At a point wherein more strategies for artists to pursue non-traditional music industry success exist than ever before, it's intriguing to note that near five-year-old data has resurfaced on various forums, Facebook posts, and tweets regarding the idea of just how much an artist must earn from various new era revenue streams in order to succeed in the reforming music industry. A notorious infographic on Imgur regarding sales is still awe inspiring, while a spreadsheet that displays earning splits between labels, distributors, and artists shows exactly how onerous of a task succeeding in the music industry is in the modern age. With 2015 promising more questions and (partial) solutions to "solving" music's future, a few pieces of information from these two documents must be considered.

Until further notice, artists will earn .00029% of a cent for all Spotify artist plays. In order to earn the (then) $1160 (or now $1260) that equals America's minimum wage, as of 2010, an artist needed to see their track played 4.1 million times on the service. Of course, when one considers that artists earn 81% less than the label that releases and/or distributes the track, the idea of even releasing the track through a label feels silly. But, given that a label can extend the brand/product reach of one's production–and with SoundCloud earnings for artists yet to be revealed–it's the best/only game in town to play.

As well, one must consider the earnings made by the services releasing the tracks, too. CD Baby and Tunecore are popular services that independent artists use, mainly because they handle listing the tracks for stream and download globally, publishing the tracks as the publishing rights holder, registering the tracks for performance royalties, as well as YouTube royalties, too. Insofar as with CD Baby for MP3 downloads, for non-iTunes downloads, the artist does earn three-quarters of the 99 cent download fee paid, whereas for iTunes downloads, that money earned dips to 57 cents. Regarding physical CD sales with both services, 131 physical albums must be sold to reach minimum wage via Tunecore, with 155 being the magic number via CD Baby.

If thinking that having the "artistic control" over one's career that Tunecore and CD Baby provides isn't necessarily worth all of the stress, working with a label and releasing a retail album with a royalty deal for $9.99 nets both artist and label $1.00 in earnings for a "high-end" deal, whereas with a "low-end" deal, the label earns $1.70 with the artist earning 30 cents. Intriguingly, the point can be made that if an independent artist can release their own material via CD Baby or Tunecore and garner a significant push towards success, they may be able to achieve the same success as an artist working with a more high profile label.

Maybe you're intrigued by working with Bandcamp. They're looking at a new releasing model that allows for artists to control their artist pages as boutique "membership sites." However, if that's not your cup of tea, for a traditional release on Bandcamp priced at $6.73, Bandcamp earns just over $1, while the artist earns $5.72. 220 albums sold later, the artist reaches $1260.

Obviously, we're at a place where there's no longer a "one size fits all" answer to achieving financial sustainability as a musician. It's clear that there's a mix of all of these varied revenue streams that must be mixed and matched in order to excel. Not unlike professional baseball, the idea of hitting .300 (aka hitting say, 30% of the goal of minimum wage) across a few of these platforms is the best method. Mixing that with live events, corporate gigs, commercial placement, artistic sponsorship, or even looking at a music career as a part-time career that requires full passion is possible, too.

This is a bizarre time in the music industry that can either be met with absolute fear, or in objectively staring at these (seemingly) low numbers, a plan can be created in order to achieve both financial sustainability and artistic success.

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