Trends and developments are constant in this complex landscape of modern music. Navigating through the turbulent waters of the industry requires artists to take advantage of the tools to help build a stable career. Bree Noble draws the curtain for our guest today to light the path of artists towards success. In this episode, Ari Herstand, the Host of the New Music Business, shares how to make it in the new music business. They also dive into the newest extensive chapter Ari added to his book, How to Make It in the New Music Business, which would definitely benefit everyone. So what are you waiting for? Tune in to this episode now!
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The NEW New Music Business: Navigating The Tides Of The Current Music Industry With Ari Herstand
I’m excited to be here with Ari Herstand. We are going to talk about the new edition of his book that came out in January 2023. Before we jump into that, I can’t believe anyone that might be reading doesn’t know who Ari Herstand is. If you don’t, I want to make sure that you do. Ari, let them know a bit about you, your background musically and business-wise.
Thanks, Bree, for having me. I was a touring singer-songwriter for many years. I’ve played hundreds of shows everywhere from living rooms to arenas, and everything in between. After a while, I’m managing my career. I was based in the Midwest. I had a career and was selling out venues, getting syncs, charting, and doing all that totally independently with no manager, no label, no booking agent, and all that stuff.
I got a bunch of questions from musicians about how was I doing it without the support of the industry. The word spread that if you had questions about the music business, go ask Ari. I tried to get back to everybody. I don’t believe in competition in the music industry. I believe a rising tide lifts all ships. I tried to support my fellow musicians and share whatever I was learning on running my career. It got too much for me to get back to everybody so I put everything I was learning and knew up on a blog called Ari’s Take.
Every time I learned something, I would put it up on the blog. If I got screwed over at a venue, I’m like, “Don’t make the same mistake I did. This is what I learned.” The trials and tribulations that every Indie musician has to go through. Most of us learn the hard way. As soon as I learned something, I put it up and I’m like, “You don’t have to make the same mistake I did.” After years of this blog found its way into Indie music circles and communities, I got asked to write for other publications. Through that, it gave me bigger publications in the music industry.
It gave me access to talk with whoever I wanted in the industry. I was given an incredible opportunity to sit down with some of the big players in the industry and asked them the questions that musicians had. I was sitting down with Spotify, agents, managers, and YouTube and I felt this immense responsibility.
Most artists don’t have this opportunity so I asked them the questions that everybody would want to know. Musicians came to me and they’re like, “I’ve read all your articles. It’s helpful. I appreciate it, but I need something to help me connect the dots. What music business books should I read?” At that time, I’d read most of the music business books. There weren’t any books out there that I felt were relevant talking about the current music industry as it is. There were the most popular music business books were written by attorneys 30 years ago, and I’m like,”These aren’t relevant anymore.”
The Donald Passman book that everybody hears that you have to read when they start.
I was like, “That’s cool but I don’t know why people keep pointing to this book considering it was written before the internet. What are we doing here?” For some reason, everybody is like, “That’s the book you should read.” I read it and if you need to negotiate a 120-page major record contract, this is the book. Until you have that record contract in your lap, this book isn’t going to help you. I felt that I needed to write this book because no one was telling the stories of these musicians, managers, and agents that I saw were succeeding and innovating in this new music business.
Billboard, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Variety weren’t talking about this. No one was telling these stories. This is so inspiring talking to all these people about how they’re making it work, making a real music career happen in innovative ways DIY and independently outside of the mainstream music industry. I felt I needed to tell their stories and share what I learned from the hundreds of interviews that I conducted. The first edition of the book came out a few years ago. I updated every three years because the industry changes rapidly.
This new edition covers the changes from 2020, not least of which TikTok, live streaming, and the whole social media landscape that has shifted, also new royalty collection methods, NFTs, and Metaverse. Pretty much everything that has shifted the post-COVID touring landscape and all of that stuff. These days, I’m still a working musician. I got a funk project. I released a record in 2022 and I have the podcast, The New Music Business Podcast, which is the same interviews that I was conducting before except now I let people in on them and make them public. I’m staying active.
I read your email and you’re like, “This is what’s happened since I wrote the last book.” I was like, “How is he doing all of this?” I get people asking me that questions. I know how I do it, but I look at what you’re doing. You’ve got a band that’s performing and touring. You run an academy and you’re putting stuff up on the blog. I know you have help because you have team members, but how are you doing all of this?
The team at Ari’s take is amazing. I have incredible supporters and people who are on the team who helped make everything happen. We have Ari’s Take Academy. We have 5,000 students as part of that and the podcast where we release an episode every week. It’s keeping everything going with social media, TikTok, and everything. It’s a big credit to the team that makes it happen at Ari’s Take.
I know what it takes to write a book and this book is not just an update. You have added a hundred extra pages from the previous year. It takes serious focus to sit there and write. Kudos to you that you did that.
Thank you. I find my respite in New Orleans. Every time I write a book or an update, I go to New Orleans. I find that city is magical. It has an energy unlike any other city in the world. There’s incredible music that I can go out to see every night and get inspired by. I come back, wake up the next morning, run the streetcar tracks, go plop myself in a coffee shop and write all day every day. Fortunately, my cousins live in New Orleans I can crash with them for the month. That helps keep me inspired and where I go to make updates on the book.
I’ll have to think about doing something like that if I write another book because it’s hard. I feel this book should be called to talk about the new music business because there’s so much changed since the pandemic. One of the big things, as you said, that changed was the introduction of TikTok. People growing their careers organically through social media, not needing to put a song out before it becomes huge. Talk about what you say in the book around that.
I tell a lot of stories of how artists found their audience because of TikTok. One of these stories is about the artist, Stacy Ryan. She is a young jazz-pop singer-songwriter and was working on a song. What she was doing is playing piano, singing, and putting up demos or song ideas that she had. She put one up and somebody commented, “I would love to write a verse to this song.” She’s like, “That’s interesting. I’ve seen this Open Verse Challenge thing happen.”
She made a deeper demo of the song a little bit more than the piano vocal version. She put up this instrumental, sang the chorus, and she’s like, “Now it’s your turn.” People had a lot of fun writing their verses over her instrumental while she sat there pretending she was listening. Using the duet feature on TikTok, there were around 30,000 people that made duets with their verses. One of those was the rapper Zai1k. His version got 40 million views on his video alone of him rapping along to her Open Verse Challenge.
Because of that, the two of them were like, “We should release this song together.” People are resonating with the chorus and then with his verse. Here are two artists that had never met before, live on opposite sides of the world, and decide to release this version together because their collaboration on TikTok did so well and found an audience. They released a song and it has tens of millions of streams. She was able to negotiate a seven-figure licensing deal with Interscope Records, where she got to retain all of her ownership, masters, and publishing. Now, she’s topping all the pop charts. That’s what can happen and what we’ve been seeing happen from TikTok.
That is an amazing story. Some musicians get freaked out about doing stuff like that because they get precious about their intellectual property and it hasn’t been copyrighted and all. How do you talk to musicians who are freaked out about that whole copyrighting thing?
You should be lucky. You don’t want to get too bogged down in all of the crazy copyright law or all the laws out there. That’s the thing that the internet has done. It leveled the playing field. It’s a brand-new industry and something that the laws have not caught up with. If you look at the Stacey Ryan example with 30,000 people contributing verses to her Open Verse Challenge, you can say that’s 30,000 unauthorized remixes. What she could have done was sent take-down notices and go to TikTok and be like, “I don’t give them permission. They didn’t ask me permission to put their vocals on my song. That is illegal. Take it down.”
That is what the law dictates that you could do. That’s what the major labels were doing back in 2007 with YouTube when fans would upload lyric videos and upload their videos with their favorite songs. The labels were like, “We didn’t get paid for this. We didn’t give them permission. YouTube, take it all down. This is awful. This is horrible for our industry.” Later, they realized, “This is amazing for our industry. This is a free promo. What are we doing? We’re such idiots.” The major labels have always been behind the curve on this.
Go back to the beginning of the 21st century with Napster. The labels sued the fans because they were like, “You got to buy the music from us.” The fans were like, “You’re charging us $20 for one song. We have to buy this CD that only has one good song in it whereas Napster is giving us permission and the ability to get that one song. You’re taking advantage of the music industry.” Innovation is always going to happen. If you can fight it, like the major labels have been fighting it for decades and finally, they have realized, “We shouldn’t try to squash innovation. We should leverage it.” Indie artists and creators, especially the young ones don’t know the laws and “Right or wrong,” which is completely subjective. There is no real right or wrong in the new music business.We shouldn't try to squash innovation. We should leverage it. Click To Tweet
We can go, “Is stealing right or wrong? Stealing is wrong but what about file sharing? Is that wrong? Is that stealing?” We can have debates about what is right or wrong. What about the death penalty? Is that right or wrong? That’s one of the biggest debates in our society. There is no black and white when it comes to right or wrong. Just because something is a law doesn’t make it right. There are a lot of laws out there in the music industry that shouldn’t be on the books, and it’s too slow to update copyright law.
The last big changes in copyright law were from 1998, but long before social media or any of that stuff. I would encourage anyone that’s like, “I got to register. They’re infringing on my copyright.” Get out of your own way. You can use the tools at your disposal to find your audience. Once you have an audience and a career, you can make sure that everything is working in a way that is supporting your career whether the law dictates that this is helpful or not. Your intention should be always, “Is this going to help support my career, not what some bureaucrat in Washington has written down on some dumb law of is this right or wrong or any of that?”
I love your passion for these things, but I was thinking, “How many artists did I discover because of file sharing, like Napster and LimeWire?” I’ve now streamed a million times and they’ve made money from me now, but I never would’ve discovered them had I not had those file-sharing services.
It was a discovery mechanism. I use Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa and all that stuff back in the day to find bootlegs, hidden versions, and unreleased versions of live concerts.
Acoustic-only recorded on a radio station. I have some like that that you can’t find anywhere else.
I would show up at the CD store at midnight for the new version of the new Dave Matthews record or whatever. I’m not downloading necessarily the full version. I still wanted the CD but I was downloading all the bootlegs that I could find. It was a way to increase fandom. There’s always been tape trading going back to the Grateful Dead era. That’s something at the turn of the century where when file sharing was a thing, a lot of the people in the jam community were like, “This has been happening for decades. It’s tape trading. It’s the same thing. What’s the difference? What’s the big deal?”
The industry was freaking out and was like, “We need people to buy the stuff. Let’s punish them and force their hand.” The fans are always going to follow what’s most convenient and make sense for them even if the industry hasn’t quite caught up. If you think about why did Napster catch on is not because people didn’t want to pay for music. It was more convenient. It’s like, “There’s no way to find these bootlegs at your record stores or anywhere else at that time. I wanted one song and you’re making me pay $20 for the full CD that was more convenient.”The fans are always going to follow what's most convenient and what makes sense for them. Click To Tweet
They used Napster, but then why did iTunes succeed? iTunes succeeded because Napster, Kazaa, LimeWire, and all the rest were not convenient. Oftentimes, you download a song that you think it was but it’d be a crappy, staticky, and completely different version like, “I thought I was downloading Michael Jackson but it was Prince.” There are no real quality checks there. It’s like, “This is frustrating. I wanted to hear this song. There are a thousand versions up there but I can’t tell which is the right one.”
iTunes caught on because that was verified and it’s like, “This is the authenticated version of this song.” Now you’ve unbundled from making me pay $20 for a CD to $1. Everyone was happy to pay the $1, but it was still clunky because you’re downloading and you have to be sorted on your computer.
There were still people downloading “Illegally” in the iTunes era. What killed piracy was streaming on Spotify. When Spotify launched, people decided to pay for music again, not because they didn’t want to be paying before but because it was more convenient to do what they wanted to do. If you offer fans a convenient way to experience music, our culture, and the community in a way that makes sense to them, they’ll pay for it. It needs to make sense to the fan.
I’m an obsessive playlist and this is what I’ve always wanted. It’s a great way to playlist and organize everything that I want in one place. I used to get frustrated with iTunes for that. I didn’t like the way they did it. It wasn’t across devices and all that stuff.
I look at playlisting as like the mix tapes that’ll make my girlfriend in high school.
I was obsessed with those in high school. Another big change that happened was the MLC and the changes in royalties. How has that changed from the last version of the book?
The Music Modernization Act of 2018 officially went into effect in 2019, but the biggest thing that came from that was the creation of The Mechanical Licensing Collective, The MLC. Not to get into the weeds of this but if you remember how there were all these lawsuits against Spotify a few years back and some against Apple music and stuff like that?
Why there were lawsuits from songwriters? It was because the law states that anytime a song is streamed on any of these streaming services, the streaming service has to pay the songwriters and mechanical royalty. Now the problem was with all these Indie musicians distributing their music to Spotify, streaming functions differently from downloads.
iTunes needed a certain set of rights and they got them. When Spotify launched, they were like, “Let’s do iTunes, but streaming version.” The US law was like, “That’s not how it works for streaming. It’s a different set of rights so you can’t be the iTunes of streaming.” Spotify didn’t realize that. Songwriters started suing Spotify because Spotify wasn’t paying the songwriters. Spotify was like, “We want to pay the songwriters. We don’t know how to find them because there are tens of thousands of songs uploaded to Spotify every day. Most of them are Indie.” Unfortunately, they were too late for the draw.
Spotify wasn’t asking for who the songwriters were and the distributors weren’t asking for who the songwriters were. When the artist would distribute a song, they wouldn’t tell the distributor who wrote the song, whether they wrote it, it was a cover or anything like that. What happened now is the streaming services were like, “Please stop suing us. Let’s figure out how to make this happen.” The music industry is like, “Sure, but it’s fragmented.” Previously, Harry Fox and Music Reports were collecting some mechanical royalties. Even then, they didn’t know who to pay. It was a mess.
The MMA, the Music Modernization Act, said, “Let’s create one organization in the United States that is going to collect all the mechanical royalties. Instead of Spotify having to pay Harry Fox and Pandora going to pay Music Reports and all of these other services paying all these different organizations, scrub everything. Everybody is going to pay all of the mechanical royalties, which are owed to songwriters and publishers to the MLC. The MLC collects.” Spotify was like, “Thank God.” They had $23 million of royalties sitting in a bank account and they didn’t know who to pay. They’re like, “Here you go MLC. You figure it out.”
Apple also had a bunch of millions of dollars. In the end, there were $400 million of unpaid royalties from all these streaming services that went to the MLC. The MLC’s job was like, “We got to find the rightful owners of this $400 million, which are songwriters and publishers. Also, moving forward, anytime a song gets streamed on any streaming service in the United States, those mechanical royalties which are owed to songwriters and publishers are going to get paid to the MLC.” Now, every songwriter knows, especially if they read my book, that if they want to get paid for their streams on Spotify, they either need a publisher or you need to sign up for the MLC. They can do that directly and they’ll write you a check directly.
If you’re using something like Songtrust, do you need to sign up for the MLC?
No, you do not. Songtrust acts as your publisher. It’s an either/or thing. If you have a Songtrust, TuneCore, CD Baby or anything that has the word publishing in it, they’re going to work with the MLC, ASCAP, BMI, all the performing arts organizations, and every other organization around the world that collects mechanical and performance royalties. We know about the ones in the States. The MLC stays mechanicals but there are 80 organizations all over the world for every country that collects all of these royalties and they need to know who to pay.
You’re not going to be making your phone calls to 80 organizations around the world to Gemma in Germany and be like, “Can you pay? You don’t speak English. I don’t speak German. Can I email you? No. That’s not going to work.” That’s the benefit of having a publisher or an admin publisher like Songtrust, Sentric, or TuneCore Publishing. Those are called admin publishers. They don’t own your copyrights or publishing. They take a commission and you essentially enlist them to go collect all of your royalties. They’ll work with the MLC, PROs, and all the organizations. You, the songwriter, can enlist a Songtrust, TuneCore Publishing or something to do this for you. You do not need to go to the MLC directly.
I feel that’s the easiest way. You have to pay them because they are doing work for you. As you said, all the ones outside of the US or if you are outside of the US, they will deal with the MLC and stuff for you, say you’re in Canada and your music is being played in the US.
Every country functions differently. That’s why I prefer to have a publisher do this. I’m happy to pay the publisher a cut of my royalties because I don’t want to deal with the headache. There’s enough to handle in a music career anyways. I don’t want to have to work spreadsheets and figure out all the organizations that I need. The fewer people that I need to deal with, I’m happy to pay them for it.
That’s true for musicians that are working and recording all the time. Someone like me who’s recorded three CDs, I can go find my stuff and be done. I’m not currently recording. I probably don’t need that but for most musicians that are reading this continuing with their careers and releasing singles, it’s so much easier.
If you have the time and energy and it excites you to figure out how all of these royalty streams work and how all the laws work, by all means, go for it. for me, I have to be more serious about where I devote my time, energy, and efforts and I prefer to have fewer parties to deal with as possible. I’m happy to pay them for it or at least give them a piece of the pie.
Let’s talk about the pandemic and how that affected us. Obviously, none of us could perform for almost two years. What did that do to the music industry? It certainly increased live streaming. How do you see that affecting the music industry now that the pandemic has waned?
Musicians got more comfortable with live streaming and understood the function and the benefits of what live streaming can offer, both on ticketed livestream platforms and free live streaming platforms. Right when the pandemic hit, I teamed up with a couple of my friends and we launched the UnCancelled Music Festival. We had about 350 musicians from all over the world playing at our festival over ten days. It was hosted on StageIt and at that time, that was one of the few ticketed live streaming platforms in existence.
Now there’s a bunch more out there. A lot of ticketed livestream platforms have popped up, and artists can host ticketed livestreams. They still are doing that even post-pandemic. It’s a way for them to engage their fan base in a way where they don’t have to hit the road and still charge tickets for it. We’re seeing the free livestreams, which are on platforms like Twitch. Twitch has taken off in the music community over a couple of years. I’m hearing about artists and seeing artists making good livings on Twitch live streaming multiple times a week. It’s a tightly-knit community on Twitch. I interviewed a few Twitch musicians who succeed on Twitch for the book, how they were doing it, talk about all of their strategies, methods, and how it’s working for them.
It’s become a lot more niche. There were 100,000 livestream concerts in 2020 and 2021 from artists that couldn’t tour and they’re like, “We’re going to throw a concert online.” I did a few and a bunch of people did them. Now, as touring has picked back up and we’re in this post-pandemic era, people are live streaming and the Twitch community is stronger than ever. Artists are starting to livestream on Twitch if they want understanding that if they do want to livestream, there is a place for it if it makes sense for them. It’s not required. Fortunately, you don’t have to livestream.
That’s the thing with every platform. You want to do what inspires you and go to where your audience lives and exists. If live streaming doesn’t inspire you, you don’t want to force it because it takes a lot of energy to learn it. If you’re going to do the Twitch thing, it takes time, effort, energy, and money investment to get set up on Twitch to follow the proper etiquette of how to function as a musician and be welcomed into that community. It takes a lot to get set up. If that doesn’t inspire you and don’t want to do it, you’re going to get burnt out quickly.
The same goes for TikTok. There’s a way that you can succeed on TikTok, but it takes consistency in doing it every day and understanding the community and the etiquette of TikTok. If your audience isn’t necessarily on TikTok or your target demo that you’re focusing on and they’re not spending the majority of their time on TikTok, you don’t have to. TikTok is incredibly powerful at reaching new people, but it’s not for everyone. That’s where we’re at in this new music business. All the tools are there, whether it’s Twitch, TikTok, Instagram, NFTs, Patreon and Bandcamp.
There are all these tools out there and it can be daunting and overwhelming. That’s why you have to figure out what is important to you, who you’re looking to target, and what career you want to have. The thing that happened that works for me is not going to be the thing that works for you. Everybody has different strengths and desires and succeeds and excels in different ways. You have to find what makes sense to you and go all in on that.
If you’re spreading yourself too thin, you’re not going to make an impact anywhere. You’ve got to be like, “I’m going to go all in on YouTube,” or whatever it is. Do you find that there are musicians who are making their living as content creators? Maybe they’re not even trying to promote their next single. They’re just out there creating TikTok or YouTube and that’s how they’re making their money.
My friend Justin Vibes is a vibraphone player. He’s incredible. He has 8.5 million TikTok followers by playing the vibraphone. Everybody go check him out. Check out Justin Vibes on TikTok. He makes a very good living through brand sponsorships and deals because he’s built up this following. People are paying him as a content creator and influencer in a TikTok, but he’s doing it through his music and playing the Vibes.
If you’ve got something unique enough for sure, you can do that. Let’s touch on this one. I know whenever I bring this up, it blows my audience’s mind a bit, but talking about crypto and NFTs and things like that may be in as plains speak as we can. Every time I start to think about it, I feel like I can’t put my hands around it. It seems like it could be anything, especially NFTs.
Currently, NFTs are not for everyone and it’s not something that as an industry, if you don’t want to focus on it, you don’t have to. It’s not mainstream yet. That being said, some musicians and artists have found incredible fan bases within the NFT community and revenue stream. I had this Latin country artist Sammy Arriaga on The New Music Business Podcast. He created an NFT for his new song called METAGIRL and hosted it on his own NFT platform on his website.
He went all in on this. He teamed up with some developers and designed this thing. He has a lot of fans. He was signed to Sony Records and was dropped by Sony. He had a large following on TikTok. He had a publishing deal. He is a working musician, but he’s like, “My fans don’t know NFTs, crypto or anything like that. I’m not going to go to my fans with this. I’m going to go to the NFT community.” Where do they exist? They’re on Twitter and more specifically Twitter spaces. What he did was he would go into these Twitter spaces rooms, listen to people in the NFT rooms talk about NFTs and then raise his hand to speak.
They’d pull them up and he’s like, “I’ve heard you guys talk about NFTs. There’s a lot of conversation here. Do you mind if I play you a song?” They’re like, “Sure.” He played a song and he’s like, “By the way, I have an NFT of this song if you want to grab it.” Now he found his community of people who love NFTs. They went and bought his NFT. He made $250,000 selling his song as an NFT to the NFT community. You don’t always have to find an audience that may love the style of music that you make because people want to support those like them. That’s why I always tell everybody to find their community.
There’s always going to be a Venn diagram of crossover if they like your music or not, but you want to support your friends, your family, and people in your community. They supported him and they’re like, “This is so cool.” They bought his NFT. He went and found that community. What we’re seeing moving forward is that people are using blockchain technology with NFTs, but turning this into the next wave of fan funding. Patreon is like patronage.Find your community. Support your friends, family, and people in your community. Click To Tweet
You pay your favorite creators or artists a couple of bucks a month because you want to support them. That’s the Patreon model and it works well for some people. Moving forward, what we’re seeing is fan investing. You can go to your fans and be like, “I have this new song. I’m selling 50% of the royalties of this song. If you want to invest in me, you can own a percentage of this song.” People own this is the incorrect word.
You can buy a percent of these royalties and earn on this song rather, but own is an easier term to use even though it’s not legally correct. Anyway, you don’t need their permission if you’re going to get a sink in that ownership. What we’re seeing here is that people are selling off a percentage of the royalties. If you earn $1 million on the song and 50 people own 50% of that song, that $500,000 of those royalties get split amongst the people who bought a percentage of your song. That’s all being built on blockchain technology. You can use the NFT and blockchain technology, and that’s what we’re seeing moving forward for some of these used cases.
You and I both interviewed Lablecoin and that’s the system that they’ve set up, which I thought was interesting.
Lablecoin is innovating in the space. Full disclosure, I’m on the Advisory Board of Lablecoin and what they’re doing is extremely innovative. This is their exact model and they call themselves the Robinhood of music. That’s a great comparison because it is like buying stocks but in a way that’s seamless and easy where the fan doesn’t need to know about the technology happening behind the scenes. The disconnect when it comes to NFTs and why it didn’t catch on to the main is average fans don’t want to get a MetaMask and digital wallet. They need to figure out how to buy Ether on the Ethereum blockchain and they got to go and figure out gas fees.
Musicians have to figure out how to mint.
That’s complicated. It’s like, “Can we simplify this?” It’s complicated for musicians but then think about fans. If you’re like, “Go buy my NFT,” the fan’s like, “What?” When it’s as easy as buying something on Amazon, it’s going to be buying an NFT. That’s when it’s going to catch on when you can use your credit card and you don’t need to use your digital wallet, buy crypto, or anything like that. We’re moving in that direction. What Labelcoin has done which I thought was innovative is not only do they allow fans to invest in songs, but they allow curators, music lovers, or people in the industry that support them to create yourself.
As you said, you love making playlists so you can make a playlist of your favorite songs and people can invest in your playlist and say, “I like Bree’s taste in music. She’s got her pulse on the finger of what is coming down the pipe here that I’m not paying attention to.” If they’re going to invest in your playlist, the money that they take gets split up amongst all the songs on the playlist and a bit goes to you as these songs on your playlists start to grow and earn royalties. It’s almost like a Playlister, a RadioDJ or something like that.
This is a way that instead of how artists needed to crowdfund for albums, they have to send out signed lyric sheets and other rewards in the mail, you can run a song investment campaign. Make the money upfront that you need to market the record or go into the studio. It’s the next wave of crowdfunding. It’s like crowdfunding. 1.0 was Kickstarter, crowdfunding 2.0 is Patreon, and this is crowdfunding 3.0, which is this song investing.
I loved it when Mark was explaining it. When he told me about the playlisting, I was like, “I’ve been a curator for how many years now with women of substance. I need to do this.” I haven’t done it yet but it’s a cool way of doing things. One more thing I wanted to cover from the book, as you said, the original book was more for artists and now you’ve added in all these other careers that people can have in the music industry. I do talk to people that are like, “I love music and studied music when I was growing up, but I don’t want to be an artist. I’m not interested in that lifestyle, but I want to be around music.” You cover things people can do in the industry.
I have a brand-new chapter and it’s called A Hundred Plus Jobs in the Music Industry Other Than Recording Artist. It’s an extensive chapter and I cover A to Z all of these jobs. If you are interested in music, I encourage you to browse that chapter and see if there are jobs that pique your interest. I don’t just list them, but I describe them and point you in the right direction of how you can break into that field if you’re interested in it.
There are a lot of jobs that we don’t even know exist that are deep within the music industry that we haven’t seen.
I learned a lot. I put out calls to all of my colleagues, friends, and inner circle who posted and wrote about it and got responses from people in every tiny corner of the industry. I don’t claim to have all the answers for anything, but I am good at sourcing them. I sourced all of this information. I got it from people and I learned about jobs that I didn’t know existed and it was inspiring.
One thing I wanted to touch on before we finish up is that I have always admired your advocacy and, being that we both live in California, I was watching the whole AB5 thing. I want to say I appreciate the work that you did around that because that was frustrating to me when that came out. Explain what you did because you did a lot.
I do tell the story in the book this time around because it was something that I never expected to do. I never expected to get into politics. I still don’t want to and don’t care to be, but I found myself at this crazy intersection within the position to help affect change. I felt that it was my responsibility to do it. For people that aren’t familiar with what happened, it was in 2019, Governor Newsom signed a law in California called AB5 that essentially made independent contracting illegal. You couldn’t designate anyone as an independent contractor.
Everybody had to be an employee. What that means for musicians was like, “If I wanted to hire a drummer for $100 for my gig on Saturday, I couldn’t just Venmo him $100 and be done with it. I had to set up a payroll company, put this drummer on the payroll, withhold taxes, get workers’ compensation insurance, get all these other various insurances, and incorporate myself.” Something that was supposed to be easy in a $100 gig for this drummer, now is costing me thousands of dollars because I have to incorporate myself as a corporation.
It was crazy. When this was signed into law, initially this law was proposed to help protect Uber and Lyft drivers and say, “These giant companies can take better care of their drivers.” We’re all like, “That sounds reasonable. They’re billion-dollar companies and can afford to put the drivers on payroll.” It didn’t make sense for indie musicians and also the entire music industry because the same thing if I wanted to go play a gig at a venue. The venue would have to put me on the payroll as a singer-songwriter and they’re going to be like, “Now I’m an employee of the venue for this one gig.”
The thing is nobody in the music industry that I knew heard about this law or knew that this was affecting me. I learned about it a month before it was implemented after it was already signed into law. We’re talking about the end of 2019, and it was going into effect at the start of 2020. I started freaking out and I wrote an Ari’s Take blog article about it saying, “The California music industry is about to crash and this is why.” That blog article went viral. At the end of it, I was like, “Tweet the congresswoman or assemblywoman who wrote this. Tweet the governor. Write letters and here’s how to do it.”
Their offices were getting thousands of letters and tweets and they’re like, “What’s going on here? What happened?” I was then getting into Twitter battles with the assemblywoman who wrote this bill, and she’s like, “Why don’t you come to my office and let’s talk about them?” I rallied up some musicians. We went into her office and we told her about it. She’s like, “The whole music industry and all the unions have to agree on this.” We’re like, “What?” I was going to all of these legislators’ offices. I sat in the Senate Majority Leader’s office.
I remember this meeting because there were ten musicians. We’re all sitting around his office. He’s sitting there, Senator Robert Hertzberg, and we tell him our story and everything about why this doesn’t work for us. He’s like, “We f***** you guys, huh?” We’re like, “You did. Can you change this?” He’s like, “No, we can’t.” I’m like, “Why not? You said he f***** us. Why wouldn’t you do something to help us?” He’s like, “It’s not that easy. The only way that I can get my colleagues to come along with a new bill and a new thing are if you need public pressure. You got to get into this publication.
They read this journal and this newspaper, pay attention to these TV shows and news stations.” I’m taking furious notes. I went to all those publications and news programs. I drove down to San Diego to the Assembly Woman’s Home District and went on her local news station and called her out by name saying, “She’s f****** us. She doesn’t care to help us. Why is she against all Indie musicians? Why do you hate music? Why do you hate indie musicians?”
She’s tweeting at me ten minutes after this air. She’s like, “You’re misrepresenting him.” “Help us.” I got a crash course in politics. No one cared to do anything even though they knew it was wrong that they should write this wrong until they got massive public pressure. In the end, we got 185,000 signatures from California music professionals that we would arm with this petition to go and say, “We have 185,000 signatures on this petition saying we don’t like this law. Can you change it now?” “No.” “We’ll continue to embarrass you more with your constituents if that’s what’s going to take.” I was fighting with the unions because I would consider myself on Principle Pro-Union, but not the musician union.
The AFM got in our way. They were the ones that were like, “We like this law because this law will encourage everybody to be a W-2 employee. They’ll join the union and AFM.” I was like, “I don’t know anyone in the AFM. What do you do again? You represent orchestral musicians. No one here is playing in a symphony orchestra like the LA field that’s required to be in the union. You’re not helping any of us. Can you get out of our way, please?” They’re like, “No. We want this.” The assemblywoman was like, “The unions are the ones that support her campaign and all of these politicians’ campaigns. We’re going to do whatever the union wants.”
I was like, “I guess we have to keep embarrassing you because the union is not supporting and fighting for us. Because they’re called to the musician’s union doesn’t mean they support musicians and they represent musicians.” All of these hands are ringing and I’m sitting down in the union’s office battling it out with them across the table and writing the language. It came down to me fighting with the president of the AFM local 47 here on language. We were like, “I had a hand in writing the language of this new law and this new bill.”Just because the AFM is called the Musicians Union doesn't mean they support musicians, doesn't mean they represent musicians. Click To Tweet
Eventually, we got the bill passed and signed into law, which exempted the music industry, and music professionals from this law that didn’t make sense to us. It was a wild ride. I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be in politics, but I can’t believe that this is what was required from not me, and all the other people that helped with this in the organizations I was part of. All these scrappy musicians coming together to do this is what it required. It was crazy.
I hadn’t heard all that backstory of it. I’d been following it in your emails and I was glad that you were even bringing this to our attention because I had no clue. Thank you for all the advocacy. You do tons of other advocacy online too as far as calling out scammers that are scamming musicians and things like that. I appreciate that as someone that works with musicians that have benefited from that. When this comes out, your book will already be out. Is there anything else you want people to know or, where should they buy it? All of that stuff.
You can get the book wherever you like to get books. If it’s Amazon, it’s on Amazon. If you like local bookstores, go support your local bookstore. There’s going to be an audio version of the book. I just finished recording the Audiobooks, so if you prefer audiobooks, you can get it that way or eBooks or however you do it.
Is there a hardback and paperback?
No, it’s just a hardcover.
The hardback is amazing.
It’s a thick one. I got it.
It’s a nice hardback book.
I encourage you guys to go buy this. Even if you have the first edition, it’s almost like a different book because it’s a different world from when he released it last time. Thank you so much, Ari. You guys check out Ari’s Take if you haven’t. There are many helpful articles. I always point everyone that I work with that’s releasing music to your blog where you compare all the different distributors because it is comprehensive. I’m not going to even bother writing anything up on this. This is exactly what everybody needs. There are many helpful resources there. You guys check that out and get the book. Thank you for lending us all of your knowledge and telling all these entertaining stories that make me want to read the book more.
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About Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is the CEO and founder of the music business education company Ari’s Take and its online school Ari’s Take Academy as well as the host of the Webby Award winning New Music Business podcast. He is the author of the book How To Make It in the New Music Business which is a #1 best seller in 4 categories on Amazon and is being taught in over 300 universities in the US and has been translated into multiple languages. As a musician he has played over 1,000 shows all over the world and has released 4 albums. As a speaker he has spoken at SXSW, BBC One Introducing, NAMM, SF MusicTech, Berklee College of Music and UCLA.