The elevator to the top: what is the selling price of fame? 


In this era of the music economy many artists are looking for sponsorship and endorsement deals, to compensate or supplement for the lack of revenue meant to be generated from album sales and royalties. We’ve already discussed many of the quantitative aspects pertaining to an artist’s branding concepts in previous article published in 2016. So, in this article we’ll be giving a qualitative perspective on how an artist can monetise from fame. This is to add further understanding for artists to be able to integrate the information from the music economy series and convert it into a business model which works best for them.

We’ve seen instances where some artists seek attention through all sorts of strange manners, just to “stay relevant” and become the talk of the town. As a basis of income levels, terms such as ‘mass markets’ and ‘niche markets’ are thrown around. These are two broad types of economic markets, which enterprises try to target in order to generate revenue and grow their businesses. According to the Chron, “the term mass market refers to a large, undifferentiated market of consumers with widely varied backgrounds. Products and services needed by almost every member of society are suited for the mass market.” This mainly means that, this would be inclusive of a market of people of all income levels, which does not exclude anyone. For artists, this offers them a chance to sell to as many individuals as possible – for as long as the merchandise price point does not exclude consumers from lower income groups. In musical terms, this could be assumed as catering to the mainstream audience who make up the majority.

Lavatory Records

According to the business dictionary, a niche market is a concentrated market where efforts are focused on a small, specific and well defined segment of the population. The business dictionary further states: that niches do not exist, but are created by identifying poorly addressed needs, wants and requirements. This means an artist can create a lane for themselves by catering to a particular audience, thus enabling them a high yield of profitability.

With the above definitions and market scenario available to an artist to grow their revenue, it gives them the option of either catering to the majority or go about building their own audience. The pursuit of fame can ultimately have certain demands from an artist when compared to one that is building their own audience. For a musician to be presentable to the mass market (mainstream), it usually entails packaging their sound into what’s deemed as trendy or already set as popular. This can produce a faster advancement path compared to building a niche, where access to an audience is guaranteed for as long as the artist can fit in to what is demanded and needed from them.

Lavatory Records

The popular phrase that ‘fame comes at a price’ not only holds true in the personal expense side of things; but also rings true from a business perspective. Often when an artist needs to depend on fame through accessing mass markets, they need to be “put on” by those in power and in control of the mainstream media. In financial terms, it means that those entities that essentially “made you” would have a higher bargaining power than the artist thus entitling them to a greater share of profits. The premise of the negotiation would be that because they brought you, the artist, to their market, should you not become a hit – they can easily dispose of you! This also goes with any other business avenues and partners they bring to the fore to work with the artist, that would primarily be beneficial to their own interest from a value adding perspective. It is a common theme that when an artist is no longer commercially viable, the sponsorship, media appearances and gig bookings would also go by the wayside. This usually can put the artist in a precarious situation when the limelight starts dimming on their careers, with nothing else to fall back on.

Whereas when you go about developing your own audience and market, you ultimately can present something of value which was not accessible to the big media and large conglomerates. This is where a valuable partnership can thus be worked out, where the premise is of an equal gain and level footing. Ultimately it means you can negotiate for a bigger share of the profits on any long term engagements and short term transactions. The truth is most artists will not become household names or mega superstars, this comes at a premium afforded to a fortunate (maybe exceptional) few. For that reason we always advocate for EVERY artist to go about the slow and long path of building an audience for themselves, by starting from the ground up.

Lavatory Records

There’s no need for an artist to take the elevator to the top. We recommend one to take the stairs as the lessons are there, which conditions you to build strong financial muscles and sound business decision making. On the way up – if somebody happens to come and stop at your floor and invites you into the elevator, at least it will be on your terms! Rather “own” your audience than be given something that can easily be taken away from you. Fame can come at a price, where even your art can be compromised and your sound is taken away from you in order to fit in with the “mass ideal”. It is always healthy to have your identity intact before the fame comes, knowing who you are as a person,artist and brand/ business in order to know what value you bring to your audience, market and society as a whole.



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