Your New Years resolution: organising & monetising your music career

Posted on 2nd January 2020

Happy New Year, I hope you are feeling ready for 2020. If not, let this blog be a reminder that this is your year!

The holidays are a time for eating, drinking and being with family. As a musician, the holidays can also provide a wave of well-paid function gigs which give way to financial risk as January draws in (sorry, I know I moved past the cheer quite quickly).

If you are an original artist, you may have realised that avoiding a December release will stop your art getting lost amongst the holiday noise. January will be your month and the start of a whole new cycle of release and promotion.  So, let's discuss how to monetise your career as an artist.

Get on top of your business

This year, if you are not already, you are going to treat your artistic pursuits through the lens of being a business owner. You are a business, and you need to organise yourself as such. This will help you maximise your reach and potential to make a profit.

The first aspect of planning is the assessment of your goals. In the next twelve months, consider what you want to achieve and whether it will improve your career?  Make sure you implement the right action that will take your career from amateur to pro.

What are you going to release?

Are you going to release an album, EP or Single? This depends on where you are within your career. If it's an album, the assumption is that you are in an advanced stage of your project. You have an established fanbase and a few prior releases under your belt. And, perhaps a strategically placed album will give you gravitas as an artist?

However, if you are starting out, it’s worth considering whether an album is the best thing to release. An album's success relies on having a fanbase to release it too. It's a costly exercise, in both terms of budget and time. That means you will be looking to recoup, and feel as though it’s not a wasted endeavour.

Even if your career is established, a series of singles or EP’s can create high levels of sustained engagement on your socials. In fact, singles seem to be a release format that best apply to the social media culture of fast and disposable content.  Due to the endless sea of digital content attention spans can afford to be shorter. Therefore, having reoccuring calls to action will be a huge benefit to your career as an artist.

With all that considered, you could plan your next twelve months like this;

Winter - Single

Spring - Single

Summer - Single

Autum - EP/Album

Do bear in mind that releasing an album in the last quarter of the year could lead to problems with the festive noise. So, you need to be strategic and time it right. To add, this is not a cast-iron plan, you can adapt what you want to release and when. However, the main takeaway should be to keep it consistent and don’t let the buzz drop off.


Merchandise is one of the biggest money-spinners in an artists toolkit. It can become so profitable, that it outweighs the money made from recorded music and live ticket sales. You have at least two avenues for selling merchandise; live and online. The age-old way of selling merchandise is on the stand after your show (if you need some help with this check out our channel for some tips). This can range from T-shirts, Vinyl, badges and even bottle openers.

You know the social media following you have been cultivating? Well, it's also social marketplace. You can sell t-shirts and the like via your Facebook, Instagram or any other platform you are using.  Remember to be smart with it, price it correctly. If it costs you £8 per unit to print a t-shirt, plus a designer fee for the logo, then it can take some time before you start to see any profit.

One suggestion is to aim for a 50% cost to profit margin. Which means if you spend £5 on the accumulated value of manufacture, then you’d sell the merchandise for £10. This economic shrewdness allows you to reinvest into additional merchandise while making a profit.  Be inventive, and create your Merch like you create your music, with care and detail. If you create something cool, I guarantee it will sell.

Don't forget to consider supply and demand. How big is your following and Gig attendance? If you are starting out and the following is low, your efforts should be on creating a market to foster demand.

Your marketing and media strategy

Right, you now have some assets to market. You have your release, you have merchandise, and you need a way of getting it out to an audience.

There are many factors to consider, how established is your project, your pre-existing channels and the demographics of your primary audience. Where do they exist? Is it Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?  This is a deep subject, with infinite nuances along the way. And in it that, plenty of scopes to get lost and not achieve your objectives.

Herein lies the first part of clarity, what are your goals in the marketing campaign? Are you looking to sell t-shirts to a fan base? Do you want to extend your reach? Or is it Spotify playlisting that is the essential metric? In all honesty, a successful campaign will incorporate a mixture of these things - and will have multiple goals.

To reach all your aims, allow yourself the time to do. There is no point contacting journalists to review your work 24hrs before its release. You need lead times, and you need to organise your campaign as such.

Get out Excel, Numbers or even simple to-do list - start by writing it down, assign durations of the task and plot this into a visual representation of your work. Gantt charts/pie charts / Kanban work boards - use whatever works for you, but make sure you organise your career this year and achieve your potential.

If you are interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus.

by Laurance Bridge
An experienced bassist that’s had broad studio & live performance experience, having played legendary venues such as the Concorde 2, The Borderline, The Camden Barfly, Ronnie Scotts, Whelans Dublin and The Brighton Dome. His recorded work has achieved airtime on BBC Radio 6, Amazing Radio, RTE 1 and BBC introducing. He’s also performed at The Great Escape, Beautiful Days, Camden Rocks and Black Deer Festivals supporting artists such as The Libertines, Pete Doherty, Rat Boy, Yonaka, The Levellers and Frank Turner.
View all posts by Laurance Bridge

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