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> Monday, January 30th, 2012 > Lifestyles > Bobbyisms: There is no money in music
Bobbyisms: There is no money in music
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Bobby Foley
Published: Monday, January 30th, 2012
I write about random things a lot. I write a lot about random things. Did you know that "Louie Louie" was originally written as a song about a Jamaican sailor returning home to his love?
Originally written and recorded by Richard Berry in the 1950s, the song has been produced hundreds of times and performed countless more. Sadly, Berry signed away the rights to the song in 1959 and didn't receive much in the way of royalties until the 1980s.
The music industry is unparalleled when it comes to issues of finances. For decades, a lot of people have been involved in the production and performances of music — from recording engineers to studio hands aiding in getting television shows underway — and it's cost a lot of money to do so.
Sure, the preconception has always been that to become a rock star means to become rich and live a life of excess, but make no mistake about it, you're most likely making more money than many of your favourite artists or bands are.
Mike Kaminsky is an artist manager in the U.S. and wrote on his website on January 2 revealing many of the costs of touring and performing of which most people aren't aware. Looking at average club capacity and attendance and common costs of touring, he broke down the math and demonstrated how many bands playing venues typical to those in London make so little money that without additional jobs they wouldn't break the poverty barrier.
But that doesn't simply apply to garage bands; his logic is aimed at bands that are already established.
"Artists signed to a record label should not expect to make album royalties," Kaminsky wrote. "Sales are so low and expenses so high that an artist should hope their label invests as much as they can in marketing because either way they're probably not receiving a cheque."
But don't think that this is some newfound effect of the downloading age; formal recording contracts of decades past also included clauses whereby artists would have to recoup to their label all costs associated with their careers, from recording advances all the way to costs incurred filming music videos, which can easily cost millions of dollars. This has led to the public bankruptcy of many groups and artists in recent history.
So how do artists make money? Kaminsky offers some tips in his article, like licensing music for use in TV or movies — though he points out that is only an option if you write your own music — but he also stresses that if fans want to make a difference for their favourite bands, they should visit the merch table.
Being in a band and performing music has always had to be about the love of the art itself — the act of performing and sharing — because it's a difficult thing to make money doing, even if you're one of the few acts to be so fortunate as to get signed.
Unless your band is already established, you're going to have to get used to the idea of giving your music away for free. If no one has heard your music, how can you expect them to want to pay you for it? Being an independent act has never been more difficult in that respect, but luckily there are resources available.
One such resource is Brian Thompson, a Social Media Strategist, Marketing Consultant and Manager at Thorny Bleeder Records. In addition to a variety of counseling and coaching services, Thompson publishes a daily email newsletter called The DIY Daily, in which he shares the best and most interesting music and media articles culled from the Internet every day, articles that offer a lot of insight and perspective on issues that young and independent artists face in the industry.
"If there's no demand, there's no value," he wrote on his site, thornybleeder.com. "Without demand, your music is essentially worthless to the public, regardless of what you paid to record and produce it. Encourage an open environment of sharing around your music. Sharing creates new fans."
For more on Mike Kaminsky, visit his website at kmgmt.com or follow him on Twitter @kmgmt. For more on Brian Thompson (or to sign up for free for The DIY Daily) visit thornybleeder.com or follow on Twitter @thornybleeder. Both are good sources of insight into the industry and will provide an edge when it comes to marketing your band and leaving your mark on the scene.
And for the latest music news, views, album streams and more, follow this column on Twitter @fsu_bobbyisms or on Tumblr at bobbyisms.com. I'm out of words.