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Musicians: Do not read


zircon
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These days, isn't it most lucrative to work on your own as a song writer/producer/whatever by getting a reputable publisher (or publishing yourself) and maybe joining ASCAP or BMI?

I've only read up on it a little, but it would be awesome if someone here with actual experience could talk about it openly. I keep toying with the idea of doing this myself, but I'm not even sure where to begin.

From what I think I understand, is if you're willing and able enough to be diverse, you can make a half-way decent living writing jingles or whatever for sound libraries that dish out your music to commercials, radio, tv, etc.

Can anyone confirm this?

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Yes. Publishing is an active income stream and one of the few that haven't suffered much. However, actually landing a gig as a career songwriter is nearly impossible. The competition is incredibly stiff. The best songwriters are also highly prolific. Most times, when people get publishing deals, they're single-song only. Your chances are very low of getting an ESA (exclusive songwriter agreement) where you become an in-house writer for a publisher.

Jingles can generate massive income. You don't need to be with a publisher to do this, nor do you necessarily need to go with a library. Music written specifically for major TV ads (no royalties involved - this is work for hire) can easily net tens of thousands of dollars. *Easily*. Even minor commercials are quite lucrative. But again, the problem is that there are established 'jingle houses' that crank out tons of music all the time. Breaking in is difficult.

Music libraries are perhaps the best and most solid source of income today. Their function is to collect lots of music and sell it (license it) to clients that need it, from ad agencies, to corporations that need music for sales videos, hobbyist filmmakers, video game producers, major film directors, and everyone in between. I've been doing this for about a year and there is potential for a lot of money without needing tons of connections. It seems like there are a dozen new libraries every day, too.

Just for some numbers, it's realistic that as an entry-level writer doing all MIDI stuff, you can earn $300-500 per song you write up front, plus backend royalties if the music is used on TV. Now keep in mind each song is only gonna be a few minutes, and is primarily BGM-oriented. 60 second tracks can earn $150 - very high-quality tracks w/ all appropriate edits and a unique sound can earn $1000. Do you think you can put out 40-50 songs a year of this nature? Then you might be on the way to a career right there.

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Yes. Publishing is an active income stream and one of the few that haven't suffered much. However, actually landing a gig as a career songwriter is nearly impossible. The competition is incredibly stiff. The best songwriters are also highly prolific. Most times, when people get publishing deals, they're single-song only. Your chances are very low of getting an ESA (exclusive songwriter agreement) where you become an in-house writer for a publisher.

Jingles can generate massive income. You don't need to be with a publisher to do this, nor do you necessarily need to go with a library. Music written specifically for major TV ads (no royalties involved - this is work for hire) can easily net tens of thousands of dollars. *Easily*. Even minor commercials are quite lucrative. But again, the problem is that there are established 'jingle houses' that crank out tons of music all the time. Breaking in is difficult.

Music libraries are perhaps the best and most solid source of income today. Their function is to collect lots of music and sell it (license it) to clients that need it, from ad agencies, to corporations that need music for sales videos, hobbyist filmmakers, video game producers, major film directors, and everyone in between. I've been doing this for about a year and there is potential for a lot of money without needing tons of connections. It seems like there are a dozen new libraries every day, too.

Just for some numbers, it's realistic that as an entry-level writer doing all MIDI stuff, you can earn $300-500 per song you write up front, plus backend royalties if the music is used on TV. Now keep in mind each song is only gonna be a few minutes, and is primarily BGM-oriented. 60 second tracks can earn $150 - very high-quality tracks w/ all appropriate edits and a unique sound can earn $1000. Do you think you can put out 40-50 songs a year of this nature? Then you might be on the way to a career right there.

wut? you mean all these unused midis i have laying around can be sold for moneys? how/where plz

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Sorry, by "all MIDI" I mean no live instruments, not .MID format. Very few places will take actual MIDIs and even if they do they will pay much less since they have to do more work.

Google "music production libraries", get together a cohesive package of ~10 songs, make sure you have the project files, and cold call 'em saying you have a CD you want to pitch.

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Oh bollocks, it's dilemma time.

Release solo albums for free on the internets and continue to starve, or sell my soul to publishing houses or musical libraries and continue to starve albeit slightly less.

I like giving stuff away. But I've also come to the unfortunate and disturbing realization that ingrained in capitalist psychology is the thought that if it's free, it must suck. It's a large part of the reason that so many people refuse to take video game arrangements seriously as music.

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Well, to make money in the music industry you have to be able to accept that your music IS a product, like a tube of toothpaste, a box of mac & cheese, or a candy bar. Occasionally, a service. However, I do not think this diminishes the art. Does selling a CD for $10, or licensing a song for $200 somehow change the notes on the page? The tone of your bass drum? The soulful performance of the singer? The answer is NO.

I do feel that art can be devalued by public perception, or by the behavior of the artist. The truth is, the perception that most free music is crappy is based in reality; most free music really is crappy! Not having confidence in your music and saying "hey, this rocks!" is also detrimental. If you don't think your art has any worth, why should anyone else?

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I was actually referring to the classic rock coverband as being soulless.

Making lots of money because you play exactly what the bars want to hear ("brown eyed girl", "mustang sally") and making it impossible for original artists to make a buck.

Thanks for the clarification. Makes a ton of sense now.

This sounds really similar to what I hear a lot of [visual] artists say, particularly at anime conventions. Most that I know find it plenty more rewarding to do their own thing, create their own characters and style, etc. But, you sell a lot more prints of fanart than originals. Doing fanart might not be awful, but it does detract from what you'd rather be doing (i.e., your own style). KF

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Well, to make money in the music industry you have to be able to accept that your music IS a product, like a tube of toothpaste, a box of mac & cheese, or a candy bar. Occasionally, a service. However, I do not think this diminishes the art. Does selling a CD for $10, or licensing a song for $200 somehow change the notes on the page? The tone of your bass drum? The soulful performance of the singer? The answer is NO.

The truth is, the perception that most free music is crappy is based in reality; most free music really is crappy! Not having confidence in your music and saying "hey, this rocks!" is also detrimental. If you don't think your art has any worth, why should anyone else?

There's only one way to fix this perception - release good music for free and accept donations. Change the stereotype and refuse to crank out those tubes of toothpaste and candy bars from the assembly line with no artistic weight - make everything you make count and really mean something. A tube of toothpaste means nothing - it's just a device to make money. Music like that means nothing to me. I don't think musicians should make music for money, make it for themselves and their fans and above all because they have a cool concept in their head they want to make a reality - money is a bonus and is icing on the cake, the way I see it. I think money should mean people appreciate the music, not that the artist has convinced people to pay a ticket price. As to the second part, I think there's a limit to this. There's a fine line between saying an album is sweet and hey everyone check this out and tell me what you think - and saying that the music is amazing and incredible and coming off like their head is so inflated they can barely hold it on their shoulders - almost daring people to contest the price they put on it. Personally, I don't even want to support an artist who does that. If all this means I'm never going to find my place in the music industry when I get good enough at making music, then maybe that's just it - maybe the music industry isn't the right direction for me.

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i didn't read the article.. but it has always been hard to make it as a musician, and always will be. the internet may have changed a few things, but the economics and market remain the same. if anything, it's made the market worse since people are probably willing to pay less for music nowadays, but that's offset by lower production costs. so in the end, i don't think much has changed in terms of earning a living as a musician... musicians are for the most part still STARVING ARTISTS

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Antipode, "product" does not imply "cranked out on an assembly line". Antigravity is a product. I didn't create it with no artistic weight or vision. Hardly anything in this industry is really made "assembly line" style - that has been dying for the last century. As I mentioned before, most publishing deals are single-song only; the days of Tin Pan Alley are long gone. Additionally, releasing good music and relying on donations will earn you very little to nothing. You won't make a career or even a decent auxiliary income. That's fine if you're not interested in actually being a career musician, but many people (like myself) are.

I think money should mean people appreciate the music, not that the artist has convinced people to pay a ticket price.

Well, it doesn't mean that, unfortunately. Harsh reality. Tons of people 'appreciate' music and won't spend a dime on it. More and more people are like that, really. Think about how many people come to OC ReMix, post saying they LOVE the music, and don't donate anything. Dave would have to give exact figures, but I'd say a conservative estimate is that maybe one in ten thousand listeners actually donate?

You really have to SELL your music to people to get anywhere financially. Again, this doesn't affect your art. If BT charged $50 for This Binary Universe I'd still probably have bought it, and certainly would have loved it as much as I do now. Likewise, if he charged $5 I'd still say it's fantastic. Why should the music of independent musicians like you and I be ANY different?

i didn't read the article.. but it has always been hard to make it as a musician, and always will be. the internet may have changed a few things, but the economics and market remain the same. if anything, it's made the market worse since people are probably willing to pay less for music nowadays, but that's offset by lower production costs. so in the end, i don't think much has changed in terms of earning a living as a musician... musicians are for the most part still STARVING ARTISTS

The market is MUCH worse than it has ever been. There are more listeners than ever but spending trends are way down. The serious hit to CD sales has not even been close to made up for by increases in digital downloads/streaming net radio. The article (which is definitely worth a read) cites specific numbers saying that touring musicians earn less now, considering inflation, than they did a few decades ago. In general, we now have WAY more people making music, AND music has been devalued. Not a good combo for the working musician.

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Just for clarification on a couple things - by "assembly line" I was simply talking about something that's rushed along through production for the sole purpose of making more money. I didn't mean it literally. Also, I didn't mean that I don't want to be a career musician as you put it (that would be fantastic), I just don't want to become an egotistical jackass (or at least display myself as one) in the process.

But yeah, maybe you're right about the money issue. I just find it difficult to consider music a product as an item from a grocery store. But I suppose really the only way to go about getting more people to listen to your music is advertising it as though it's the best thing in the world. I hate the idea of it because I wouldn't want someone to listen to my music and constantly wonder if they're getting their money's worth - I think music ought to be taken at face value. Either way, for someone like myself who's really just starting out, it really isn't possible to sell music anyway because nobody knows who I am. It's got to be free because maybe that if nothing else will convince someone to listen and pay attention to the next one. An album that costs by a totally unknown artist is probably only going to get like, three or four listeners total, if he's lucky. I guess it just takes a lot of time.

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Well, to make money in the music industry you have to be able to accept that your music IS a product, like a tube of toothpaste, a box of mac & cheese, or a candy bar. Occasionally, a service. However, I do not think this diminishes the art. Does selling a CD for $10, or licensing a song for $200 somehow change the notes on the page? The tone of your bass drum? The soulful performance of the singer? The answer is NO.

?

I write tons of music that isn't a product whatsoever. It's just expression.

The idea is, that when you change the motives behind writing music, the music itself changes.

I want SELL an album. I'm probably not going to fill it with ambient 9 minute rock pretentiousness even if that is what I want to do. It ABSOLUTELY is soulless. I have friends who are phenomenal graphic artists. However they spend most of their time doing SPAM advertisements because there's money to be made there. They use their artistic talents, not for art, but for something they care little about except for the paycheck they get out of it. Same thing with recording jingles and god knows what.

I'm not knocking it. More power to that sort of guy, hell I'd love to break into that sort of stuff myself. But if you're saying you lose no artistic integrity by doing that youre fooling yourself.

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I'm in a similar situation with my writing actually. Back in my creative writing classes, I was told I had a good approach to story telling, and that whatever the topic, the stories were interesting. (The professor even compared some of my best work to Kafka, which kinda rocked my world.)

Then I got in the real world, and my writing is now mostly instruction manuals. I come home and I don't really feel like writing anything. So my Kafkaesque style is kinda stalled, and all I do that feels creative is write kickass backgrounds for my DnD characters.

If you can still be creative and keep control of your creativity while you sell some of your work, then its not soulless.

Lose all creative control and then it will destroy you.

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I think we're on the same page but just miscommunicating a bit, DC. I haven't ever said that your intent behind the music doesn't affect its artistic integrity. I do agree with you. If you are writing music with no other purpose than to make money, that IS soulless. But there is a middle ground. I'm working on this ethnic/electronic CD for licensing. A main reason I'm doing it is to license it and earn a chunk of change. BUT! That's not the ONLY reason I'm doing it. I'm having a lot of fun with the actual musical aspect of it and exploring styles and instruments that I haven't used before. I've sent WIPs to people and no one has yet said that it just sounds like "ad music" or anything of the sort - in fact most people have really enjoyed it.

Another comparable situation would be film scores. There are some absolutely beautiful ones out there, but do you think they would have been written unless someone commissioned the composers to do so? Incredibly unlikely. Yet even though I know John Williams got paid an exorbitant fee for Munich, I think the music is powerful and beautiful.

It really is up to the artist to decide what kind of art he or she will be making. For every great career composer or songwriter there are a thousand people looking to simply show off, make money, and attract people of the opposit sex.

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The market is MUCH worse than it has ever been. There are more listeners than ever but spending trends are way down. The serious hit to CD sales has not even been close to made up for by increases in digital downloads/streaming net radio.

listening is down for traditional radio as well; I work at CC (TV department) and constantly rofl at the thrashing the radio division does; constantly shifting (aka firings for not meeting the quota) sales force, perpetually unmet group radio sales goals; Decreased sponsor interest because of decreased listenership;

Radio shot itself in the foot with it's short sighted business plan of consolidating every market into a national one, and more labels are panicking, throwing out way more fad groups, trying to cash in on a single album and then cut and run, just to keep things afloat. If it takes off enough for a second album, all the better; it's a happy accident.

Things are going to be pretty rocky for the next few years for all musicians, but Zircon has the right idea in diversifying his "product line" beyond the traditional album and related merch, and getting creative. I'm glad to hear that your presets are selling well, though i'm not too surprised; I bought Zebra 2 a few months ago and fucking hate it. It's GUI is a complete mess and all of the included presets sound like detuned ass. If I wasn't so intent on selling it on craigslist or whatever, i'd buy your presets (which sound amazing- it must have been like getting blood from a stone to create though).

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I think we're on the same page but just miscommunicating a bit, DC. I haven't ever said that your intent behind the music doesn't affect its artistic integrity. I do agree with you. If you are writing music with no other purpose than to make money, that IS soulless. But there is a middle ground. I'm working on this ethnic/electronic CD for licensing. A main reason I'm doing it is to license it and earn a chunk of change. BUT! That's not the ONLY reason I'm doing it. I'm having a lot of fun with the actual musical aspect of it and exploring styles and instruments that I haven't used before. I've sent WIPs to people and no one has yet said that it just sounds like "ad music" or anything of the sort - in fact most people have really enjoyed it.

I and a few friends attended NAB 2007 earlier this year, and a bunch of those music library people had booths. Regarding one of the freebie CDs that he got, one of my friends said something to the effect of, "The music on it was actually really good. When I got back to the hotel, I just put it in the CD player and listened to it."

People just have low expectations for "canned music." I think maybe people make the assumption that if someone is willing to license away all of his rights to a piece of music, he must never have cared about that piece of music, and so it must be garbage.

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=

The idea is, that when you change the motives behind writing music, the music itself changes.

Yeah it changes... for the better because the composer has more drive to get it done. I'd rather work for myself doing what I love rather than sit in a cube from 9-5 every day. Now THAT is souless.

=But if you're saying you lose no artistic integrity by doing that youre fooling yourself.

I couldn't disagree with you more. The spirit and determination behind every achievement of mankind is compensation. Whether it's money, fame, recognition, salvation... Who would make music if nobody listened to it? There is nothing wrong with making money as there is nothing wrong with compensation. Money is just a form of many.

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Yeah it changes... for the better because the composer has more drive to get it done. I'd rather work for myself doing what I love rather than sit in a cube from 9-5 every day. Now THAT is souless.

I couldn't disagree with you more. The spirit and determination behind every achievement of mankind is compensation. Whether it's money, fame, recognition, salvation... Who would make music if nobody listened to it? There is nothing wrong with making money as there is nothing wrong with compensation. Money is just a form of many.

If I HAD to write something with the purpose of making money, it would sound different than if I just wrote because I felt like it. Why? I would be writing it for my audience not me.

Yes deadlines can be a good motivator, but they can also be the ruiner of something that just needs a little more time to expand on it. I've had songs that have been perfected over the course of months, and if I had to shit something out with a limited amount of time, it might be good, maybe it could be better.

I'm not saying money is the root of all evil. Why doesn't want to make money doing what they love? I'm just saying the rules change when money gets involved. Like I said, you start writing FOR YOUR AUDIENCE rather than YOURSELF. THAT is how things change. Is that a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you LOVE to please your audience, and more power to you and that gives you all the fulfillment you need.

My keyboard player is a video editor for commercials. Many times he comes up with wacky ideas that he likes and suggests them, but ultimately it's about what the customer wants. But on his spare time he DOES express himself, even if for just a little bit

I've seen Virt post about doing the soundtrack to the Ninja Turtles DS game. I know dozens of people around here would kill to do VG soundtracks. Anyways he said he was forced to do all these ambient tracks because that's what the director wanted. A bunch of his originals were rejected for being "too megaman-ish".

If you disagree with me about how things change when money is involved you're severely deluding yourself. I've SEEN it happen a hundred times. Whether that change is a terrible thing is another discussion. I'm just affirming that a change occurs, and its not for the artistic good in most cases.

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I don't think it boils down to money as much as it boils down to being able to work within reasonable restrictions. In the same way as lack of time or personal expectations, money is one of those things that can cause pressure and impose deadlines, which merely fall under the umbrella of restrictions. And like anything, restrictions can inspire creativity in the right amount. But apply too many restrictions and you're handcuffed.

Working for yourself may not make you the most productive in quantity OR quality. Neither does being creatively handcuffed. So basically a middle ground of what Dan and Derek are espousing.

Middle ground, y'all.

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