As an independent artist or music producer, you have to be an entrepreneur. It’s more than just making music. You have to figure out business. There are many different elements that go into making a career in music independently. Learning about these and maximizing your slice of them will help lead you to earning sustainable income in the music industry. But don’t look to music as the sole source. There are multiple income streams for independent musicians.
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Releasing your music
To start, there are your releases. If you go on Spotify or Apple Music and search DECAP, you’ll be able to see the releases I’ve done independently. The way I distribute that music is through DistroKid.
People can listen to this music direct via my Artist profile, or through playlists. As you release more music, Spotify will see that. And if a curator likes what you put out, they’ll put it on a playlist. So, you can reach out to curators to get your music playlisted. If your songs do well, you get paid through your digital distributor, like DistroKid.
Securing major placements
Then there are placements. I got a placement with Ruel for Dazed and Confused. I played strings and live drums on it. You can also hear some Drums That Knock in it, too. We ended up getting a platinum record. That song went platinum. So, that’s income. This one went through Sony Records and I got paid directly from them.
I have placements with, Joyner Lucas, Talib, Kweli, Snoop Dogg, and many others. In most cases, you get upfront money, but sometimes you can negotiate part of the master. You have your solo releases that you own the master, which might be beats. You have collaborations and placements.
Build and leverage your brand
Start with your brand. I have the DECAP brand. The DECAP brand is available on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. I have a text community and I stream live twice a week on Twitch. And then there’s Drums That Knock. That’s a separate entity. When beatmakers and music producers purchase my sample packs, I get paid.
On top of that, there are brand deals. I’ve done deals with Ableton and other brands that I connect with. I might even show up in an advertisement.
Another stream is partnerships. I licensed Drums That Knock to Akai. And if you bought my kit with Akai, I got paid. Also, every edition of Drums That Knock is available on Splice. You can use your credits to download them. When that happens, I also get paid These are just some of the ways you can monetize your brand as an independent musician.
Sync Licensing placements
Another one of the best income streams for independent musicians is Sync Licensing. I’m an ASCAP member and I work with licensing companies that place my music in television and film. NBC, CBS, Monday Night Football, Telemundo, and MTV. I’m all over the place. I’ve done licensing deals with Twitter and recently scored an advertisement for Nike. You’ll get paid from the sync royalties from that, through your PRO (ASCAP or BMI). And a lot of times, they’ll even pay you an upfront fee.
These are some of the ways you can make money in music independently. I also used to sell beats, which I don’t do anymore, but if you’re a music producer or beatmaker, you can sell a lot of beats online.
Be patient and seize the opportunity
It’s just about opportunities. Make good connections, build relationships, and be cool with people. Try to keep in touch with people, too. A lot of times people have opportunities that they will bring your way.
I’ve been in this game for a long time. I mean, I’ve been making beats since I was 15. You can’t expect all this to happen overnight. It just doesn’t. It happens over time. And if you stick with it, it’s cumulative. You just need to hone in on all the income streams for independent musicians.