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Guide to maximizing music income from songwriting, recording


In this concluding segment of their series on maximizing revenue, Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan explore how the different variations of the final versions of your recordings can be used to create revenue.

Guest post by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan of the Disc Makers Blog

The fifth and final chapter in our series on maximizing music revenue with your songwriting and recording focuses on the various final versions and formats you can create and the different ways you can promote and earn money with them.

In our previous four articles (links below), we explored how you can create and tap key revenue streams from your songwriting and recording processes and by letting fans in behind the scenes. Now, it’s time to look at the final stages of the recording process and even more ways you can make money from the mastering and finalization of your track.

Remember, as this series has shown, your final track represents just one thing that can generate money for you. There are many other revenue-producing streams that naturally come out of your music-creation and recording processes. We call this technique making music with money in mind.

Your pre-mastered final tracks

Audio mastering is the finishing process that music goes through to improve the sound before release and make it consistent across all songs of an EP or album.

How this makes you money.

  • You can re-master any track in your past catalog, which may cause fans to want to buy or stream the new version to hear what’s different or better.
  • You may want to create different master versions of your pre-mastered tracks in anticipation of licensing opportunities, such as vocals-up, vocals-down, and an instrumental version.
  • You can use your pre-mastered versions as additional content that you can sell, upload to streaming services to generate royalties, or use as a patronage reward.

Your mastered final tracks

Your mastered tracks will be the versions you give to your distribution partner to release to streaming platforms or sell.

How this makes you money.

  • By submitting these tracks to a distribution partner like CD Baby, who will get your tracks into streaming services and online stores around the world. This will generate royalties and sales which they’ll pass onto you. Check out our previous articles (“Collect everything your recorded music can earn: Pt. I” and “Collect everything your recorded music can earn: Pt. II“) to learn more about the money you can make from royalties.
  • Streaming the final mastered version generates royalties if you’ve registered your song and sound recording properly.
  • You can sell your final mastered tracks directly to fans.
  • Your final tracks (and the other versions you may have created for licensing purposes) may generate synchronization royalties once licensed by a music supervisor or other potential licensor.
  • You can create music videos to promote your track, generating ad share revenue in the process.
  • You can release a CD or incorporate your tracks in other mediums, which may generate royalties or sales.
Making Money With Music

How this protects you. In the US, if you decide to register the copyright for your sound recording (SR), you should register this mastered version of the track. (We cover how in the “Your Rights” chapter of Making Money With Music and explain the difference between an SR copyright, which a sound recording would be, and a PA copyright for the composition.)

How this promotes you. This final, polished version of your track, that you put all those hours of studio time into, is the one you want to use to promote yourself online. Release an album, post samples at your site, link to streaming platforms where people can hear it, send the MP3 to the press/media for review, etc.

WAV file version

The high-quality WAV version of your mastered track is what licensees will want for their audio/visual work since it ensures no loss of sound quality. Keep a library of WAVs for all of your music on hand (e.g. stored on hard drives and physical media).

How this makes you money. You can license your mastered WAV for TV, film, advertising, film trailers, and other audio/visual works through synchronization licenses, generating a one-time fee and boosting performance royalties once the audiovisual is released.

Lossless version

Your audiophile fans may want high-quality versions of your tracks as well. To be able to sell these easily, create a FLAC or lossless version of your tracks.

How this makes you money. You can sell these high-quality versions to your fans via your own website by using digital download services such as Shopify, Squarespace, or Payloadz. You can also use a platform like Bandcamp. There are also online stores that specialize in selling high-quality downloads. These tend to specialize by genre, so find some that match your music.

MP3 versions

For most online purposes, you’ll want to create MP3 versions of your finished tracks. When you do so, create high- and low-quality MP3 files so you can share these with fans, press/media, and others. Make sure to fill out ALL of the ID3 tags because you never know where these files will end up. (We cover the ID3 tags in detail in the “Your Music” chapter of Making Money With Music.) As a general rule, fill out as many fields as possible, including the ISRC code, and make sure your contact information is in the description so people and potential licencees can find you.

How this makes you money.

  • You can sell these MP3s versions direct to your fans via your own website by using digital download services such as Shopify, Squarespace, or Payloadz. You can also use a platform like Bandcamp.
  • Use them as rewards for patronage.

How this promotes you. You can use these versions as promotional giveaways and for delivery to music sites, blogs, and reviewers.

— — —

The time to start thinking about making money with your music begins during the songwriting and recording process. Capture these suggested items to create new revenue streams and give you unique ways to promote your music. Follow these suggestions, as well as the ones from the other posts in this series, and maximize your music income from your songwriting and recording.

Read the series
Making money from songwriting
How to make money from your DAW, stems, and more: Recording studio income A–Z
How to make more money from your studio recordings
Turn your behind-the-scenes work into music revenue and promotion

Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.

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