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Making money with an originals band

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Reascot, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. Reascot


    Jun 19, 2017
    Hi folks,

    A while ago I posted asking how people in originals bands make money. Most of the replies were that they don't, and I know that pain all to well.
    However, not one to be discouraged I created a little idea. Here's what I did.

    I recorded an EP years ago with my band and still have a mountain of CDs sitting in my apartment. We also spent money on a video that not many people have actually seen. It cost money which we never recouped. This time I though about ways to save money.

    Recording on a shoestring budget
    We recorded the drums in a proper studio. We booked it for 3 hours, recorded 5 songs, and it cost us $150. The engineer then mixed the drums and sent the wav files to me.

    With the drum tracks finished, I put them into garageband and started recording the guitar and bass parts. We are a power duo so there is no other member apart from me. I was able to record the guitar and 'bass' parts at the same time using octave pedals and AMT preamp pedals. I also overdubbed proper bass parts where I need the extra oomph.

    I also recorded my vocals in my apartment. For some songs I used the Boss VE-5 but for most it was straight into garageband through a Scarlet 212 using a Behringer microphone.

    Once I had finished recording I scoured the internet for tips on mixing. I don't think there's a video on youtube about mixing that I haven't watched. I also read the Idiots Guide to Recording as well. The EQ tips were massively helpful.

    At this point I had loads of people saying they would master the songs for me for the low price of $_____. When I replied that I had literally no money to spend of this they often became indignant and said my songs would end up sounding like crap. I would have loved to pay a professional to master the songs but I need to face reality: not many people will actually ever hear this music and I'm broke as heck. Hard to accept but unfortunately true.
    I therefore mastered the songs in Izotope Ozone 8 myself. It has a helper function that is brilliant. It automatically EQs and increases the volume of your track so that it's in the ball park of professional recordings. I was happy with the results.

    You can judge for yourself at Reasco - 2 EP, by Reasco

    How to sell music
    Because the music is now on bandcamp I decided to make use of the 200 free download codes they give you. My wife designed our logo so we have made business cards with our logo on one side and instructions on how to use the download code to download the EP. The business cards were super cheap. Under $10. We will try to sell these cards at shows instead of CDs.
    My wife also ordered us some stickers as a present to me because she realized how hard I was working on the songs. Made my eyes tear up a little bit. Must have allergies these days.
    Anyway, we're going to try to sell the download cards with the stickers at our shows for $10. Hopefully we will sell some, every little helps. And if they don't sell at least I won't have loads of CDs taking up space in our little apartment.

    That our plan going forward.
    In total I spent around $160 and now have 5 songs recorded and mastered.
    If you're in an originals band maybe this post will help you. Even if it's only to show you what not to do.
    bassboysam, OzMike72 and Torrente Cro like this.
  2. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I’m definitely no expert with this so just a bit of spitballin’

    To make money, take your product to where a critical mass of people are - and here you will find money - and then leverage what they are consuming - it’s here that you get them to part with their money. You might make a few sales at gigs but that doesn’t scale very well.

    It’s clear right now that the place to go is online and the method is video. Take your pick of platform.

    Biggest problem here is the low barrier to entry - the competition is fierce and the signal to noise ratio is very small.

    So like any product in any market, how do you distinguish yourselves? Quality is one way - there’s lots of low quality stuff out there - both in musical quality and production quality. Uniqueness is another.

    In the YT world, affiliate marketing seems to help.

    Diversification is another tactic - can you get your music into an (online) music library?

    Again, I’m no expert but I’ve been thinking about this and doing a bit of research.
    Reascot, Cheez and SoCal80s like this.
  3. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    My 2 cents.... Your music will generally not make you money, you can hope to break even. When I was in an originals band we made very little and other than a few paying gigs we made most of our money on merch. T shirts and hats being the best money makers. We also had a tip jar which helped sometimes.

    We did the digital download cards as well and just gave them away. The idea is to get the music out there and develop the fan base, selling a couple of CDs and cards per show doesn't accomplish that. Just give it away and make sure you are on iTunes, Spotify, etc. Also, try to get yourself on indie radio shows/podcasts. We did some of that as well. There seems to be a lot more of them out there now.

    And I guess the other thing is to make sure you have a quality product, both the music and your show. If you can wow them, people will be much more interested in your merch.
    Reascot and SoCal80s like this.
  4. dlb1001


    Jan 30, 2007
    Wow, you guys did it pretty cheap!
    The originals band that I'm in, the BL spend nearly $3k on the recording then spend more to get the 100 CD's made. Then, he had to pay some more to join ASCAP or BMI to copyright his songs. Then, he had t-shirts made, which he sold at the last gig. So, roughly, he has spend nearly $5k.
    But, the BL has been dying to record his material. He could never find the right people to work with him. Initially, when the drummer turned me on to the project, we thought that he was only going to do a six song demo. So, we did the six songs then he told us that more songs that he wanted to record so we did a second session. Once again, the BL said that another three or four songs to record. And the kicker, he paid the drummer and I for our time to do the recordings!
    It took nearly nine months because the original sessions were only to do the backing tracks; the BL was still going back and forth to the studio to do the vocals.
    Reascot likes this.
  5. Reascot


    Jun 19, 2017
    DirtDog - Yeah, I agree that videos are the way to do it these days. Making yourself a person that they build a relationship with through watching you online, and building your band or 'brand' that way. I've seen another local band start doing videos on youtube, so I think you're definitely on to something. The difficulty, like you say, is making yourself stand out in a crowded market. It's a tough nut to crack.

    Runnerman - You're right about making money. We're at the wrong time with the wrong type of music. We need to find another way to make money from this band. It's tough though. Spending money (e.g. on t-shirts) to make money didn't work when we made videos and CDs. I'm wary of spending money on stuff that's going to take up space in my tiny apartment. I'm going to search online for indie radio shows/podcasts. It's worth a try.

    dlb1001 - We tried to keep it as cheap as possible. I wish I had $5k to spend on recordings.

    If you guys have links or videos of your bands, post a link on this thread. I'd love to see/hear them.
    DirtDog likes this.
  6. dlb1001


    Jan 30, 2007
    Totally understand your desire to control costs. Another band that I know, has been doing live Facebook rehearsals. Also, you could look around and see if you can find someone, who is budding videographer, to get them to take videos of your rehearsals.
  7. Tnavis


    Feb 25, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    My goal, for original projects, is to break even on costs. Actually finding the money to do that is tricky. There can be some money earned from playing shows, but unless you are touring, their are only so many shows you can play locally within a given period of time. For our next release, we're hoping to gain some attention with a video that we did, and then hopefully get that to tie in to streaming revenue on iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora. We're going to get actual physical CD's made, but probably no more than 50. We'll do some shirts and maybe hats, but don't expect to sell a ton of those.

    I look at it this way; I can think of a handful of youtubers who are easily making more money on ad revenue by doing gear reviews and "Can you play this song on a shovel!?" videos than by selling music. The industry has changed, and we need to adapt with it.
  8. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i think you did a stellar job with the music: very impressive! in spite of the 'limitations' on this project, you studied and 'willed' your way to a competent 'contender'. congrats and good luck with the tunes.band! :thumbsup:
  9. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    i would give this video a like and a sub
  10. Gothguy

    Gothguy Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2016
    Here's how you make money in an original band:
    Write a good album, make yourself marketable.

    the end.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I love when people get innovative, as well as when they refuse to quit and/or let negativity take over. Congratulations, I think the songs sound great, and I will be checking out Ozone 8 myself. Never heard of it. All I have to do is start recording again first :).

    That being said, with the goal of making money I think you might want to accept something first, cuz in my opinion (and I'm sure many others) you're aiming at the wrong place to make it.

    Music is free.


    Nobody wants to pay for it.

    Ever. Well... almost ever...


    At $10 a card you may get a few friends to re-coup your spending, but beyond that, I believe all you're going to do is annoy people and put them off. Why should anyone pay you for music they don't even know, especially at $2 a song.

    I believe money can be made, and I don't have the answers, but I think that accepting the above is the first part of figuring out how. IMO, the card sale thing is a lot of wasted energy. Much better to give the music away for free, gain fans, and then work at the money making part from there.

    If you think about it realistically, even if your plans go excellently - at best you'll make several hundred dollars. Given the effort, money and time put into the gigs it will take to do that, well... a great deal of creative time and energy can be wasted.

    I'm not posting this to discourage you. I think your attitude is awesome, and you've made some definite gains. I just think ya might want to look at this a little more objectively.

    Bottom line, nobody outside of your friends gives a crap about your music. If you want to make money with it, you have to give them a really good reason to fork that money over.
    Tnavis likes this.
  12. Reascot


    Jun 19, 2017
    Tnavis - I think you have a good game plan. Hopefully it will pay off for you guys.

    JRA - Thanks for the positive words. After all the hard work I put in, it's really nice to hear such kind words.

    Joe Nerve - You make a good point. A generation is now used to never having to pay for music, so they're unlikely to want to stump up $10 for a download card, even if we put on a good show. I remember I used to spend money on music, but now I'm very reluctant. If I feel that way it must be even more for non-musicians.
    It's such a frustrating situation.
    Joe Nerve likes this.

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