Just Put the Tip in (crowd-funding and how it's changing the music industry)


So here it is. The gratuitous blog from yet another band stressing the importance of tipping, buying merchandise and crowd-funding....

Why do we constantly ask for tips and support? In short...We are broke. There is an old joke that the easiest way to become a millionaire musician is to start out as a billionaire musician. I believe there are 3 things that motivate the typical musician to keep gigging and keep writing music:

1 Women....that's a given and needs no explanation

2. Success. However that's defined, a band wants to do well. We want to know that people actually like our product that we have put so much time, money and heart into.

3. Validation. Although we don't talk about it as loudly, I personally believe most of us fear that we are in denial. Most of us fear that we are lying to ourselves and that we aren't simply indulging a very, very expensive hobby. And by expensive, I mean the obscene investment of both time and money into this ugly baby of ours.

This is where the industry has changed.......

In the past, you played locally, played regionally and got a local following. Then, just maybe, you could catch the attention of a record label. That record label then takes your music and reveals it to the world through their massive distribution network. When all is said and done, when you've sold all the records/CDs you could, the industry made as much money as they could then if you were lucky....you as the artist would be blessed with a check as well. Such a simple business model.

Now any artist can get their music directly to the hands of the global consumer, which is mind-blowing. It's good and it's bad, because that also means your competition has never been more fierce and it's never been more difficult to be seen. We constantly need to study, adapt, be persistent and creative in order to be seen in a global market. I'm not complaining...just the nature of the beast.

I won't say what an artist gets paid for each time you listen to a song on Spotify, but (spoiler alert), it's not much. An artist doesn't begin making money from cloud distribution till the streams/downloads reach over about 10k. Until that point, we are usually paying more money to have our music available on these markets than we get from sales and streams. This is a common story among new, independent bands.

So....We get back to sustainability.

Most bands fail because they simply run out of money and their spouses tell them to hang it up and get a "real job". The goal is to get the band profitable. Even if it's not making much, once you cross the threshold where you can say the band is pulling a profit, then it is just a matter of how much profit.

So how do small bands make money?

Is it gigging? Kinda.

Unless you are a regional or national touring act, you'll be surprised to know (or not so surprised) that bands often don't get paid to play local venues. This system (dubbed "pay-to-play", look it up) requires the band to purchase a number of tickets for the show up front, sell them for a small profit of a few bucks per ticket and that's about it. Sure...if a band can sell 200 tickets for an event, that's almost gas money for all the guys. If you don't manage to sell the stack of tickets?...well, they're already sold....to you. You're their vendor AND their customer. It's a genius plan in that the venue can tell the band it's their fault that they are losing money playing there...brilliant.

So...That means the only REAL money a band can make gigging is from merchandise sales, tips and "patronage". You see a band you like? Buy their shirt, buy their bumper sticker, buy their beer koozy, whatever...It is the greatest complement to a band that someone wants to spend even a little pocket change to take their logo out the door with them. It's quite an honor, actually. The first time I saw our sticker on a car that didn't belong to a member of the band, I was elated.

Tips help as well. If nothing else, to help with the expense of transporting themselves and the equipment to a gig that they likely aren't getting paid to do. Although commonly pitched as compensation, "exposure" doesn't pay the mortgage, it appears..especially if the band has already spent money to play at the venue.

Many bands also have Venmo, Cashapp accounts so you can flip them a few bucks using your smartphone. It's never been easier. An option that is gaining traction among bands now is becoming a "patron" of the band. You can elect to make a small monthly payment to the band to support them in exchange for exclusive content or gifts, depending on your patron tier.

So....Crowd funding an artist or band? Why the hell not? The industry has changed. You just saw a band that kicked ass and you'd like to see them prosper?...why not flip them a few bucks through cashapp or venmo? You've spent more money than that on apps that you accidentally downloaded.

In conclusion, thanks for sitting through our song and dance about how bands need money to survive. We know it's not your favorite thing to hear, but it's the reality of the world we live in. We love our fans and we LOVE the support we have gotten. Slipping us a little sugar as well never hurts. ;)

VM