Seventeen years ago, when I left school in Minnesota for a science credit for a music business degree, I thought I knew exactly what it took to become a professional musician. It was 2005, the industry had just been turned upside down by Napster and iTunes, and while my studies at this (now defunct) music school were great, I was taught history of the music business, and I soon realized that what I was taught as a singer-songwriter wasn’t really relevant to the new music industry.
Back then, I thought the only way to a successful career in music was to get a record deal. I was taught how to negotiate 100-page recording contracts. However, I was no Learn how to get a record deal. I quickly realized that I had two options: One, I could sit around and wait for this elusive record deal to fall into my lap – and by God I’d be ready to hit that controlled composition genre that I’d learned so much about. Bring it on! Or figure out how I can build a music career on my own terms.
I chose the latter.
Fast forward seven years, 500 shows, three albums, countless sync placements, top 10 iTunes chart shows, opening shows, headlining tours and chronic neck creak after hours spent sleeping in a van, I did it – with no record deal, no manager, no No booking agents no promoters.
Except not in the way anyone was talking about.
I learned in real time. And happy to share the knowledge I was gaining. Word spread, and my inbox was flooded with musicians from all over the country asking how to get music on TV, how to sell out clubs, how to chart, how to build a fanbase and how to make a music career happen – traditional support. Music arena without. When the flood of emails became unmanageable, I started a blog, called Arie’s Tech, and wrote about what I was learning about running my music career.
I began interviewing successful artists, directors and other innovators in the industry. I realized that independent artists are succeeding in a big way around the world – but no one is talking about it. Their stories weren’t written in books or in the business, but I was learning about the hundreds (if not thousands) of musicians making a really good living by inventing new music businesses. And I felt I had to tell their story.
I read most of the music business books out there. And unfortunately none felt relevant anymore. They didn’t cover how the “new music business” was working. They still started with the premise that to be successful in music you needed a record label, manager, booking agent, lawyer, etc.
But it was not true! At least not from what I experience, witness and learn from my community.
So I felt I had to write a book to share these insights, along with practical tips on how to make it in today’s music business. And today, I present the third version of How to make it in the new music business.
A lot has changed in the music industry since the previous edition three years ago, so I felt it was the best time for a huge update. This new edition covers the post-Covid touring landscape, how artists have branched out into social media (like TikTok) in the past few years, livestreaming, NFT, new royalty collection methods (MLC is now firmly in place), new rants. With updates on the artist vs. songwriter divide, day-by-day single and album release timelines, sync licensing, branding, marketing, and a new chapter discussing over 100 jobs in the music industry other than recording artists.
We are in a very exciting time in the industry. In 2021, DIY, self-published artists earned over $1.5 billion from recorded music alone. About 35% of recorded music revenue worldwide now comes from independent artists — not signed to a major label. And Spotify reported that in 2021 alone, more than 16,500 artists earned more than $50,000 from Spotify revenue alone. These numbers show that this is not just a few anomalies, but a global trend.
Another enlightening win for working musicians: Tour income has also become much more democratized over the years, and more indie bands are seeing serious success on the road. In 2000, the top 100 tours captured 90% of all revenue, while in 2019 the top 100 captured only 42%. Never before in the history of the modern music industry have independent musicians been able to sustain healthy, long-term careers — without the help of a record label.
The purpose of “How to Make It in the New Music Business” is to give those who aspire to make a living in music a path: the concrete steps you should take to get to a level of success where you are making a good living doing what you love. You can get there. It won’t be easy, but if you love it enough and work hard enough, it will happen. I will show you how.
Ari Herstand is a best-selling author How to make it in the new music business, Host of the Webby Award-winning New Music Business podcast, CEO and founder of music business education company Aris Tech, and a Los Angeles-based musician.