How can Social Network Sites help artists to make money?

On: October 1, 2009
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About Jelle Kamsma
I am a MA student of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. I have a bachelor degree in Media and Culture. After three years mostly focussing on film and visual culture I've made the switch to new media. Mostly because I'm interested in journalism and how it has to adapt to the new media. I just finished an internship at ANP Video, a Dutch press agency that makes short video-items for different newssites. I'm curious to find out how new media theories will aply to my experiences in the practical field.


Big record companies like to blame the internet for the decreasing amount of albums that are being sold in the conventional shops. It seems to me that one of the main characteristics of big conglomerates like the record industry is their desire to resist change. They like to keep the status quo even if this means missing some great opportunities the World Wide Web offers. The power of social network sites is one of those.

It are always small and independent initiatives that show the greatest potential. Napster, for example, started as a small project of Shawn Fanning. Because of the tremendous pressure of the music industry Napster had to close but it’s heritage still lives on. Napster fundamentally changed the way we use the Internet when it comes to music. Without Napster there probably never would have been sites like iTunes and also Napster itself became a site where people can download songs for money.

Also social network sites offer great opportunities to the music industry and have the ability to change the organization of this industry. A lot of artists have already Facebook profiles to promote their music. However, one of the most interesting initiatives in this respect is my opinion the Dutch project SellaBand. In an attempt to shortcut the big record companies they’ve created a site where people can buy some sort of stocks in certain up-and-coming musicians. Whenever an artist manages to reach their target goal the money is used to record an album and to publish it. The fans who put their money in this receive the CD and have a modest opportunity to make some profit.

The mission statement of SellaBand is: “To unite Artists and Fans in an independent movement that aims to level the playing field in the global music industry.” They seem to succeed in this goal since a few dozen artist from allover the world have already managed to reach the target goal of 50.000 dollar.

It would be interesting to analyze how this combination of a social network site with this business model could be implemented in other sectors. Moviemakers for example are also always looking for investors. It is also still the question how SellaBand will develop so it can offer a real alternative to the record companies. Today it operates still on a relatively small scale. The third question could be how the record companies will respond if the people really starting to take control and decide for themselves which music they want to hear. Perhaps then they finally see the need to implement some of the opportunities of the Internet in their business strategy.

3 Responses to “How can Social Network Sites help artists to make money?”
  • October 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Additionally, check out the other Dutch initiative where artists can publish their music under a creative commons license. Unfortunately when artists have a deal with a major record label, they are often not allowed to do so.

  • October 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    2 problems bands have are
    -getting people to listen to your stuff
    -getting people to give you money

    “social networking” sites are tool that gets people to listen to your stuff.

    “Selling that which can’t be copied” (live concerts, limited edition boxsets, special album art, merch, etc) is where artists are making their money.

    …additionally i like what Erik posted. Unfort simuze is all in Dutch, but CC initiatives like this are super-great.

  • October 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I agree with Cris.

    I did my bachelor thesis on the way artists cope with music 2.0 and found that the most siginificant change made by artists was the shift towards Live performances. The predecitions by Gerd Leonhard, Kevin Kelly and the such regarding income by selling context and not content were just partly true for the artists I approached. No major income in advertising, upselling, merchandising…. They don’t ignore it, but it’s just not feasible yet.

    The optimistic approach to using social networks to earn money as described above is not in correspondence with reality. Artists share content online in order to generate attention which in turn generates Live performances. Thats it.

    In the future, especially when the music industry finally adapts completely to music 2.0, maybe we will see artists making money of their network, but it wont be consumers buying music, it will be consumers buying intangibles while the artists also make money of the network with advertising income.

    Music will be free and abundant like water, valuable intangibles like Live performances or making offs, or merchandising, or WHATEVER will make money… but the music will be in the network and freely interchangeble

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