Making money with an unsigned originals band

OK this is not going to be the holy grail you are searching for. Not yet anyway.
I am turning my attention to trying to understand the “Unsigned Originals Band Business Model”

First off, my preliminary enquiries hint that even some of the most successful underground bands are not making a living from what they do.

I am certainly not going to try and pretend that you can make a whole bunch of cash in this business, but what I am going to try to do in a series of articles is investigate some of the better ways to monetise your art, so that you can keep doing it for longer.

I will also try to discover from other people’s bitter experience what actions might end up costing you more time and money than they are worth and just serve to line other people’s pockets.

The traditional model was that you recorded some music and got it pressed onto vinyl. An expensive process which required substantial numbers of copies to be made, thereby ensuring that record labels had control of the whole business.

Apart from the odd maverick producer like Joe Meek, all record contracts in the sixties and seventies and into the eighties were in the lap of record industry moguls. Bands did not make much money from gigs, in fact even some of the biggest tours made huge losses.

But the losses were more than compensated for by record sales, and royalties from radio airplay.

A big signed band’s income came from

  • Royalties PRS MCPS
  • Record sales
  • Merchandise
  • Sponsorship deals
  • Live concerts
  • Celebrity appearances

Unsigned bands had a hard time then because there was no way to press vinyl cheaply enough in small numbers, and money for gigs was little different then from what it is now, in relative terms. Money came from

  • Live concerts
  • Merchandise
  • Sales of cassette tapes and later CDs

Then along came the internet, and music downloads. The record industry has suffered with file sharing taking a big chunk of its profits but they still make money despite that. Incomes can come from

  • Live concerts
  • Royalties PRS MCPS
  • Merchandise
  • Sponsorship deals
  • Internet streaming
  • Physical sales
  • MP3 sales
  • Licensing deals
  • Celebrity appearances
  • Spin off activities, e.g. biographies, clothing ranges, film and TV cameos etc.
  • Other monetised internet content

If anything it could well be true that there are more opportunities to make money from the big time than ever before. If record companies are struggling it is because they have not caught up with the pace of change.

Small unsigned bands and musicians can however move more quickly and change their activities to fit the new model. If only they know what that model is.

In 2012 unsigned bands can make money in the following ways

  • Live concerts
  • Physical sales of music at concerts
  • Merchandise
  • Online music sales
  • Online music streaming
  • Internet advertising
  • Other monetised web content

In further articles I want to investigate these possibilities in more detail.

Further reading Making money with AdSense from Google.


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