A songwriter’s dream.
The only thing better than a songwriter is a song that you can’t make any money on.
That’s what’s happened with the last decade’s best indie bands, whose careers have been marked by the lack of a commercial foothold, which has left them scrambling to find a new market for their music.
The success of bands like the Smashing Pumpkins and Run the Jewels has put indie artists in a position of needing to make a lot of money before they can release their own music, and it’s something they’re struggling with.
The indie band is now in the position of having to balance being the most financially secure band in the world with not being able to sell records to anyone.
“There are a lot more indie bands than ever before, but the number of people making money from them is actually quite low,” says Sam Darnell, a longtime music business journalist and author of The Road to the Top: The Story of the Indie Music Industry.
“There’s a lot fewer people who want to play music with their money than they used to.”
As of now, Darnel estimates there are less than 10 independent artists who are able to make enough money from their music to break even, and they’re all in the same boat.
That means there’s a clear gap between the number and the income of these artists.
“If you think about the bands that have gone on to be successful in the past, like the Strokes, or bands like that, it was probably because they didn’t have a lot to start with,” Darnes says.
“In the case of indie bands like Run the Joes, there are a few of them who were lucky enough to be able to get a few hundred thousand dollars in a few months.
There’s no question that’s a success story.”
Darnell says this trend is going to continue, and he expects to see more bands like these pop up in the future.
But what about artists that are making less than $500 a month?
How do you make that work?
That’s a problem for some indie artists, as well.
“A lot of these people don’t want to take on a huge amount of debt,” says Darnells.
“It’s more difficult to make music for a small amount of money, so they’re going to try to find other ways to make money.”
One thing to consider is that some indie bands can only make so much money on their own.
Some will even find themselves stuck in the red.
“Some of these bands, like Run The Jewels, have a really good record deal, but they’re only making $500 or $600 a month, so their records aren’t selling,” says Davey Riddick, who is known for his work with the Stroke and Run The Joes.
“They don’t have any distribution, so it’s hard for them to make any income.”
Another problem is that these bands are more likely to need to raise money from outside the indie scene to keep their careers afloat.
“One thing that’s happened is that a lot people who are trying to make it in the music business are really into making money off of the Internet,” says Riddicks.
“People want to make more money off their music, but if you’re just making money on your own it’s harder to be profitable.”
When it comes to finding ways to turn their music into a business, indie bands need to understand that the industry is not a place for people who can’t pay their rent or pay their bills, so there’s always a risk of losing their career.
“People are going to be like, ‘Well, I can’t do this, I’m not making enough money,’ or ‘I’m not going to make this much money,'” says Drennan.
“But if you make enough to pay your bills and you have a band that’s trying to figure out how to sell their music and make a living, you can probably figure out a way.”
There’s also the problem of whether or not you can put music in the hands of the people you want to sell it to.
“When you start a band, it’s a huge gamble because you’re probably going to get ripped off,” says Linn.
“You don’t know how to negotiate, and you’re going against everything that you want.”
It’s no surprise that the financial struggles faced by many indie bands have led to the downfall of their careers.
“It’s pretty common for bands to have a little bit of a financial problem,” says Tod Stevens, a writer for the website Pitchfork.
“A lot have an issue of financial security, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into longevity.
People have to make choices and be willing to make sacrifices in order to be a viable band.”
One way indie bands are trying not to fall into that trap is to find ways to avoid the debt trap altogether