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Musicians Should Tap the ‘Net to Make More Money

21 February 2006

Musicians make most of their money from touring and merchandise—not CD sales. So softer CD sales, while not good for anyone, are on a relative basis more of a concern for the record labels than the artists.

To compensate for weaker CD sales, musicians can play more shows. But due to logistical considerations there’s a limit to how much anyone can tour. And more time on the road means less time for writing and recording new material.

But the good news is that there have never been so many ways for musicians to make money as there is today. And the biggest reason for that is the Internet.

STEW offers a textbook example about how to creatively harness the power of the Web. Ahead of Valentine’s Day he was offering custom made songs for $215. If you answered the following questions about your loved one he would craft you an original ditty and e-mail you an MP3 of the song:

1. The loved one’s name.
2. Where you met.
3. Three places (cities, rooms or furniture) you like to spend the most time with the loved one.
4. The loved one’s favorite dessert.
5. Which animal would your loved one be…and why?
6. Their astrological sign.
7. The Superhero or Greek God they have the most in common with and why.

Pretty brilliant. No record companies. No middle men. No lawyers. Just the artist and the fan with all of the money going to the intended recipient. And what better way to forge a lasting bond between artist and fan than a personalized song?

Of course there are many other ways for musicians to use the web to make money that require less work. They can hawk autographed t-shirts, autographed CDs, original set-lists, original lyric sheets, drum sticks, guitar pics, signed photos, etc. The list goes on and on. And of course they can simply request donations via PayPal.

For musicians with a charitable inclination, they could emulate STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, who just raised more than $5,000 through eBay (you have to sign in to see the final results) for Easter Seals, Amnesty International and UNICEF.

The Internet is also great for bringing like-minded people together (look no further than band message boards). One possibility is to arrange an all-day event in which the musicians meet and greet their fans and share lunch and dinner with them.

There could be a Q&A discussion between meals, rare footage shown and perhaps a full performance. Rare and unreleased material could be played. Or the band could do an acoustic set. There could be a raffle with half the money going to charity and half to the band. People could donate blank CDs, musical equipment etc. The possibilities are endless.

For most fans the best that they can hope for is to see their favorite artists for a handful of hours each year in concert. Then poof! They’re gone. I would argue that many fans have a genuine desire for a more ‘intimate’ connection and would easily pay up if given the choice.

Don’t let the record labels—who reflexively fight trends instead of embracing them—fool you. Thanks to the ‘Net there are more possibilities for musicians to prosper than ever before.