Lyrics & Songs > Music Career > History of the Singer / Songwriter Business: Part 1

History of the Singer / Songwriter Business: Part 1

("How does a songwriter originally make money.")

Singer Songwriter Business. How artist make money.You want to be a professional singer / songwriter, so let me ask you a question: what business is the professional songwriter in? How exactly does a songwriter make real money? I'll give you a hint: it's *not* by selling records to fans.

To understand how to build a successful music career as a singer / songwriter, you need to understand how they traditionally make their money.

Record companies would love you to continue to believe that singers / songwriters make money by signing with them and "selling records" because it keeps their doors revolving with new talent to fleece...err...I mean, "nurture".

The Internet of its Day.

At the beginning of the 20th century, broadcast radio connected the nation. Radio was the "Internet" of its day, so local bands could have their music heard in many cities instead of just in their hometowns.

And many record companies quickly became successful because they had the connections to get local talent on the radio and in front of bigger audiences with live shows.

Now let's say you were one of these local acts trying to make it as a singer / songwriter. You've been writing songs for years. So you decide to visit a record company for a record deal.

The Original Record Deal.

The two of you make a deal, but what did this deal look like? What did they offer you? What did they need from you in return?

Well of course you needed the record company’s connections to reach a bigger audience through radio and shows...but what did the record company need from you, the singer / songwriter? Have you ever thought about it?

What does the Record Company Need?

Traditionally, the record company was in the business of selling one product: vinyl records. And their customers were anyone who would buy their vinyl records. Now like any business, the record company understood that they had to make their product - their vinyl - valuable enough to sell to their customers.

People liked listening to songs they loved at any time, without having to wait for them to play again on the radio, so record companies needed to add the people’s favorite songs to their vinyl so their product would sell. Makes sense right?

important pointRecord Business Summary:

Product: Vinyl Records
Customer: Fans of Music
Record Company Needed: Great songs for their vinyl

Meanwhile... (in 1980's "Superfriends" voice)

Singers / songwriters were in a *different* business. They were never in the business of selling vinyl. They didn't know the first thing about cutting vinyl so why would they try to sell it?? No, the songwriter was in business to create & publish their art: their songs.

So let me ask you: who is the songwriter's customer? Who *needs* the songwriter's songs? Why it's the record company of course! The audience doesn't need the songwriter's songs since they can hear their favorite music on the radio.

But the record company needed new songs to sell their product; their vinyl records. In fact, a songwriter's customer is *any* business that needs the songwriter's music to sell their products to the songwriter's audience.

The only thing the songwriter needed was a way to make their songs more valuable. The songwriter needed an audience, the bigger the better.

important pointSongwriter Business Summary:

Product: Songs
Customer: Any business that needs good songs to sell their own products
Songwriter Needed: An audience who loves their songs


As a singer / songwriter, your customer was traditionally the record company (and other companies that need your music to sell their products), while a record company's customer is your audience; the fans of your music.

As a songwriter, your fans are NOT your customers. They never were...and they never will be. But aspiring music artists are convinced they are, wasting so much time and energy trying to sell songs to their fans but never earning enough money to live comfortably.

Click here for Part 2: Evil Geniuses >>

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