Whenever I hear someone complain about the collapse of the music business, I cringe. Sure, any number of highly paid record company executives have found their worlds turned upside down recently. I never like hearing about someone losing their job or being out of work. But the system that fed some pretty fat cats for many years has indeed collapsed, as well it should have. That system wasn’t fair from the outset, at least not to the artists. More than a few were flat out taken advantage of, which created a system of haves and have-nots. It was time for a major change. The fact is, the music business in many ways is healthier than ever. As is often said these days, the playing field has been leveled. For musicians willing to work hard, pursuing all the opportunities now available to them, they can earn a good living. Yes, they need talent. But if they have a reasonable amount of it, combined with creative thinking and drive, they can realistically pursue their dreams for a living and make it work. And if some of those out of work executives are willing to swallow some pride and prove that they really are in it for the music, they too can continue to work in the music business. Musicians can’t do it all themselves, and many can use a steady hand of guidance. But it requires a change of mindset. The ultra-wealthy superstars continue to be few and far between. The big labels still have marketing power that the average street musician with a website could never have. But that’s not who we’re talking about here. Rather, we speak to the musicians, composers, and recording artists who are willing to roll up their sleeves, embrace and expand their fan base, and pursue those new opportunities that simply didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago. Specifically, here are but a few of the avenues worth pursuing if you’re a performing musician. If you write and record your own songs, so much the better. Your potential income streams are even more numerous. But first, back to that fan base thing. Musicians need to love their fans as their fans love them. Some of us do this better than others. But to the extent that you can reach out, and keep those who are attracted to you and your music interested, that’s what it’s all about. Websites, blogs, Facebook, Linked In, and all those social networking sites. Yes, it can get overwhelming to tend to them, but it offers you a way to constantly reach out to your fans. They appreciate that and they will respond. As far as income generating opportunites go, we start with the live performances. There’s still no substitute for the live music experience – for both the musicians and their fans. Some gigs pay better than others, but paying your dues by playing some less than desirable gigs is part of the game. If you write your own music, join SESAC, ASCAP, or BMI. Do it now. Get it out of the way. Even if your music isn’t played publicly much yet, all of these performing rights organizations can help you learn the business and make contacts. Better to sign up with one of them now, before the royalties start flowing, than waiting too long and missing out. Sadly, I’ve got dear songwriting friends who still won’t take the time to sign up with one of these PRO’s, as they’re known. They’re simply not taking care of their business and it’s their loss. For me, the biggest single source of music related income besides my live performances is Sound Exchange. They pay you for the digital performances of your songs on satellite radio stations, the Internet, and any number of other places. If you’re the featured artist or producer of your recordings, and if you own the master recordings, you stand to earn royalty income from Sound Exchange. This is a wonderful income source that wasn’t available until fairly recently. By the way, you can still sell CD’s! Not to mention sell digital downloads on iTunes, Rhapsody, or any number of other “digital stores.” This stuff all adds up. What about YouTube? Lots of musicians are earning income from “views” on YouTube. Some are earning a lot of money that way. Here’s a new income source: a company called Stageit. These guys have figured out a way for musicians to provide “virtual concerts” online. What a concept. It means you can “tour” and perform without ever leaving your home, and get paid for it. I’ve got to get involved with this. Throw in background music providers like DMX, Sirius-XM and Music Choice, among others, and today’s musicians have enough opportunities to place and benefit from the use of their music to make your head spin. It really is an exciting time. My advice? Get online and research. CD Baby, a wonderful distributor of independent music, can help set you up with everything you need, from a website designer (or, you can do that yourself) to any number of strategies you can employ to keep adding to that all important income stream. It’s one thing to get together with you musical buddies on Friday nights and jam. Nothing wrong with that, either. I recommend it. But if you want to pay the bills and buy a house and save money for your future, you’ve gotta’ put the time and effort in. These days, more than ever, musical artists don’t’ have to be known as Starving Artists. Join the revolution. It’s fun. Nothing like living the dream, every day

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Jim Hudak

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