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"Selling merchandising is fantastic because you win twice: You can't sell t-shirts, buttons, all kinds of things to your fan base, and you can make a little profit from that. In addition, they will now proudly wear your t-shirts and effectively advertise for you." - Jan 'Yarn' Muths

In this episode

  • A basic guide on how to make money with your music.

  • A look into the past: How did we go from $200k budgets for an album in the 90s to next-to-no budgets today?

  • Fundamentals of Copyright Collection Organisations

  • Distribution Services

  • Sync Licensing

  • Gigs, gigs, gigs

  • Merchandising

  • Subscriptions


About the 


With over 2 decades of recording, mixing and music production experience, Muths interviews musicians, producers and engineers from the Australian East Coast and the world. Always curious about production workflows, gear, software, techniques, and strategies. The Production Talk podcast is a must-listen for anyone interested in music production from the Northern Rivers and far beyond.

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music


Announcing the Gear Give-Away, thanks to Byron Music and CMI Music & Audio.

Win an AKG Lyra microphone and an AKG K371 headphone!

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  1. Share this podcast episode on your social media (URL:

  2. Add the HashTag #ProductionTalkPodcast

  3. Entries will be considered up until Monday Dec 6th, 2021 5pm (AEST)

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Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.



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Hello welcome back to the production talk podcast. It's great to have you on board again. This episode is quite special because the topic that we need to talk about today is probably concerning all of us to well varying degrees today I would like to speak about. Monetizing your music. That's a big subject and there's heaps to say but before we get into this. Let me just quickly make an announcement today for the very first time in this podcast series I would like to announce the gear giveaway feature. This was made possible. Thanks to my friend nick from Byron music and also the amazing folks from Cmi in Melbourne and also thanks to akag who donated a starter kit that we will give away towards the end of the episode. I'm so excited to announce this feature today. So make sure you stick around till the end of the episode if you want to find out how to win. Ok and let's move on so back to the topic today. It's all about monetizing your music. So the funny story about music and. Monetizing music is that look if you were here for the money in the first place chances are you would choose a career as a banker a lawyer or someplace else in the corporate world so making money in music is 1 of the harder ways to to make a living. And I think we are all aware about that. So let's just keep this in mind for now and a lot of us are probably here for the fun of it and for the creative outlet that we get from playing our music. It's actually really good for our mental health and you know in a time where um. We deal with a pandemic and where societies as a whole are more divided than ever. It's music that brings people back together so we need music more than ever these days in my personal opinion. So and let me personally thank you for being a musician and for sticking with it. And not giving up despite the difficulties that we face these days and despite how hard it can be to make money so why is it so hard to make money with with music. Well historically speaking. It's never been really easy. But. But we've certainly had a few developments over the last decades that ah basically led to to the situation that we're in today. So if we just rewind for ah for a moment and go back to let's say the 80 s and ninety s when there was a lot of money in the music industry when. Ah, bands had huge budgets a hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce major records and they booked themselves into studios for months at a time that was a time when ah the music marketing worked quite differently physical sales were the only option back then vinyl and casa tapes. Were the only consumer products that were majorly successful and however then say cds came along and the bosses of the record companies had a huge party because they managed to produce a cheaper product. Ah, City was cheaper to produce than a vinyl record and sell it back to to the people who already had the record and now wanted to switch formats for about well fifty percent more roundabout that depended on which record and where you lived but I remember buying vinyl records for about 20 and then later as a young bloke I bought the same cd for 30 the bosses of the record companies hit the jackpot big time and they had only 1 interest to keep their business model going and going and going ideally uninterrupted. So when the personal computer became more and more popular. Um, they didn't quite see the danger on the horizon people started to um, copy the content of cds to their computers and started to share it freely on the internet. This was the height of platforms such as napster lime wire and so on peer-to-peer Networks where people could freely share music and this led to a lot of music piracy which was not new to the music industry but it was of unprecedented dimensions. So. Effectively music piracy led to a strong decline in record sales and ah the record companies at that time completely missed the opportunity to ah switch their business model and to be. Innovative and sell music online instead. They decided to fight piracy with lawyers that was only mildly successful. Um, at large the consumers changed their behavior and the record companies didn't really see that they were just trying to defend their previous. Business model and and I believe they miss the opportunity because other industries at that time already managed to sell products digitally quite successfully. So unfortunately, um, it took till way into the 2000. Until streaming platforms became a thing and interestingly this was led by ah Apple as well as others that we should mention but not the Apple itunes store was probably 1 of the earlier bigger more successful businesses that provided the. Foundation for today's streaming services by first selling downloads legally at that time the entire consumer market had changed entirely and I remember how friends of mine proudly showed me their little usb hard drives which contained ah 10000 songs as m p 3 s. Each 1 ah compressed down to a megabyte or so they all sounded absolutely terrible but they had a large quantity. Well this is really sad in many ways. But what happened back then was a huge shift in consumer behavior and in the end it was the the businesses who managed to cater for that. Who succeeded and led to the next evolution of the music market but we could definitely talk about the fault here and we can now point the finger at napster and other platforms that we can also point the finger at ah, the consumers who had no other choice but to pirate music online. Because there was literally no legal options at that time. However I don't think that pointing fingers is helpful at all at this stage so we just need to face the fact that the consumers change their behavior the way they listen to music and the big bosses of the record companies. Left that field to to the piracy markets and that's a huge oversight. It's a huge business mistake in my personal opinion. So while record sales declined year by year around this time the touring industry. Ah. Boomed consistently for many many many years so that was somewhat ok because 1 leg of the industry was a decline the other was other 1 was on the rise effectively we saw a reversal from the Ninety s to the 2000 s while in the ninety s many musicians and record companies made their money from selling cities and merchandise and so on and they used the tour to promote more record sales later in the two thousand s it sort of turned upside down while in the mid 2000 s there was not too much money to be made anymore with ah city sales. However, the touring industry got stronger and stronger and effectively than musicians could steal tour and make money this way so in some ways the album became the reason why they could tour again and make money on tour so it went sort of back to front. And that went on for quite some time so the streaming services came in in the mid 2000 s late 2000 s got stronger and stronger in the 2010 s and what we've seen then is that well it's better than piracy because musicians at least get a small amount of money. However, we all know and if you've listened to episode 21 you know my opinion about streaming services. My love-hate relationship that I have with them. But at least they allowed to turn the predominantly pirating industry. Into a certain legal industry online which is by itself of course something that we admire. But we also know how little they pay so that's a real problem and that's ongoing however for a significant time in the twenty ten s this could be compensated by playing gigs. By touring ah and the associated sale of merchandising that went along but then came the pandemic and that changed everything again. So state after state closed their lives on venues and musicians stayed home and that now means that the only remaining. Stream of income is suddenly died out and that's obviously a real problem and many musicians have been struggling significantly since so that's where we're at and in many ways we have hit rock bottom and that's obviously a real concern. However. We can look at it in 2 ways we can look at the glass being half full or the glass being half empty and I personally tend to be um, the optimistic side I like to look at the glass being half full. Um. Just from experience I've observed that most things in life and also in the industry and also in in business come and go in waves and if there is a certain period of high income soon enough eventually it will crash and there will be some kind of an industry overhaul or. Disruption so to speak and I think that's where we are at at this point. So I think we have hit rock bottom and now there will be people who give up and move away and there will be people who stick around and I really hope that you are 1 of the musicians who sticks around right now because I would place a bet. On the music industry picking up again over the next few years covid cannot paralyze the music industry forever. People need music people need live music. People need to come together and dance and I have a dear belief that this will never never ever change. So I predict. That it will pick up again and if you stick around you are the person who will be around when the industry picks up again and that's an opportunity that's an opportunity to rise with the industry and I hope that you take this approach as well. That you take the time now to get yourself ready to write songs to produce your music to have something ready to go when when the doors open again and then rise with it and while the live sound industry might still be a little bit slow here and there. It already has picked up in some countries and that's really good. So um I think now is the time to set up your infrastructure and make sure you are all set up to reap the benefits when the doors open for your local venues and you get more gigs again. So today I'd like to talk about monetizing music and. And so maybe just a couple of general ah thoughts about making money with music I'm of the belief that if you decide to make your music with the sole purpose of making money chances are that's not going to work too. Well I find that. With many things in life and music is definitely 1 of them. You need to create something that speaks to people's hearts and make it available to them. The return will come eventually if you provide benefit to people if you provide something that people love. However. You need to consider that it's a huge investment First you need to learn your instrument. You need to learn songwriting chance you've learned this already if you listen to this podcast but you know how much time you've invested already and that won't stop anytime soon. So you. You cannot make any short-term gains with with music but instead think long-term and set yourself up to make a little bit of money with your first release and then a little bit more with a second and a little bit more with a third and eventually it can turn into something but um. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by expecting significant returns really quickly. This is probably not going to happen. It's the same thing with success in the top 10 or charts. So if you start your music career with the first release and you expect that you. You write a number 1 hit record chances. Are you set yourself up for disappointment that's unrealistic. So most people who get to to the top ah won't get there with their first release. Although this has happened but it's a rare occurrence most of the time people have been around for a long time and consistently. Produced music and then 1 day it just happened and monetizing. Your music is a little bit like that. So what we want to do today is talk about the infrastructure that you need to set up to allow money to return back to you and um. I would like to talk you through a couple of steps that I believe are are important so step number 1 is royalties in every country. There are different organizations that collect royalties and return those back to musicians. Since most of our listeners here are australian I would like to mention apra over here. Appro is the organization that does exactly this. So if you're a musician if you write songs if you perform then you definitely need to register yourself with apra. Again, talking short Tom Gaines here if you expect big dollars straight away. You may set yourself up for disappointment. So here comes step number 1 for your moneymaking infrastructure step number 1 is to set yourself up with an organization that collects royalties for you if you're in australia this would be April however, each country has a different organization. So let's say if you're in the and in the united states this might be the american federation for musicians or if you were in the u k you might need to deal with the author's licensing and collecting society I'm going to put a list with ah different copyright collection organizations in the show notes. For your country. So what do they actually do look every time your music is played. Let's say on a radio station. The radio stations will pay these copyright collection organizations some money for that. And from there it will stream back to the artists who wrote the music and if that's you and you haven't signed up then this money will never show in your bank account. So therefore make sure you sign up with April if you're in australia and look up the show notes for your organization. For other countries. So this is very important because it goes even 1 step further and they also collect money for life performances including your own. So if you perform a gig you can fill out a sheet return this back. And eventually they will collect money for you and return it your way royalties generally speaking start with pennies and cents first so in your first year of being an apro member. You might just make very little money but it's important to set up your infrastructure It's definitely worth it. And the long run because it sort of builds up. It's like compound interest because the more music you release the more it adds up and the music from years ago may still contribute and ah add to to the returns you get every year so with an organization such as aprilpro. Money will automatically flow your way in in most countries, these organizations are for free when you're a musician this could could be different for record companies and so on um, however, you need to check with your organization. Some countries have more than 1 organization. So it may make sense to. Compare and see which 1 gives you the better conditions you can also ask around and see what your fellow music friends do maybe they have recommendations which 1 to choose good. Ok, let's move on. You've signed up for your copyright collection organization such as april. And now the infrastructure is said that every time you produce music and it's played some money can come your way when you release a new song. You need to lock back on and register the song with your organization so they know which songs belong to you. If you're in a band you need to discuss what we call the split. That's usually divided mutually um, depending on the contribution. So usually the songwriters and that the musicians who write the lyrics may get a few more points than let's say a hired studio musician. But in the end, the split is up for you to discuss? Um, so therefore you can sign up and a song can be therefore registered ah to I don't know twenty percent for you and ten percent for somebody else that depends on how you set it up. But make it a personal habit that every time you release music that you lock back onto your account and update your records there so that returns can flow your way over the last few years I've spoken to quite a few musicians and many are already signed up to apram. However, I've also come across quite a few that have never considered and just basically said well I can't be bothed. It's sense anyway. So I don't care well in all honesty I think this is a little bit sad because yes it might be sense in the first year but by not signing up at all and not putting the effort in. You basically rule out any returns for the future. So I would say it's a must do for all active musicians to sign up and make sure that that money can find its way back to you step number 2 choose the right distributor for you. So. Music distribution is something we briefly touched on before there are services that you can upload your music to and they will move the music from there to all the streaming services in the world. Well most of them usually or at least all the big ones. Um. This is important so that your music is available to on many many many platforms and therefore you you get a further reach. We also discussed the pros and cons of that in a different episode I believe it was not in episode 21 where I sort of recommend it to consider cutting out the really low-paying ones? Well you know what? if you want to hear more about this argument. Why don't you just go back and listen to episode 21 1 more time. However, you know I'll leave this up to you of course that's entirely your core some of these services will ask you for a 1 ne-off payment. Other services offer yearly subscriptions some services charge you per song others give you a flat rate and allow you to release as many songs as you want in ah in a certain cycle. Some of these distributors allow only sterrephiles others allow dorby atmos mixes these days there are quite a few differences. For example, some of these distributors allow you to set up a split and then automatically split the income according to how you and your fellow musicians decided to split There are quite a few things to consider so test or check each 1 and make sure you've got the right 1 for for your needs. In this case, it's a little bit of an investment. However, it's necessary in order to see any returns from streaming the question of course is could you. Go directly to the streaming streaming services and the answer is definitely yes, this is possible so you can bypass the distribution steps if you want to however, be prepared to invest a fair bit of menu labor and signing up with all the different services uploading individually. They have different. Requirements. So it's quite a labor-intensive workflow to get your music out to all these streaming services. So therefore a music distributor may be worth the investment I leave this up to you to decide. However, if you want to get your music out there. It's sort of. A common step these days. Let's move on step number 3 have you considered s sinknc licensing so sync licensing effectively is an additional income stream that you can open up in addition to all the streaming. Which means that if you make your music available for sync licensing businesses across the world or individuals across the world can buy a music for a small fee and use it legally let's say in their advertisements or in a tv series or maybe a hollywood blockbuster. That may depend. It's usually something smaller. Maybe even in a podcast. Guess what the music that you listen to at the beginning of my podcast was written by somebody I believe in skininav if I remember correctly it was then put up on a sink licensing service and I bought the license from there to use the music on my podcast. So the money that I spent there will go back to to the music composer the idea behind Sync licensing is that they're Non -exclusive so I don't own the music somebody else might also use the same piece of music and I'm fine with that. So therefore the composer has the ability to sell the music. Not once. But several times although of course the agreements may may differ in in rare cases. Sync licensing is done exclusively. So only 1 brand can buy it and that is usually a lot more expensive if you consider to put out your music via synnc licensing I'd recommend. To produce your music in 2 ways. The normal mix that you submit to the streaming services as well as an instrumental version means without all the vocals this is necessary because in many situations music will become the background for let's say a tv commercial. Or a tv series and the vocals may cause trouble with the dialogue of the tv show. So therefore tv producers often like instrumental music as the background music. The idea is to basically basically do both have your music produced normally for all the streaming services. And make both versions with vocals and without available. Um for sink licensing a couple of the s sinknc licensing services that I would like to point out are pon five music bed epidemic sound and so on there's of course a couple more for more details see the show notes the next step is to book yourself as many gigs as you can and play as many concerts as as possible. The more you wrote there the better of course it's about the income that you get from gigs but that's not all gigs are also a great investment to build. You're following and built your audience I would say that 5 people I would say that the 20 people who dance wildly at your show are worth a lot more than 100 clicks or a thousand clicks on facebook. Because it makes people feel something when they are at a gig with you on stage having just a great time. It's something to remember well a click on Facebook well it's not you know people won't remember that usually so when it comes to gigs make sure that you get paid fairly. Conditions need to be negotiated of course and it is a smarter idea to contact your local ah union for musicians each country usually ah most most countries have unions for musicians and they are probably quite well-equipped to give you fair suggestions for ah for minimum wages. Sooner or later you will come across a venue that just can't afford this much. Well, that's a venue that you should probably apply the eighty twenty principle to and just don't contact anymore instead focus on the ones that do pay fairly and book more gigs there plan out your Year. Plan ahead, many event organizers plan gigs way in advance so set up an online calendar such as a google calendar or something around those lines for your band where everybody's locked in that way. It's easy to book try to team up with other bands. Maybe a band from another city can open up for you for you and your local crowd and in return you can travel to their city and open up for them and their local crowd suddenly you double your reach so and also along the way probably you make some good friends if you can engage with a people. Hang around before and after the show speak to people have a drink together have a good time introduce yourself ask for their names engage with your audience. Don't be distant instead. Build connections talk to them. Ask what they like about it. Ask what other music they like ask them if they want to sign up to your newsletter so they know. When you when you're back in town to meet up next time good and of course gigs lead to another step the next step of course is merchandising if you play gigs without merchandising. Well you miss a great opportunity merchandising is fantastic. Because you win twice. You can't sell t-shirts buttons. What have you patches all kinds of things to your fan base and you can probably make a little profit from that. In addition, they will now proudly wear your your t-shirts and effectively advertise for you. That's fantastic. So it's a win-win situation. It's just not cool. Not to do anything make sure you've got something available sell merchandise through your website or your Facebook page and for every single show make sure you've got some merchandise around merchandising is a great way to generate an additional income There are also online services that make ordering merchandising and selling merchandising very very easy bandcamp is just 1 of those many services that I recommend in in this context so make sure you read read up on that and get started if you don't have merchandising yet. This is a must. Do don't miss out on that and the last step for today is to set up a membership subscription for your diehard fans. This is something that can be done through many websites these days and the idea must be that you allow a certain limited number of people. Extra access to you and your life. It could be that every once in a while you have meet and greets where you hang out online with your fans. It might be that you share additional content, additional videos makingoffs and so on behind behind a certain paywall where people need to subscribe to be part of it. You will be surprised. It seems a little bit unlikely at first but actually diehard fans are happy to do that if they get additional value and to get a bit closer to you so subscription services are actually a good way to make a little bit of additional income. It might not be the right thing for beginners. But for more established acts. This is almost almost compulsory I would say if you don't have this. You definitely miss out. Ok so now let's sum it all up. We've spoken about quite a few different steps each step by itself requires a little bit of work to set it up. And will not immediately generate huge incomes, but the sum of all of it will eventually add up. It's like it's like compound interest the more you fill up your catalog. The more royalties you will see and then don't forget time the longer you are active as a musician. The more followers you will eventually get and the royalties from old releases still come rolling in where the new ones are added so the more music you produce the stronger your catalog grows and eventually the more return you get. It's a work in progress. Do not expect short-term gains plan for the long run but make sure you don't miss any of these core parts because you need to set up your infrastructure now if you want to see returns in the future I know as a matter of fact that I have not yet covered all the possible income streams for musicians. This is just. Some of the standards but it should get you started so getting started is the most important element. So after finishing this podcast make sure you get straight to work. Sign yourself up. There's more information in this in the show notes so get in there and ah click your way around I hope you enjoyed. This episode today. It is time to get back to our podcast giveaway. So thanks again to my friend nick from Bara music who approached me and made all of this possible and thank you very much to cmi in Melbourne. Who were so kind to donate some a k g gear as a giveaway today. So what's up for Grabs a package containing the Akg lyra microphone as well as an a K g k 3 7 1 headphone. So if you want to win this set. Ah, make sure to go online and share this episode with all your friends and tag the production talk podcast in your post. The winner will be drawn from all the posts who share this podcast on their social media when you do so make sure to tag the production talk podcast. The instructions are also in the show notes. So if this was a bit too fast. Please check it out. The winner will be announced next week fingers crossed for you. So this is it for this episode. You have a few things to do I'm sure. Go to the show notes go through it 1 more time. Some of the steps you may have done already. Hopefully there were a couple of steps among that are new to you so get straight into it. Sign yourself up. Make sure you take action and finish up your infrastructure to monetize your music. If you like this episode. Please recommend it to all your friends and all your fellow musicians pass it around from band to band from artist to artist because I think there are lots of musicians out there who could benefit from this episode if you're a new listener welcome so much and thank you so much for joining in today. It's really amazing to have you on board. You can also sign up to our Facebook group. It's called the production talk podcast community I'm there every day of the week and if you want to have a chat reach out to me there for now. Thank you so much for being on board and if you decide to go for the giveaway fingers crossed for you I wish you heaps of luck. Talk to you next week.
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