How You Turn Music Into Money in 2012 (Spoiler: Mostly iTunes)
Talking about how he makes money, the independent musician Jonathan Coulton has compared his business to a “special engineered cow who eats music and poops money.” Coulton doesn’t have any idea what happens inside the cow’s gut, but that’s okay. Money comes out the business end.
And that’s how it is for most online musicians, or artists generally, in today’s digital economy. If they’re lucky enough to make money, they may not heavily analyze the particulars. They feed the cow music, and out comes the money.
So it’s rare that we, as consumers or fans or fellow artists, get the ability to see exactly how successful makers support themselves: to look at the source of their earnings, and to glance up into the cow’s — well, I’ll cut this metaphor now.
The avant garde cellist Zoe Keating has allowed us see her revenue model. Earlier this summer, she posted the details of her Spotify earnings, revealing that every time someone listened to one of her songs, she made about three tenths of a cent. She also posted her iTunes earnings at the time.
But yesterday, she augmented that data with new material: what she makes from Pandora, radio plays, and her participation in the royalty-collecting American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (which everyone calls ASCAP).
During those six months, Zoe Keating made (before taxes) $84,385.86. This is where that money came from: