You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Track these key metrics to guide your decisions and make more money with music.
Imagine you are the trainer for an Olympic sprinter. How would you go about making sure she kept improving as she was practicing? You wouldn’t just eyeball her progress and go by gut instinct. You would track her time, day after day, to see if she’s getting faster and what you need to coach her to improve. In fact, you might track many other metrics and see how adjusting them improves her time.
Unfortunately, many music businesses are run by just “eyeballing it” and going with feelings about what’s working or not. Unless you track metrics, you can’t be sure if your decisions are good ones or not.
As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s a great time to dig in and make sure you’ve got the foundational pieces of your music business management in place. This includes ways to measure key aspects of your music income and performance so you can keep track of how things are going.
What metrics should we be tracking? We’ll focus on five key areas you can measure to start making data-driven decisions and make more money with music.
1. Streaming metrics
The streaming sites your music is on can generate revenue and they also generate a ton of useful metrics. You can get insight into your audience, data on who’s listening, track how many fans are actually followers and how many monthly listeners you have, determine which songs are streamed the most, and more. This is valuable data you can use when choosing songs to promote.
How to use your streaming metrics to make more money:
- Find out which songs are your most popular and use those songs in your marketing and promotion campaigns since you know they connect with audiences.
- Routinely check your stats and data and see if they change whenever you launch a new promotion campaign. If the campaigns are boosting your streams, then you know your promotional campaign is working.
- If you can get demographic information, use it to improve the effectiveness of your promotion campaigns.
- Use your top songs to generate merchandise ideas by highlighting key lyrics, song titles, and more. Then promote that merch while streaming or at your merch table when you play live.
2. Social media metrics
Your social media metrics are usually used to determine how effective you are at your promotion and social media campaigns, but it’s also full of surprisingly useful information about your audience and music business. Naturally, the more fans you have, the better your merch sales, ticket sales, and streaming income will be. But it can also give you a better idea of who your fans are and where they are located.
How to use your social media metrics to make more money:
- Determine the demographics of your fans, including their age, gender, likes, and dislikes. Social media info can be very detailed, which allows you to refine your promotion campaigns based on who they are and what they like.
- If provided information about location, track this so you know where your fans live. This can help you plan tours and live shows and give you insight into where your music might be generating royalties if it’s out of the country.
3. Your merch sales
With merch sales, don’t just track how much money you made — dig in and figure out which items sold and when. For in-person merch sales, track what you sell at each event. For online merch sales, find out where sales are coming from by studying the incoming links your customers followed. Nearly every online store will tell you this as part of having an account and many allow you to use tools like Google Analytics to get this info. All of your merchandise sales should be broken down into gross sales (the total amount) and net sales (the amount you make after the costs are factored in) so you can find ways to make more on every sale.
How to use your merch sales info to make more money:
- Promote the merch that’s already selling the best since you know people like it. Then ditch any items that aren’t selling, especially if it costs you money to keep them in the stores.
- For those designs on merch that are selling and generating revenue for you, try boosting your sales by creating different merch with the same design.
- Find out which sources send you the most customers, such as your websites, your social media, or any other places where your fans are clicking your merch links. Dig into why these links are working and decide how to boost these.
4. Affiliate sales and links
Affiliate sales is an income stream every musician should take part in because it’s free. In brief, online stores like Amazon let you make special links to items they sell and will give you a cut of the sale if people buy it or anything else on their website. There are dozens of affiliate programs and, because they’re free, you should use as many of these as possible as long as they make sense for your music business. Even better, these services give you metrics as well as money. They’ll show you how many people clicked links, how many bought, what they bought, and how much money you made. You should use this to find out which of your affiliate links work the best so you boost those.
How to use your affiliate metrics to make more money:
- Find out which incoming links provide the most sales for you and determine what you did right. Then apply those ideas elsewhere.
- See what items your fans are buying and promote those even more since you now know those are actually connecting with fans. Also, brainstorm ideas for similar items your fans might like based on what they’re already buying. Because affiliate sales are just links, it’s very easy to add more of those to your web presences.
5. Your accounting books
Although this is last on the list, since we’re talking business and generating more revenue, the number one thing to track and measure is your money — where it’s coming from and where it’s going. This means tracking the money you take in (income), the money that’s going out (expenses), and the cash you have on hand. Accounting tools, such as Quickbooks, usually cost money, but there are free options out there. Check out free spreadsheets like Google Sheets (which have some accounting/financial templates available to download) and free cloud-based accounting solutions such as Wave and SlickPie. If you feel more comfortable with personal finance software, there are free tools such as Mint.
How to use your accounting books to make and save more money:
- Look for sources of income to get ideas where you can make money in the future. Compare your current revenue streams with all that are available and see which ones you may want to tap by first testing them out. If you’re looking for a list of revenue streams to try (and how to tap them) check out our book, Making Money With Music.
- Examine all your expenses and trim out every one you really don’t need. It’s surprising how many “subscriptions” you might find that you’re not using anymore and how many expenses are not useful once you take a look at what you’re still spending money on.
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You put a lot of time and energy into your music career, so spend the time to track and use available metrics to help you make data-based decisions on what music and merch to create, what promotional campaigns to run, and what income streams are working (or not). Set time aside each month to review your metrics and make it a habit. By reviewing regularly, you’ll be able to adjust your strategy using actual numbers rather than your intuition. You’ll find that your decisions will be far more effective and the most important number of all will improve: your income!
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
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