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Thread: Which way do musicians make more money?

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Which way do musicians make more money?

    My brother and I were debating this yesterday. For a particular album, lets say, would a musician make more money if I bought a CD or download from him/her or if I streamed it on say Pandora or Amazon Music every time I listened? For argument's sake, assume I listened to the album every day.

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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Buying the CD or download is exponentially more beneficial to the artist.
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    I agree with fernmando, purchasing direct from the website or at least through the website supports the artist the best. Even with service fees donating at live shows or if God forbid we ever get back to live hall performances is generally where artists make the most direct income, if you are Slim Whitman or something, yes album sales but for the general Jam Band, Bluegrass or Jazz performers I believe live performance is the bread and butter.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Buying a CD directly from the artist will be the most beneficial financially, especially if the artist is producing his/her own recorded output. I believe an artist under contract to a company has to split income with the company, according to some stipulated formula, or may even have to effectively buy the product from the company. They are effectively company employees selling company product, which they may be able to purchase at a discount - something like that. I'm not sure how much of this now-antiquated business model is relevant to the current one. Nearly all the working musicians here playing in the bars, clubs, and restaurants sell CDs at gigs, and I assume these are produced by themselves, so they control all aspects of this part of their business - including costs of recording, manufacturing, and distribution. These sales account for a significant portion of their income - if not the majority. I know things are different in the real world, but I believe a lot of this still obtains. In any event, what the realize this was far exceeds whatever they get from streaming. So I've seen reported a-plenty.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    I'm not a professional musician, so I won't attempt to answer your question, but I want to say something to pro's and sei-pro's. Musicians keep telling us how little they're paid by streaming and online distribution services, and suggesting that we send a few dollars to them when we download their music. My sweetheart has been trying to donate of late, but finds that few musicians provide a way to let us do that. Musicians, try putting a "Donations" or "Support" link on your website. Who knows, someone may send money. It's not begging, just giving an option to people who like your music.
    Last edited by Ranald; Feb-05-2021 at 3:11pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
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    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Artists who play live-streaming shows do that - and aren't shy about mentioning it - and listeners have been growing accustomed to it.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    For argument's sake, assume I listened to the album every day.
    What does that mean exactly? A full album stream every day for the rest of your life? Say an album is 12 tracks and you're listening to the entire album every day for a full year-- that's 4,380 streams. Us average pay per stream is .35 cents, so your daily 1 hour devotion would get the artist somewhere around $15. That's better than the couple bucks an artist gets per purchase of an album, but are you really streaming an entire album 365 times?

  12. #8

    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Any time you purchase directly from the source, that source has a better chance of collecting the monies from the sale. The shortest point between two entities is always a straight line.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Bandcamp Fridays! On the first Friday of the month they give 100% of the revenue to the artists. Have several on my download list for today.

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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    It's getting harder and harder to justify buying physical copies of CDs because I have very few ways to play them. But if it is an artist I want to support, I still try to. If I can manage an autograph it helps me justify keeping the physical copy around. Otherwise I have thrown out all of the plastic cases and keep all the discs in a couple of large binders.
    I still often wind up streaming the same stuff I own so I guess that is chipping in a few cents extra.

    edit, Was typing this while the previous post was made: Bandcamp is a nice platform that at least seemingly leans toward supporting the artists more strongly and sometimes they waive their cuts completely, although I'm not sure how much the artists get. Don Stiernberg has a couple of great albums available there including his newest. Otherwise, the selection is more limited than some other platforms.
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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Quote Originally Posted by KEB View Post
    What does that mean exactly? A full album stream every day for the rest of your life? Say an album is 12 tracks and you're listening to the entire album every day for a full year-- that's 4,380 streams. Us average pay per stream is .35 cents, so your daily 1 hour devotion would get the artist somewhere around $15. That's better than the couple bucks an artist gets per purchase of an album, but are you really streaming an entire album 365 times?
    No, I wouldn't think so. I would think if you listened to it over and over like that you might get tired of it. I guess I was thinking about where the break even point would be. In the discussion with my brother, I thought buying from the artist (I bought quite a few albums this year), and he thought streaming. Now, I also have albums I bought that sometimes it is more convenient to stream, so in that case it sounds like the best of both for the artist.

    Edit: I was typing this while Drew was typing. I didn't know about the Bandcamp Friday, but I am glad to hear about it.

  18. #12

    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    According to a random google, it looks like Artists make about $5-6 per album sale on iTunes-- I believe that probably omits what the record label gets, so I'm going to be generous with about $5.00 per album sale, so to make $5.00 for streaming at my aforementioned estimate of .35 cents per stream, you're looking at about 1,428 song streams or (with 12 songs per album), about 120 full album listens, or a single daily listen for 4 months, so unless you get pretty obssessive about your music, it's hard to catch up.

  19. #13

    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    KEB, I think .35 a stream is wildly high. I think I was getting a fraction of a penny per stream. A 12 track album stream might earn the artist a nickel. Buy a CD or buy a download directly from the artist or from BandCamp. Those 2 get the most money to an artist.
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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Quote Originally Posted by KEB View Post
    According to a random google, it looks like Artists make about $5-6 per album sale on iTunes-- I believe that probably omits what the record label gets, so I'm going to be generous with about $5.00 per album sale, so to make $5.00 for streaming at my aforementioned estimate of .35 cents per stream, you're looking at about 1,428 song streams or (with 12 songs per album), about 120 full album listens, or a single daily listen for 4 months, so unless you get pretty obssessive about your music, it's hard to catch up.
    Streaming services pay about $0.0035 - $0.005 per stream. You have to be a HUGE name to make any money from streaming.

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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    I got an ad from CD Baby which suggested that some artists are putting their "albums" on thumb drives instead of CD's. Has anyone seen this in real life?

    Kirk

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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    I have, a few times, though it's been a while. I saw this first at festivals in the late 90s, I think the first time was at a side stage at a Lilith Fair, when you could buy a copy of the show you had just seen. Now there's a keepsake!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  25. #17

    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Grieser View Post
    KEB, I think .35 a stream is wildly high. I think I was getting a fraction of a penny per stream. A 12 track album stream might earn the artist a nickel. Buy a CD or buy a download directly from the artist or from BandCamp. Those 2 get the most money to an artist.
    Don & Sgarity, I had .35 cents per stream in the above calculation or .0035 dollars... so yeah, you don't get much. The 120 streams was 120 full album streams or 1,400+ song streams to get close to a single album purchases. I think we're on the same page that you need a lot of streams to catch up to an album. I was wondering about where that breakeven would be as I hadn't seen anyone sketch it out. there's a lot of variability in there, but I think my assumptions at least make some sense.

  26. #18

    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    By choosing another profession to make money. Indeed. Buy musician's music from their/our sites. Today happens to be bandcamp's 100% goes to artist day! Mine here https://marcmuller.bandcamp.com/releases

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    Registered User Jake Howard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Let's take the platform Napster, which is one of the best streaming platforms in terms of pay per stream. They pay around $.00916 per stream (or a song, if you want to think about it that way)... Yes, sadly you read that correctly. So It would take ~109 streams to make $1.00. To make minimum wage in the states ($7.25/hr federally), you would have to have your song streamed over 137,000 times in one month. That's max profit while only equating minimum wage for one person. For a four piece band, that streaming number quadruples. I don't know many bands hitting those kinds of numbers (at least in the mandolin world).

    It would take you ~1637 streams for the artist to make $15.00. If you were to listen to one song that is 3 minutes long, you would be listening to that one song for 3.5 days STRAIGHT (sounds easy but trust me, that is a whole lot of streaming). Don't even get me starts on what Spotify and Apple Music pay... (If you want to read something funny, the band Vulfpeck released a silent album called Sleepify some years ago and told everyone to put it on and stream while they sleep. Now that's clever).

    They best way to support an artist financially is by attending a show (when it comes time to). Second best is purchasing merch (directly from them if possible) and then lastly is streaming.

    Now, as a musician who has streamable music out there, I am more than delighted to have people listen to my music any way they can. That's the beautiful thing with streaming, anyone has access to it and can listen to the art you created and sent out into the world. It's just a double edged sword and we have to make a living somehow. This is partially why I am a salty dog when it comes to pay per stream numbers
    Mandolinist for Henhouse Prowlers and Westbound Situation

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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    Streaming services pay about $0.0035 - $0.005 per stream. You have to be a HUGE name to make any money from streaming.
    Thanks Shawn. Think of it as fractions of a penny! Because that is what it is!
    Steve Smith

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Pole Dancing ?
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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  31. #22

    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    Internet shows and live streams are here to stay for a good while. I have had a few people tell me that their venues are working to bring in artists and stream shows (with no audience right now) all over the world. Workshops are going to be supplemented by streaming participation also, so the business model for shows is going to change, but I think with the adaptation of allowing global access, artists will be able to track their incoming revenue streams better, more efficiently and more accurately.

    Yes, there will be live shows, but wouldn't it be nice not to have to cancel a show due to bad weather or to be able to sell hundreds (or thousands) of tickets to a small venue show instead of just how many people fit in a small club?

    Jake, that streaming data makes me nauseous.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    It will be interesting to see how it goes with simultaneous live shows and live streaming from those once everything opens up again.

    On another aspect of music - I ran a one man live music agency in UK near London for about ten years. It was small stuff - all kinds of music for corporate events, weddings, parties etc. I booked a mix of fully professional musicians (a lot of whom also taught) and semi-pro musicians with day jobs, many of whom were professional level players. My impression is that the guys with day jobs often enjoyed gigs more - particularly those who worked for themselves and set their own work hours. They generally had less pressure (from music at least). I was always straight up about gigs with awkward access, long travelling, late hours etc., and I tried to get more money for the hassle. The full time professionals sometimes felt they had to take those awkward gigs to keep their cash flow going, whereas those with a day job could sometimes afford to turn them down. They only did gigs they really wanted to, and seemed to look forward to playing them more.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

    I must agree with this, even though it's off-topic (and I'm about to veer that way as well) - I believe the point here is how to best generate income from a musical career, not fund one with outside income sources. Most of my brilliant career, I've had some kind of day job. This subsidized my musical activities, and, as you said, took the pressure off of having to make money from and through music. There have been times I've been able to support myself solely from music, but they've been rare and infrequent. Even when I was playing in one of the most popular bands in this odd music scene, I held a day job, as a practical solution to some issues. It took off the pressure, as mentioned. It also removed the necessity of generating income with music, which, given the overamped personal drama among some band members, could have blown up at any moment. A day job, a rather undemanding one at that, provided income stability. It also provided emotional stability, as I was able to enjoy playing music without worrying about anything other than hitting my spots and playing well.

    As always, there have been exceptions. Waaay back in the early days, my first couple of years here, I got a sideman gig with a country singer/guitarist at one of the most popular bars here, typically three shifts a week. Since I was living out of my vehicle for most of that stretch (there's a subculture of this lifestyle here), my living expenses were low, so the income was enough. Indeed, I was so proud of being able to make a living this way - such as it was - I filed for taxes stating my occupation as "musician" and status as "self-employed." I thought I was even going to get several hundred bucks back - uh, nope. Turns out instead I owed them several hundred. Took a while to come up with that!

    The other main exception was a year or so later, after Hurricane Wilma clobbered us in 2005. Venues stopped hiring musicians - just couldn't afford it, with tourism way down. My then-duo-partner, another country singer/guitarist, got a job at a historical museum which incorporated acting in period costumes into its presentation. The boss was an avid music fan. In fact, he'd rigged up a PA system to play a loop of appropriate music, speechifying, and sound effects that could be heard throughout the square. And he was fine with any way employees could generate interest in entry among passersby - including music. My partner leaned on me to join him, and since there was nothing else going on, and this seemed easy enough, and fun enough, I did so. It was indeed a hoot. We'd even play our music - it didn't matter, as long as it was entertaining. During slow times, I'd play along with the PA music. And the company bought me a conch shell, a local tradition - the point is sawn off to form a mouthpiece, turning the shell into a natural trumpet. It's been used for hundreds of years for signaling and communicating over distances (it's bloody loud), as well as it being a rudimentary instrument. It has a range of a fourth or so, though there are ways to expand that. My boss was fine with any way we could attract attention, and we were fine with doing so any way we could. I got pretty good with the conch, and have gone on to win local contests more than ten times over the years (see avatar). But the funniest part of all this (and the most germane, if you're wondering ) is that I was making money from music - AT my day job! How often does THAT happen? Also, owing to the traditional use of the conch in ceremonies, I've gotten a few gigs with it. How's that for on-the-job training?

    All right. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which way do musicians make more money?

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