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Busking Is One Thing Musicians Can Do

Over a quarter of all album sales are now in digital, downloaded format, according to the Official Charts Company. More than 21 million album copies were sold via the internet, and with the Christmas season still to really get cracking, expectations are that sales will rise higher.

Chart topper Lady Gaga sold over 100,000 digital albums in 2011 to date, and won Best Song and Best Video for her own song, Born This Way at the November’s MTV European Music Awards in Belfast. She also scooped the Best Female Artist and Biggest Fan category.

Digital Downloads

But it’s the pioneering of downloads that is of real interest for the future of the music industry, plagued by illegal downloading piracy and declining CD sales as it is. She praised  her videographer, Nick Knight, in her success, and that is the key.

It’s not just the ease and instantivity of downloads (no going to shops or ordering the discs), it’s part of the entertainment package. A good video is what sells disks and downloads.

Viewers of ITV’s The X Factor can download a song as soon as its finished. They could have recorded the performance too, or can capture it later. It’s sound and vision come together in perfect harmony.

Digital music pioneer David Kusek, writing on Future of Music pointed out how some places look out for, help and nurture live musicians. The City of Austin, Texas, has a music division to ‘see that the city’s future along with the future of all the musicians who live and work there are aligned with successful practices in the overall music business’.

Without a flourishing live music scene, it’s unlikely a healthy recording industry can survive long. Kusek is conducting a survey to ‘determine the variety, depth and complexity of the ways that musicians are actually making money these days’. He said that dreamed of record deal of kids in the past is no longer what it was.

He argued that the internet has levelled the playing field in an industry in flux, although DIY e-solutions might be tilting it in favour of consumers. He felt that radio is declining (though many dispute that one).

Musicians’ Income Streams

This is a list of possible income streams for the average independent musician in order to
‘make music, make money and survive to write and play another day’:

  1.  publishing
  2. mechanical royalties
  3. performance royalties
  4. digital performance royalties
  5. synch rights TV, commercials, movies, video games
  6. digital sales – Individual or by combination
  7. albums (studio & live, physical & digital)
  8. ringtone, ringback, podcasts
  9. instant post-gig live recording via download, mobile streaming or flash drives
  10. video – live, concept, personal in both physical & digital
  11. video and internet games featuring or about the artist
  12. photographs
  13. graphics and art work, screen savers, wall paper
  14. lyrics
  15. sheet music
  16. compilations
  17. merchandise – clothes, USB packs, posters, mousemats, T-shirts
  18. live performances, gigs
  19. meet and greet
  20. personal appearance
  21. studio session work
  22. sponsorships and endorsements
  23. advertising
  24. artist newsletter emails
  25. artist marketing and promotion materials
  26. blog/website
  27. Music Player
  28. fan clubs
  29. YouTube subscription channel for more popular artists
  30. artist programmed internet radio station or specialty playlist
  31. financial contributions of support – Tip Jar or direct donations, Sellaband or Kickstarter
  32. patronage model – artist fan exclusives – e.g. paying to sing on a song in studio or have artist write a song for you
  33. mobile apps
  34. artist specific income, unique streams customized to the specific artist
  35. music teaching – Lessons and Workshops
  36. music employment – orchestras, choir directors, teaching
  37. music production – Studio and Live
  38. TV chat shows
  39. any other job available to survive and keep making music
  40. getting help from other artists and helping them: whatever goes around come around. – e.g. gig swapping, songwriting, marketing and promotion


To that list, in Britain anyway, might be added busking. Unless they’re in Gloucester, that is. There the council has been urged to ban buskers who use amplifiers from allowing their sound to travel further than 50 metres.

The council is split over the issue, but they may introduce an audition leading to a licence for street musicians, just as London Underground has done for many years. A limited number of approvals are issued each year, and performers who supply over 100,000 hours of live music a year must stay at designated spots. Three and a half million daily tube passengers show their appreciation as they pass. Or not.

Big names (before they were big) who have performed on the tube include The Libertines, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Badly Drawn Boy and Seasick Steve.

Official Charts Company.
Download TV Shows.
Future of Music.

Photo: Almonroth