Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more

April 21, 2008

Passive Music Income & Fan Choices

Over on the Music Think Tank group blog, Derek Sivers published a post called "Never have a limit on your income." Here's an excerpt:

If you make a living only providing an in-person (hands-on) service, you are limiting your income. If you were in a "while you sleep" business, there is no limit to how much you can make.

So … what about musicians?

For the last few years, many people have suggested that the products (CDs, even downloads) are now just the free giveaways to get people to go to the show -- that musicians are only in a hands-on service-provider business now.

Of course I disagree because I watch CD Baby pay more and more to musicians every month (while they sleep). Musicians MUST NOT buy into that "only earn by performing" belief because it limits your income.

I just published a response to his post. In case you don't make it over there, I'll reproduce it here:

Great post, Derek. This is classic passive (while you sleep) vs. active (while you work) income. The key is to grow your passive income streams while lowering your reliance on hands-on revenue. Artists should always put a focus on live performance (if that suits them) but not have to rely on it for their survival.

There's a growing sentiment that recorded music is now like a business card. Give tons of them away free to build recognition and exposure among your core fans. I agree that can be effective, especially early in an artist's career. But as the fan base grows, an artist has a lot more options to profit from his or her music, as well as live shows, merch, etc.

One passive income model I like is what Trent Reznor did with the recent indie Ghosts release. He made it available at five different price points: from free to a $300 Ultra-Deluxe edition. Smart move. Instead of a new CD available for $15, he gave his fans a choice. And 2,500 people took him up on the $300 option.

This is basically the PBS pledge drive approach. Ask people for their help, and let them choose their level of support. Don't assume all of you fans are looking for free downloads. Many of them may actually want to support you and will send money your way -- if you only ASK. And you won't have to lug in and set up equipment to get paid that way!


P.S. Derek will be one of six speakers at the Indie Buzz Bootcamp music conference, coming June 20-22. Go here for details on this unusual conference.

Online Music PromotionWant to create a music buzz online? Check out my special report 70 Ways to Promote and Sell Your Music on the Internet.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Subscribe now and get all of my newest ideas delivered by email or RSS feed. Learn how here.

posted by Bob Baker @ 12:20 PM   2 comments


At Apr 22, 2008 3:47:00 PM, Anonymous Will Kriski said...

Good stuff. I'm not interested in performing live in person and touring around the continent. I write songs and teach guitar (most is free right now). There are lots of avenues for music in commercial products and you could even do live web broadcasts now for teaching or playing your songs. Sell sheet music/tab, in depth explanations of songs, etc.

At Oct 6, 2008 7:26:00 PM, Anonymous DEB :) said...

I agree. While I am a performing artist, I decided to take September off to be with my family. I was interested in just how much passive income would come in, and between gift shops and CDBaby & digital sales, I made $1,000!


Post a Comment

<< Home