Guest post by Matt Bryant of Headwater.
Piracy is killing the music business. Album sales are a nightmare and millions of would-be consumers are now low-life thieves who prefer to steal from the starving creator, than pay to support their craft. This, of course, is how the heads of the music industry frame things - they're wrong. They're dying trying to insist that they're not, and I'm tired of it. The internet, as Neil Young says, is the "new radio."
But if you're good, willing to be creative, and to think about things from non-traditional angles there is a world of opportunity for musicians. I'd like to share how my band, Headwater, put piracy of a different sort to work - making us over eighty thousand dollars on the high seas.
On the BC Ferries system since 2008, Headwater has generated $83,000 in revenue by getting on board as paying customers, performing music, cracking jokes, making people happy, and selling our wares to them.
3,000 CD's sold over 55 sailings.
Giving away songs on the high seas is our form of reverse piracy. We use the ferry the same way as a streaming site works - people get to hear great music they otherwise wouldn't, and they also have the opportunity to purchase it - just like online. And it works. People are still just as hungry for good songs as they ever were - and lots of them are willing to pony up, once they've heard the band.
In total we've sold 3,000 CD's for $47,000 on the ferry over 55 sailings - about $835 per sailing. The CD's cost us $5,000 to print. Gas and parking were $1100. Our fares were $3300.
A total of $9400 in costs and a net profit of $37,600.
For every dollar we put in we made about four back, and when we added them up, the gigs we got (including major festivals and weddings) out of playing on the ferry totalled $36,000!
It isn't a traditional way to "make it" in the music business - part busker, part pirate, part comic - but it worked - to the tune of over twenty thousand dollars a year, for us. People love music - that hasn't changed, and if you're willing to be cool and give them the opportunity to hear yours - they'll be cool with you and pay you for it.
If you're dedicated and open-minded - there is a world of opportunity for the modern musician like never before. Thanks very much to all the wonderful staff on the BC Ferries system and the thousands of amazing people who let us entertain them, if unexpectedly, and supported us in return.