For years, we have watched the music business (really the ‘record business’) die along with the music industry. It’s been like a slow motion crash you can’t turn your eyes away from.
Lately, I’ve been reading a great book called “Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age”. One humorous part talks about the RealNetworks people who went to different labels including Sony, MCA, and EMI to offer them the ability to monetize digital files in the mid-to-late 90’s.
“Each exec seemed to enjoy the meetings but had no interest in doing business. They were making big money. They had the Spice Girls. They had all the time in the world. Why change?”
Of course, 10 years later iTunes will have swooped in and labels HAD to relent. Listeners would no longer want $18 CDs when they could pick and choose each song they want for 99 cents.
For many years, independent artists have looked at the paltry income from digital sales, and lamented the loss of this CD income (which at shows is still good, but online is almost nonexistent.)
As the industry has shrunk, the big labels are like sharks fighting over terrestrial and satellite radio, leaving not even table scraps for the middle class or indie artist. But, we have an option that has been growing, and there is a reason now to think it may grow into a significant income source the more we feed it.
Streaming subscription radio is only growing, and it’s even starting to pay. Yes, it may be pieces of pennies, but there are starting to be ways to get more people listening worldwide and get those income streams growing.
The list of current streaming radio apps (as of February 2015) includes this list and more: Spotify, iTunes Match/Radio, Beats, Rdio, Rhapsody, Deezer, Slacker, and many more. In the past, these haven’t paid well. If you have any music on CDBaby and have used their free Digital Distribution service, you can see great reports on exactly what pays and how much. Here are the income streams from one of my personal music brands (Player A) just in January of 2015:
Streaming income (meaning song streams lasting over 20 seconds)
iTunes Match/South Africa
iTunes Match/Rest of World
Amazon Cloud Drive US
Song Download income
iTunes South Africa
Google Music Store
In looking at last year’s digital sales (which by the way now trump physical online sales 2 to 1), I made the most from Spotify in 2014, followed by iTunes (which includes downloads and iTunes Radio). But it seems to be ramping up even over the last 3 months. Streaming income is easily outpacing sales from even downloads.
Another thing I have harped about lately is YouTube videos and the money they can bring. I haven’t seen a lot of income from this, but it is real, and also tracked well by CDBaby through Rumblefish.
YouTube video income seems to be averaging around .005 per play. This tracks with other info we have received that 1 million views equals around $5000. This is not scientific, but if I extrapolated what my YouTube plays reported made times 1 million, it would be over $5000.
So what does all this mean?
What it means is, you need good content and lots of it, and you need to get it on CDBaby and use their digital distribution service to get everywhere. There’s more income the more you have out there. But it still has to be a great song and made with quality. It just takes one click for the user to skip your song, and if they give it a thumbs down, it can hurt your future play on that streaming app.
You need to make videos of every song and get them on YouTube, even if it’s a single picture the whole time. I have one like that that has 250+ views just because it’s there with the others that have thousands of views.
It’s time to quit whining that CDs aren’t selling online, or that online income streams are small, and start concentrating on making great content. In order to make more $$, you need to get more content out there.
That’s what I’ll be doing.
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland is a producer and president of Creative Soul. His company helps Christian artists build real, working music ministries and offers them real help getting going, and staying going. For more info, check out http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com