Protect Yourself! Basics To Know As An Artist BEFORE Marketing

Hey folks! I recently took the NYU x TISCH Music Industry Essentials program, and I also have been working in the music industry as an independent artist for around 8 years now. My experience includes both working as a studio musician, selling beats to rappers, selling components to other artists, as well as releasing my own music.

Here as some basic things you as an artist should know and be adhering to BEFORE you attempt to market yourself or make ANY money from your music. I will update this list so please drop your comments below.

  1. Register with a PRO.
    A PRO is an agency that ensures songwriters and publishers are paid for the use of their music by collecting royalties on behalf of the rights owner.
    The biggest names in PROs in the United States are ASCAP BMI, and SESAC. (I personally am an ASCAP member)
    In my personal experience, I have had business dealings go bad and people attempt to steal beats/songs from me. Since I am registered with a PRO all I had to do was file something within their website, and not only did i get my fair share that I was promised, I actually now get the ENTIRE profit of those songs (not just the 20% I was promised but didnt receive)

  2. Save EVERYTHING
    Do not delete project files, packs, vocal attempts, NOTHING. IT ALL COMES IN HANDY EVENTUALLY.
    Not only does this preserve your projects but it legally protects you from theft, and legal action in certain instances. Also, if you do studio sessions, have people pay you in any capacity to come over and use your equipment or expertise, you should be recording the ENTIRE SESSION, again, for legal protection as well as to preserve thoughts, ideas, etc that may get forgotten or may have not gotten recorded into the DAW, etc.

  3. Building Community & Performing Live: The 2 MOST IMPORTANT Things You Can Do!
    Years upon years of internet marketing and community building has never amounted to as much as a single night at an open mic for artists, or a performance. I have built more connections, fans, and meaningful interactions through in person events than anything online EVER. If you have chronically online fans who only interact with you through the internet, convincing them to come out to you is one of the most important things you can do to secure a fan for life. From a business aspect it only takes 100 true fans to make around 80K dollars a year. (Streaming, merchandising, live performances, etc)

These are my top 3 tips for artists to protect themselves, protect their art, and get started in marketing/community building.
I will update this list below with additional comments and suggestions!

11 Likes

Thanks for starting this! Very informative.

My comments:

  1. 100% agree. I am registered with ASCAP BMI myself as well. I think people don’t realize how important that is. Imagine having your music stolen and money comes out of it for the thief… This is the only way to protect your creation.

  2. Absolutely. Paranoia is your friend. I still have emails dating back from the late 90’s. You never know.

  3. Agree with the fact that in-person will always be more beneficial. Basically, if somebody likes you, they will try to help you. Now, about this:

I think that’s on the optimistic side of things - $800/person a year…?? That seems like an awful LOT these days. I’d like to know how you came up with that number…?

And I would add to your list:

  1. NEVER sell/give away your publishing rights.
    The 1st person who ever told me this was Alvin Gibbs (UK Subs bassist, toured the world with Iggy Pop in 1988). He also told me that, when Guns N’ Roses covered “Down on the farm” (UK Subs songs he wrote), the royalty checks for that one song allowed him to live for 3 years after the release. This is because the song was on “The Spaghetti Incident”, which sold millions of records and still sells copies to this day… so he still gets checks.
3 Likes

@raidenbeats @morphic did you sign up as a writer or publisher?

I really would like to finish some material this year and put it out there on Bandcamp or something similar, but navigating all of that seems like a bear going into it as essentially a hobbyist.

1 Like

I signed up as writer/performer it was like the 100$ package

1 Like

In my case, it was through CDBaby distribution. I have 100% rights as a writer and publisher. Not that I’m making any money but at least that’s peace of mind.

1 Like

using a distribution service such as CDBaby doesnt actually guarantee you all the writing and publishing payouts. You still have to get a PRO account and put those songs into your account to claim 100% of the profits.

1 Like

I did not specify but yes, I have a pro account and went through all necessary steps to make sure I have all payouts.

2 Likes

The idea of 100 True Fans has been a business model for a while (some people call it 1000 True Fans) Since the Passion Economy has taken off, you really only need a few true fans. The 100 true fans = 80k a year concept isnt based on each fan spending 800 a year, its based on the effect each true fan has on the friend group around them, as well as their own spending.
For instance a super fan may only spend 100 - 200 a year on you, but their views on your livestreams, music, videos, as well as their friends joining them for live events and shows, etc all have an impact.
The 100 True Fans model is especially valid these days with the tons of monetization streams you have available.

Here are some articles on it:

https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/

3 Likes

Damn, not only have I never had a super fan but I’ve also never been a super fan.

I’ve heard the ‘1000 super-fan’ rule in the past and honestly, even having one super fan would be fucking nuts for some of us. My most super-duper-fan probably spends like $10 every few months on new stuff, and even that guy gets some mad props in my book for really sticking it out over the long haul and actually liking the stuff I make.

The only saving grace sometimes is having 1000 so-so fans. That’s really the best I can do, lol

3 Likes

Yea, there is a similar concept in small/hand-made retail, that most of your business will be the result of a small group of super loyal customers that just LOVE what you sell and the way you do things.

3 Likes

I have some fans … and some of them are Super people… and my stuff gets listened to everyday by someone somewhere in the world.

The problem is… when 100 streams is still shy of a penny… it’s not enough to quit the Dreaded Day Job. :frowning_face:

1 Like

I gave up on the music dream…

My advice…if you are serious take yourself seriously…otherwise youll shoot yourself in the foot when networking…

Also get your production chops before you try to make it…by that i mean i mean being able to compose, sound design, and mix good…

And lastly if your really serious dont give your music away for free…i did this because it just a hobby for me…

But if you want to pursue it as a career…enter those remix competitions of famous artists… to get name recognition and sort of build a following…gotta bite the bullet with your work sometimes…and compromise…meaning if your strictly an idm producer…might wanna learn how to do edm as well…and produce a few edm works.

Have a diverse portfolio of really good work. Then afterwards find your niche.

And be able to make your own samples by either synthesis or modifying public domain stuff…because of commercial copyright legal stuff.

2 Likes

Some wisdom in what you share @bfk … especially this quote. Sure… its important to share and collaborate or perform for friends or do a benefit, but once you upload your work for free public distribution, you have diluted the market for all of us… If all of us insisted on getting paid, we would all get paid more.

True, streaming revenue is so small that the effort (and cost) of getting a Distributor seems self defeating. There are lots of ways around that “pay to play” model. (google it!) My personal solution is https://www.routenote.com/

You upload for free and then collect on streams from all the major platforms (and lots of obscure ones that trickle in some additional pennies!) How do they get paid? They take 15%.

Now… what if you manage to make a major hit and the 15% suddenly seems like more than you wanted to share? They have an option for $10 per upload, then you keep 100%. You can change your mind whenever you want and leave whenever you want… for each release. Very flexible and gives the user all the power to decide. You don’t need a publisher either, you just clarify that you are your own publisher and then you collect, Writer, Artist and Publisher revenue.

I’ve been a member since 2018 and I love knowing that pennies trickle into my account when I sleep!

Here comes the shameless plug! If you decide this works for you then please use my referral code! Routnote will give me 2 of THEIR 15%. It cost you nothing and as a group, we get PAID MORE!

Here is the website again https://www.routenote.com/
Here is my code… 2f7ecf1c

Let’s all get paid for all of our work… Upload it and the money will come while you sleep! :sunglasses:

1 Like

Weirdly, free with a hard or soft asterisk is an amazing promotional technique. There’s a reason why services like Bandcamp limit your free copies (even though they give you loads and loads more depending on how well you do) both when it comes to NYP and promotional codes. (Although copycat sites like Itch don’t even impose limits like that which is cool as fuck)

Also, you never get flagged as spam if you’re just giving legitimate free shit away with no strings attached. It’s the best way to buy loyalty and to let people know you’re not just some fly-by-night dickhead who’s ripping people off and guaranteed to disappear forever one day. It’s also much better than saying “20% off, buy it now!” because you’re actually showing that you care enough about your future fans that you’ll just loan them some stuff for free.

The Flashbulb apparently uploads his own shit to torrent sites and I think that’s one of the best things an artist can do as well, because it widens your scope to people who would otherwise never even find you. Any avenue for new fans is a good one, and people genuinely enjoy spending money anyway, so that part is almost always guaranteed if you’ve got some legitimate fans. It’s hilarious that people don’t always realize this.

I had some plans in the past to seed my stuff all over SLSK as an upfront display of loyalty, but thanks to ISPs throttling and punishing people for using too much bandwidth, I can’t have people downloading from me all the time like that. But in a perfect world, I’d absolutely want to.

2 Likes

For building a following you are correct,…

but long term career wise its not completely sustainable if you give your stuff away for free religiously…

As far as eps and singles it does work…but for full albums or collaborations you shouldnt…

If you do, give some small percentage away like 25% of your work or your samples away with the option of paying what the fan/listener wants… as far as the rest id say set a reasonable minimum price for the rest of your work.

But again im talking about if a person decides to pursue a career as a musician and make that their sole career…which is very difficult to do…

The best advice is to keep trying until your successes outwiegh your failures.

1 Like

I think (and I could be very wrong) the difference with someone like that would be actually making money through touring and merch sales, with or without the help from a label. Since RB was talking about selling beats to artists I was sort of going off that, but I have absolutely no idea what touring the globe (much less country) and playing live every night is like, but that’s obviously many orders of magnitude harder than doing it as a side-hustle with digital sales.

I have been to some shows where the CDs were free, though, as a promotional tactic even from semi-established artists. I thought that was pretty cool at the time, but I’m sure not everyone can get away with it

1 Like

I publish via bandcamp and tunecore only, any thoughts on those platforms?

You bring up a good point @slime and much like “playing for friends… or a benefit.” Giving freebees to loyal fans or as a promotion makes perfect sense.

My rant above refers to giving your music away to the public domain so that the DSP makes money (advertising, premium membership etc.) and you, the creator, don’t get a share of that revenue.

The DSP makes money on the free content available and all the creator gets is “at least someone might listen to my music…” It’s like they are doing you a favor, taking your content for free.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t blame them for figuring out how to monetize the content. In fact… I admire and thank them for the opportunity! I’m only saying, as a creator, do your part to benefit from participating. I’m also saying, the more of us that do… the more leverage we have with what “our share” could be…

Call me a Dreamer :v::sunglasses:

1 Like

Bandcamp is the only platform that respects & pays artists well for sales. Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t care about anything other than Spotifuck…

I don’t have any experience with TuneCore.

1 Like

very good to know dude thanks!