to behave like any powerful major label and is quickly

transforming into the closest thing to the Netflix of the music

industry.


As mentioned previously, Spotify is now allowing artists to

distribute their music directly, enabling them to cut out the

middleman when promoting their work. Understandably,

major labels are not quite happy with this motion,

not so much because emerging artists can

now upload their songs unrestrictedly, (which probably does

not reflect on their numbers at all), but rather because out of

convenience, more and more famous musicians turn to self-

releasing their music, simply choosing to quit working with

major companies like Universal, Sony, Warner or Merlin, which

up until 2017 which still but decreasingly control much of the

steaming material.


Thus, it appears that major labels are gradually losing their

power and influence on some levels, while the artist is gaining

more control. However, on the downside, it seems that the

workload and the ensuing responsibilities weigh heavier than

ever on the artist's shoulder and can burden the surrounding

team. It certainly takes a lot of hard work for a new artist to

set their career in motion, but once a certain amount of work

has been invested, the major label can help accelerate and

expand the process.


We have to admit that the growing popularity of Spotify is

understandable: it is quite convenient to be able to listen to

whatever music we want, whenever we want, wherever we

want, as long as we want, thanks to the practicality of a

mobile phone. Also, it can be exciting, as a music lover, to be

able to discover new artists from every corner of the planet,

as long as they have laptops to create music and an internet

connection to be able to upload it.


Artists, however, are feeling the downside of this, as earnings

from paid royalties are insignificant, even when talking about

a few thousand streams. For example, Spotify, despite being

one of the largest platforms of today, is one of the lowest

payouts for royalties, along with Youtube.


For instance, last year, the company Napster was found to

have paid the highest royalties of all digital stores. Over

74,000 streams are required to earn the equivalent of the US

minimum wage, which is around $1472. One might think this

can easily be achievable, however, to put matters in

perspective, to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage

from YouTube, 5,257,143 streams are needed, while Spotify

requires 336,842 streams for that same amount.


Some of these figures might vary to some extent or not be

completely accurate, and the numbers might be different

today, but this statement is meant to give an idea of how

challenging it can be for an artist to make a living out of

music streaming; it must be noted that only after a few

several million streams do things start to become interesting

for a self-promoted musician.


In brief, what exactly does it mean to be a DIY artist?

Essentially it means, among other things, not having the

advantage of the initial funding necessary to kickstart one's

career as an artist.


Thus, the biggest and most recurring challenge that upcoming

artists in the DIY culture are facing is the lack of financial

backup. Ultimately a music band is a business, a marketable

product, which, like any other business on the planet, needs

an initial and ongoing investment for it to become sustainable

and eventually generate revenue.


Undoubtedly, the funding issue is the largest obstacle that

emerging DIY artists are facing today. The limitation of not

having sufficient resources leads to not being able to hire a

professional team, unless the artist is lucky enough to find

sponsors or professionals that are willing to invest and assist

unconditionally. In reality though, who is willing to do all the

work with no immediate compensation? On the other hand, if

an artist had the resources to hire a professional team to

assist with all the technical aspects, they would not need to

be concerned with all these details themselves but focus

instead on the creative process.


In many cases, however, having limited financial resources can

stimulate motivation and creativity. Many starting musicians,

even though they might not have the money, do possess a

great deal of talent and refreshing sense of creativity which

will give them a fighting chance. If an artist is inspired and

comes up with the most original songs of the moment, there is

a strong possibility that they will find sponsorship sooner or

later; until they do, the existing budget needs spending as

wisely and as effectively as possible.


If you are an artist in 2021 trying to establish a sustainable

career, you need to possess three types of personality to earn

a place in the music industry of today, according to Felix

Bechtolsheimer from the band Curse of Lono.


The first type refers to the creative side: you need an

authentic, unique, solid product to make it easy and

achievable for the other two types of personalities to be able

to go out there and sell it. The second type touches on the

business aspect: you need a key negotiator, a manager, ideally

somebody that you can trust. The third type involves the

social aspect, in other words, you need somebody who is

outgoing and does the networking, establishing relevant

connections and possibly managing the social media sector,

unless you have the assistance of somebody specialised in the

digital world. Personalities two and three can be strongly

related for a start, one person can take care of both aspects,

until there is enough budget to hire specialists in both fields.


It is very seldom that an artist will embody all these three

personality types; in most cases, the artist will only possess

one or two of the qualities required to convert their art into a

lucrative business. In this case, the artist needs to surround

themselves with people who do possess the type of

personality that they are lacking, create an efficient team,

and take it from there.


Very importantly, “Everyone has to be on the same page and

doing a good job for you to be successful,

that is all members of the team need to jump on the

same boat and navigate the ship together towards the shores

of success.


The artists of today function very differently compared to

previous years. To give an example from personal experience,

some years ago, musicians playing live shows (myself

included) used to sell physical copies of their albums at gigs,

along with other merchandise, (I suppose some still do,

because some music lovers, again myself included, like the

artisanal nostalgic idea of owning a physical token of a band

that you appreciate).


As years passed, I remember bands

switching to selling USB sticks, while nowadays most bands

simply use online stores to promote their music. Certainly,

artists can still sell other merchandise at their live shows

which can contribute to a large portion of the band’s income.


Major labels are increasingly being affected by this new

culture, as even popular artists start to realise that they don't

need a big label to function as they would normally do. On

the other hand, as a result of this new music business model,

artists have now more or full control over the creative

process.


Managers and promoters are being affected as well, in the

sense that everybody has to do a lot more work before even

thinking about looking for a major.

It is not only the business aspect of it that has changed but

also the creative process. “It's all about throwing out

content, especially with the new generations where everything needs

to be accessible on the phone screen, otherwise it is

inexistent.


Artists nowadays, partly because of lack of means at the

beginning, can now write, record, mix, master, and distribute

their work from home. I wouldn't be surprised some time

soon, somebody comes up with the idea of playing live shows

straight from their home environment WITH OR WITHOUT

A PANDEMIC.


There is no way of getting away with writing about the DIY

music business culture without mentioning the crucial role of

social media. Artists now can promote themselves to kickstart

their careers and do not have to wait on the good will of

their record label to start publicising

their art.


Social media networks are still important, powerful tools

today, as they are the main channel for musicians to promote

their products. However, unlike some years ago, all major

social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or

YouTube, have started charging substantial fees to promote an

artist's content, with the cost per click system that they use

being not quite affordable.


The average cost per click on Facebook adds in all industries

is $1.72, so if we do the math, if one thousand

people (which wouldn't make a big difference in any industry,

let alone in music) clicked on your add, you would need to

pay around $1700.


Therefore, a substantial amount of money

would need to be injected into promotion to make an impact,

as these corporate giants also keep changing their algorithms

to their convenience simply because they can, due to the

incredible amount of power that they have. In conclusion,

unfortunately, it all comes down to the budget. On the

contrary, if there is enough budget for marketing, but the

content is not relevant or amateur-looking, perhaps some

investment should be made in the content first.



Thanks to the ever-evolving human inventiveness combined

with the need for survival, there are alternative ways for an

artist to generate income. One of them is the crowdfunding

system, but unless the artist has already established a solid

fan base, this method can be destined to fail. Thus, without a

loyal army of following fans, there is not much point in

attempting to crowdfund your career. In best-case scenarios,

however, this method can help some artists to some extent;

even though I have never used the service myself, I am well

aware that it is helping a lot of upcoming artists to kick-fund

their careers.


There are many success stories of bands achieving their goals

however, there are also a fair number of failures. This can

happen for two reasons: either they didn't plan their strategy

correctly, or they set unrealistic goals for themselves.


Also, communication with the fan community is crucial for the

success of a band and must not be overlooked. If you are

ready to try and crowdfund your career, you need to be

genuine and show your contributors the best version of

yourself, communicate with them and show gratitude,

because, in addition to their love for your music, your fans

want to feel close to their favourite artist, and that might

just be the reason for their generosity.


To conclude, indeed it is easier than ever to make your

content available online at any time and place, however, it is

very hard, if not harder than ever before, to stand out. The

reason is obvious: everyone can release songs nowadays,

which means that online platforms get flooded with millions

of new artists and tracks every year. However, I am confident

to say that even if an artist has the talent, the inspiration and

the budget to release a good quality product, there is still no

guarantee that their art with resonate with certain audiences,

as it is the public who ultimately decides whether they will be

successful or not.


Recently I saw a video in which the singer of Metallica, James

Hetfield, said that an artist cannot stop being an artist; if you

are genuinely an artist, then you will not cease creating just

because you are not making a living out of it; if you are a true

artist then your art is the one hobby that you will never quit.


The key to success is to never give up, if you strongly believe

in your product. An unwavering confidence is crucial, and it is

of great importance and relevance to take the stage and

impress audiences with amazing live performances, which

should not be underestimated; because many artists can

release material online, but few can deliver an incredible,

memorable live performance. The music industry might be

hard to hack into nowadays, but certainly not impossible to

conquer. As artists, we have a duty towards our creative

nature: all we have to do is express it, be true to ourselves


and keep reaching out for the starts, What have we got to

lose?

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