The Celebrity or the Craftsman?

AJ Weaver
2 min readApr 20, 2021

To recap:

  • Streaming economics are not working for most artists
  • Streaming companies might(?) be trying to change that
  • Streaming is but a fragmented piece of a fragmented pie
  • The bigger chunk, touring, has been wrecked by COVID or never existed for many indie artists

To anchor the conversation of which revenue streams remain, it’s helpful to think about why artist exist:

  1. Skills
  2. Star Power

They’re both important. People want to listen to quality music, but they’re probably not going to show up at your concert or follow you on instagram if you are a bland person.

While these categories aren’t perfect dichotomies — an artist can’t (regularly) butcher a performance and a good song can (sometimes) break through the noise — revenue streams largely stem from either an artist’s popularity or their prowess:

  1. Artist as celebrity
  • Streaming
  • Live performance
  • Merchandise
  • Brand sponsorships

Celebrity = Good Distribution. 100k followers on social media is an instant leg-up for getting pre-saves + streams on Spotify (which we learned yesterday is not enough as a sole income source).

2. Artist as craftsman

  • Synchronization (Music in TV/Film/Ads)
  • Publishing
  • Technical skills — instrumentalist, producing, mixing, etc.
  • Teaching

Craftsman = Good Product. Music supervisors selecting a song for a spot in a TV show are going to try to find the best song for the scene, with less importance placed on the songwriter or performer’s identity. It’s one reason cover songs are so popular in the industry.

This second category presents the most realistic opportunities for artists to sustain themselves, but it’s not without hard work and business acumen. I’ll explore exciting developments in category 2 in the weeks ahead.



AJ Weaver

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