Panel: Making Money In The Digital Space

Our resident Senior Music Supervisor, Sean Horton, is the founder of the long-running Decibel Festival here in Seattle – an expansive production highlighting electronic music performances, visual art, and new media. On the festival’s opening night last week, the Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter kicked things off with a panel focusing on new ways for artists to make money through alternative revenue streams. From licensing to streaming to ad partnerships, experienced industry professionals covered how artists build both exposure and income through a variety of sources. Panelists included PlayNetwork’s music industry veteran John Wooler, the1175’s Jody McKinley, Jen Cziesler of Rogue Octopus, and Jeff Owens of Ghostly International.

Questions for the panelists ranged from talking about music piracy, the efforts to improve metadata delivery, and how artists and bands can create new revenue stream via the digital space.

Jen Cziesler discussed Synch Licensing and why it’s such a great opportunity for artists to cash in on film and TV placements. Of the ways music can be paired for sync opportunities, Jen mentioned Synch Tank as her vehicle for pitching music to Music Supervisors.

Jeff Owens from Ghostly Intl represents the artist Tycho, who himself has amassed a very large online presence. Jeff recommended artists create a presence for themselves where people are researching and buying music in a digital space– ex: using a SoundCloud visual banner to share with community across social media outlets.

John Wooler gave background on digital performance rights organization Sound Exchange and what they do. The panel agreed that all artists should register with Sound Exchange and may already have monies waiting for them there. Wooler believes YouTube is the #1 place where people initially go for music discovery.

Jody McKinley advised artists to find the “river of nickels.” In the digital age, there are rarely any large streams of cash. They are mostly small pools of money that they ought to go out and find – so cast a wide net. Jody also talked about ad-based business for artists and how to get paid by advertisers on YouTube – 1 million views on YouTube can generate up to $2k in revenue for an artist. In reference to metadata delivery, Jody credited Rhapsody as the first company to provide liner notes for streaming services. He said it was a difficult task with numerous complications; the industry is still working to standardizations. He raved about Music Brainz, an open music encyclopedia which allows anyone to contribute information about all things music. It was built in response to Gracenote, taking over the free CDDB project and commercializing it.

The entire panel:

  • Agreed that artists need to have quick access to audiences and that YouTube seems to be the most common arena, with Soundcloud a close second. (Remember the days of yore when MySpace was the go-to site for music community?)
  • Agreed licensing and the music business as a whole can be difficult for artists to comprehend as it changes so quickly; it really is up to them, their label or their digital distributer to understand how things work.
  • Music piracy seems to be declining since we can now access music legally and very easily; however, Jody referenced that there is approximately $227 million dollars in ad reveune last year via piracy sites. Jen pointed out that piracy is what forced us into the digital age to begin with!

Want to know more about how to bring your music to the masses? Check out our video on music licensing services below.

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