As a teenager, I always had dreams of being the next Eddie Van Halen. I would be the next in line of guitar gods tearing up the charts, making millions and getting all the women. There were some problems though, as talented as my song writing was, I couldn’t play the guitar or any other instrument even remotely well. Those dreams were soon supplanted by a venture into television and even screenwriting. Those two did not last long either. Flash forward almost 20 years later and the teenager in my nearly then 40-year-old frame decides to have a minor mid-life crisis. I have decided to make my own music album.
Sure, I could not sing. But I had good songs and melodies. I would do spoken word against the backdrop of my music and I would make my own music videos.
Unlike the prior decades where artists struggled for distribution at record stores and prayed for MTV to play their music video, things would be different for me.
You see, we had iTunes and Amazon would replace the major record labels. And who needed MTV or VH1 when you had YouTube? I had a plan, go to the studio and get some videos on YouTube. I would have one of my videos go viral. Sure, it wouldn’t have been like Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” But with all the ad revenue from a million views, I would be able to recoup the six thousand dollars I had paid for the whole project.
Most people don’t really care or want to buy your album. Unless you have been playing out and have an established fanbase locally where you live, Most of your friends and family will shrug and at best listen to a song or two. Some will buy it to be nice, others will say the will but never follow through. But when making an album, don’t rely on your family and friends to buy it. Many will even feel that they are being imposed on,
iTunes, Amazon and Music Distribution.
Services like CD Baby make it easy for any person calling themselves an artist to get themselves on the top music internet distribution sites for music. iTunes is great. So is Amazon and the many others out there. However, they don’t promote you and your music is just one of millions and millions of tracks out there on their sites. But downloads of my music were infrequent. In the last year, I had two from Europe. But then again, why would anyone want to download music when they can log into music streaming services such as Spotify and in many cases.. listen free. For us artists, the average music download costs one dollar with the artist(s) usually making around 66 cents of that. The average streaming play from Spotify won’t even pay a tenth of a cent.
YouTube is a great way to promote your music and make money from ad revenue. In the beginning I would do video responses to many of the famous established music videos of stars out there. I would put my videos next to ones by Queen, Cyndi Lauper, the Village People, Ratt and even Justin Bieber. I was fortunate that one of my videos was granted permission to monetize with ads. This worked out great because my account was granted this for all my videos. Even the ones that had nothing to do with music. But it would not be long until YouTube discontinued the video response feature and my views went from a few thousand a month to barely a hundred. I even tried promoting my videos on craigslist. That worked out well, until they started flagging all of my ads with links to my videos.
The End Result
Making my album was a horrible financial investment. Sure I had a plan, but I was not realistic about it. It’s hard for most artists to recoup money they have put into an album and earn it back in album or download sales. Most of the big artists today, they make money touring. While it is grueling, live performances are where it’s at. I was not a live performer and I never will be. But I was glad I made the album and had fun with the songs and the videos. Two years ago, I eventually realized that I would not make my money back. When I asked one of the music studio owners why he didn’t warn me of my modest music financial goal, he replied that most of clients “Think they’re going to be millionaires. You just wanted a few thousand dollars and that was realistic enough.”
When doing an album, treat music like a hobby. In the music game these days, even some established artists are being forced to pay for their own studio time. Choose wisely the studios that you visit and ensure that they have a good reputation. If you have music software at home, create some your tracks with that. Use the studios for mixing and audio recordings not pre-progammed synthesizer work. Most of all, be realistic. Creating music should be fun. I was happy with many of the songs I made. Some of them were well received by people that listened. But despite the fact that people all over the globe have access to your music, promotion will always be important. Very few new artists will be successful without the backing of a major label. Be realistic and have fun. You never know, that song or video could go viral.