A Band is a Business

A band is a business. I can’t say it enough.

This phrase is especially true if you want to make music your full time career. If music is a hobby for you and you enjoy playing shows locally from time to time, business knowledge might be less necessary, but still helpful.

Here is a list of things that help a business to succeed:

  • Quality product/service
  • Marketing for that product
  • A leader
  • A manager
  • Passionate employees
  • Passionate customers
  • Distribution
  • Investors

Now the list again in music terms:

  • Quality product/service Great music
  • Marketing for that product music
  • A Leader
  • A Manager
  • Passionate employees  bandmates!
  • Passionate customers fans!
  • Distribution (Tunecore, CD Baby, Physical Distribution)
  • Investors  Record Labels

The lists aren’t that different. Many people don’t realize that a band is a small business selling a product. When you answer the age old question, “How do we make new fans”, you are thinking about marketing! That dream of a record label? You are seeking an investor; someone to help you financially to grow your business. That record label then provides you with distribution to get your CD online and in stores.

Question: “The music is the focus and you shouldn’t let the business side distract you, that’s why managers and record labels exist…right?”

Correct…sort of.

The music will always be your priority and your passion. Starting off though, you have a lot of work to do. There is a reason why you hear the term “DIY” so much, because you have to DO IT YOURSELF. When you start a band, you are instantly an entrepreneur. Best of luck running your new business.


Any questions? Comment below!


by David Kleinebreil


Getting Truly Inspired

A lot of artists experience writer’s block.

Many books and articles instruct us to “be creative” and “get inspired”. The question is HOW? Instead of screaming expletives into a pillow, here are some helpful hints to get you back on track.


I once got on a plane from Phoenix to Denver with one hour’s notice. It gave me a rush of adrenaline and I spent the next week more inspired than I had been in months.

Travel somewhere new – experience something new.

“Life experiences” is a common answer when musicians are asked what inspired their songs. There is a reason for that! Others find inspiration when they finally escape their surroundings. Whether you need a mental vacation or you’ve run out of things to write about, this WILL help.

Exercise: Get in your car and go on a silent drive for 15 minutes to an undetermined location. Pull into a parking lot somewhere and think about where you are at in life. Think about what has caused you happiness lately, or what has caused you pain. (Warning: things might get deep real quick.)


Are you writing about or working on things that are genuine to who you are?

Don’t force yourself to write a love song if you don’t feel you’ve been in love before. If you’re sad, write sad songs. If you love pop music above all else and you always have, it may be time to re-consider that career in metal.

Are there things you want to say, but are afraid to say? In the words of everyone’s favorite motivational internet-coach, JUST DO IT. As an artist, you sacrifice the privilege of hiding how you feel. Realize this sooner rather than later…it’s your job to be emotional.

Exercise: Think of someone in your past who did you wrong, or vice versa. What was left unsaid? Write them a letter. (You don’t have to send it.)

ps. Watch this. Honesty in Songwriting – John Mayer


Do everything with purpose.

If you don’t have your goals clearly defined, start there. Continue by reminding yourself of them, a lot. Remember: you are the most reliable person you know. You are also the one who cares the most about what you will accomplish. Be your own coach.

Need a new purpose? Start looking for one with the previous advice. Think about what gets you out of bed every single day. If that doesn’t motivate you, think about how disappointed you will be with yourself ten years from now if you gave up on your dreams. (Don’t be too harsh on yourself, but seriously, do it.)

Exercise: Get a sticky note, a pen, and a hula hoop. Write your daily, weekly, or monthly goal on the sticky note and attach it to the mirror you look in everyday. (That’s right, I know how conceited you are.) Why the hula hoop? To celebrate when you accomplish your task.


by David Kleinebreil


Photo by Joshua Earle

Music Streaming: The Pain of Change

Music streaming, like many new industries, has faced many challenges.

Let us not forget, the American public had doubts about switching from radio to television. According to a history of television written by The Guardian, “The images were extremely poor quality, the equipment was dauntingly expensive and reception vanishingly limited. In short, it didn’t look like the future.”  

As the revenue of digital downloads continues to decrease, the number of users continues to increase for streaming services like Spotify (a clear front runner in streaming services). At 75 million active users, with only 20 million paid, people are still clearly adopting the new technology.

spotify user graph

Graphic from: http://www.spotifyartists.com/spotify-explained/

Another positive trend we are seeing, is the amount of royalty payouts increase for Spotify. Some would say, “not fast enough”. The glass-half-full approach might be “it’s a good start”.


Graphic from: http://www.spotifyartists.com/spotify-explained/

Spotify claims to pay out about 70% of revenue to rights holders. This is a similar model to iTunes (ex. $0.99 song, artist gets $0.70). Though the numbers seem similar, we’re talking about two different business models. There needs to be a discussion about how different these industries are, and how “fair payment” should be defined.

It is evident that the music streaming industry is experiencing growing pains.

Apple Music has fallen short out of the gate, and we can only hope they redo their user interface and open up potential for on demand-streaming without access to Wifi.

Meanwhile, Pandora continues taking metaphorical punches for attempting to reduce their financial burden. Surely Pharrell wasn’t singing when he saw his check for less than $3,000 for over 43 million plays on Pandora.  If paying artists royalties becomes a burden for a company running itself as a radio station, they may need to re-evaluate their business model.

In 2013,  wrote on Pandora’s blog, “Each spin on Pandora reaches a single person, compared to a “play” on FM radio that reaches potentially millions of people. In other words, a million spins on Pandora might be equivalent to a single play on a large FM station.”

Perhaps this offers some insight into the source of the growing pains of the industry. Technology changes how we live, but also how we define things. Without going into details about “per play” payouts, mechanical royalties, and performance royalties, the bottom line is this:

The industry needs to communicate and work together to seek innovation alongside this new technology because streaming has potential.

A positive focus for now. Increased music streaming has led to lower piracy, can contribute to higher ticket sales for touring artists, and has helped artists to build an audience. Artists who embrace music streaming will be the first to thrive using it.

By David Kleinebreil

Featured photo by Antonis Spiridakis

“There’s No Money In Music”

The world’s biggest lie. 

If you have decided to pursue being a professional musician, or work in the industry at all, you have likely heard this more times than you can count.

According to Live Nation Entertainment’s income statement, their revenue in 2014 was over $6.8 billion. More recently, Forbes reports that One Direction made $130 million in 2015. Sure the label and management take a cut, but that is proof of cold hard cash.

What about recording revenue declining every year?  

The money hasn’t disappeared; it is finding itself in a different place. For example, vinyl is on its way toward being a billion dollar industry. Touring seems to be another place where the money has moved. Live entertainment will never cease to exist, and fortunately for us, it will never cease to bring in money.

What about the bands claiming to lose money on tour?  

If you have read this article, you see that a band made $135,983, only to spend $147,802 and result in a net loss of $11,819.

The key here is that they generated $135k doing something your parents told you wasn’t possible. For every budget there need to be constraints, and if you can’t afford to lose money, don’t spend it. The glam of rock and roll and spending $50,000 on a music video is a thing of the past.

A good example of a more reigned in budget was the response to the previously mentioned article, where each band member could take home about $5,000 after a month long tour. [click here to see if I’m lying]

The purpose of this article is not to denounce your every doubt, but if you are still not convinced, go to Google and type in “music industry revenue” or something of a similar fashion. Numbers don’t lie. The trick to making money in this business is getting creative.

Explore multiple revenue streams, keep your budget efficient and effective, treat your band like a business and never forget those people who told you “there’s no money in music”. Don’t wave the first dollar you make in their face, it’s much more entertaining for them to just see you on TV one day.


Live Nation Income Statement: https://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=LYV&annual
Forbes – One Direction earnings – http://www.forbes.com/sites/maddieberg/2015/06/29/one-directions-earnings-130-million-in-2015
Photo by Desi Mendoza