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21 July 2019

Thanks to capitalism, making money is an essential part of not starving to death. Unfortunately for most musicians though, converting their immense cultural capital into food on the table is a problem the wondrous free market has yet to fully solve.

If it were up to me instead of spending $14.1 billion a year on a non means-tested benefit for one of our wealthiest demographics we’d instead give $14.1 billion to anyone who wants to make music.

But it’s not up to me. It’s up to the fat cats in government, exchanging insults while their vast housing portfolios steadily appreciate and occasionally showing up to work to make decisions to ensure that their wealth continues to rise. Ah well, that’s life in a democracy I guess haha!!!

Anyway, the music industry these days is actually pretty cool and helpful for musicians. A bunch of them are down for a free seminar on how to make money from music this Wednesday, so I threw some questions at them.

Dean Cameron is the Member Services Manager at Recorded Music NZ and Andy Low is the General Manager at digital distributor DRM.

How easy is it to make money from music now compared to say 10 years ago?

Dean: Like any creative industry making a steady income can be difficult, however it is extremely important to understand what potential income streams are available to you as a songwriter/recording artist and/or record label while understanding where your audience/market is so you can maximise those opportunities.

To make a comparison to 10 years ago, today when an artist releases music, they must consider not only their local market but the global and capitalise on any opportunity they have to reach audiences throughout the world. Additionally recorded music revenues have been on the rise for the past 4 years so whilst it’s still tough the opportunities are only increasing.

Andy: Some of the same opportunities to make money from music span decades, but new opportunities regularly emerge and that’s the side of things we aim to keep on top of as a music distributor in the digital landscape.

What is the role of “the music industry” today now that making and recording music is cheaper/more accessible for individuals?

Dean: The music industry ecosystem can be extremely tricky to navigate. While yes an artist can self-manage all aspects of their career if they wish, however don’t underestimate the value of having a good team around you be it management, booking, publicity, label/distribution etc. In today’s musical landscape you really only get one chance so make sure it’s your best.

Andy: The industry today should enable the artist to effectively reach their existing fanbase, and ideally beyond it to help pull in new fans as well.

Can you speak to the conflict between making music as art and making music as a product? Is asking “how can I make money from my music” jeopardising your artistic integrity?

Dean: I don’t see it as a conflict as all music holds value and ultimately the way the creator wishes to see its music made available is with them. My recommendation to musicians first and foremost is to make music that you are proud of and you want your audience to hear, but it is also important to understand your rights and potential income opportunities.

Andy: Everyone has to put food on the plate and keep a roof over the head, if that can be done in a manner that also affords creative expression, that’s fantastic.

Do you have any thoughts on the role of “algorithms” such as auto-generated Spotify playlists and how they’re shaping the music people hear and make?

Dean: All digital music services present music in a variety of ways and most services curate playlists for their users. Whilst all services have different functionality it remains up to the individual user to choose what song they would like to listen to ultimately, no different than walking into a record shop.

Curated playlists are there for listeners who are interested in exploring genres or scenes, and for a kiwi artist, being added to some playlists can expose them to massive audiences globally that would have been otherwise unavailable. They benefit both artist and music consumer.

Andy: Tonnes, of which there are multiple pros and cons. Happy to discuss this further on the night!

Who is this seminar for?

Dean: The seminar is really for anyone be it both new and existing musicians / artists / bands / managers / record labels and for anyone who just wants to understand just how the industry works a little better.

Andy: Musicians, songwriters and producers of all ages with any level of experience in the industry. Whether you’re a veteran looking to sharpen your tools or a newcomer looking to figure out how things work, there should be helpful info at the seminar. Look forward to seeing you there!

EVENT: “How To Make Money From Your Music” Wednesday July 24 6pm at Dunedin Public Library. Thanks to a music grant from Recorded Music NZ and an arts grant from Dunedin City Council, entry is FREE but booking is essential. RSVP to [email protected] to secure your seat.

Obscure and unofficial media from gigs in Dunedin, New Zealand since 2014.
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