It’s almost spring and you know what that means…TAX PREPARATION TIME! This can be a very daunting time of year for most indie musicians; however, our good friends at SonicBids has written a great article to give you a helping hand
If April 15th isn’t already circled on your calendar, then the constant barrage of TurboTax and H&R Block advertisements will soon have you sweating about filing your taxes. Until software programmers come out with a package especially for us musicians, there are some basic things you’ll want to know – even if you hire a professional to help – to save yourself time and stress with tax prep.
As a self-employed musician, you need to know more about taxes than the average worker bee. You may be earning money from several different sources (solo gigs, session work, teaching, recording, songwriting, merchandise, etc.), so it’s important to know how to keep track of everything and which tax forms you’re required to file.
So gather your receipts and check stubs, and let’s talk about need-to-know tax info for you and your band.
One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. Here are 5 great strategies with real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.
1. Make a Plan from the Start
Making a great plan is one of the best ways to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.
Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.” Break down your lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.
For over four years now, we’ve been somewhat mystified by the hatred from some musicians and labels towards streaming services like Spotify. The general complaint seems to be that “it doesn’t pay enough,” but “enough” is often at ridiculously high standards. I’ve now seen three separate analyses that show that, on a per listener-per play basis, Spotify pays more than any other source. The problem, it often seems, is one of expectations. Part of it is simply that musicians seem to forget that their labels take a giant chunk of their earnings, and that the payments that eventually trickle down to musicians are often months or years late. Also, those doing the complaining often seem unable to comprehend that these services take time to grow, and as they grow, the payouts get bigger and bigger. But the biggest mistake of all seems to be the idea that not having your music where your fans want it is somehow a good idea. We’ve pointed out repeatedly that making music disappear from where people are looking for it only harms the musicians.
Furthermore, as we’ve seen over and over again, as these services get bigger and start to catch on, artist are realizing all sorts of ways they can profit from them. Two recent examples are quite handy. First up, we have independent musician Ron Pope (music here), who has written a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post about just how wonderful Spotify has been for his career.
In the good old days of digital music — say, five or six years ago — high-tech talent scouting by record labels meant trawling MySpace for hot new bands. Labels still hunt for acts online, but the pools of data they consult have become much more vast, and access to them highly competitive.
On Wednesday, the Warner Music Group, the company behind Bruno Mars, Wiz Khalifa and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will announce a deal with the music app Shazam that will create a label imprint for new artists who are discovered through Shazam.
Shazam, used by more than 88 million people worldwide, identifies songs playing on the radio, on television or at a nightclub. According to the company, it is used about 500 million times each month to identify, or “tag,” an audio signal, which each year leads to more than $300 million in download sales.
The deal would let Warner executives use Shazam’s data to see what songs are catching on and where — potential signs of a breakout hit. Warner could use this data to sign new artists to a special Shazam imprint, and market them with Shazam’s help. Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“There’s so much information that we’ve never had before as an industry, and Shazam is at the forefront of that,” said Rob Wiesenthal, chief operating officer of Warner Music. “When a consumer hears something he or she likes and holds up their phone, that enables us to learn more about the likes and dislikes of fans.”
Rich Riley, Shazam’s chief executive, said that big hits represent “a relatively small percentage” of the music tagged on the app, and that it is often used for songs by unsigned artists — the acts that Warner will be most interested in.
For Shazam, the Warner partnership is also an opportunity to move beyond its “name that tune” function and become more of a conduit for various forms of content. Last November, the company struck a deal with the media-services agency Mindshare to make it easier for advertisers to incorporate Shazam in campaigns.
“We want it to be the place you go for lyrics, the place you go to see video, the place you go to engage around a particular artist,” Mr. Riley said. “This is a big step in that direction.”
For the music industry, data is the new gold. A number of music companies have struck deals recently to help them comb through the noise of social media to see the early flickers of hits. Twitter is working with 300, a new company led by Lyor Cohen, Warner Music’s former head of recorded music, and last month Gracenote and Next Big Sound, two music data specialists, said they would work together to develop a customizable Internet radio app.
But whether all this data can lead to more hits is unclear. Jim Lucchese, the chief executive of the Echo Nest, a music data company that works with Spotify, Sirius XM and others but was not involved with the Warner-Shazam deal, said that the challenge is not so much getting access to information as having the expertise to interpret it.
“The massive amount of data that’s available is incredibly exciting,” Mr. Lucchese said. “The reality is that there is a scarcity of people out there who really know how to make sense of it.”
ARTISTS / LABELS: Get your music on Shazam now with ONErpm! Click HERE to get started.
In the past 14 years, music industry revenues plummeted from $14.3 billion to $7 billion. People listen to more music than ever, but they do it on platforms like Spotify and Pandora, which pay artists fractions of pennies per play. Things aren’t much better on YouTube, where ad revenues for creators continues to fluctuate. With little monetary incentive, some worry that musicians will simply stop creating altogether. Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne went so far to say, “The Internet will suck all creative content out of the world.”
Is the state of affairs for musicians really so dire?
Not according to Pomplamoose singer Jack Conte. Last year with $2.1 million in funding, he launched Patreon, a platform where musicians, writers, cartoonists and other creators can solicit donations for their work. What makes Patreon a little different than Kickstarter and Indiegogo is that users subscribe to creators, paying them monthly for as long as they wish. Creators can offer small rewards for donations, but the focus is less on rewards and more on supporting artists for its own sake.
If there is one thing that almost every musicians dreams of, it is of that first major tour. Its that feeling of playing night after night, in the best venues of all of the major cities around the world, and always to a sold out crowd. But before that will ever happen, you need to answer one major question: Do you have a plan? If not, you can be sure to kiss that dream goodbye. And if you do have a plan, is it good enough? Music is a business just as anything else, and as such it is your job to play entrepreneur and marketer. While it is your product or service you are trying to sell, it is also your job to expose your music to the public.
First we will take a look at forming a proper plan, followed by exploring different strategies for putting that plan into action. The following are very important steps to ensuring that you have a proper plan in place before you even attempt to get that first gig:
1) CHOOSE THE RIGHT VENUES
Every venue has its own style, and is known for showcasing music of specific genres. Some venues are known to hold rock concerts, other are known for hip-hop, so on and so forth. It all comes down to the location, and the surrounding music scene. Picking the right venue for your gigs is very important, as is the first step towards growing your core fan-base, which will ultimately increase the attendance at your gigs. If your not playing to a crowd who won’t absolutely love your music, then you haven’t targeted your audience correctly.
As with any well thought-out marketing strategy, the first important step in promoting yourself and building your brand is knowing who your audience is. If you are trying to build a core fan-base, you better be sure you know who that crowd will consist of. If you are playing acoustic folk/rock, don’t play in a club for people who are looking to dance to reggatone. The same thing goes for hip-hop artists- don’t play in a coffee shop filled with art students who listen to indie rock.
For the third time this year — and only the fourth time ever — the year-to-date total sales of digital albums have exceeded those of CDs.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, so far in 2014 through the week ending Feb. 2, a total of 22.99 million albums have been sold. Of that total, 11.18 million were downloads while another 11.10 million were CDs. (An additional 710,000 were vinyl LPs and other physical configurations, like cassettes.)
Year-to-date sales of albums on CD have only trailed downloads in three earlier times — and two of those were this year. Before 2014, it happened in just the first week of 2013 (week ending Jan. 6).
While it may seem counterintuitive to some, digital albums have yet to consistently surpass physical album sales. Up until now, only when track equivalent album (TEA) sales, whereby 10 songs equal one album, are factored in do digital album sales surpass CDs. Digital albums plus TEA first surpassed physical albums in 2011 when physical albums accounted for 49.7% of albums while digital albums plus TEA accounted for 50.3%. The market has yet to have a year where digital album sales without TEA surpassed those of CDs, but 2014 might be the year where it finally happens.
The divide between the two configurations has grown closer in recent years. Last year, CDs represented 57.2% of the album market, while downloads were 40.6%. In 2012, CDs were 61.2% of the pie, while in 2011, they were 67.6%. So far in 2014, CDs are 48.3% of all album sales, as compared to its 50.3% share of the market at the same a year ago.
Worth noting: when vinyl, cassettes and DVD albums are added in, physical albums account for 51.38% thus far in 2014 versus digital’s 48.62%. Vinyl itself is nearly 3% of all album sales so far this year.
Source: Billboard (by Kevin Caulfield)
Getting a record deal is the musician equivalent of a high school ball player making it pro, only with fewer head injuries and lower odds of an overdose. Two albums into my career as a rapper, I had a hit song, and the recording industry whisked me off to Hollywood. My fairy tale lasted 11 months before they abruptly dropped me from my recording contract without ever releasing my album, despite my first single going gold (selling over 600,000 copies in just a few months).
In that short time, I got a crash course in the recording industry: how it works, how they exploit and manipulate young talent, and how to go from having nothing to everything to nothing again in a very short period of time. My name is Spose, and this is an inside look at how the sausage is made.