Why is making music so expensive? Am I getting screwed over?

It would appear that today’s musician is faced with a long list of bills to pay in order to make music and get it heard by an audience, and on the other side of the coin, it seems more and more difficult to earn enough money to pay these bills.

First of all, it’s completely accurate to state that it costs, and should cost, a fairly significant amount of money to produce and release music.  This is a business, and the people involved are doing a ton of hard work, over many hours, for the benefit of your music.  There is a glut of boring, poor quality music released every day that hasn’t seen the benefit of enough skilled contributions, and what money was spent on those recordings is wasted, since the songs won’t rise above the noise in the market.  But is it possible that the music business has become all about stealing money from the artist’s pocket?

Some would say that the music business has ALWAYS been about stealing money from the artist’s pocket.  While I agree there are all shades of shady characters out there, making promises and demanding unreasonable fees, there is also a whole world of friendly, honest specialists whose skills are exactly what you need to make and distribute a great record.

From the music teachers who helped you learn to make music, to the sales experts who helped you buy your instruments and other gear, you’ve already benefitted from specialists before you even reach the point of making your own music.  At this point, you can benefit from the expertise of those who know how to:

  • Write a compelling song
  • Arrange the parts for musicians and music programmers
  • Perform some of the instrumental or vocal parts
  • Capture a great recording of instruments and voices
  • Blend and enhance those recordings into an exciting mix
  • Prepare that mix for manufacturing and distribution
  • Create visual art and design that mirrors your intentions
  • Deliver your finished recording(s) to your listening audience
  • Promote your music to help listeners discover you
  • Look for other opportunities to place your music
  • Follow up on monies that should be paid to you when your music is performed or broadcast
  • Help you figure out what to do next

And this list only looks at the best case scenario – it doesn’t even get into the jobs of keeping a recording session on track and on budget, finding a replacement bass player when yours doesn’t show up, and keeping you calm every step of the way.

For decades, these roles have existed in the music business, and we’ve heard the roles named.  Songwriter, Composer, Arranger, Musician, Vocalist, Recording Engineer, Mix Engineer, Mastering Engineer, Illustrator, Graphic Designer, Record Label, Publisher, Manager, Agent, etc.

It’s in your best interest to understand all these roles, even if you aren’t good at some of them.  If you ARE capable of handling every step mentioned above, then you’re likely already a successful indie artist, and I’m likely already a fan.  There is so much to learn, and so much to do, and you will meet so many people who have become really, really good at one or two pieces of the puzzle, so why not put them to work on your music?  And why not pay them what they’re worth?  The end result will be so much better, and so much more likely to help your career.

If you like what you read above, maybe you'd like to work with Allister at Tilted White Shed? Reach out through the Contact Us page.