I Can Make More Money For You Than I Can For Me

Last week, spent a fascinating day in a room full of people who make a living (or part of their living) from music. It was facilitated by Andrew Dubber, as part of a research project for Birmingham City University.

One of the things that came up was a two-part conversation about how we define ‘success’ and how much we earn. Which prompted me to raise the question about how much I earn ‘from’ music and how much I generate in earnings ‘for’ music.

Dubber differentiated years ago (in a slightly different context) between ‘music’ and ‘my music’. And I now use that distinction in considering where the value is in my online music endeavours. I’m as happy to make money ‘for’ music as I am to make money ‘from’ music. The reason being that ‘my music’ is a sub-set of ‘music’ not the other way round. So if ‘music’ does well, I can do well. It’s also true that my opinion about other people’s music is more valuable to the people I’m talking to online than my opinion about my own music. It stands to reason that I think the music I make is awesome – otherwise I wouldn’t release it. I’m not in the habit of putting out music that I don’t love. It’d be pretty much impossible for me to promote it if I wasn’t 100% behind it.

But there are only so many times I can tell people about what I’m up to – if I just keep posting links to my own stuff endlessly, it starts to look like I have some kind of narcissistic delusional disorder, believing that all the great citizens of the internet are interested in is MeMeMeMe. Clearly not.

So instead, I talk about things I think are awesome. I blog about music I think is awesome and gigs I’ve been to that are fab, I put on gigs for other people, I point anyone who cares to follow the link towards the great music that I find floating around the web. There’s a preponderance of music online, but it’s not a ‘flooded’ market, because there isn’t one ‘market’. I act as a filter for the things that I think are great. I don’t do reciprochal swaps with people, I don’t expect the people I write about to also write about me, though I hope that they get the idea and start writing about the things that they thing are wonderful.

The bottom line is that because of the value of my recommendation, I can make more money for ‘you’, collectively, than I can for me. And vice versa. Those of you who really like my music are in a stronger position to get people to listen to it than I am. The raw numbers are less interesting than the percentages – if you’ve got 40 followers on twitter, a higher percentage of those will follow a link to a recommendation than a link to your own stuff. Especially if you’ve already posted that link before.

I occasionally get emails from the people whose music I write about on my Posterous blog, indicating sales spikes, new listeners, collaborative projects and all kinds of other goodness that has happened because I took 3 minutes to write ‘listen to this, I love it’ and email it. It’s not hard, it takes me no time at all to do, and it generates lots of new listeners and no small amount of sales for the music that my awesomely talents friends make.

So, go, do it. Stop telling me about you, starting telling me about what you love – and the great knock-on effect is that I’m MUCH more likely to trust your own music if I love the music you love. If you point me to great music, that becomes the internet DNA chain that makes sense of your music. I like what you like, therefor I’m more likely to like you. It’s not rocket-science.

And here, as per usual, is something awesome – Laura Rossi’s wonderful score for ‘The Battle Of The Somme’ – it’s on Bandcamp, and you can pay *anything* for it. So have a listen, and if you like it, give her five quid. You get a bargain, she gets paid. Everyone wins:

<a href="http://laurarossi.bandcamp.com/album/the-battle-of-the-somme">Part 1 by Laura Rossi</a>

10 Replies to “I Can Make More Money For You Than I Can For Me”

  1. i fecking *love* the banana sessions. they’re the shiz (and they tour all over the uk when they can, so check out their dates) they do accoustic tiddily pom anti folk. and occasionally do covers of prodigy tunes


    another group i super love right now (they’ve just put their 4th album out) is the haftor medboe group. Tasty soundscape post-jazzers from all over the globe but based in edinburgh. their newest album sounds like what björk would sound like if she could fly.


    1. Thanks for the Haftor Medboe Group heads-up. I live in Edinburgh and have never heard of them. Now I’m spreading the word and hoping I can see them play locally.

      Thought-provoking as ever Steve. Everything is a call to action.

  2. Great post, Steve. I feel the same way. I’ve always liked to write about great bass players and great music that I think should be more widely heard. I feel like by promoting the whole music scene that I like, it helps my own music as a small part of that whole. It’s always pleasant and thought-provoking reading your blog. Thanks!

  3. thanks everyone! Paddy, thanks for the tips – I’ll be checking them out!

    John – it’s one of the things I enjoyed most about journalism too. Getting to talk about great music and interesting musicians. One of the joys of writing for an instrumental magazine is that we never needed to write bad stuff. It was all positive. We just ignored the rubbish 🙂

    I’ve kept that up even in my post-paper-journalism days 😉

  4. Thanks for this post Steve, I hope tons of people read it, so important!

    I use the same strategy for my blog – I only post about people I like and focus on the positive. There’s plenty enough rubbish out there that people can find on their own without me calling extra attention to it. 🙂

    Derek Sivers had some related advice in one of his posts a while back: http://sivers.org/conferences

  5. My wife does a similar thing on her blog, although she’s weirder and posts alot about things that have affected her, rather than the music she loves (which is very eclectic).

    Check out her free album and see what you think…


  6. Heather: Thanks for the Derek Sivers link. I’ve had just a couple of email exchanges with Derek over the years, and he really practices what he writes about in that post.

  7. so true…proper wikkid as ever steve,

    my website is dull dull dull…time to enter the blogosphere for sure!

    thanks for being inspiring

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