Pull up a seat and enjoy the first in a five-part documentary (or moc-umentary as I prefer to call it) exploring the lives of artists just like you on their quest to make $100,000 a year as independents.
Though the characters in this moc-umentary are indeed fictional, the facts, figures and techniques are not. These are the same strategies that successful independent performers, artists and bands use day in and day out to profit from their passion for music.
During the course of this short moc-umentary you'll observe how this cast of five characters arrange their music businesses to arrive at their target of a six-figure-income. So lets start the camera rolling on act one of this story. We'll begin with our first independent artists named Gidget, a solo artist with only one business strategy: get more gigs.
[Scene One, Act One] Camera opens on one Giddy Gidget, a Folk Artist from Berkeley California...
Gidget is a busy bee. She loves being in front of people and is sold on the idea of performing as the main source of her income. Gidget is always on the look out for new gigs that put her in front of more and more new faces.
At the beginning of last year Gidget made a new-years resolution of booking herself into three gigs per week - no more, no less. Unlike her other resolution [to stop eating Twinkies dipped in Jif peanut butter] Gidget has actually stuck to, and accomplished this goal.
Since Gidget's music style and stage presence consistently attract java-thirsty crowds to her gigs, she was able to negotiate a meager $2.50 split of the door for each of her gigs. The managers all conceded with out much fuss because they knew that they made far more than that due to Gidget's lyrics about social injustice and her croonings about the joys of caffeinated beverages.
Now Gidget is a fairly consistent lady, and so are her audience sizes, which always seem to number exactly 200 people per gig (no more, no less).
If you are keeping tabs on the math then you are already adding the audience size of 200 people to her $2.50 per-person split and realizing that each of her gigs nets her $500 dollars - also exactly no more, no less. In order for Gidget to make $100,000 per year, she realizes that she cannot (I repeat, cannot) get any better at booking gigs or ask for a higher split of the door. Seeing as how Gidget doesn't have a whole lot of ambition this seems just fine to her, plus it works well for our illustration.
So the end of one year Gidget sits down with a pack of Twinkies and a jar of Jif peanut butter and tallies up the take from her gigs. Before she reaches the inevitable sugar high she discovers that she has realized a gross profit of $78,000 per year from just three gigs a week!
Again if you are keeping track you will have no doubt figured this out by multiplying her $2.50 per person split by 200 people at each gig, for three gigs a week. Your math would certainly come up with $1,500 per week in income from gigs. Of course that multiplied by 52 weeks equals $78,000.
When Gidget first saw this number she became a little depressed because she didn't see her goal of six figures in the display of her calculator. But after a little more Jif covered Twinkie delight, she suddenly had a recollection. She remembered that she did have some other income from the sale of her products. [To be truthful she actually has only one product - a CD called "Chimes They Are A Tangeing" - which is her homage to the social revolution of the Sixties].
Now for a quick insight into Gidget's personality - though she is indeed very outgoing and very consistent at booking gigs, she is not very business minded. Because of this she never got around to developing more products to sell, nor did she ever really take the time to learn or implement any promotional or marketing strategies. Consequently she convinced only 7.5% of her audience (15 people per gig) to buy her one-and-only CD. She sells her 14 song, Hippy-Nouveau, collection for a reasonable price of $12. The CD costs - including recording and duplication expenses - are $2.50 per CD, which leaves her $9.50 in profit per CD.
Rushing back to her trusty ten-key adding machine with adrenaline now added to the sugar coursing through her veins, Gidget begins the jittery process of counting up her profits. To figure out the yearly total of her CD sales she quickly multiplies the number of weekly sales [45 sales per week] by her per CD profit of $9.50 each, which brings her to $427.50 per week in pure profit.
Now to figure out the yearly net income she squints her eyes tightly to focus through the sugar induced brain fog as she to tries to remember how many weeks there are in a year. In an epiphany she recalls that there are 52 weeks in a year. She quickly types "52" into her adding machine hits the "times" key to multiply the total number of weeks in the year by her profit [$427.50 x 52 weeks] which brings Gidget to $22,230 in additional income.
In a mad rush of excitement Gidget pours herself a quick cup of coffee to add caffeine to the adrenaline and sugar high, and begins to nervously complete the calculations of her gig crazy profits. This is what she arrives at - $78,000 from gigging added to the $22,230 from CD sales. Fingers now shaking she presses the equal button and squints once more at the display, which presently shows a grand total $100,230.00 for the year.
[Close of Scene One] As the camera fades to black we see Gidget jumping ecstatically over meeting her goal. She celebrates with more java, Jif and Twinkies.
Editor's Note: Last we heard Gidget is doing well, she has given up the Twinkies and peanut butter all together and has plans to record a new CD this year called "Sugar Coated Java Beans."
As you can see that though Gidget's business strategy is very lopsided, it is well within the realm of reality to book 3 gigs per week. Anyone who has the ability to grasp some simple booking tools and techniques should be able to do this as a minimum. Plus with only minor increases in crowd sizes, or by adding more products and even some marketing you could fair even more profitably than Gidget did.
Join us for the next time during the continuation of our little moc-umentary when we introduce you to a guy named Fast Freddy who is all about working with his Fanatical Fans to bring him the lions share of his $100,000 income.
Sean Farrington is a band coach and studio mix engineer from California. He has been a full time music industry professional for over 12 years. During this time he has worked with hundreds of bands and artists in various capacities from the studio to the stage.
He authored the book "Band:Profit" which is designed to help independent bands, solo artists, and performers take their passion for music and turn it into profit.