• Cezary L. Lerski

How can I make money selling my music?

Other then performing you music live at concerts and getting paid for it, there are 10 ways to profit from your music:


1) Sell your music in tangible format – on CD, DVD or vinyl.


Today, the “brick and mortar” music stores are a thing of the past; so basically the only game in town is Amazon. Amazon is an American electronic commerce company, the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States, and the most valuable American retailer with market capitalization of more then 300 billion USD. In addition to the USA, Amazon runs stand-alone e-commerce websites for the United Kingdom and Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India and Mexico. Hundreds of millions of Amazon customers place and complete several hundred orders every single second. S o if you are seriously thinking about selling your tangible products, Amazon must be your first pick.


2) Profit from offering your music in Digital Music Stores, or in your own on-line store.


The Download Stores, like iTunes, can sell your music to customers worldwide in a form of a digital download. The store keeps its share of profits, collects (except the USA) all mechanical royalties for songwriters, and pays you the rest. How much of the profit does the store keep? You should assume a minimum of 30% of the net profit.


Streaming services like Spotify or Beats, pay about 70% of their revenues to the rights holders. 10% goes to cover mechanical royalties, and the rest is paid to artists/labels according to the numbers of streams. Recent payouts to rights holders average between $0.006 and $0.0084 “per stream”, and varies depending on the country, number of free and paid customers that are using the service, currency and the artist’s royalty rate.


In addition to streaming revenues, additional income from digital stores comes from Subscriptions and Advertisement. Spotify, Deezer and other streaming services pay content owners, from their services’ subscription monies, and ad revenues. Each occurrence is different depending on the advertising and the country that the stream is derived from.


Lastly, you might profit from Cloud Match, which pays you when the store’s customers access your content that they have already purchased to their devices, from cloud-based services.


If you have a large and stable group of fans, your Private On-line Store is a good bet. There are countless off-the-shelf products available, or you can design your own store from scratch.


3) Sell ringtones


A ringtone is a sound made by a mobile phone, and could be applied to identify incoming calls, texts, or emails from all or individual contacts on your contact list. There is a number of stores and mobile platforms where you can offer (usually 30 seconds long) clips of your music as ringtones. You can also embed your ringtones on your site, Facebook page, blog, etc. and sell them direct. The average price for ringtones is between $0.99 and $3.00, and you will have to share the profits with the party that will provide your ringtone to your customers.


4) Profit from Ad Revenues


You can get paid big bucks for views on pages with your music content, that are presented on video-sharing websites (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) or social-network sites (Facebook, etc.) Content includes video clips, TV clips, music videos, movie trailers, and other content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos.


Ad revenues generated by all video-sharing and social-network websites usually follow YouTube model of “monetization”. YouTube has three different services, each derive income in a different way. “Official Video” pays out an amount based on the value of any add placed on the video in the form of a pre-roll commercial or a banner. UGC or “User Generated Content”, fingerprints your music and keeps a track of when your music is being played on other people’s YouTube pages, and insurers that advertisement income that is derived from those pages is being paid to you, and not to anybody else. Lastly, recently launched and still in its infancy “YouTube Red” a streaming service, which generates money from subscriptions.


5) Receive Songwriting Royalties


Anytime your music is performed publicly you are entitled to receive an income. If you are the legal owner of a copyrighted piece of musical work, each time your song is performed, including broadcasting on “terrestrial” (FM/AM) radio, you can get paid. Performance rights organizations (PROs) collect songwriting royalties from music users and distribute them to their legal owners ( songwriters and publishers). Major PROs that operate in the USA include BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. In the USA song copyrights are typically assigned to music publishers, and you can hire a publishing company to represent you, or you can open your own publishing firm.


6) Receive Performance Royalties


Although the recording artist is not always the songwriter of the song, and can’t receive Songwriting Royalties, he or she can still collect performance royalties when their music is performed publicly in the form of digital performance. Performance royalties are received from non-interactive digital radio transmissions (Pandora, iHeartRadio, etc.), satellite radio (SiriusXM), satellite and Internet radio (DirectTV, Dish Network, etc.), and cable television music channels (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, etc.). In the USA, performance rates are administrated by the SoundExchange – a non-profit performance rights organization that collects and distributes royalties on behalf of the sound recording copyright owners.


7) Get paid for your Recording Copyrights


With a master recording copyright, an artist or the record label can collect royalties from the use of a specific recording of a song. Master royalties are paid when the recording is used in an advertisement, film, television program, streaming service or other medium. Master royalties are typically paid in addition to synchronization or public performance royalties, as royalties paid to the publisher only grant the rights to the use of a song, not a specific recording of a song. FM/AM radio stations do not typically pay master royalties, as a terrestrial radio play has traditionally been viewed as free advertisement for a recording.


8) License your music


Grant a license to permit the use of your music by somebody else. There are variety of services that are actively seeking new music content to use them for corporate or non-profit purposes.


9) Get paid for Synchronization rights to your music


License the reproduction of the music content in synchronization with visual images in audiovisual works like movies, TV shows, ads, games and aps.


10) Make money off Merchandise


Merchandising is defined as an activity of promoting the sale of goods. Create branded products to promote your particular album, song, artists or event. Merch examples include T-shirts, hats, mugs, posters, mousepads, phone covers, etc. Sell them at your concerts or events, and from your website or directly to your customers via Amazon.


Brave New World


As customer’s preferences and technology have evolved, the landscape of the music industry has changed from radio broadcasts, to vinyl albums, to compact disks, to digital downloads, to music streaming services, and now to profiting from ad revenues. Today, companies operating in the digital music space are witnessing dramatic and volatile changes. Formats change quickly, customers’ tastes and expectations even quicker. Technological advances make existing distribution methods and models obsolete. Music piracy is difficult to stop. More and more listeners believe that music should be free and they just don’t feel that they should be paying anything for it. More and more customers are bucking the current models of music distribution, and the process is accelerating every day.


Are you aware of all of those changes? When was the last time you checked and analyzed the way you sell your music? What can you do about it?


Are you currently taking advantage of all of the listed above methods to profit from your music? If you are utilizing only a few of them, are you sure that you are doing it correctly and most efficiently?


Think about it, and take action.




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