They say music is the language of the spirit. It can be argued that art is mainly made for artists to freely express their emotions, mind, and soul. At least a few famous musicians have become successful through their beloved songs, touching the hearts of many people. But what does it really take to become a “successful musician” today, both in reaching your target audience and earning some money? Is expressing art in a uniquely beautiful way enough to build awareness for an audience? In this episode, Lindsey Kirkendall discusses the right way to monetize an artist’s work and how art can thrive in the unpredictable entertainment industry nowadays.
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The Six-Figure Musician: How To Monetize Your Art With Lindsey Kirkendall
I am excited to be here with Lindsey Kirkendall from Revolution. I love the name Revolution because it’s like taking the industry by storm and not accepting those industry norms people tell us. We’ll get into that. Before we do, I would love to have you let our readers know Lindsey a little bit about your background and how you came into working with musicians. We were talking a little bit at the beginning, and we’ve been in this for almost the same amount of time. We have a lot of similar ideas about the indie music world. Let them know a little bit about how you got to where you are now and a little bit about your background in working with artists.
I got to where I am now because I grew up wanting to be in the entertainment business. I was a singer, an actor, and a dancer. I loved all of it. I wanted to do all the things. I grew up in Southern California. I moved to Nashville in 2005. As much as I loved performing, I had an opportunity a couple of times to work on the backend of some film projects before I left California for Nashville. I fell in love with the business side.
When I got to Nashville, I was very open to whether it was participating in the industry on the business end or participating in the industry as an artist. I also got into Nashville in 2005, a few short years before the industry lost its shirt in 2008. It was a strange time in the music business because everyone was seeing the writing on the wall. For someone trying to hardcore pursue an artist career trajectory, all of the mentors or people that I was talking to at the time were still very much pushing the record label thing, even though I had a sense that that was not going to be it.
I met my husband six months after I moved to Nashville, and about ten months after that, we were married. It was also a big part of my story was wanting to have a family and be a mom. For many female artists, we struggle with the timing of that when we are supposed to be building this career as these young beautiful starlet pop star musicians, yet so many of us want to have a family and be a parent and have a personal life. How do you time that because you’re supposed to be successful before you have the kids? That was a big piece of it for me as well, and trying to solve that puzzle.
I landed my first corporate job in the music industry side. I always say I took that job because I was putting my husband through audio engineering school. When you get married, it’s like this light switch flips on in your head, “Now, we have to make money.” It made a lot more sense to go and get a job in the music business than trying to pursue an artist’s career because that was so amorphous, and a job is a job. I took the job.
What I was telling you, Bree, was that job, I was doing ad sales for a digital music magazine. They had lost a bunch of money from their traditional label clients because it was 2010. As we mentioned, there was this huge shift in the industry in 2008, and everyone was trying to figure out how they were going to make it. At the time, this magazine said, “We have a great idea. Let’s sell ads inside of a digital magazine to independent artists. Lindsey, that’s going to be your job.” It was terrible. It was a horrible ethical position to be put in.
Did you know that this was what you were supposed to do when you took the job, or did they throw that at you?
It was part of it, but I didn’t fully understand how few people were reading the magazine because this is a magazine that had been in print for 25 years and had only gone digital two years before I came on board. No one was reading digital magazines yet. They were way ahead of their time. I don’t know if anyone reads digital magazines. I don’t know if that ever took off, but that was the piece that I was like, “What did I get myself into?” because I couldn’t, in good conscience, tell an artist to spend $600 for an ad that no one was going to see.
On the other hand, I was noticing if independent artists are landing on my desk thinking spending $600 on an ad was going to move the needle in their career, there are some gaps in education that need to be corrected. What I ended up doing was creating an educational resource as a sub-brand of the magazine. I interviewed all my industry friends and started putting together an educational newsletter that, instead of selling to independent artists, we were growing an audience of independent artists, and then we were selling to advertisers that wanted to get in front of that audience.
I flipped that script a little bit and still was able to generate some income for the company, but doing it in a way that was supportive of the independent artist. Ultimately through that process, what I realized and learned was digital marketing and how to monetize an audience. At the time, I was going, “My gosh.” We had other friends in various other industries that were growing profoundly and flushed with cash businesses in the digital space. I’m going, “Why aren’t artists doing this?”
Anyone can now access their audience and only need to know how to monetize them. That was what drove me because I was seeing an opportunity for artists to be in full creative, financial, time, and personal freedom by taking ownership of their business and learning the skills of building a business online and monetizing their audience. They were also able to then do whatever they wanted to do, and they didn’t have to be subject to the labels.Anyone can now access their audience. They just need to know how to monetize them. Click To Tweet
To answer your question, I’ve been doing this kind of work for a little over ten years because, through the course of building that initial product, there were many artists that would land on my desk, and I would do marketing consulting with them. My husband and I eventually opened a business together that did that. I worked for a record label. I worked for Sony in the radio department. I’ve worked in management.
I’ve had a lot of experience working in more of a mentorship capacity with artists. I’ve always found that this is the best way as artists in this era that we have to build businesses that allow us to do what it is that we want to do with our art and not have to be subject to parental status, age, status, and all the things, particularly for women that are very challenging as we build a career as artists.
I started my career in earnest when I was 30 and had a child. First of all, I was never the young hot starlet. That was never me. I was never going to make it that way. Once you have kids, it’s a completely different game. I was thinking back to what you said about 2008. It does seem like the perfect storm for the music industry because iTunes had come out, and that was changing everything. Also, the 2008 crash and all that stuff.
It seems like that was one of the hardest times for independent musicians, other than the pandemic, which is a whole other thing. I wanted to ask you, since you have worked with labels and independence, what is the difference you’ve seen in mentality with successful artists that are independent versus artists that are on labels?
I’m so glad you asked that. It’s such a good question. I’ve told this story many times, but I’ve never been asked this specific question. It was interesting because I went back to work for the label after spending a few years because I left my music magazine job in about 2013. As I said, my husband and I started a business, and we ended up starting business and having two babies in about a span of three years, unintentionally. I don’t recommend it. It was not a good look for a couple of years there. We were working primarily with independent artists at that point. I was so passionate about the opportunities that existed for independent artists.
I found that in the 2013 to 2016 era, artists were still having a hard time wrapping their minds around the possibility and the opportunity that truly did exist. Now, we’ve come a long way. In 2023, artists have come a long way in terms of understanding what the possibilities are. I was getting a little burnt out about 2015 of beating my head against the wall and trying to help artists understand, “You were an entrepreneur and a business owner. You need to think like that.”
I started my podcast in 2015, the Female Entrepreneur Musician, and my whole goal is, “You guys are entrepreneurs.” Now, I feel like I don’t have to pound that anymore, but that was it in the beginning.
When I had the opportunity to go to work for Sony, I was so excited because I went, “Yes. Finally, I’m going to be able to work with artists that get that they’re a business.” I’ll tell you. It was almost worse. In some ways, it was. Particularly for those that had been on the label and been in that system for such a long time, they didn’t understand anything outside of that context.
I remember sitting down with an artist that I developed a great friendship with after I left that job. Artists fall into three different silos. Some artists are songwriters at heart. There are storytellers. Some artists are entertainers at heart, like the Taylor Swifts and Britney Spears. Their musical talent isn’t that profound, but they are entertainers. That’s how they exist.
There’s also a third category. The musician, the artists that are technically profoundly gifted musicians of the world, but this particular artist was a songwriter. That was who he was through and through. That was his real gift. At the time, the algorithm was a lot looser. This was in 2016. The Instagram following that he had was highly engaged. I showed him the numbers and said, “What if we put together a little evergreen songwriting course that you could sell to your fans?”
I said, “If we even monetized 1% of your engaged fan base, it wasn’t even 1% of your whole number of followers. It was 1% of the people who were engaging and interacting with your content. We charge $500 for this songwriting course, which is nothing because people will spend thousands of dollars going to songwriting retreats. They’ll spend $500 to get to learn songwriting from their favorite artist.”
They’ll spend at least that much on concert tickets, so to get to work with their favorite artist is great.
It’s a no-brainer price point. When I did the math and showed him how much he could make if we monetized 1%, it was over $300,000. He was like, “Okay. You have my attention,” but he was between management at the time. I have to wait and see what pans out with this next management company because whoever I go with, they’re going to get 15% of whatever I do.
It doesn’t have to be that way, first of all. Second of all, it was the mentality of artists that had been in the label system for so long. They’re so ingrained in that paradigm that they can’t see beyond what the label can do for them. I’m not saying it’s wrong for everybody, but in a lot of ways, it hinders or hamstrings their ability to do with their artistry what they want to do with it. At the end of the day, they’re in a business system that is all about the bottom line because they have to keep the lights on, doors open, and their staff paid. The artist has to fit whatever they’re doing into whatever happens to be working at the time. That’s not the true, creative life cycle.
It doesn’t allow anyone to be innovative.
It’s the opposite of innovation. It’s why in 40 countries, we have 32 different male solo acts that all sound the same.
I can’t believe that’s still true after all these years, the whole salad gate, and all that stuff. It’s still like that.
I’m thinking about the whole management thing because I have a client that has a manager. If I do not have a manager, the people in the industry that I come from won’t take me seriously. Do you find that that’s the case, or is that maybe going away over time for artists that may be used to be in that system but now they’re independent? It frustrated me when I heard that.
It frustrates you because you’re a free thinker and don’t want to be boxed in. I get that too. If I heard that, it would frustrate me too, but it is circumstantial. I would say this to that statement. I would never want to encourage an artist to do anything in their careers to be taken seriously. You can be taken seriously just by virtue of the fact that you are a living and breathing human being that has value, and your art has value.
I agree, but she said something that in that segment of the industry, if she didn’t have a manager, her booking agent would drop her. I’m like, “That’s terrible.”
That’s strange. That seems like someone’s getting paid on the backend or something. It doesn’t seem above board.
It’s like there’s this web of people that keep each other up.
I remember having a conversation with a good friend who is a manager and also has a business doing Spotify promotion. The more I learned about it, I was like, “You’re a radio promoter.” It’s just that the program director is not a program director. It’s a playlist curator, but it’s the exact same thing. The playlist promoters are developing relationships with the curators on behalf of the artist and, hopefully, getting a placement. It’s the same thing with new tools.
I remember we were talking about a client that I was working with at the time. I was considering bringing him on to do some Spotify promotion. I was saying, “When is it ever appropriate to spend gobs and gobs of cash to push streams?” It’s because I can’t get on board with the idea of independent artists spending tons and tons of money pushing streaming numbers so they can get paid less than a cent per stream. That’s a diminishing return. It makes no business sense. Who would do that in a normal business world?
He said the only time he’s seen it makes sense is if an artist is at a certain level where maybe they’re trying to leverage their audience into getting certain venue bookings or things like that. You have to be aware. You get that you’re spending money for a vanity play at this point. You get that it’s what this is at the end of the day. If you’re okay with that, it’s not wrong. It’s just let’s be aware of what this is.
He was saying, “We have seen artists be successful in spending a little bit of money so they can get their streaming numbers up so they can book a higher paying gig or things like that.” It’s still a specific strategy, but other than that, I have never seen it beneficial to an artist to do things only to look a certain way to some other segment of the industry.
No, it’s awful. I hate it. If there were an easy and obvious way to get those people onto your email list, it would be so worth it. Even with something like TikTok or Instagram, if you’re working on getting those follower numbers up, at least there’s a way from those platforms to connect with those people. You can link in bio, offer them something cool, get them on your email list or get them to DM you or whatever but there’s like no way to do that with Spotify.
That’s what artists don’t realize. It’s a really bad discovery platform too. The infrastructure’s not set up for music discovery. It’s not ideal the way it’s designed.
They have some great algorithmic discoveries. I’ve certainly discovered some great new artists, but I’d have to physically go to their website in order to get on their email list, which I have done on occasion, but that’s a lot of steps. You have to like that artist in order to seek that out.
In my case, I’ll quickly shazam something if I hear it out, and then I’ll add it that way, but by and large, you’re right. There’s no way to easily discover.
How do you encourage the artists that you work with to market themselves? What do you feel are the best marketing techniques now in 2023?
I feel like I’m old school because the best things are timeless things because here’s the deal. Technology moves at the speed of light. Literally, no one can keep up. What’s working now is not going to work in another few years. I mentioned that back in 2016, the algorithm was so loose you could build an organic audience without spending a ton of cash by creating content in a certain way.
Even as we’ve seen, particularly with Instagram, because that’s the platform I’m most active on, how it’s trying to compete with TikTok and YouTube, how it’s trying to compete with these other platforms. They are throttling traffic to force people to do things like reels. We are always going to be in a state of having to play by their rules if we are always looking at what’s the flashiest new marketing tactic.
I always try to encourage artists to, first and foremost, do a deep dive into who it is that they are and what it is that they have to say and help them understand the value they provide to the world by virtue of who they are as artists. It’s a weird thing as artists because we bridge the gap between product and service. We’re not in one camp or the other. No one else in any other industry sells the person of who they are as the product.
It creates a lot of challenges when you have to be the product. When you’re marketing on social media, and when social media demands that you share who you are from a little more behind the scenes peak in order for the marketing to work, you have to get clear on who the heck you are and what the heck it is that you’re saying and offering the world and what your value is. I always like to tell artists, “If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would you say?”
If I use myself, for example, I usually fall somewhere in the vein of driven or determined, loving and funny. I know that what people like to glean from me or what they’re buying from me is not my products, offers, or art. It’s the fact that they’re in the energy of someone who exudes those qualities. It’s a much more unconscious exchange that the artist is typically not aware of.
My tactic is helping the artist become more aware of the unconscious value that they bring to their fans and start to communicate that on whatever platform they want to be on. Especially if you’re a parent, you’ve got limited time. Your priorities are different than a twenty-year-old that’s single and childless. You can’t be on every platform all the time. It’s exhausting. Pick the platforms that juice you and that you enjoy showing up and engaging on, and get good at communicating your value and figuring out who needs that message most.
I totally agree with all of that. I have some people in my world that are like, “I hate social media. I don’t want to do social media.” I tell them, “If you’re willing to get out in front of real people, that’s way more powerful than social media.” That’s 10 or 20 times more powerful. If you are doing that on a regular basis, you don’t have to do social media. What do you think about that?
I love that because most artists have mostly a hate-hate relationship with social media, myself included. I don’t want to be on these things. I’d rather be hanging out outside and not being with my face on a screen, but at the same time, I try to look at it from the standpoint of the most opportunity and access we’ve ever had in the history of modern artistry ever. I try to see the bright side of it, but I’m with you. It’s always so interesting because artists will get on stage and perform for people like it’s no problem, but then they get terrified when it comes to showing up online.
I’m with you. I like to point that out to them and be like, “You’re getting out in front of people all the time. Why is it so challenging to get out in front of people online?” I also think that maybe this was where you were headed with that. I also agree that getting in front of people in a live setting is a quality versus quantity approach. It’s going to be more quality, rich interaction, and you’re going to have a better opportunity to nurture that fan into a super fan relationship than you do exhaust yourself creating content like a hamster in a wheel for the passive follower that eventually and over time, will finally, maybe, hopefully, become a fan.
It’s like comparing a house concert with 30 people to playing a farmer’s market every week and hoping people stop by.
That’s a perfect metaphor for that.
It just occurred to me. With house concerts, you create that deep connection, and a lot of people become super fans if they attend a house concert with you.
They’re very powerful tools. I completely agree.
First of all, I did want to say what you were saying earlier about how you’re old school. I’m so old school, too, because artists come to me, and they’re like, “What can you tell me about getting on playlists? What can you tell me about funnels?” I’m like, “Funnels are great,” but I am all about building it as a real business. I know that the music industry is different, but in many ways, it’s the same strategies you would use to build any business. Musicians think it’s different. They don’t buy into the, “We need to build it like a real business.” They’re like, “I need to know all the secret tactics and shiny things.”
Isn’t that interesting that it’s evolved that way? It makes sense to me that it has. If you think about the modern recorded music industry, it’s only been around for a little under 100 years. No one alive now has seen a model. We weren’t alive when Mozart was Mozart, and there was the Patreon model. The artists back then were supported by their patrons. We’ve never seen that contextually so no one alive nowadays pursuing a career as an artist has any context for looking at anything other than what the traditional music business model has shown us.
We all grew up watching the Grammys with stars in our eyes, thinking, “I want to be on that stage someday,” not understanding that even the people who win the Grammys half the time, or maybe even more than half the time bought and paid for. There’s a lot of bureaucracy and politics that happen behind the scenes.
They’re not making very much money a lot of the time too.
Maybe they’re in a bad deal. We could go down the laundry list of all these people who have gotten horrible deals, worked their butts off and walked away with nothing. I’m old school with you, too, because playlisting, funnels and all of those things have their place, but you’re not going to be successful as an artist or anything in life if you’re constantly chasing the newest and shiniest object. Do you ever read Amanda Palmer’s material, or are you familiar with Amanda Palmer?
I am familiar with her. I haven’t read her stuff in a while.
Have you ever seen her TED Talk?
I don’t think I’ve ever watched it.
It’s great. For the readers, too, I highly recommend it. It’s about 15 to 20 minutes long, but she has this great portion where she talks about the difference between being seen and being looked at. She was saying, “Artists that are our celebrities are being looked at, but an artist is someone who is seen.” Every artist starts with a motivation to express through art because their deep desire is to be seen and accepted. You can’t fully be seen if you’re not fully self-expressed in your art.Every artist starts with a motivation to express through art. Their deep desire is to be seen and accepted. You can't fully be seen if you're not fully self-expressed in your art. Click To Tweet
When you are trying to go the celebrity route, you are not able to be fully self-expressed because you are subject to the requirements of that business paradigm. I always say the traditional music business model is not the music business. It’s the celebrity business. For artists, in this day and age, dude, old school it up.
That brought up something. I was talking to a client, and it relates to branding. As you said, it’s about being seen. A lot of artists are very stressed out about having their music come out in a bunch of different genres. That’s how they want to express what they’ve got coming out of them. They happen to express themselves in a dance song and a reggae song, a singer-songwriter song, or a pop song. It super stresses them out because they’re like, “Now my brand is all over the place, and people aren’t going to understand me.”
I get that a lot, too, with clients, and I’m like, “That’s why we go back to three words.” It’s because if people come to understand what they’re buying into when they’re around me, whether it’s watching me do something live, participating in a program, or hanging out with me online, they’re getting determination, vision, humor, and the sense of feeling loved. If they understand that that’s what they’re getting, then it doesn’t matter what art I create. They understand that, ultimately, whether I show up as a reggae artist, a rap artist, or a pop star, they’re still getting what they need from me at a deeper level.
That’s not to say that some people aren’t going to follow or fall in love with songs that fall into one genre category or another. It is to say that when we have the ability that we do to do the marketing in our content in the way that feels in alignment to us, we drive that narrative. It’s incumbent upon us to communicate, “This is who I am. This is what I’m about,” over and over. The focus is not so much on the music, which then gives you the freedom to play, but rather on what you’re getting from my music.
I agree. They’re being told somehow, and I’ve heard this in the Nashville world, that you have to make your mark in a specific genre. It’s niching down when we talk about it in business. Once you got this fan base, then you can play in other areas. I agree with that. In business, you need to niche down. I niche down to working with women at first and expanded beyond that. I get that, but I also think that art doesn’t come out that way. They’re looking at Taylor Swift, she got popular doing country. As she got popular, she was able to move more into pop, and then she was able to move more into being a singer-songwriter and stuff like that.
John Mayer is another example of that. I understand why artists feel that way because that’s what we’ve all seen. We have not been given the context. I’m sure someone listening will be like, “I can pull up an artist who was successful in all these different genres,” but it’s not the norm. That also is a decision that each artist has to make. “Do you want to exist inside the music business’s paradigm of how to grow a career,” which by the way, if we’re being honest, their success rate is 1% of 1% of the people that are ever signed have any real success?Every artist has to decide if they want to exist inside the music business paradigm of how to grow a career. Click To Tweet
When we break that down, we go, “What is success? Are we characterizing that by the amount of money that they’re making? Would you call Whitney Houston or Britney Spears a success, Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, or all these people who lost their freedom to be a celebrity and their art?” Michael Jackson is a great example.
First of all, are they a success? Maybe not. Second of all, the music business model only has a success rate of less than 1%. In any other business or industry, they would not have made it, yet all the artists are like, “But this is how we do things.” No. The beauty of being an artist is that you get to choose how you do things. You don’t have to do it this way. If I’m being frank, mostly the artists who want to do it that way are artists who desperately want to be celebrities.
That is so true. When you’re thinking about, “Do I want to censor myself in order to keep myself in one genre, even though I feel like this art is coming out of me in another way?” you have to make that trade-off. “Do you want that celebrity? Do you want to become big in and known for one thing, and you’re willing to censor yourself or put yourself in a box to do that?” “Yes,” but if you are that kind of person, and there are a lot of artists out there that are deeply felt, artists, they’re not going to be okay with censoring themselves. They’re going to feel frustrated and angry even if they become a celebrity because they’ve been censored. You need to do that deep work to figure out which one is more important to you.
I remember my husband and me, even before we had kids. It was the 2008 and 2009 era when duos were a big thing. He was like, “Let’s be a duo. Let’s do it. We can do this. Let’s be a country duo.” He’s a brilliant musician and producer. We were writing material and doing some stuff. We had enough industry friends that if we wanted to give it a go, we could have made something happen, but I said, “Dustin, I’m a chick from Southern California. I didn’t even hear country music until I was ten years old. I like country music, but it’s not in me in that way. I couldn’t ever be able to feel fulfilled pushing rating in that way for the money.” There are some times when we’ve been on the struggle bus financially, and I’m like, “Damn it. Maybe I should have just done it.” At the end of the day, it was the right decision.
I feel like I haven’t had this conversation in this way on the show ever. This has been super cool. Let’s get back to the money. What do you recommend when you work with artists as far as they already have built a small but mighty fan base? What are your favorite ways to help them monetize that?
We touched on this a little bit with social media. I like to help them first get a sense of, “What are the things that you enjoy doing?” Also, look at that within the context of your actual circumstances because that’s a big piece that most artists don’t consider because the artist who has a wealthy family that’s willing to bankroll their career or an investor is a fundamentally different career trajectory than a single mom who got divorced and is living at home with her mom again, trying to get on her feet financially.
To try to put those two kinds of artists in the same pot and say, “Here’s the formula,” is not reality. When I’m working with artists that don’t have an investor situation or maybe funding by family members, often, we’re looking at, “What’s your second favorite thing?” I help them identify some other things that can be monetized because that’s the other piece that’s tricky from a consumer standpoint. They don’t know that we’re not getting paid for our art.
Consumers don’t understand that and don’t understand how to transact around music anymore unless it’s a ticket for a live show. We have to be able to put products and offers together that people intrinsically understand the value of. I need to introduce you to my friend Johnny Dwinell, who does The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast. He always uses the metaphor of a cardboard box. He’s like, “If you walked up to someone with a cardboard box and you said, ‘I’m going to sell this to you for $5,’ they would understand, ‘I can use that for this, that, or the other,’” or they’d know if they even need one. If they’re moving, maybe they are in the market for a box or not.
That’s gray when it comes to music. The consumer doesn’t understand how to transact with you around your art. We look at so many different variables of the artist’s life, from circumstance to who you are as a person. We do a lot of fun personality tests and things to help them get a better sense of how they show up in their day-to-day life. I can’t tell you to create a business where you’re going to be required to create copious amounts of TikTok content.
If you’re a writer and you want to write blogs, look at what juices you and energizes you so we can be more efficient in the offers that we create. We pull from all these different areas of an artist’s overall person to identify an offer they’re going to enjoy delivering on, and that will get them to the number they need to meet to start generating a full-time income.
I do something very similar, and I agree. It’s understanding the way they like to express themselves. Is it writing or video? Sometimes it’s like, “You don’t like video, but you need to get over it and do it.” If you love writing, then you can utilize that online. That’s easier once you’ve got somewhat of a fan base because people are already waiting for you to offer them something. They’re excited about it. What do you do with new people who have 30 people on their email list or whatever? They haven’t gotten that snowball to the top of the hill yet, yet they still need to make money.
It is a hard one. It depends on how new. That was one thing I was going to mention. When I’m working on creating offers with clients, it can be something as traditional as a custom show that they’re doing in homes or sororities, or nonprofit organizations. It’s finding those venues that maybe are a little atypical so it’s not only the slog of trying to get into the same old bars and venues that are going to ask you, “What’s your draw?”
We look at sometimes doing things that are more traditional in that way, all the way to things that are much more non-traditional. I mentioned the single mom. I had a client in that exact same situation. Her second favorite thing was she was passionate about helping women who wanted to birth outside of the hospital system and do home births. She had a lot of experience and knowledge in that arena.
We created an opportunity for her to take a group of women through a guided eight-week program to support other mothers considering birthing at home. People were like, “How the heck does that relate to music?” It doesn’t necessarily, but what it does is it still builds her an audience, which is one. Two, it allows her to create something that’s going to generate a high amount of income in a short amount of time.
I know that you know this because you create digital offers, and you understand that the goal is to get that passive income happening with things that are not demanding a high amount of your time so you can have the time to do the art. With people that are new and are starting out, we focus first on maybe finding that opt-in, as you talked about, like, “How can we start growing the audience?” Sometimes it is a matter of we need to pour into building the audience.
I have a couple of clients now who are in a space where they are doing a lot of work changing the minds of their audience, so there are not a lot of easy point A to point B sales. They are in the space that, quite frankly, you and I are in, Bree. We’ve had to do a lot of education of the artist community to get them to be like, “I know what you’re talking about. Now, I can make an educated decision.”
“Let me educate you so I can educate you.”
I’ve got some clients that are in that space. Sometimes, you invest that time upfront to get your audience to a point where they understand what you’re selling and make that purchase. Sometimes it’s going, “If you need to make money now,” like in the case of my single mom client, it’s like, “What can we monetize that you also love?”
From there, you have an audience that, even if they don’t love your music, if all of a sudden you come out and say, “I’m releasing some new music,” they’re at least going to be curious. You have a captive audience with their email address, numbers, or whatever that you can start pushing your music out to those people.
Let’s say the money isn’t the problem. Maybe you’ve got a husband that works or, as you said, parents that have given you money. I’ve had different clients in those kinds of situations that sold their houses and had a lot of money in the bank or whatever. Would you then also recommend that they build another thing on the side like that, or would you say, “Go all in and build your music audience directly?”
I always fall back on, “It’s a case-by-case basis,” because it depends on what’s the goal of the artist. I had a client one time. She was in her mid-50s. She had a couple of teenage sons, and her husband was an attorney. They did well. She always said, “Our deal was that my husband was going to support us for the first half and that I’m going to support us for the second half so he can go to Sherpa School.”
She’d sung in church and done house shows and a lot of that stuff. We were looking at building more of a subscription box thing for her. She was very faith-based, so she was doing something that was more faith-based with a group of people that wanted a mentorship kind of thing, but she also utilized her music to support that.
She was taking songs that she’d written to support the theme of the topic she was counseling or mentoring this group of people through. They were paying to be in this container, this experience with her, but all of that to say, she was the breadwinner at that point. That was a unique situation. There are some people that are like, “We do have the money.” I know for my husband, a big goal for us is to get our income to a point where he can take a good six months off and only focus on doing the projects that he wants to do on artistry.
It’s so hard to say because it’s such a circumstantial thing, which is another one of the unique nuances of building a business as an artist that no one talks about because we’re all so focused on needing to look a certain way and this is how you grow, and this is what you do, and this is how much money it costs. It doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes you can grow an audience doing something over here in left field, but guess what? Now, you have an audience. If you start releasing music to that audience, there are going to be some people that might not care, but chances are at least a good chunk of them are going to be a built-in fan base for you right away.
I agree. Now, I’m working as a work worship director at a church. It’s music, but it’s a completely different thing than me performing my own stuff. A lot of them have become fans of mine and purchased CDs, gone to my Spotify, and all of that. None of them had ever heard me perform any of those songs.
It speaks to the fact that, at the end of the day, people are buying into the person of the artist. We are a special population. We are these divinely inspired creatives that want to be fully expressed, and most people are naturally drawn to people who are confident, who can stand up on stage and sing and perform and who want to self-express. That is a natural thing that we all have. I’m helping the artist community understand that what you’re offering your fans goes beyond just the music. It goes so beyond the product. It’s a great service for you to share with your fans who you are, your perspective, how you see the world, and what’s meaningful to you.Artists are a special population. They’re divinely-inspired creatives that want to be fully expressed. Click To Tweet
It’s because we are leaders of our own mini movements in a way. That’s what people are buying into at the end of the day. I’ll ask clients, and maybe you do too, “Who’s your favorite artist?” I then say that they name three things that you love about them. Usually, they don’t even mention the music. Sometimes they will, and if they do, it’s usually at the number three level, but I’m like, “Do you notice that you didn’t mention their music at all?”
They’re like, “Wow. Yes.” I go, “Let’s play this game. If that artist was a total jerk, would you still like their music?” It trips them up because they’re thinking about it, but it gets people thinking like, “I do often buy into the person of the artist and what they stand for versus the specific song or the genre or what they create.”
This is such a great conversation. I love this. I have one more question before I let you go, but this is one that’s a pet peeve of mine. I’m curious about your opinion. In the non-music world, when we’re out there learning marketing and digital marketing, we get this thing hammered in us of figuring out what problem your person has and then figuring out how to solve it. This drives me nuts because music doesn’t solve problems directly. Whenever I say this, artists are like, “Yes, it does. If they’re sad, it makes them happy.” I’m like, “Yes, but that’s not directly.”
Also, the consumer isn’t thinking in that way.
No. They’re not like, “I need a happy song now. I need to listen to this particular artist I’ve never heard of before.”
Also, they’re not even self-aware enough to go, “I’m feeling sad right now. I need a song.” They might reach for a chocolate bar.
Musicians that go outside of people like us who are educating musicians are out there learning Instagram or generalized marketing from other people. They’re hearing that, and they’re like, “I don’t even know how to apply that to anything.”
It’s bridging a huge psychological gap for artists to think in that way because I’m with you. It doesn’t solve a direct problem, and that’s why I feel like the way I’ve found to communicate it most easily was not even an easy way of communicating that. I stumble over my words while trying to communicate something easily, and that’s why I like the three words idea. I like educating artists that it’s incumbent upon us as a community to educate our consumers, our fans, and our listeners of the value that we provide by virtue of who we came into this world because that is the magic.
It’s great that we are able to also put that into song, and it’s great that it’s the product, but even if we lost our voice or we lost our hands and couldn’t play our instrument, and we couldn’t create art anymore, we would still be us and people would still be magnetized to us because it’s who we are as artists. There’s still a compulsion for most artists to share a message, to share something that is within them. If you lost your voice or couldn’t play an instrument, you’d still have that internal drive to share with others.
It’s incumbent upon the artist community to get comfortable with sharing the value of who they are, and that’s hard to do. The other side of that coin is that the artist community is also a very sensitive community. They have all been traumatized. We have all these hang-ups, humility, self-doubt, criticism, and all this stuff. Now, we’re expected to have to tell everybody why we’re so freaking great.
Also, the people that aren’t artists don’t know that. If they’re able to get up there in front of people and perform, they must not have any insecurities.
However, we’re some of the most insecure. I get the challenge there. That is a huge challenge, but I also think it’s beautiful because it’s forcing healing in the artist community as well, and that’s pretty cool.
What a great way to end the show. I would love for you to tell everyone reading how they can connect with you on social media, your website, and all the things.
I primarily hang out on Instagram. You can find me @LindseyKirkendall. I’m on Instagram primarily. That’s the best way to connect with me. You can DM me. I offer a free consult. If you would like to learn more about what I’ve talked about, you can hit me up and we can make that happen.
Thank you so much. It’s great to meet another like-minded person in the industry. I can’t believe that after this many years, we haven’t actually met.
We’ve known each other for a long time, but we finally got to have the conversation. I’ll have to thank Evan for that.
Thank you so much for sharing everything with everybody.
Thank you for having me, Bree. I appreciate it.
- Lindsey Kirkendall
- TED Talk – Amanda Palmer
- @LindseyKirkendall – Instagram
About Lindsey Kirkendall
Lindsey Kirkendall is a Mom, Music Business Consultant, Artist Coach, and Licensed Clinical Hypnotherapist. Lindsey is working on the front lines, leading the charge of true change within the music industry. As the owner of Revolution, she is dedicated to teaching artists + creatives to connect to their worth, and to get paid accordingly.
Lindsey really enjoys dispelling the myths of the music industry—and to help artists establish freedom: creatively, financially, and in every aspect of their lives, to help them craft opportunities that allow them to thrive in the current state of the industry.