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The Evolution Of The Music Industry — And What It Means For Marketing Yourself As A Musician

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at September 13, 2021

Founder and EIC of Now Entertainment, Personal Branding/Public Relations Expert.

For many fans of music, the saying, “We are not in Kansas anymore,” rings truer than ever before. While it is evident that the content of the audio version of the entertainment industry has changed, there is a lot more that is different about what we now listen to and enjoy. Fans might be adjusting their tastes and preferences to the new sounds on the airwaves, but on the other side, artists are also facing a drastic shock. The tides of music production and marketing are moving fast, and only those strong enough to ride along will be left standing.

My business started as a recording studio and later grew into a full-service media company. Through this experience, I’ve seen how the music industry has evolved, as well as learned a few best practices on how independent musicians can adapt.

How has the music industry evolved?

Through the past 30 years, the way music is made and distributed has varied dramatically. The rise of the internet from the late 1990s has played a crucial role in how music is consumed globally, setting up a butterfly effect that inadvertently affects how musicians and artists are compensated and paid.

For a long time, the music industry has relied predominantly on traditional record labels. Both creators and consumers were completely at the mercy of the labels, and music preferences were heavily influenced by whatever happened to be in circulation. The label was the be-all and end-all of the artist’s career, deciding everything from marketing budgets to video sets and tour dates. I’ve seen some argue that the artistic expression of a true musician is heavily censored by what record labels consider to be marketable.

As the early 2000s set in, the power dynamics started to shift. Mobile phones became more popular, and music streaming sites started to mean business. Consumers now had access that physical record stores no longer defined. The supply pool got bigger, putting the listener in charge of what was hot or not, but the relationship was still tilted. From my perspective, the musician was still away from the pulse, and interactions with fans were primarily happening at meet-and-greets and tour venues.

As the 2010s rolled in, social media was booming and, suddenly, the floodgates were opened. A whole world of possibility was evident to both creators and listeners. The fourth wall had been brought down, and there was no room for the voice behind the music to speak directly. Social media introduced a level of music promotion that I believe had been unprecedented in earlier years. More and more platforms were vying for people’s attention, so they introduced unlimited features to keep audiences entertained.

Now, I’m finding that traditional entertainment providers recognize a new market opportunity: streaming on-demand. Music is one of the most popular bite-sized forms of entertainment that exists in limitless genres, with the ability to hold attention for hours. Streaming on-demand may be the champion of indie artists, as it can help eliminate the bottlenecks of traditional record labels. But despite the broader opportunity for discovery streaming platforms can give music creators, gaps still exist and there is still a limited avenue for adequate compensation for the artist.

Another aspect that has greatly evolved is music distribution. Music distribution is a process where a music distribution firm signs a deal with a record label or artist, giving them the right to sell their music to various channels. Hence, a music distributor can only sell music to channels that have an account with said distributor. During the first decade of the new millennium, I found the use of digital distribution systems became more profound. Gone were the days when independent creators had to collaborate with or need the support of other agencies to share their music with the globe.

What does this mean for independent artists?

My company also assists musicians with services such as public relations and distribution, and independent musicians often ask me for ways to help get their music to a large audience. I always tell them the same thing: “Link up with music distribution channels.” Plainly speaking, if you are an independent artist and you want to get your music on streaming platforms around the globe, you need to get familiar with the various distribution platforms in use today. Examples of these include Music Gateway, AWAL, Horus Music and Songflowr.

Another great way to distribute your music is through conventional channels like YouTube and Amazon. You can earn revenue as an independent artist through YouTube. All you need to do is join its partner program and use ads to generate revenue. YouTube does this by matching ads with your channel and the fans who watch your videos.

After you release your music, you can also run ads on social media and hire influencers to promote your music. Ensure you know how to properly target your audience, however, or else you could waste a lot of money and see no return on investment. Some musicians might even opt to work with a public relations agent and service DJs before they release their music. Just keep in mind that, in my experience, outsourcing PR can cost you around $3,000 to $5,000, and DJ record pools can range from $200 to $2,000.

As we can see, music has evolved mainly because of technological advances and improvements in how things were done before. These advances have also brought in new opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs alike. In the coming years, I believe progress in the music industry will be largely dependent on these same factors.


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