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How can we make the music industry more sustainable for artists?

Written by Romy Poole



‘Sustainability’...a key concern for the environmentally conscious younger generations. But how do we bring its principles to the music industry? The increasing power of social media allows a world-wide awareness of media storms such as Greta Thunberg’s ‘Skolstrejk för Klimatet’ (School Strike for Climate). And this, in addition to new data that trickles in from the work of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), means that there has been a global shift towards the sustainability mindset.

Sustainability is, at its core, a mindset that can be applied to any lifestyle. By definition, ‘sustainable’ is something ‘capable of being continued at a certain level’. A sustainable career allows you a work/life balance, decent pay and the ability to keep performing within your role. Imagine kicking the bar-job to the curb and being able to pour all of your energy into the creative work that nourishes you. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, according to Rolling Stone magazine, ‘independent artists are devouring the recorded-music industry’.

It’s clear that the time is now and there’s never been a better time to dive in. The question is, what elements do we need to put in place to create viable and sustainable opportunities within the music industry?



Music Streaming

CDs are a bit of a relic these days; chances are if you’ve got any, you’re probably using them to prop open a window or as a nice coaster for your morning coffee. Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released their sales data and found that music downloads are bringing in less money than their physical counterparts did, and that CDs have officially died a death. As Dylan put it, ‘The times they are a-changin’.

Independent artists are now ‘gobbling up increasing percentages of global market share’. The rise of DIY artists owes a lot to the ease of digital distribution of music through platforms such as TuneCore, CD Baby, Distrokid and Ditto Music that enable independent artists to upload music to streaming sites Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

In 2018, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek stated that Spotify’s goal was to give ‘a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art.’ A noble goal indeed, but what does this mean for smaller, independent artists? In a previous post we put the spotlight on Spotify and other streaming sites - looking at the facts and figures of just how much money streaming sites will actually pay artists for 250,000 song streams (HINT: not quite enough to pay your rent… perhaps enough to buy you a coffee?)

Rolling Stone found the artists that don’t classify in Spotify’s big-bucks ‘top-tier’ streamers are only pulling in $12-15 a month respectively. So, it’s clear that Spotify’s goal doesn’t focus on growing the emerging independent musician. However, streaming your content is not to be shunned - it has benefits: it’s a simple and cost-effective way to get your music out there to the world. Additionally, streaming sites often suggest new music to existing users based on their tastes, so it can increase your exposure. Ensuring that you’re releasing music every year or so helps to secure a reliable and steadily growing pool of listeners. But, all things considered, unless you’re The Killers it’s very difficult to sustain yourself on streaming content alone.

Now, close your eyes. Imagine your music career as a pie: an apple pie with a delightful buttery crust. Delicious. You’ve really put your all into creating this pie and it’s beautiful! You’re so proud you feel inclined to just sell off your pie to the first person who shows interest, but no! You’ve got to think about the long game here. How do you best make what you’ve created in turn, work for you, time and time again? You’ve got to slice up your pie and share it around. Some people might offer you £5 per slice, some only £1.99, and some might even pay you to put their logo on your next pie. Err, are you still with me?

Pie metaphors aside, the most achievable way to make a music career sustainable as an independent artist is to generate multiple streams of revenue. Putting your eggs into one basket is a sure-fire recipe for frustration and eventually burn-out when you don’t see the returns you’re hoping for. If you’ve been through our step-by-step: ‘Independent Artist To-Do List’ then you’ve already got your EP distributed through TuneCore or another platform, you’ve got a website or store selling your physical merchandise and a few great gigs in the pipe-line. Perhaps you’ve also licensed your music on Songtradr so it can be picked up by top brands. What’s next?



Diversify Your Revenue Streams

It's clear the sun is now setting on the analogue world and we wave a wistful goodbye to the CD, but hope is not lost, as this gives rise to the digital age -cue fanfare!

Our new digital era presents artists with a vast number of previously unknown opportunities to widen their revenue stream. Focusing on first growing your social media presence can be a huge part of this - and a great money maker. Here at SoundSight, part of what we offer is to help connect you, the independent artist, with businesses who align with your music, values and creative process as an artist. Business sponsorships might include utilising your social media pages to promote their products or using products at gigs or publicity events. We want to empower you to make your own choices and to help create a sustainable future for your music career.


Marketing Yourself as an Artist

In order to attract sponsors and make money from your social media presence, entering into the world of social media marketing is a key step. Your audience want to be kept updated on what you’ve got planned. They want to know you - so feed them. Imbue your posts with personality using pictures, thoughts and anecdotes. Consider your brand - that is, how you want the image of you and your music to come across on the web.


Tools like Combin help you manage your social media content in one place. You can schedule your content ahead of time to be published later, manage multiple social media accounts and track audience engagement to see exactly what hits and what bombs with your followers.


SoundSight is here to help with your social media marketing. We’ve written a handy Artist Influencer Guide with things to consider when growing your online presence. ‘But I’m a musician, why do I need to learn about marketing?’ I hear you cry! It might seem like a lot of work from the onset but consider it an investment in the future of your sustainable music career.





Check back here for more tips and tricks on crafting your brand, growing your online presence and marketing your music in the future!


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