History of the Singer / Songwriter Business: Part 2
("What evil geniuses record companies are!")
The record company put the artist's songs on their vinyl and sold the vinyl, paying the artist a publishing fee (called a "royalty") for borrowing the artist's song. The artist kept ownership of their song as intellectual property.
But as record companies became richer, they started offering artists more "creative help" in exchange for more ownership of the song: lavish studio, quality sound; professional background singers, musicians and producers; staff writers to help finish albums, marketing of the song, crafting of the artistís image, etc.
Singer / Songwriters would agreed to the new deal because the smaller royalty check was still more money than the music artist had ever seen before, as the record often sold to millions of people.
But quickly, later generations of recording artists started to believe they were in the same business as the record company; the business of selling records to their fans.
Today's Record Deal is born: Get rich now...pay it back later.
Record companies began giving cash advances (in the form of an upfront "signing bonus") for any future records they guess a new artist's music would sell. But the company kept full ownership (called "publishing rights") of any songs the artist created by using the company's resources.
Meanwhile, the artist is paid a percentage of every record sold (like a sales commission)...but only after *first paying back* the signing bonus (cash advance) in full.
But fans & future singer / songwriters would see the almost instant wealth new artists gained (from simply signing with a label) and became convinced that the only way to have a successful music career is to sign with a record company, working for them.
This belief helped record companies grow their business astronomically since there would always be a pool of potential artists knocking on their door hoping for instant wealth and fame. The record company's financial future was secure, until...
As recording technology evolved records were replaced with 8-track tapes, then cassette tapes, then CDs, and now all music is digital; mp3 files streaming over the internet.
The traditional record business (i.e. "selling physical media recordings") became obsolete...there was no longer a need to buy physical recordings. And along with the free-sharing nature of the internet, this meant the traditional record company was no longer needed...so it started to die.
But instead of naturally fading away, record companies survived by:
- Claiming ownership of the artists' valuable music through the record
- Making the act of "freely sharing" that music - the very act that traditionally made an artist's music *more* valuable (see: songwriter business summary) - illegal through legislation.
Meanwhile, the income of signed artists began to shrink. Because they agree to get a percentage of every record sold, when record sales dropped so did their income.
Record companies pulled a bait & switch on singer songwriters and stole their music publishing business. Next they blamed the fans for doing what fans have always naturally done; what fans are supposed to do...share good music, by labeling them "pirates" (as if they should be grouped with individuals who historically kill and steal from others).
So how does knowing this help you build a music career?
Itís never been easier to build a successful music career in todayís world but to do that you need to:
1) Remember what business youíre in.
If youíre not creating a record company you are NOT in business to sell music to fans. Youíre in the "music publishing" business: renting your songs to companies that *need* valuable music to sell their products to *your* fans.
This means you need to make your music more valuable by building your fan base. Do not waste your time selling songs to your fans. Share them for free to make them popular, and then charge companies that want to use your songs. Itís your music. You can say who must buy it.
2) Use the internet to your full advantage.
Itís still true that you need as many people to love your music as possible to make it valuable enough that companies will want to rent it from you. This means your mission is to grow your audience.
In the past, you needed a record company to help get your song on the radio. But today, there are dozens of websites you can use to expose your songs to as many people as possible.
Again, do not waste your time trying to sell to your fans. If your fans want to buy a song, GREAT! But thatís just an added benefit; donít focus on that.
Again the key to making money as a singer / songwriter is to make your songs valuable by grow your audience and then charge *companies* a fee to use your songs to sell their products to that audience.
3) Pay attention to where you hear popular music other than on the radio.
Think of every commercial youíve ever heard or saw that used a song you liked; every movie or TV show accompanied by great music; every club or public venue you witnessed playing your favorite songs.
Each one of theses companies rented the song to help sell their products or services, and paid a royalty to the owner of the music. Research how to advertise to these businesses. Find these professional connections for yourself.
THIS is how *real* money is made as a singer / songwriter in the music business, and why record companies began seizing full ownership of songs from talented singers / songwriters like you.
Do you understand the singer / songwriting business a little better? Or do you still have trouble understanding? Post in the comments. And if you like this page, bookmark & share it!