Topspin’s CEO, Ian Rogers, was delivering the news about the mass majority of musicians not making a living from their efforts at Noise Santa Barbara this past weekend. Rogers offered a theory behind the cause of the statistic--increased cost of marketing music.
Rogers reasoning for the cause was that while production and distribution costs of recording music have dropped due to more affordable technology and the internet, the cost to gain the attention of a large audience has increased.
I would add that the increased cost of marketing may not just be an increase in hard dollars spent on marketing, but simply time consumed by marketing-related activities (i.e. blogging, social media marketing, press release writing, street team organization). Some variation of all of those marketing avenues has all existed in the indie music industry, but the sheer volume needed to make an impact these days has greatly increased and I could agree with an increase in cost of marketing in both money and for sure in terms of time spent on such activities.
Rogers eludes to the idea that consumers are in control of how they’re marketed to, so musicians have to work harder to gain their attention. Musicians are competing for consumer attention amongst the mobile devices, video games and other internet sites/software that are competing in the same space.
In the past there weren’t as many options and technology was expensive so it was a barrier just to try and compete. Now, as Rogers suggests, we’ve gone the to other extreme and there are so many options, technology is more affordable and because there are less barriers toward getting in the game to compete, clearly there’s more competition.
So what’s the good news out of all of this? In my opinion the good news is that there is no one route you have to take to get where you want to go. I too get discouraged from time to time about the ability to make a living from music in the ideal way that I want (spending all of my time writing, recording and performing), but I’ve been able to find complimentary ways to keep me in and around music, and other creative endeavors that are important to me while still making music and making a living. At the core, Nick Venturella is a musician, but I’m also a visual artist, author, speaker, marketing professional and entrepreneur--each role I’m involved in allows me to utilize my various skills and talents, and collectively I’m able to make a living.
I think what’s going to happen more and more as our indie music industry progresses is that we’re going to have to become creative entrepreneurs rather than just musicians making a living from only the recording and performing of our music. My hope is that music can still be pretty central, but I suspect those who will sustain themselves in the indie music industry will figure out ways to compliment their musical endeavors with related products/services. That could mean you also teach guitar lessons, or if you’re good at social media marketing (which a lot of indie musicians get really good at due to no marketing budgets) perhaps you can freelance those services.
There are definitely ways to cobble together a living in and around music. You need to be creative and resourceful and play to your strengths.
Posted by: Nick Venturella
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