In part 1 of this subject I talked a lot about mostly established artists who were “in the music business” . The common themes I observed is that these artists playing at all levels had a very strong work ethic, and usually ensured that they had multiple income streams to support everyday living. They all were great as musicians, but that’s not enough to generate enough income to support yourself.

Even if you have brilliant musical skills and excellent songwriting, there still has to be a delivery system that connects with the wider world. As I said in the first part of this article, the advance of social media and online distribution are two edged swords. I set up Original Ukulele Songs as a project partly to explore this aspect. Originally it was just a FB platform and once we hit 1000 members I added the official site The project continues to gather momentum and in my view this is for two reasons. Firstly it’s very niche and there’s nothing like it on this scale. Secondly I have spent a fair bit of time promoting it to crucially it captures artist and listener’s attention. That’s great, and although it’s not directly generating income it is creating greater awareness as the platform becomes a focus for original material.

Imagination rules the world

Napoleon once said “Imagination rules the world” and certainly capturing imagination is essential in marketing. As I have always said “Difference dictates” so if you want to stand out as an artist you have to be different. This means in the visual medium as well as the actual music. Video, photos etc are essential in creating visual as well as auditory impact. Amazingly many artists don’t invest in good websites even though this is relatively inexpensive these days. Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think” is the go to book for learning how best to present a website to capture attention.

All these ingredients help with building a profile which in turn helps in getting live opportunities. When setting up The Small Change Diaries, I was very conscious that we needed a good website and good social media presence. In order to stand out we also use Karen Turner as our band photographer and Max Wootton as illustrator. Both these skilled folks help create a very specific image which helps to make us different. When we had our first play on BBC Radio, Alan Raw commented on the fact that we could be found “everywhere” on social media!  All of the above don’t generate hard cash, but they do help with building credibility. Our first overseas paid festival appearance came from being noticed online and that’s down to these efforts.

Smart investments

My own experience is that as an artist, its crucial to invest in what you are doing. These investments are in time and money. I allocate three hours rehearsal time as a minimum every week and have done so for the last three years. I have also funded the studio time and CD releases to build credibility and awareness of the band. The time investment can be significant. I estimate that I spend 15 – 20% of my working week on social media, blogs etc to maintain a presence online. Many artists will bemoan that they don’t have time to blog and be on social media, failing to appreciate that this is “playing the long game” and essential in building awareness.

Ultimately, for me it’s essential to love what you do. My experience to date, having run some very successful non music businesses is that the principals are very similar. You have to be focused and organized if you want to create something of substance. Many artists imagine that once they have recorded a CD, the work is done! Of course that’s just one small step in a much bigger process that requires ongoing attention. Income will come from lining up all these elements, and writing original material will be a big part of generating potential revenue.  Hats off to all artists that dedicate themselves to creating great music. Many of my favorites are not the most well known performers and I suspect not especially wealthy in terms of money. They do however continue to entertain and inspire myself and many others and I for one are supremely grateful.

nick cody

Earning a living from music, part 2

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