How Can Musicians Make A Buck In The Digital Age?

Photo: Creative Commons
Photo: Creative Commons

With digital music stores like iTunes and Google Play taking a cut of the profits, not to mention popular websites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp—which allow users to stream music before they buy—it has become increasingly difficult for new musicians to make a buck.

While some major recording artists like U2 and Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke can give away their music for free, most musicians can’t stay afloat on just ticket sales and merchandise alone.

Assuming that a band releases a new single on iTunes for $1.29, Apple will collect a 30 percent cut—or approximately 40 cents, according to Rolling Stone magazine—leaving $.89 cents for the artist and its label. However, for independent musicians not collecting royalties from a major record company, this process is far from sustainable.

While the booming success of iTunes lures many wannabe musicians, some newer sites have heard the cry of struggling musicians and have provided a place for new music while taking a lesser cut than big name companies like Apple and Amazon.

In less than a decade, has made itself a recognizable name among independent artists by taking a lesser cut than many big name corporations like Apple and Amazon. Unlike iTunes and other online music stores, Bandcamp is a free service, which only takes a 15 percent cut of digital sales.

But with piracy still abundant online, it is difficult for artists to avoid having their albums shared and distributed for free.

So, what is the ultimate solution to a musician’s woes?

Believe it or not, vinyl is making a big comeback. And what’s more, it has given artists the opportunity to sell their music directly to you, the audience.

According to, vinyl Long Play (LP) record sales in the United States have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching 6.1 million units sold in 2013.

Historically, vinyl recordings saw a rapid decline in popularity in 1988, with the release of the compact disc. CD’s rapidly became the popular format in the 1990s, until it was eventually usurped by the introduction of the iPod in 2001.

Now, decades later, vinyl is making a big comeback… and anybody can do it. Ordering vinyl wholesale through websites like United Record Pressing or other wax pressing websites, musicians can take pre-sale orders and determine how many copies they will need and at what cost. At bands can choose the weight, color and size of the record… Everything down to the shrink wrap.

Given the many options at a band’s disposal, one can only wonder what direction the music industry is headed in. Will artists continue to push digital releases on iTunes despite the frequency of online pirating? Or will the resurgence of vinyl catch on?

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