Becoming a musical artist also means becoming a savvy businessperson. The music industry is continuously becoming a more business oriented industry. Understanding the business side of music and developing your own ways from the start will allow you to handle your career the way you want to. Let’s look at some different examples of how certain artists have attacked the business side of music.
Taylor Swift was criticized for pulling her music from the streaming service, Spotify, in an attempt to raise her paid album numbers. Swift has stated that she believes Spotify and other streaming services do not represent the full value of the album. This has been a long standing issue in music, as people are resisting more and more from buying music, instead of streaming it or illegally downloading it for free. Swift went the route of taking music away and making it more exclusive. Controversial, but effective. If the only way to find Swift’s music is to buy her stuff, then people will buy it. She has build a big enough fanbase and stardom to allow her to pretty much force fans to pay for music. She certainly lost her casual listeners, but the die hards and the strong fans are continuing to support Taylor Swift, but this time they have no choice but to open their wallets.
On the flip side of Taylor Swift, there’s Chicago’s future star Chance The Rapper. Chance has taken what has been called a “progressive” way to play the business side of music by making all of his music free. Being an independent artist gives him this freedom. Chance has released 10 Days Off and Acid Rap as mixtapes, ultimately leading to his fame. He also dropped a free album with The Social Experiment titled Surf. Chance has given the world free downloadable music that puts him in the earbuds of fans who otherwise wouldn’t pay for his music. He is targeting the millennials, who are the biggest consumer base currently, that are infamous for wanting stuff fast and free. So, how is he making his money? Shows, features, and merchandise. It’s the way the industry is shifting, and Chance is the trailblazer.
Kanye West is probably the most unique businessman. He is a PR man. He leaks music, album titles, cover arts, shoes, and clothing all throughout the year to create interest and bring attention to him. Take his recent The Life Of Pablo album. He changed the name three times over 6 months, and scrapped the original cover art. He also “beefed” with Wiz Khalifa, dropped new tracks, and has been delaying the official release of the album as well. This is a tricky strategy, as it could confuse or aggravate fans. It could also gain you a ton of interest. Kanye’s business model is confusing to probably even himself, but it works.
Finding your own strategy means understanding what listeners want, and giving it to them in creative, and profitable ways. It doesn’t mean squeezing your listener’s pockets, but influencing them to follow you as an artist while also gaining profits off of their strong following to you. It is important to be ethical to your listeners while making money, and in the end, all artists want fame, and with fame comes riches (usually).