Getting Paid

If I get one more e-mail from an artist asking how to get paid I’m gonna explode!

Didn’t anybody tell these people making music for a living was a privilege, not a right?

I hate to rain on your parade here, but unless you move to a foreign country where the government pays you to make music, it’s your fans who are in control, if you have any.

Yes, you sat at home, spent a year making your record. Or, even hired big guys and played in a big studio. You’re convinced your work is art, that it should be owned by everybody. Only one problem, you haven’t got a plethora of believers.

Musicians used to be able to rail at the system. They couldn’t get their records into stores. They were held back by the man. But as any indie act will tell you, even in the bad old days, getting the disc in the store was just the first step. You had to get someone to buy it! Otherwise, the retailer just shipped it back.

But now you can get distribution yourself, on CD Baby, on iTunes… And since your music is available, you think someone wants it. Oh, how wrong can you be.

As I’ve stated many times before, you probably suck. Oh, you’re probably not terrible, but not good enough. Metaphorically, you might be a good ballplayer, but if you’re not good enough to play for the Yankees, you’re probably never going to make any money from music. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

So, first you have to have a lot of talent. A rare few have so much talent that the audience spreads the word. And these people make it. Check out John Mayer. If you had your ear to the ground, if you were networked, long before his Columbia debut musos were testifying about this guy. I must have heard from the CIMS posse for eighteen months straight how great Mayer was. If you’re that good, people do the work for you. Don’t worry about getting paid, the money will come, because people are looking to have their lives enriched.

Furthermore, Mayer himself has testified that P2P broke him. Yup, college students traded his songs all over the country. Not so much via sneakernet, with the guy in your neighborhood, as to another state, where the guy who used to live in your neighborhood now goes to college.

But that’s if you’re that good. And I’m not a believer that Mayer is one for the ages, but don’t think I don’t know he’s got something. And it’s this something that broke him. A combination of skill, talent, songs, performing ability and looks. Yup, looks still count, they’re just not everything.

Then again, Mayer took a year off from high school to practice playing the guitar. He was willing to sacrifice everything to make it. He didn’t have a fallback position, didn’t go to law school and play on weekends. It takes all of your effort all of the time to make it in music.

Don’t confuse the death of the CD and the rise of P2P with the end of remuneration in the music business. I believe people should pay for music. Unfortunately, the major labels, the powers-that-be, don’t agree. Because they’re the ones making music free by refusing to authorize new acquisition technologies. But, there are many other ways to make money other than for the tunes themselves.

You can play live. But most people can’t. Because they don’t have a fan base and they can’t grow one because they’re not good enough.

If you’ve got a fan base, they’ll buy CDs. As totems. They’ll buy the CDs for someone else, to turn them on. Maybe they’ll just e-mail the tracks, but that will get other people started.

You’ve got to stop thinking about your investment of time and money in your project. That ain’t worth shit. Hell, some of the greatest songs in rock history were written in fifteen minutes on inspiration and recorded almost as quickly. And those, my friends, are the ones still generating royalties for their composers.

Music isn’t about effort. It isn’t about money. It’s about inspiration.

The truth resonates with the public, not the work involved.

Do it out of passion. Be thrilled people want to hear it. Maybe you’ll never get paid. But, if you’re supremely talented, and you must be, you will make money. Probably more than you dreamed of at a date after most of your competitors have given up.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.