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The Rise of the Musical Middle Class

As open platforms bloom across the internet, musicians are gaining control over all aspects of their business. (And let’s not kid ourselves, if you’re doing music full time, it’s a business.)

Distribution is no longer a black box controlled by the record labels; it’s a mere click away at Distrokid or Bandcamp.

Upfront investment is similarly opening up: Try Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Want to talk to your fans? Instagram and Twitter.

Suddenly, musicians have all the tools necessary to grow their own careers.

The classic working indie musician is a one-man/woman show. They book their own gigs, design their own posters, and ship out CDs at the post office. In the past, if you wanted to progress beyond that “to the big time” it was basically sign with a label or bust.

But now there’s another option: Use your smarts and your initiative — and the aforementioned online tools of investment, engagement, and distribution —to build a fanbase yourself and grow your momentum and revenues.

And when you have enough dough rolling in, hire a real manager. Hire a real agent. Hire a real designer. And start building your own business.

Hell, register yourself as an LLC. It’s a company and you’re the CEO.

Then, when you get to the point where a $10,000 Kickstarter isn’t enough, and you need $1 million to record in a top class studio, plan a legit tour, and do some real PR, it’s time to talk to the major labels.

You’re a company and they’re venture capitalists. Remember the old days when they would float you cash in exchange for 95% of future earnings and full artistic control?

That’s a bad deal, and now that you are a smoothly executing, rapidly growing business with access to the full supply chain, you have more leverage.

How about the label invests a million bucks in your LLC for a 50% share of revenues and no artistic control?

I don’t know what the exact deal is. But the internet is enabling musicians to take control over their own careers. Intelligent and motivated musicians can now cross that gap from “one man/woman show” to “actual business.”

If you’re a musician, how does it sound to have a team which allows you to forget about booking, forget about schlepping CDs to the post office, and focus completely on your music? And make $100k a year?

Watch out, gatekeepers of the music industry. The musical middle class is gaining some upward mobility.

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