8 Tips For Successful Online Musicians (Updated for 2023)
In 2020, I contributed an article at https://gamegrooves.com/ called "7 Tips for Successful Online Musicians", this is the updated version for 2023.
DISCLAIMER: None of these are shortcuts. All these methods are meant to be for the long haul, but once you get all your bases covered, they can work wonders for your finances, even in times of global crises. Provided, of course, the internet stays on.
Discover Your Niche (And Stick With It)
Your niche isn't just the genre of music you choose to specialize in; it's also your personal brand, that one unique twist that makes you stand out. Instead of being just another "metal guitarist," you can position yourself as a "video game metal guitarist" or a "fingerstyle folk metal guitarist." The deeper you delve into a niche that resonates with you, the easier it is to stand out.
Of course, this depends on your skills and interests. Select a niche that showcases your strengths and passions, as it will also impact how frequently you can create content. When you're genuinely passionate about your niche and possess the necessary skills, it becomes much easier to consistently produce content. Once you've identified your niche, stay focused and avoid deviating too soon. Experimentation can come later, once you've built a sizable audience.
Be Present Everywhere (Within Reason)
Regarding social media, choose a primary platform that aligns with your strengths. For example, if you create music videos, YouTube is an excellent choice, with its vast audience of two billion daily users. You can then use other social media platforms to direct people to your YouTube channel. Mix it up, experiment, and find the platform that resonates with you the most. However, remember that social media doesn't replace the need for having your own website. Relying solely on social media platforms, as exemplified by the cautionary tale of MySpace, is a big no-no. Any site can go bankrupt and disappear forever, erasing all your hard work. Establishing your own website is crucial for a permanent web presence. Moreover, it's easier than ever to create your own website using tools like Wix or Squarespace. (Editor's Note: I couldn't agree more!)
Grow Your Audience
As you create more content and engage with your audience, you'll eventually identify your loyal fans—the ones who always comment early, like and share your videos. There's a marketing principle known as "1,000 true fans" (or "100 true fans" on a smaller scale). This principle suggests that within any follower base, there will always be a micro-set of super fans who go the extra mile. These super fans are the ones who buy all your albums, watch your livestreams, support you on platforms like Patreon, and purchase your merchandise. Take care of these loyal fans, as they're the ones literally supporting your livelihood.
Unless you have the backing of a major record label like Taylor Swift or John Legend, it can be challenging to build a following from scratch. That's where covers come in. Covers are an easy way to attract an audience since they use familiar material to help people discover your talent. If you do an exceptional job on a cover, chances are listeners will follow you for more of your music. While some may resist doing covers, the presence of numerous cover musicians on platforms like YouTube is a testament to their effectiveness. If you're determined to create your own original music, you can upload your originals alongside your covers. Aligning your cover songs with your original style or niche can make your subscribers more receptive to your original compositions.
Stay Timely and Timeless
When selecting cover songs, you have two options: timely and timeless. "Timely" refers to something currently trending, such as a new video game, movie, or meme. "Timeless" choices are for the long haul and can yield great results as well. Classic songs from artists
like Queen or the Beatles fall into the timeless category. Music from iconic video game franchises like The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy also qualifies, as people still listen to these soundtracks years or even decades after their initial release. Sometimes, it's best to choose both. For example, Star Wars is a timeless franchise, but because new movies and shows continue to be released, it also remains timely.
Monetize Your Music
There are three main ways to earn money as an online musician: passive royalties (e.g., Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Ad Revenue, Licensing), crowdfunding (e.g., Patreon, Twitch, Ko-fi), and commissioned work (e.g., clients, Fiverr). A fourth option—selling physical merchandise through an online store—can also be highly lucrative, although it's less common. In this article, I'll focus on passive royalties since covering all four would require extensive discussion.
Passive royalties are the most common way for online musicians to earn money. This involves using online distributors who disseminate your music to digital platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Each time your music is streamed, you receive royalties. Moreover, if you want to sell your cover songs, platforms like Soundrop or DistroKid can legally license and distribute them. Many successful online musicians earn a significant portion of their royalties from streaming cover songs. Naturally, a single published song isn't enough to make this option lucrative. However, with time and around 10 albums, the royalties can accumulate quickly. The beauty of this approach is that once you've done the initial work of publishing the album, it remains available indefinitely, earning you royalties even while you sleep. Simply remind your audience occasionally that it exists so loyal fans can enjoy it again, while new fans can discover it with excitement.
Repeat and Refine
Now, it's time to implement these tips and multiply your efforts by 10x, 100x, or even 1000x. Becoming a successful online musician isn't just about quality; it's the combination of quality and quantity that sets you apart. Take your time, but don't delay excessively. Aim to release new material at least once a week or, once you've found your rhythm, even twice a week. Consistency is crucial, as your fans will take you more seriously when they see your dedication to producing content.
(NEW UPDATE for 2023)
Diversify Your Content with Long-Form Videos
In addition to creating music-related content, you can expand your reach and engage with a broader audience by incorporating long-form videos that revolve around music but aren't necessarily music content themselves. This approach allows you to tap into different interests and cater to a variety of viewers within your niche. Here are a few types of long-form video content you can consider:
1. Reaction Videos: Reacting to music-related content such as new releases, iconic performances, or trending music videos can be a fantastic way to connect with your audience. Share your genuine reactions, insights, and analysis while incorporating your unique personality and expertise. This type of content not only offers entertainment value but also allows you to showcase your knowledge and passion for music.
2. Video Essays: Dive deeper into music-related topics by creating video essays. Explore subjects such as the history of a particular genre, the impact of influential musicians, or the evolution of musical techniques. Use visuals, research, and storytelling to present your ideas and engage your viewers in thoughtful discussions. This type of content appeals to music enthusiasts looking for insightful and educational material.
3. Tutorials and Lessons: Share your expertise and teach others through tutorial videos. Create instructional content on topics like music theory, instrument techniques, songwriting tips, or production tricks. This not only helps aspiring musicians or enthusiasts develop their skills but also positions you as an authority in your field. Break down complex concepts into digestible steps, provide clear demonstrations, and encourage interaction through comments and questions.
4. Instrument Demos and Reviews: Showcase your musical instruments and equipment by creating in-depth demos and reviews. Share your thoughts on the sound, playability, and features of different instruments, pedals, or recording gear. Demonstrate their applications in various musical contexts and genres. This type of content appeals to musicians looking for guidance in selecting the right gear and can help you establish partnerships with instrument manufacturers or retailers.
Remember, when creating long-form video content, it's important to maintain your unique style and voice. Inject your personality, insights, and expertise into each video to stand out from the crowd. Engage with your audience by encouraging them to leave comments, ask questions, and suggest future topics. The key is to consistently deliver valuable and engaging content that keeps viewers coming back for more.
By incorporating long-form videos into your content strategy, you can expand your audience, increase your influence, and establish yourself as a multifaceted online musician. Embrace the opportunity to explore different aspects of music beyond creating original tracks, and you'll find new avenues to connect with your fans and attract a wider following.