Making, performing and releasing music may sometimes feel like labour of love – why, sometimes we are even expected to pay to play gigs. Yet so much cost can be involved: equipment, instruments, recordings, studying, coaching/music lessons… not forgetting the hours we put in for composition, practice, marketing and promotion. And we can’t expect the world to owe us something (or a lot) for what we choose or need to do. It’s survival of the fittest, right? The strongest music gets the income.
Well the strongest and/or most popular music may get most of the income and the big bucks. But they are not necessarily the only ones making money with music. OK I may not be talking millions or new cars or houses here. But small amounts of revenue can be accrued by the most lightly active musicians. If you perform gigs at live music venues, release or sell your own music or get play on less mainstream radio shows you can still make some money with music.
Of course there is a few things you need to do first to make sure the world is aware of you music. I will cover the UK here as this is what I know of living and publishing independent music here. You need to join the bodies PRS For Music and the PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd). You then register any recordings and releases (if you do not have a label to do this for you) with the PPL and acquire ISRC’s for each track. An ISRC is a unique code for each released recording and needs to be included in the metadata during the mastering process. Ask the mastering engineer to include them or research this further if you are mastering your own material.
If you are playing live shows at your local pub, even at an open mic event you can still be making a bit of money with your music and claiming music royalties. By joining the PRS in the UK you can claim for each performance in a venue that is registered with a PRS music license. There is a PRS license sticker in the window of these places and ask the manager if they are licensed. Most of the time they have to be – even sandwich shops and hairdressers have to have licenses to play music in public. Which has it’s pros and cons I know, but as a musician you can take a share of the moneys allocated by registering your tracks/setlist even if it was a small gig with very few audience members.
If you do send your music to radio stations and shows that are likely to like and play your music, then you may very well get some airplay and this can also accumulate. They are free to join and take a small percentage from music royalties they claim for you. And they hunt them down internationally. Research radio stations that may specialise in your music – I make quite unique or weird creative music and still find enough outlets to play and support my independent music.
Third party companies such as Sentric Music can make this process a lot easier as they are free to join and claim music royalties for you. As payment they take a small percentage from music royalties they claim for you, and their registering system is a lot more straightforward and accessible than I have found by going directly to PRS site. You just let them know when your music is played on any radio show you know about and tell them of any live shows with set list. They also send out regular requests for music for adverts for TV etc. Now that is can be artist’s dream that can come true music royalties wise.