I don’t know if you are aware, but there’s something happening in the music industry…
Despite a recent growth in Vinyl sales, gone are the days when one would opt to purchase individual records. We now live in a world where music is presented as a subscription rather than a commodity due to the increasing presence of online streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.
With streaming services becoming extremely lucrative businesses, artists and songwriters are often left with poor financial rewards for their creative efforts, especially in comparison to the healthy royalties one might have received before the rise of digital streaming services.
“So, how is an artist meant to create revenue?” I hear you say.
Meet Chance the rapper (real name Chancelor Jonathan Bennett), the independent artist from Chicago, Illinois who chooses to give his music away for free via websites such as MixtapeMonkey . This is because he believes that the future of music is not in music sales but in the overall musical experience a fan has with the work of an artist.
Whilst he gets a cut from streaming services, Chance makes the majority of his income via alternative revenue streams such as live performances and merchandising. In fact, if you head to his website you quickly realise that there is no option to physically purchase Chance’s music with the site’s emphasis being placed on his touring schedule and his merchandise.
In a recent Vanity Fair interview, Chance explained:
“After I made my second mixtape and gave it away online… (and) after meeting with the three major labels, I realized my strength was being able to offer my best work to people without any limit on it.
I make money from touring and selling merchandise, and I honestly believe if you put effort into something and you execute properly, you don’t necessarily have to go through the traditional ways.”
By focusing on music as an immersive experience through live performances and merchandising, Chance has been able to build a huge fan base whilst supporting himself and his family financially.
As a result, the twenty three year old has soared to success after becoming the first unsigned artist to win a grammy award earlier this year when he won ‘Best Newcomer, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album‘. In addition, he has recently been named in Time’s ‘Most influential people of 2017‘.
It is clear that this method of creating revenue works as Chance has just recently pledged to donate one million dollars to Chicago public schools.
Whilst this alternative approach to creating revenue is different from the traditional system based upon commercial record sales, I for one think it is great that live music is making a come back and that artists like Chance are having to engage with their fans to keep their music alive.
This stimulates a sense of realism within the music world whilst helping to create a more tangible relationship between artists and their fans who might otherwise feel distanced from one another.
Therefore, artists need to follow Chance’s example and, as the late David Bowie would say, “Turn and face the change” because whether they like it or not, the music industry is transforming and they need to respond to this.