Soaring gas prices, supply chain shortages, and other economic pitfalls may indicate an impending recession. The 2008 financial crisis left many people out of work and without their homes.
Although we’ve learned a lot since then, that doesn’t mean the US (or any country) is fool-proof from going down a similar, destructive path. People leading creative careers inside the music industry economy, such as musicians, producers, and DJs, are especially at risk of being out of work due to a “music recession” as a result of an economic recession. Musical artists ultimately rely on support from fans to earn a living, and the entertainment industry is often the first hit during an economic recession.
When it comes to the music industry economy, the good news is that a recession doesn’t indicate the end-all-be-all for your music career. By strategically monetizing various aspects of your brand, you can find ways to stay afloat during the most debilitating financial crises. Rather than taking this time to slow down, like most, you can become more profitable than ever. In this guide, we’ll go over tried and true methods for recession-proofing your career as a musician, so that you can keep a steady income and still invest in the growth of your brand.
If you are a full-time creator, you probably don’t work a 9-5 schedule like many of your peers do. In fact, most days you might not even be actively earning a wage, but spending time investing in your brand by making music and setting up various streams of income. There’s nothing wrong with working a non-traditional job, but you need to set up a passive income for yourself in order to maintain this lifestyle.
Merch sales are one of the easiest, truly passive methods to earn extra cash as a musician, DJ, or producer. Once your shop goes live, you can remain totally hands-off and collect revenue as it comes in. There are companies who will do all the work for you.
Websites like Printify and Threadless will manufacture and distribute your product, so all you need to do is bring the ideas. If that’s not something you want to get involved with either, you can hire a freelancer on Fiverr to work on the graphic design for your merch. This method requires a small, up-front investment, but you can quickly make up for it in sales revenue.
If you find you’re having trouble marketing your merch, try wearing it as much as possible and encouraging your team and your friends to wear it in order to create buzz around it. If you already have a loyal fanbase, marketing your items will be much easier. Don’t be afraid to be transparent with your fans–let them know that their support for your merch helps pay your bills as an artist.
Rent Out Your DJ or Stage Equipment
Have you spent thousands of dollars on shiny new music gear or DJ equipment that spends a lot of time sitting around untouched? Even if you’re spending time using your equipment, you’re missing out on profits every minute that you aren’t using it.
Renting out your equipment to other artists and promoters is a surefire way to start making back any losses you took with the purchase, and even earn extra income. If you do it right, you can use equipment rentals to earn steady pay.
For example, you can earn up to $150 or more per day for renting out CDJs. A great place to start is Fat Llama, a peer-to-peer rental marketplace that allows you to rent almost anything to people in your area.
As a music artist, partnering with a music distributor should be at the top of your list. Without a distributor placing your tracks on major streaming platforms, it can be very difficult getting your music in front of fans. Earning revenue is a whole different story.
A music distributor is a service that essentially puts your music in the hands of listeners. There are many different avenues in which this can be done, so it’s crucial to find the best one to suit your personal goals and needs. A good distributor can access top networks like Spotify, Google Play, Beatport, iTunes, and more. Music distribution companies can also help get your music on social media apps like Instagram and TikTok. The ideal music distributor will also allow artists to keep 100% of the streaming royalties.
People’s desire to listen to music doesn’t go away during a recession. In fact, tough times might mean that more people turn to music to get them through the day. DistroKid and TuneCore are great distributors to check out if you’re a growing producer looking to monetize your music (which you should be, even when times are good!).
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, revenue stacking refers to building multiple streams of income on top of one another. This way, if one, or even half of these fail, you’ll still have a solid foundation to stand on when finances are shaky. We’ll go over various types of income streams for musicians and DJs, and how you can best capitalize on each one (if you’re not already!).
As mentioned, streaming royalties, merch sales, and equipment rentals are easy ways to start earning passive income as an artist. Let’s take a look at some other ways you can stack your revenue to become recession-proof.
Sell Albums/Tracks on Bandcamp
Bandcamp is a space for independent creators to share and sell their music. Having an account set up during a music recession is almost necessary for producers. Creating an account is free, however, Bandcamp collects 15% of digital sales and 10% of all merch sales.
As the artist, you have the flexibility to set the price per download. You can make your tracks available for free, set a minimum price, or allow your fans to pay whatever price they’d like.
Gain Support on Patreon (or other Fan Club platforms)
If you already have a loyal fanbase, leverage that by offering more exclusive content to paid subscribers. Even if you’re not yet producing your own tracks, you can post exclusive remixes, playlists, and mixes that your fans can pay to access.
While doing this, you should remember that people have access to most music for free. Aside from your music, try to think outside of the box on what other types of exclusive content your fans might pay to see. Maybe you can teach lessons to aspiring musicians or DJs, or perhaps you have some interesting ideas for a podcast.
Streaming on Twitch – Pandemic and Recession-proof
Although the hype around streaming on Twitch has died down now that lockdown is behind us, there’s still a massive group of artists and viewers who have built a profitable space for virtual concerts and dance clubs.
The downside to shifting your music career to Twitch is that you will have to invest time, money, and additional resources into setting up your streaming rig. If you already have knowledge of streaming and some equipment or are willing to make the investment, you can turn streaming on Twitch into a profitable feat. Of course, streaming alone might not pay your bills, but you’d be surprised at how much you can earn in Bits, which are essentially Twitch’s name for tips.
Twitch is also a great place to market your music, merch, and any other products you offer.
A ghost producer is someone who creates music for another person but gives up the rights to the track so that the buyer can put their name on it. Ghost producing can be a lucrative business for musicians if optimized correctly. Just because your brand hasn’t taken off yet, that doesn’t mean your talent isn’t valuable. There is a massive market of people who are willing to pay for a decent ghost producer for a number of reasons, those reasons not being important.
If you’re unsure where to connect with clients, consider working on the freelancing platform, Fiverr. There are also a number of websites designed specifically for this type of work. LANDR Network and Sound Better are just a couple of examples.
Being A Musician During a Recession: The Bottom Line
Pursuing a career as a music or DJ is challenging enough given the competitiveness of the music industry. However, once you learn that playing gigs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to earning income, you’ll be exposed to a world of new opportunities.
Of course, an economic recession does not make keeping afloat much easier for DJs. However, there is an untapped cash flow for growing artists who are willing to create passive income and stack their revenue. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be planned for if the proper investments in your career are made.
Find a Music Career Coach today to help you pursue your dreams in a profitable and sustainable way.