The Seattle Office of Film + Music aims to challenge that notion with its newly-released infographic that illustrates annual revenue of three up-and-coming fulltime Seattle musicians and how they do it. The infographic came to life after James Keblas, the Director for Seattle’s Office of Film + Music, was asked by a young musician, “how can I quit my day job and just play music?” Inspired by the question, Keblas reached out to other successful musicians to find out specifically how they do it.
The three musicians, each from different genres, willingly opened up their 2012 financial records and let Keblas’ team try and make sense of how the money flowed. “It was important for us to find musicians who modeled a middle class living,” said Keblas. “We are trying to show that this kind of a living can be done without having to be rockstar.”
From the financial analysis it was decided that there are six primary areas in which musicians bring in income. While the percentages of the musician’s revenue were different for each person, the categories held true. The musicians also gave some tips on how to have the best success in each category:
Licensing and Publishing – Companies, TV, Film, Commercials buy your music. Tip: Send out a monthly digital newsletter of your music to music supervisors with new songs ready for licensing.
Music Sales – CDs, downloads, streaming. Tip: You and your fans give away one free song on social media platforms to hook folks to buy more songs.
Merchandise Sales – T-Shirts, branded band-aids, condoms. Tip: You will increase merchandise sales by over 50% if you’re sitting at the table where the goods are being sold.
Live Performances – Concerts and touring. Tip: Don’t dismiss the earning potential of busking. Musicians at Sea-Tac Airport and the Pike Place Market are averaging over $100/hour in tips.
Studio Work – Film & video game music, studio or backup musician. Tip: Make friends with people in the tech world who need music scored for game or app development.
Instruction – Teach others music. Tip: Do group lessons and get the biggest paycheck for your time.
“I was surprised to learn how accessible the opportunities to make money are in music while also being incredibly complicated to navigate,” said Keblas. “My hope with this information is to demystify the business of music and for artists to be in more control of a thriving musical destiny.”
The take away for Keblas from this research? “It’s clear that if you want to make it as a musician, you need to have a business strategy for a majority of these revenue streams, if not all of them. No one said it was easy, but if you have the musical skills and the perseverance, you can do it.”