As artists, we put the art of music as a priority. The beauty of creating music is unique whether it be on your own or in collaboration with others. However, it is nearly impossible to create and develop a project from start to finish fully on your own, there will be other players involved at some point in the process and one of the biggest issues when working with other people: MONEY. At the end of the day, we as artists are providing a service and we should get paid fairly for this service. Today, Groover will be giving you some tips on how to monetize your work and avoid underselling your music.
How does an artist make money?
Unfortunately, most artists do not have the luxury of a stable monthly salary. Because of the pay structure of the industry, most jobs are based on percentages, one-off deals or both; artists get paid more like how freelancers would in the “real world”.
Nevertheless, there is something nice about this too. This means that artists are in complete control of how to monetize their work and can get paid from jobs like gigging, teaching, session work, compositions, sound recordings, selling merch, sync licenses, etc. Artists are like a jack of all trades! However, it is important to know how to monetize your services … because at the end of the day, you are providing a service in your field of expertise and that should be compensated for.
According to a study made by The Future of Music Coalition Organization, 4,453 respondents said that 49% of their annual income comes from live performance and teaching; two jobs where your price is incredibly important.
| Check out: How to find a booker
Make sure the price is right: factors to consider
There are many factors to take into consideration when you monetize your work and set your price but, for the sake of clarity, these are the five that we will talk about:
- Experience – how many years do you have under the belt? When figuring out how much you should charge for your service, you should take into consideration how many years you’ve been in the business for. Usually, more experienced artist charge higher rates than those just starting out.
- Expenses – how much is it going to cost you to do the job? Take into account whether or not you have to travel, buy materials, hire people, book rooms or studios … all of these things cost money and you shouldn’t be paying for them out of your own pocket. Calculate those expenses and add them to your quote… remember, you want to MAKE money NOT SPEND MORE than what you started with.
- Availability – is your agenda completely free or are you a busy bee? Is it touring season? Availability is an underrated factor to consider, let me tell you why. Let’s use the scenario of a band trying to get booked at a venue as an example. They may have higher chances of getting booked in the winter than in the summer, especially if they are an emerging band that hasn’t done a lot of shows before because they’re requesting off-peak dates (the majority of artists tour in the summer). Likewise, if the booker thinks that their rate is too high they can easily find another band to fill in that spot at a cheaper rate during peak dates. On the other hand, there are more opportunities to get booked for in the summer due to outside venues and/or festivals. Moreover, your own personal agenda is important too! If the job comes at an inconvenient time/date for you, you could perhaps charge a higher rate or not take the job.
- Average pricing – what are other people getting paid for the same job? Understand the market that you’re working in. Investigate and calculate what the average quote for that job would be: think back on what you’ve gotten paid for that job and estimate what other acts are being paid. With this information, you can create an educated asking price and avoid underselling your work.
- Necessity – do you have bills to pay at the end of the month? At the end of the day, this is probably the most important factor and the reason why a lot of musicians blindly say yes to all job opportunities: they need the money. However, I recommend, instead of just taking what you can get, calculate how much money you need to be making per week/month and figure out fare prices for your rates from there.
Once you take these factors into consideration, monetize your work fairly to then charge possible collaborators, write them down and make them official. This way if someone in the future wants to collaborate with or, better yet, asks you what your rates are, you now have an official document showing what they are. REMEMBER: you can always go up or down from these pre-determined prices but, having these base figure is always a good resource to fall back on.
It’s not all about money
This would not be a realistic and helpful tool if we didn’t talk about the most popular form of compensation in the music industry: favors. Normally when you are starting out, you don’t have the funds to afford a top of the line collaborator (producer, songwriter, manager, etc) so, we result to working with other emerging talent and work on the basis of “you help me out and I will help you out in return”. There is nothing wrong with this! It’s even encouraged! Taking that free gig or collaborating on a song with a producer for free can be a good thing because you are building relationships and the music industry works on the basis of networking and personal relationships. However, there can be a downside to this: they could then expect your services to always be free. If this is something you want to avoid, I recommend letting them know from the get-go that this first collaboration is being used as a test run to see whether or not you work well together. Sometimes, mentioning what you would charge normally but then explaining that you can make the exception for them, just this one time, can be a good thing to do. It can help them feel special and like they need to help you in return; this is also a subtle way to include your future pricing in the conversation.
Be clear and straightforward from the get-go
If there is one piece of advice to take out of this guide it is the following: be clear and straightforward from the get-go. Set your price or ask for their price at the beginning, so there won’t be any surprises at the end. Rip the band-aid off at the beginning to avoid any problems or fights about money because those are the worst! If you decide that you will benefit from collaborating with someone for free, make sure that you are both in agreement. When it comes to payment, do not just assume what the other person is thinking. Also, this could be a key factor to pre-determine whether or not you want to work with them: maybe their price is too high? Or you won’t be earning enough?
Moreover, I suggest getting whatever all parties decide on, in writing. There is nothing wrong with getting an agreement in writing whether it be a contract or a screenshot of a chat; some sort of written agreement can come incredibly handy in the future and can dissolve any dispute you may have. If you are worried about the message you are sending to others by wanting a written agreement, DON’T BE. No one will think you are too tough or not want to work with you; quite the opposite really, most people will find that to be very professional and will be grateful for it at the end of the day.
| Check out: Music Rights and how they work
You can say no: know your worth
A common misconception, especially in the music industry, is that a “low price = more work” and this is NOT TRUE. Subconsciously, you are showing the world that this price is what you value your work to be worth and therefore, underselling yourself in order to get more jobs. REMEMBER: when you monetize your work, you can always go lower but, if you start low you will have to fight twice as hard to get paid higher rates and may make some people angry along the way. However, there are also consequences for setting your price too high: people won’t want to work with you. So, to monetize your work effectively, you need to find a healthy balance between tactical price and fair pay.
Moreover, because we are dealing with an artistic world, it is sometimes hard to separate the art from the artist, but don’t forget that you are getting payed for an exchange of goods and services. Therefore, monetize your work! Do not take quotes for your services as personal attacks towards your art or let it lower your self-worth and confidence. Most importantly, remember that you can say no to jobs! Though you may be eager to work, if the job doesn’t line up with your values or you don’t think you are getting paid fairly for your work then don’t do it. Trust me, if it’s a job that is raising red flags with you, it will not be one that is detrimental for your career. However, you need to know whether or not you want to do the job early on in the process.
Therefore, I suggest, talk about money first. Though it may uncomfortable, you will save yourself a lot of headaches. If you are straight forward with the people that you work with from the get-go they won’t expect anything different from you.
How can Groover help you monetize your work as a musician?
Groover can be a great tool for you to navigate through and ease some hardships along the way. With Groover, you can look for future collaborators, read all of our articles (which include tips and advice for you), but most importantly: you can find industry professionals that can serve as mentors and are more than happy to help you with any query that you may have.