I have known Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan since they first released their superb book The Indie Band Survival Guide in 2008. They are now back with a new book Making Money With Music

: Generate Over 100 Revenue Streams, Grow Your Fan Base, and Thrive in Today’s Music Environment, which is jam-packed new ways to think about monetizing in simple and digestible ways.

I’ve deeply admired the practical and actionable advice that they have been consistently delivering for years at Electronic Musician and these are the reasons I have selected them to teach Cyber PR LAB 10, which launches Monday, May 6th. Read on…

1.) Tell us a little about yourself and why you love working with artists?

Actually we ARE artists, but we fell into helping other musicians because we created and gave away a free PDF called the Indie Band Survival Guide in January of 2006. To our surprise it was downloaded tens of thousands of times and after Billboard Magazine, the Associated Press, and Reuters wrote articles about it we ended up with a book deal with a publisher. Some musicians are good at recording and end up recording and mixing other artists. We found we were good at researching and communicating how the new internet-driven music industry works and dedicated our time and energy to that. Now we’re up to 4 books and over 250 articles written and speak all over the country. We love working with artists and helping to bring more music into the world. We always get excited when musicians learn a new way to make money with music and start earning more income because of something we shared.


2.) Can you give us a brief synopsis of how an artist can utilize music monetization from Making Money With Music?

The shortest version of our message is that you need to tap more sources of income, boost the ones that work, and reduce your expenses. We have over 300 sources of income to choose from when it comes to tapping. Of course, boosting is what you, Ariel, do so well by helping artists grow their fan base and market who they are. But boosting is also tied to marketing themselves and their products, services, shows, and experiences to improve their demand and generate more revenue. And the reduce part is actually more important than most musicians think since a lot of music businesses fail because they spend more than they need to.


3.) What are the most important tools an artist needs to grow a fanbase?

Social media in general can reach so many people, and each has a different flavor so it’s more important to choose the tools that you enjoy using to express yourself. As an artist, you probably like making music more than you like writing posts, so use whatever platforms you feel most comfortable with. Then just remember that you are an entertainer, so you want to delight your fans, and share things your fans will not only like, but will enjoy sharing with others.


4.) What is the most common question you hear from artists who are struggling to be successful with their music monetization? What answer do you have for them?

Many artists aren’t even sure where to start. Their most common question is simply how do I make more money at music. What we’ve found is that when we start sharing any of the 300+ methods to make income, and show them how to tap them, they make a plan and start getting more income out of what they’re already doing. Note that most artists who are successful at music start to pull a team behind them even if that team starts with one other person to help so the artist can focus more time and energy on the music.


5.) How important is social media for music monetization?

If you have a fanbase, it’s critical. Not just for communicating and attracting your fans, but also because it provides social proof that you’re worth their time. Also, there’s no cheaper way to reach a huge number of people. It’s what gives you a voice.

But not every musician needs to have a fanbase to be successful. There are some artists who are successful simply by licensing their music or writing commissioned pieces for film, TV, stage, etc. They do business-to-business work, don’t require social media at all, and instead should spend time networking.


6.) You wrote The Indie Band Survival Guide (1st and 2nd editions) and the recent Making Money With Music, what are some nuggets of information that you can share for independent artists?

Probably the two most important pieces of advice we can give is to tap multiple revenue streams. You can’t simply rely on just one or two such as royalties or playing live. Next,  build a team and get used to delegating. Even if you can hand tasks to a friend or family member to start to get used to asking other people to do things for you. Trying to do everything yourself is the quickest way to burn out. There’s a lot you need to do in order to create a successful music business and there’s only so far you can go solo. If you don’t have anyone you want to have involved, be selective about which tasks you take on because your non-music time is limited.

After that, if we were to summarize the most effective items at a high level, here’s a short list:

  • Register your music so you can get royalties. It takes just a weekend to get them registered and if you skip this step and a song of yours really catches on you won’t make any royalties.
  • Create and manage your persona, which includes your brand and the image of how people think of you. Most fans will never meet you, but they’ll meet your logo, pictures, colors, fonts, videos, and music. You need to manage that the same way you decide how you want to look onstage. You wouldn’t skip looking in a mirror before an important show, so why would you skip building your image before putting your identity out there into the world.
  • Grow your fanbase by choosing niches to target. The smaller, the better, so they are easier to reach.
  • If you have a fanbase, create a release strategy so you’re interacting with your fans and giving them something new every week or two.  If you don’t have something on the calendar to offer your fans in each month, you should think structure the timing of your releases to offer them something on a regular basis, whether that be a new song, new video, show, or a new piece of merch.


7.) How can artists capitalize on their fanbases and name from an income perspective?

We have nearly an entire chapter of Making Money With Music devoted to this. Your name and brand is the most valuable thing you’ll have if you reach the heights of success. Most of the artists who have made hundreds of millions of dollars created lifestyle brands from their names and sold all kinds of items. But even while you’re building yourself up, there are a dozen or more sources of income from this you can tap including sponsored posts on your social media which people will pay to get. In fact, all of the surfaces that you use on stage are advertising space. Even if it’s just the local pizza place or coffee shop who wants their name associated with a neighborhood artist. Get used to doing this in the neighborhood and it will be easier when you get bigger and bigger stages.


8.) Besides merch and live shows, what are other ways that artists can make money?

There’s a ton. We’ve researched and cataloged over 300 ways to make money with music and classified them them into high-level categories. We’ve found that even sharing this high-level list gives people ideas on new income sources.

Most of these categories have dozens of sources:
  • Live Shows, Events & Touring
  • Music Distribution, Sales, & Streaming
  • Music Royalties & Getting Heard
  • Licensing
  • Video Income & Getting Seen
  • Products & Merchandise
  • Patronage & Crowdfunding
  • Raising Money
  • Songwriting & Music Production
  • Sound Production (beats, loops, stems, synths, plugins, etc.)
  • Persona & Brand
  • Fans & Fame
  • Studio & Gear
  • Grants, Loans, & Other Assistance
  • Music Production & Business Skills


9.) Is there a trick for getting my fanbase to take action and purchase my merch, buy tickets to my shows, etc?

Lots of them. They boil down to creating pricing strategies that act like mind control based on our human nature. We interact with them daily and sometimes forget to implement them for ourselves, so they are obvious once they are pointed out. But here are a few you can put into play for your own music business:

  • Limited time offers: Set a time limit on an offer. (This is, by far, the most effective one and everything you have should have a limited time offer.)
  • Bundles: For example: Sure you could buy that t-shirt, but if you get a t-shirt and poster it’s $5 less for the bundle than if you bought them separately.
  • Upsells: Offer a hoodie version of the t-shirt for just $15 more. Or how about: Instead of buying just the album for $10 get this USB with the album, videos, and photo album for $25.
  • Coupons: Instead of a creating just a flyer to advertise the show, how about making it valuable? For example, make it a coupon for 10% off at the merch table. (This not only draws them to the show, when they get there they’ll head straight for the merch table when they get there.)


10.) What do you mean by, “license your intellectual property”? What are ways an artist can do that?

This is another big topic. Therefore, we created two chapters to cover and demystify the legal aspects of the music business. One is devoted just to licensing and royalties since they’re so important today. The short version is that if people want to use your music, videos, brand, and even your likeness, they need your permission, and you can choose whatever price you wish. Most musicians start by licensing their music, and the thing to keep in mind that starting musicians may not be aware of is that they have TWO things to license if they write their own music: the composition and the sound recording. We explain this in detail in our book.


11.) Does an independent artist need to have a large sum of money set aside to spend, in order to make that money back with an income?

Not at all! In fact we have a part of our book which covers how to start a music business for $0. This includes music distribution, merchandise, and promotion, all for free.


12.) What are some mistakes artists make when trying to make money with their music?

Probably the biggest one is that they spend too much to be able to make a profit. Since you can start a music business for $0, you can start making money immediately on the first dollar you make. And everything you pay for should be able to make even more money back, or else it may not be a smart expense.

LAB 10 is on sale right now for $47! Click below to reserve your seat before the LAB starts Monday, May 6th.

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