The 8 truths of the new music industry. Read what most musicians get WRONG about the music industry.
Traxx24.com is the music industry blog researching what makes musicians succeed and fail. Founded in 2010 as research collective our first research projects began in 2011. We surveyed and interviewed thousands of musicians, industry experts and entrepreneurs. We talked about their fears, failures and successes. We found out their biggest problems and challenges. And we found what works. This reports distills the most important insights of over 5 years of research.
The 8 Truths of the music industry
Truth 1 – The industry is alive.
There is no music industry breakdown. Just a transition.
Many musicians blame their failure on the economy or a music industry collapse. That is untrue: In our research we
found countless successful musicians despite those factors. These musicians did not use external factors as an excuse to stop trying to succeed. Instead they found innovative ways to use the new technology to their advantage.
The reason why some artists struggle to sell in todays industry is simple. They have trouble with the transition and still use old school tactics.
You just can´t expect to succeed using 20 year old methods and succeed. Many older musicians have a mindset that stops them from succeeding. They want others to do the work for them. Many older music industry executives never learned to market, sell or innovate.
While their peers in other industries had to become smarter, they stayed ignorant. That´s because the music industry secret of success was that it was a quasi-monopoly. Innovation wasn´t their business. They wanted to keep the status quo. Matter of fact the music industry left all innovation to outsiders. Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud… to name just a few. So far innovation inside the music industry only came from musicians themselves.
Truth 2 – No one is STOPPING Musicians
There are no evil outside factors stopping musicians. The sad truth is that musicians are stopping themselves. Only 10 years ago there were massive barriers to entry for most indie musicians. Those barriers and monopolies are GONE now. Instead of taking advantage of the new opportunities most musicians focus on complaining. They want to shift the blame for their situation onto others. Especially musicians of older generations expect others to help them. This most likely has to do with the old industry model they grew up with. Back then labels and managers would do everything for the artist. All the artist had to do is show up. If the sales kept coming the artist had an easy life. The thing is that in the past it was hard to succeed due to the costs, time and existing monopolies. Most of these problems don´t exist anymore. But a part of the older generation is still stuck in that old reality.
It might be just in their minds but it comes down to the same thing. And then there are of course also those people who will always blame others for their problems. Which is easier than taking responsibility and educating themselves on how to better their situation.
The SAD truth:
Most musicians who complain about piracy today would have complained 20 years ago. Back then it would have been something else to complain about. And if there were no real problems they would just make up new excuses on why they can´t succeed.
It´s not outside factors but different mindsets and a lack skills of that make the change.
The GOOD news: Things are better than ever. Musicians never had more options than today.
The reality is that Production, promotion and distribution are now more accessible than ever. It has never been easier to be an independent artist and get exposure. The real problem is to stand out of the ocean of other musicians
competing for attention.
Truth 3 – You CANNOT succeed without TRUE FANS.
One of the big insights was that it was IMPOSSIBLE to succeed WITHOUT having TRUE FANS. True Fans are those active fans that stay loyal to the artist and spread the word. They STILL buy music, products and services produced or endorsed by the artist.
It´s those true fans that allow even micro niche genre artists to make a great living. Many succeed with only a few thousand fans that support them. Those true fans can generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue per year.
There are many musicians with tens of thousands of fans that don´t succeed at making a living. Why? Their fans are just passive social media lurkers. They never buy or share. They hardly comment on any posts. It´s a ghost town. And therein lies the difference between artists with true fans and those who don´t.
The truth is that artists with super fans will always survive. And in many cases make quite a lot of money.It´s not uncommon for successful musicians to generate low to mid 6 digit revenues. That is if they have true fans.
Truth 4 – Successful artists know KNOW THEIR FANS.
The successful musicians understand their fans wants and needs. They know what their fans want
and how to give it to them. They have an INTUITIVE or INTELLECTUAL understanding of what their fans want. And they CONNECT to their fans on a deep level. By communicating and bonding with their fans they form a deep connection. This guarantees them long term loyalty and support. In contrast the unsuccessful artists fail to connect to their fans. Often they are ignorant about who their fans are or what they want.
Truth 5 -Successful Musicians know how to STAND out!
When it comes to music no one likes a copycat. And in an age where it´s easier than ever to get heard and reach out to MILLIONS of people there is a new challenge. It´s to STAND OUT from the crowd. For that to work successful artists learned how to DIFFERENTIATE from their competitors. You need to BECOME UNIQUE in the eyes of your audience. If you don´t stand out there is no way you can succeed. Successful musicians understand their own “brand” and the niche they build for themselves. They know themselves and they know their genre. This knowledge comes from an intuitive understanding or active market research and strategic thinking.
Truth 6 – Successful Musicians know how to SURVIVE and THRIVE.
Smart and successful musicians come up with creative ideas to make money. Often these ideas involve more than just selling music. Those musicians realize that they are responsible for their own career. And they know that to survive and thrive they need to sell more than just music. They understand that their fans CAN and WANT TO SUPPORT them. And they know their fans want to show that they belong. So they come up with creative ways to combine both. Be it in the form of extending their merchandise lines or using crowd funding campaigns. The truth is that most musicians can sell anything and everything if it fits with their fans wants. Most artists just chose not to do so because they´re afraid of losing their credibility.
Many also fear that they´re being too pushy and will lose their audience. From our research we know that small and big artists have sold pretty much everything. From weird merchandise collectibles, club memberships, donations, perfumes, cars to streaming music services.
The total music industry revenue for 2014 was around 15 billion.
Compare those figures with these:
Dr.Dre made an estimated 500 million dollars that same year by selling Beats to Apple. (For a cool 5 billion)
50 Cent made an estimated 150 to 250 million dollars selling his stake in a vitamin water company to Coke.
Lady Gaga sold a total 1.5 billion dollars worth of her perfume.
Ok. Bad examples. They´re all superstars. Let´s take the example of a normal artist.
Check out the creativity of many crowd funding campaigns on Kickstarter. You´ll see many offering dozens of options to reward their fans. Often with products or services not related to music at all. These artists raise hundreds of thousands of dollars because they don´t JUST offer music.
Truth 7. – You need momentum.
Most artists never have any real success because they never develop any real momentum. Successful artists develop momentum and use it to catapult themselves to new levels. Then they use that position to get new momentum AGAIN and AGAIN.
Unsuccessful artists never “take off”.
They fail to develop the energy necessary to jump to the next level. Or they develop momentum by accident and then lose it. Like more or less random hype they did neither create or control. As mentioned in the points above most musicians fail to attract true fans. Or they attract fans but never build a relationship with them. Thus failing to sell and make money or have fans support them.
Without a loyal following supporting them or the financial means to grow they either:
1. grow too slow or…
2. stand still – often without realizing it.
All successful artists managed to develop a unique way to grow their audience. By using true fans, word of mouth and wise financial investments at the right time. Most often money won´t help you in the beginning if you don´t know what you´re doing.
Successful artists built a MACHINE that KEEPS on producing.
They create more MOMENTUM, more MUSIC and thus more FANS. All the while making money, surviving and GROWING.
Truth 8 – Most artists fly blind.
Most artists fly blind. And prefer it that way. That means they have little or no idea where their career is or where it´s going. And they prefer not to know just how successful – or in most cases unsuccessful they are. Why? Because having an honest look at where they stand would be too hurtful. Their egos can´t handle it.
We observed this kind of self delusional behavior with many beginning musicians. They were unhappy with their current situation. But they also refused to take a look at where they stand, plan or even set goals.
Some of the artists we interviewed also had what could be best called a hobby work ethic. The problem was that it was combined with world class career expectations.
They would work little and have huge expectations.
When asked about their goals or plan to get their answers would be unspecific. Its needless to say that this approach isn´t successful over a longer timespan.
This concludes the 8 Truths. I hope you enjoyed reading this report.
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