There are infinite possibilities in creating income streams for musicians. Tune in as Bree Noble introduces Tara Divina, a creative business coach and a heart-healing medicine musician. Tara talks with Bree about how setting up a crowdfunding campaign is a great way to leverage the enthusiasm of your fans and supporters into financial results.
You can have an exciting, abundant, and fulfilled life by making your art. The key is to get to the bottom of your core message. Then create a consistent flow of your core message between your marketing and art. Want to learn more? Don’t miss out!
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Creative Ideas On How To Generate Income Streams For Musicians With Tara Divina
I’m excited to be here with Tara Divina. We’re going to talk about all things music career as far as how to make yourself stand out, how to make money from music and all the things that we love talking about on this show from her unique perspective. I’m excited to get into all of this but before we do, I’d love to have you, Tara, to let us know a little bit about your background, how you got involved in music and how you got to what you’re doing as a music coach.
I was in my third year of university and on a business track. That would have had me be a Product Manager at Coca-Cola or something like that. At some point, I realized, “I don’t think I want to do that.” I looked deep within what it is I wanted to do and the only thing I could come up with was, “I love music. I’ve been studying music. Maybe I could do something in the music industry.” I let people know and they all said, “That’s impossible. You don’t know anybody. You’re Canadian. Where do you think you’re going to go? It’s not going to happen.”
I ignored them, thankfully. It was right around the time that email was becoming a thing. I emailed random 300 record labels. Wherever I could find a record label with an email address, I sent them an email that said, “I’d like to come intern for you. Will you have me?” I got 2 replies out of 300. One of them was from London-Sire Records, which was a Warner Music Group Company in New York City. That was famously Madonna’s label. They took me in and said, “Come help us. We don’t know anything about this internet marketing thing or websites.”
As a college kid, I got to go run the new media department. They didn’t want to let me go, so I stuck around. That began my illustrious and challenging career in the music industry, which went on, in that form as a corporate label executive for ten years. I finished where I started, which was at the Warner Music Group back at their Independent Record Label Distributor.
During my time, I got to do things like help ink deals with some of the original digital service providers like Apple, Spotify and all those horrible deals that artists get to be beholden to it. It helped create. I did that all and I had a pretty successful career. I was a vice president by the time I was 26. Turned out internet stuff was useful knowledge in the early 2000s. I was in the right place at the right time. I had it all. One day, I realized that I would rather die than come back into the office for another day.
Was is it like one day or you’ve been feeling this discomfort or burnout and it hit the head or all of a sudden, you have this epiphany?
I had a lot of burnout already. What happened was the company I was working for shut down, which kept happening over the years. Many of the labels were consolidating and so I was like, “That’s it. I’m going to go into Neuropsychiatry. I’m done with this stuff.” I got this final offer from the Warner Music Group that was too good to pass. I couldn’t pass it up. I was like, “Even if I want to become a Neuropsychiatrist, I should probably do this for a couple of years and enjoy myself.” I took this one final role. I was at such a transition point in my life, in general. All I knew was the corporate world and corporate life.
I started to look at the state of the people whose footsteps I was following in like the head of the company and the people that were grooming me for their roles. They all looked so miserable. Their relationships were failing. They weren’t happy in their lives. They were working 24/7, drinking, not eating healthy and not getting any sleep. I was suddenly aware that I didn’t want that for myself. I completely lost sight of the fact that the reason I went into the music business was that I love music. I wasn’t playing any music or interfacing with music. I was deep on the corporate side of things. It all came to a head. I went to a little festival called Burning Man in 2008.
For anyone who’s from the Bay Area, that might not sound like such a big deal but when you’re from East Coast, Canada originally and you’ve never experienced such things like Burning Man, it’s very regulatory. It opened my eyes to the possibility that I could love my career and what I do. Not just do something where it looked good on paper, where I was paid well, had a wonderful title, amazing status and was surrounded by celebrities. I could be fulfilled. Once I caught a glimpse of that, it was all over for me. I walked away with no plan. I had no idea what I was going to do next and what was in store for me.Love your career and don’t just do something to look good on the surface. Click To Tweet
I did what every new hippie does, which is I packed my bags and moved North to the Bay Area. The rest is history. I found my way back to being a musician. I wound up in a place where I’m mentoring other people around creativity and loving their careers. It’s been a long road since that fateful day, where I walked off the job but fulfilling and deepened, rewarding road.
It’s so relevant. This whole pandemic experience has been such a pattern interrupt for a lot of us and as you experienced, it’s allowing you to explore like, “If I stay on this path, am I going to be happy? What do I need to feel like I have a purpose and feel fulfilled?” You like to talk about it. What are some of the things that you need to prioritize to figure out what is going to make you fulfilled in your life and what’s going to give you real purpose in your work?
The most fundamental piece is getting clear on what you don’t want as a start, getting clear on your yes and your no. Most of us are surprisingly unclear on our yeses and our noes. That internal compass lets us know we’re on the right track for us or not. There are so many things that can get in the way of that like, “What will other people think? Will I be judged? Is this even possible?” There are so many social constructs and mindset issues that can interrupt our capacity to tune in deeply with our inner truth. The key is to understand how to go beyond that and have a consistent connection to that sense of direction that we each have all the time.
Why do you think that there’s a lot of unhappiness in the world? You were looking at the people ahead of you and seeing they weren’t happy with their life. Why do you think that they were stuck on that track? How can we pull ourselves out of that? Where does creativity fall into that?
When we don’t know anything different, we don’t have any examples of anything different. Our minds will naturally think of another option. For most people, the idea of being a record label executive is a very creative, edgy and non-standard path. For a lot of these record label executives whose footsteps I did not wish to follow in, they had done something off the beaten path in their mind. Some of them did go on to quit the industry and start following their passion. I did see that in the later years. In general, as a meme in our culture, following our heart and path of creativity is accepted. It’s a lot more common than it was years ago.
Years ago, if you were an entrepreneur doing your own thing, this was groundbreaking. This is only for a unique subset of people. More people are subscribing to the idea that it is in fact, possible to be self-made. There’s a shift in the collective consciousness around what’s possible. It’s more visible. You go on YouTube, TikTok or Facebook and there’s what’s in your face or a bunch of entrepreneurs telling you about a new side hustle or how to follow your passion. The meme is shifting so much. That is what is making it possible for people to open up to this idea of being self-directed.
The hard thing is that they talk about all the sexy stuff like, “You have time, freedom and flexibility. You can do what you want, when and all that. You can make your schedule.” If you’re not someone that’s ever done that before, you can almost feel overwhelmed and drowned by that when you’re put into that place because you’re used to having someone to tell you to do what to do when. You do experience that. I was in corporate too. When I first became an entrepreneur, I was like, “I have to be my own boss.” I have to set deadlines for myself, tell myself what to do, make lists and do things like that.
For me, I was always autonomous. That side of things like getting myself to follow through on what I set forth for myself was fine. What was hard was dealing with the fear and resistance that comes up around putting myself out there. It wasn’t so much like getting myself to do the work. Some people need somebody to tell them what to do and to be managed. I was never that person but putting my stuff out there, my name on things and risking being seen in failure was tough. Most people underestimate the power of our desire to be seen as successful and how much that can interrupt the creative process of being an entrepreneur.
Artists that are reading identify with that. I was talking with my academy members and they were saying, “It’s so uncomfortable to put yourself out there and make yourself the brand because then you feel like everything is revolving around you.” You don’t want that. As an artist, you want it to be about your music. How do you navigate that while still getting the attention that you want to get?
For me, the answer on this one has always been the core message. I believe we all have a core message, which is something that we’re here to transmit. We’re a beacon of light on a particular topic. This usually comes through in our music. If we’re a musician or an artist, it’s on full display in our arts but sometimes we can forget that. If we can remember what that is, continue to speak about it in our marketing and utilize it in our branding, it can create a consistent flow between our marketing where we don’t have to feel like we’re faking it in some way, compromising or selling out. Our marketing can become a real extension of our arts.
From my experience working with musicians, it takes work for them to make that connection, dig into what they’re willing to talk about and come up with stories and things that relate to their music that they’re able to talk about. A lot of times, artists can spill their guts in their songs, but it’s hard to also do that even from a stage, on a live stream or even in their social media posts. Have you experienced that?
It’s been because the artist wasn’t clear on what their message was. What I’ve noticed is once we get clear on what that is, it’s almost like we’re a fountain that’s overflowing. We can’t stop the flow of energy from coming out. It’s impossible to say enough about the topic, but until that’s clarified, it can be hard for a lot of artists. They can feel clammed up, have nothing to say or it’s forced. I do find that clarifying that core message is the key that unlocks the flow and the ease of being able to speak about the arts.
Did they ever come to you and say, “Are people going to get sick of me talking about the same thing over again?”
A hundred percent. We all forget that we’re a bit player in everybody else’s show in which they’re the star. We think, “I’ve already said this 100 times,” but it’s only on the 100th time that people hear us and get it. We forget that people are glancing at what we have to say most of the time or they’re taking it in a little bit. The more of it says things differently from different angles and repeat ourselves, the more we’re going to get our message across.
That’s what brands are essentially, broadcasting the same thing over and over again until we begin to associate that thing with the brand until we begin to associate certain emotions, feelings, thoughts with that brand. For artists, it’s the same way. The more we broadcast that message, the more we broadcast our brand but only the message. More people will start to associate us with that and want to join the movement by being part of the art, listening to the music and going to the shows.
This is how they can stand out in a crowded market. I was talking with my academy members and some of them were saying, “There’s so much music out there. I feel like I’m a number.” How can they stand out? Having that core message, is there anything else they can do to stand out? There’s the internet and even the playing field. Musicians are popping up every second.
A core message is all about bringing more of our self out. Not only is that about the message itself but it’s also about bringing forth the things that we think people won’t like us for. One way to stand out as an artist is to be more transparent about our truth, what’s going on, our weaknesses and our strengths. Owning the things that make us who we are. If an artist has had a particular struggle, maybe I’m thinking of other clients and people that I worked with.Get clear on your yes and your no. Click To Tweet
An artist has a challenging ADHD. Owning that and being like, “I’m an ADHD artist.” Artists who love smoking weed. Owning that like, “This is what I do.” An artist who loves psychedelics and an artist who loves Jesus, whatever it is. Those things that you think will turn off certain people, they will but they’re going to turn on your real fans so much.
By hiding those things, you’re hiding what’s going to have people love you. The reality is that we have to accept that who we are is inherently polarizing and we’re never going to have everybody love us. It’s important to recognize that. Instead of trying to make everybody love us, which will result in a bland, forgettable presentation of ourselves, allow people to love us for who we are. No holds barred. Nothing held back. What makes artists or any entrepreneur stand out in the marketplace is ownership, especially the things that seem shameful.
If we’re able to make ourselves stand out and we’re attracting those super fans, how can artists, in your opinion, best make income from their music?
As we know, it can be harder to make money from streams. Album sales are pretty much over. It can be hard to generate a lot of cash unless you’re getting millions of plays. You can make a respectable living from that but until that day comes, I believe other ways of doing it make a lot more sense. Number one, I highly recommend to artists crowdfunding campaigns. When done correctly, it’s an incredible way to leverage the enthusiasm of your fans and supporters into financial results. There are so many cool creative things that one can do with a crowdfunding campaign. For example, my crowdfunding campaign for my album raised $15,000 in total.
I did that in a few weeks. The way that I did that was I decided, “What are all my favorite things?” Things that inspire me when I’m writing music, things that I use every day that I love the most, clothing and beauty products. I reached out to those people, asked if they wanted to participate by donating products to the campaign in exchange for promotion.
They were so excited to be able to reach my audience. I’m an enthusiastic fan of these things. It’s not even that I’m saying here to get this thing. It’s like, “I love this thing. It’s my favorite thing. Here’s why.” Meanwhile, the people donating are so excited because they get to receive something exciting that feels like a piece of me or something that I love and get to support the music at the same time.
It takes a long time to generate 15,000 through streaming revenue or album sales. It’s a helpful kickstart for making an album, which is what I put it towards. It was the production and paying the musicians for this album that I’m in the process of releasing. That’s number one. It’s an easy, immediate way to generate funds to at least fund projects to ensure that there is some income in ROI on an album.
Number two, it’s getting creative, looking at all of our skillsets as an artist and seeing how they could be useful to other people. As an example, a music artist who writes poignant lyrics who’s also a visual artist could be making beautiful memes or products with the lyrics against a gorgeous backdrop that then gets printed on a t-shirt, pillow or blanket. There are so many print-on-demand services and ways to get seen and visible on Instagram and Pinterest. There’s a lot of other ways to get super creative in selling our art.
When we get out of the idea of being pigeonholed into a half to make money from the music itself, then so much opens up. One of my favorite things to do is to sit down with an artist and brainstorm all the ways that would be fun and exciting for them to generate income using art. There are infinite possibilities.
They don’t have to be focused just on the music. That’s a lot of where artists get stuck. The music can be the gateway or bridge between them and the thing that they want to sell. Merch is the way you’re going to make money. You’re not going to be selling a ton of CDs. Although people still will buy them if they see you live. I still see this happening but you need to use the music to bridge with the merch, in my opinion.
Merch and services. Helping other people with their creativity like offering custom music guidance to people. There are these truly infinite ways to monetize our creativity. It’s just a matter of being willing to get creative.
Whatever your talents are like if you’re good at design, I was talking to one of my students and they were like, “I love branding and design.” You should be helping musicians with that because if you’re like me, you’re terrible at that stuff. You need someone to help you. You’ve got the music angle, so why not do that or help people make album art. There are so many ways to get creative like that. I love that you mentioned crowdfunding.
You did it so easily and quickly in a short amount of time. When people think of crowdfunding, they think 90-day, super complicated and way too many tiers kind of thing. I’m always like, “How can we make this easy and fun?” That’s what you said the way you did it, which was smart. It’s almost a combination between influencer marketing and crowdfunding.
I’ve done multiple crowdfunding campaigns over the years both for myself and guiding my clients. Every time I’ve seen it, it’s all about perks. You get great perks. You’re not only collaborating with someone else but it’s available to promote your campaign and bring in another audience but you’re giving your audience something fun to participate with. When we start to present ourselves as a charity case, “Give me money. I need it. I’m a starving artist,” people are less excited to support that. When we bring in amazing perks and incentives to participate, it presents a much more exciting and fun thing to be a part of.You can have an exciting, abundant, and fulfilled life making your art. Click To Tweet
Thank you for mentioning the charity case thing because I saw way too much of that during the beginning of the pandemic. It was a downer. I get it. You’re struggling but you can’t present yourself as struggling. That’s not attractive. People want to donate to something, which is why I love the crowdfunding angle or even a Patreon angle if it has a very specific outcome of what you’re doing because they feel like, “I’m contributing to this thing. It’s being created and I helped create it.” This has all been awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to tell people that we didn’t cover yet?
There are so many different directions I can go in. My brain is dealing with infinity. There’s always a way if you’re willing to think a little bit differently and get a little creative. If you’re ever stuck and you feel like you’re hitting a wall over and over again, the best recommendation I can give you is to get support. Support can come in so many forms.
It could come in the form of getting someone to assist you with reaching out to people they get on their playlist, which is one of my very favorite ways to increase the listenership for music. It could be about getting some mentorship to sit and think with you about the different ways that you could make money. I see so many people getting stopped because they think they’re not going to like the option.
They’re like, “I’m going to be stuck being a piano teacher.” Sorry, no offense to anyone that loves being a piano teacher but for some reason, I get people complaining the most about the prospect of having to teach music. It’s like the jail cell for a musician trying to make money. Know that that’s not the only option.
There are so many options that don’t require any compromise of your artistic integrity, that don’t require that you stoop down to doing something you don’t want to do. You can have an exciting, abundant, fulfilled life by being creative and making your art even if you can’t see it or you don’t know the exact how. I promise you, it’s discoverable, doable and possible. It’s about sometimes reaching out and getting the help that you need to see these possibilities.
When everyone asks me this question at the end of a show, “What else would you tell people,” I always talk about community or mentorship because that’s what got me moving forward in my career when I was stuck. I was so stuck in my bubble and circumstances. I couldn’t see outside of that. Getting those outside perspectives and those people that are a little bit ahead of you or way ahead of you that can help open up those horizons to you is the key to moving forward in your career.
If you stay in your tiny little world, you probably will not go very far. You’ll probably be stuck with all those tiny little options that are in the area around you that you can see that you might not like so much. Thank you much. This has been fantastic. I would love to hear a little bit about how you help artists and how other people can connect with you on social media.
The way that I love to support artists is through some of my online course offerings and coaching. I support artists in understanding how to find their core message and how to be able to write in an articulate, coherent, impactful way. I have courses that allow you to find your core message, courses that allow you to learn how to write, clarify your mission and purpose here.
As well as for the artist who wants to understand how to make money in these creative ways, crowdfund, get wild and wacky with income sources, balance multiple income streams and multiple businesses and get into the nitty-gritty of entrepreneurship and strategy, I offer both group and one-on-one mentorship. You can find more information about this and get in touch with me at TaraDivina.com or you can find me on Facebook and Instagram and other platforms @TaraDivina.
I love the idea of getting wild and wacky with income streams. Pretty much what this show is all about is opening up the minds of artists to all the ways that they can make income from music. You’re very aligned with what we are doing here with our mission. Thank you so much, Tara. I appreciate your time and expertise.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been beautiful to spend this time together.
- Tara Divina
- London-Sire Records
- Warner Music Group Company
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- @TaraDivina – Twitter
About Tara Divina
Tara Divina is a creative business coach who draws on her experience as a Vice President at the Warner Music Group to offer business coaching for creative entrepreneurs so they can build an organic fan base using authentic self expression, and generate a sustainable income using all of their gifts. She is also a heart healing medicine musician who creates songs to bring our deepest prayers into reality.