Seventeen years ago, when I left school in Minnesota one science credit shy of a music business degree, I thought I knew exactly what to do 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 had been taught the history of the music business, and I soon realized that nothing I was taught was actually relevant as a working singer-songwriter in the new music industry.
Back then, I thought that the only way to have a successful career in music was to get a record deal. I was taught how to negotiate 100-page recording contracts. However, I was not taught how to actually get a record deal. I realized very quickly that I had two options: one, I could sit around and wait for this elusive record deal to fall in my lap – and by god would I be ready to strike that controlled composition clause that I learned so much about. Bring it on! Or I could figure out how to make a music career happen on my own terms.
I chose the latter.
Fast forward seven years, 500 shows, three albums, countless sync placements, top 10 iTunes chart showings, opening shows, headlining tours, and a permanent neck crick from hours spent sleeping in a van, I had done it – with no record contract, no manager, no booking agent no publicist.
Except not in a way that anyone was talking about.
I learned in real-time. And was happy to share the knowledge I was gaining. Word spread, and my inbox became flooded with musicians around the country asking how to get songs on TV, how to sell out clubs, how to chart, how to build a fanbase and how to make a music career happen – without support from the traditional music industry. When the flood of email became unmanageable, I launched a blog, called it Ari’s Take, and wrote about everything I was learning running my music career.
I started interviewing successful artists, managers, and others innovating in the industry. I realized independent artists were succeeding in a big way around the world — but no one was talking about it. Their stories were not written in books or in the trades, but I was learning about hundreds (if not thousands) of musicians making really good livings by innovating in the New Music Business. And I felt I had to tell their stories.
I had 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 functioning. They still started with the premise that to succeed in music you needed a record label, manager, booking agent, lawyer, etc.
But that wasn’t true! At least not from what I was experiencing, witnessing, and learning from my community.
So I felt I had to write a book to share these insights, with practical tips on how to make it in the music business of now. And today, I present the third edition of How To Make It in the New Music Business.
So much has changed in the music industry since the previous edition three years ago, so I felt this was the best time for a massive update. This new edition covers the post-COVID touring landscape, how artists have broken out on social media (namely TikTok) in the past couple years, livestreaming, NFTs, new royalty collection methods (now with the MLC firmly in place), new rants on artist vs. songwriter splits, day-by-day single and album release timelines, along with updates on sync licensing, branding, marketing, and a new chapter discussing 100-plus jobs in the music industry other than recording artist.
We’re in a very exciting time in the industry. In 2021, DIY, self-released artists earned more than $1.5 billion from recorded music alone. Nearly 35% of the global recorded music revenue now comes from independent artists — not signed to a major label. And Spotify reported that in 2021 alone, over 16,500 artists made over $50,000 just from Spotify revenue. These numbers showcase that it’s not just a few anomalies, but a global trend.
Another illuminating win for working musicians: tour revenue has also become a lot 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 on their own — without the help of a record label.
“How to Make It in the New Music Business” is intended to give those aspiring to make a living in music a path: the concrete steps you should take to rise 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 author of the best-selling How to Make It in the New Music Business, the host of the Webby Award-winning New Music Business podcast, the CEO and founder of the music business education company Ari’s Take and a Los Angeles based musician.