One thing I've noticed while talking to more people who make a living in the music industry: multiple income streams are essential, or at least highly desirable -- and surely this idea has been underscored by the coronavirus pandemic.
Monica Strut is one musician who's taken the concept and run with it. Vocalist of Australian hard rockers The Last Martyr, Strut has worked to turn her marketing side hustle into the Main Hustle. She hosts courses and monthly memberships where underground musicians can learn how to increase their social media followings, increase sales, and even start their own road-ready businesses to supplement music income.
I interviewed Monica this summer for my upcoming book Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials. She had WAAAAYYYY more to say than I can put in a blog post, but here's a taste!
Metalhead Money: What are your main sources of income, music-related or otherwise?
Monica Strut: Currently, my main sources of income are through my music business and marketing consulting business, as well as a day job which I work a couple of days per week. Until recently I was relying on the day job to support me: however, I have recently reached a point where I’m now making more in my side-hustle than my day job, which is really gratifying! It’s been something I’ve been working towards for a long time. I also make a small amount from royalties, shows, merch, etc. in my band but currently, band-related income (aside from royalties) gets reinvested into the project.
MM: What kind of skills or personality traits do you think a person needs to be a music professional? MS: Resilience and an unwavering focus are the most important things. When I was younger, many people warned me that the music industry is the hardest industry in the world and only a small percentage ‘make it.’ It’s definitely hard but my attitude has always been, ‘well, I’m definitely going to be in the minority then!’ My passion totally outweighed the risks and also the rebellious side of me that likes to prove people wrong! You also need to be really confident. Not in a cocky sense (I hate when people jump to that conclusion), but working in this industry often means forging your own path and being an entrepreneur. It can be a lonely road but at the end of the day, you have to believe in yourself and your art first and foremost and not look for outside validation. When you show you have self-belief, others will automatically believe in you as well. It’s like a mirror. The last trait is optimism. This industry can leave people very jaded. But at the end of the day, what I’ve noticed are the people that are successful just keep going and pay no noise to the naysayers. There are so many opportunities out there for people in this industry, whether you’re an artist or on the business side of things. You just have to be willing to look for them. I truly believe that if you’re living your life’s purpose then the universe will support you and you’ll start to focus on opportunities, not roadblocks.
MM: What has been most helpful to you in establishing your music career?
MS: My network! Prior to starting my business, I’d been a really active member of my local music scene for many years (still am).The network I had built both in-person at gigs and online through social media meant that I already had potential clients waiting when I announced that I started my business. It also meant that when I launched a new band 2 years ago, I had a network of people who were potentially interested in checking us out straight off the bat.
Also, seeking the advice of mentors and people who’d done similar things already has been invaluable. When I started my business, I didn’t know anyone else doing what I wanted to do.This was both a help - because there was a clear gap in the market for me to fill - and a hindrance - because it also made me feel alone and doubt many times whether this is something I could earn a living doing.
Now I know a couple of people in a similar niche to me, but at the start, I really had to look to industries outside my own for that mentorship I needed. I then adapted what they taught me to the music industry. Without mentors and business coaches, or even just having musicians, authors and entrepreneurs I looked up to on social media as an example of what’s possible, I would have struggled big time!
MM: What has helped you plan your regular budget with an income that may vary significantly from month to month? MS: For me, holding onto my day job for as long as I could stand to has been the sensible thing to do. COVID has blessed me because it meant that I’m working fewer hours from home but being paid the same due to Government assistance to my employer so this has helped tremendously in me transitioning out of my day job and into my business full-time, which is what I’m in the process of now. So if you hate your day job, trust me, I feel that! I really, really, do! But if you can try and think of your day job as an “investor,” in your band or business and decrease your hours so you’re not as drained at end of the week (perhaps go from 5 days a week to 4 days a week), that is a huge help. Not only for time and energy management but sometimes for your mental health as well! The other thing is to be setting up monthly recurring revenue streams. For me, I have a membership called the ‘Being in a Band Membership,’ which is a subscription service for musicians. I deliver an in-depth masterclass per week on something relating to marketing, branding, music business etc. as well as one group coaching call where members can get feedback on their band or ask questions. There is also a supportive Facebook Community I facilitate. It’s a relatively low investment for the members in the group ($33 a month) and they get a lot of value which means that no one really leaves! I open the group periodically to enrol new members and it’s been huge in terms of guaranteeing me a certain income per month. I also have clients on monthly payment plans so I am able to forecast my minimum income for a few months out at a time. What this can look like for a band is ensuring you’re on top of your royalties and registering your songs. Patreon is also a good option. However, I firmly believe that it’s not suitable for bands right at the start of their career. You need to nurture your patrons and if there is only a handful, it can end up being a lot of work for the small reward.
Launching new merch lines a few times a year that are going to pique the interest of your fans is also an option. It may take trial and error to know what your audience likes, but with print-on-demand available these days, there are far fewer up-front costs and risks with merch printing!
That's a wrap for now!
Join Monica Strut's free music industry group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/musicmarketingmindset/
Check out her upcoming five-week course Work From the Tour Bus: https://monicastrut.com/workfromthetourbus/
Read Strut's book Social Media Shredder: https://amzn.to/2YQsrFX
Preorder Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials to read interviews from Monica Strut and more: https://amzn.to/3lCsFdq
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