Music producer and artist Will.I.Am is a veteran in the game who is not only incredibly successful, but has a lot of in-depth knowledge to share. Many people have either forgot or are unaware that before his ‘Pop’ career, his group the Black Eyed Peas were making some funky Hip-Hop.
In this interview with Wall Street Journal’s Senior Editorial Director, Christopher John Farley, Will.I.Am explains the history of how musicians made money initially and is still true today.
Interviewer: “Just today, Google announced a new streaming initiative, Google Play Music All Access. They’re going to be selling subscription music streaming on the web, I’m wondering what you think of that model of streaming music on the web. I mean, Spotify, we’re seeing more and more of these services. Is this the future of music or is this just happening for the next few months or years? What do you think about initiatives like what Google announced today?”
Will.I.Am: “Honestly, I don’t really know what that means because they’re subscribing to sold music, but what if I made a song and put it on the Internet tomorrow? Spotify doesn’t spot that. We live in this connected ‘instant right now’ world and those services are cool for songs that were for sale yesterday. Google owns Youtube. If I wanted to hear music, I’m just going on Youtube, so it doesn’t really make sense at all.”
“I only know how I listen to music, but I also sell music so it’s kind of weird, but I go to Youtube to hear music. I get on my iPad, I go to Youtube, I type it in and it’s there. Streaming. For free. So it’s kind of weird actually.”
Interviewer: “As an artist though, how do artists make money of it from that model. How do you as an artist profit off that when people are seeing your work for free on services like that?”
Will.I.Am: “The dirty little secret is that very very few artists actually made a healthy living selling records in the history of the music industry because people forgot that the music industry was always technology. Like people forgot that RCA was technology that Americans used in World War 1 and 2. And then RCA became a consumer product and then bought the Victor Talking Machine, and then it also became our radio. It’s also the reason why artists don’t get paid terrestrial radio rights in America because it was always the loss leader.”
“Here in 2013, if you didn’t write the song and you just performed it, you don’t get any money when it’s played on the radio. Now if you’re an act from 1960 and your song’s playing on K-Earth 101 and right after it is the ‘Depends’ commercial because you know exactly who the audience is, older folks, that artist isn’t participating in any of the revenue because America doesn’t practice terrestrial radio rights.”
“So, you have to look at the origins of the music industry being hardware. Our music was made to sell hardware to the point that if you sold out of that circle, you were deemed a ‘sell out’. A ‘sell out’ doesn’t mean that you changed your morals, you sold out of the circle of things you were supposed to sell. Phonographs, record players. We could’ve been signed to Cadillac! There’s radios in Cadillacs, but that’s not what we were supposed to sell.”
“So artists are supposed to make money when they come up with other things to sell and use their music to sell it. Dr Dre and Beats, me and I.Am+, or going out and selling out venues. You want to sell out? Sell out the Staples center. You want to make money? Do your own festival.”
“Write your own songs because publishing was the first music industry. You wrote songs, print it on sheet music and you sold pianos, trumpets violins, tubas, oboes, and people came together to play them and they sold out Carnegie Hall. And architects built cathedrals and theaters. Music was supposed to build bars and you were supposed to sell other things with it. Until the music industry figures out what hardware we’re going to sell, then we are just a ‘hired gun’ to sell somebody else’s stuff.”
So from this interview, we learned (or maybe you already knew) several things from Will.I.Am:
- Record labels make money by advertising products that target the same audience that a particular artist’s music caters to, with the artist receiving no money from it at all.
- If you want to make money from music, you need to own the publishing rights to your music, or at the very least write your own songs/music.
- Organizing your own festivals and concerts will also bring additional revenue.
The majority of music artists don’t make much money as they don’t write their own lyrics neither do they contribute in the production of the song. They only provide vocals which is not enough to get paid handsomely.
Fortunately, if you’re a music producer, that means that you write your own music, but if you want to maximize your profit, you need control of publishing rights and royalties, which is something you negotiate with your record label if you’re signed to one.================================================================
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