#9 Why Artists Don’t Make Money

[alert type=”success”]Win $100 To Sweetwater Music! CLICK HERE.[/alert] Guys I need to warn you.

Today’s episode might feel a little bit painful for some of you, I’m going to get on my podcasting soapbox and go on a bit of a rant.

I’m going to share with you the truth behind why many artists hate selling.

But don’t worry there’s a happy ending.

That’s today on TIM Talks episode 9

Just a couple of quick items before I start my little rant:

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Why Artists
Don’t Make Money

Because they hate selling.

But why?

I’m bringing this up now, because TIM Talks will be publishing quite a lot of content on selling.

We’ll be discussing ways for you to make money from your art. I want to expose the starving artist myth.

That’s one of the main goals for this podcast. I want to see artists empowered to build real businesses around their art and their music. But for many of us there are mindsets that need to be challenged and some hurdles to overcome.

There are two reasons why many artists don’t make money….

1) A Misunderstanding Of Business

Business is often thought of as cold and soul-less, but business is simply the details of how to exchange value.

Anyone who has studied true capitalism (not corporatism or cronyism), understands this.

No one trades down for value. We always trade up. This means the money we part with is less valuable than the thing we are willing to exchange it for. We are trading up and getting the better deal. The same is true on the other side of the equation.

The product or service you’re buying isn’t worth as much to the person who’s selling it (since it cost them less to make the product). The money you’re willing to exchange for their product allows them to make more of their art. And not only that, but to also feed their kids.

why-artists-dont-make-money-2That’s the first thing reason. Many artists think “business” is a necessary evil at worst and morally neutral at best.

I believe business is inherently good in itself.

Yes, it can be mishandled. When profit becomes a means to selfish gain fueled by greed, business sucks. But in-and-of-itself, business is good for the world – precisely for the reasons I just described. True capitalism.

Artists need to be empowered to see the value in the art that they make. If it has any value, the artist MUST sell and get paid.

Otherwise they can’t keep making their art. An artist has to pay for his or her paintbrushes.

If you aren’t able to make the art anymore because you’re broke, then that’s truly a shame.

So that’s the first thing: a misunderstanding of business.

The second thing is actually the thing that fires me up the most.

2) An Ego With Reverse Narcissism

Many artists hate selling because they have too big an ego.

It’s sort of a reverse narcism….

It’s more hip to go against the system and be the hermit artist. It’s more cool to be a non-conformist and go against the mean savvy marketers who are all greedy and only want your money.

Why Artists Don't Make Money

I fear that many artists shy away from selling because they’re afraid of how it will make them look. They don’t want to lose that cool factor, that artsy sex appeal.

I’m sharing this stuff out of my own experience. This has been my issue for a very long time – up until the last few years.

For me it wasn’t just a fear of how I might be perceived. There was a fear of failure too.

When you SELL yourself, you are putting yourself out there, and if no one responds, or purchases, or does whatever it is you’re asking someone to do, it’s a reflection on you. It’s a reflection on your music, your products, and whatever you’re putting out there.

So, yes, there is a real fear of failure that many artists wrestle with.


I think it’s still tied to pride and ego.

Let’s be honest. As artists we hate the idea of someone else calling us a “sell-out” or a “spammer”.

We want people to like us and think we’re great.

Because of fear, we don’t do the hard sells.

We don’t put ourselves out there the way we should and, as a result, we don’t see the success or the fruit we’d like to see.

It’s like we want someone else to do the hard work of selling for us.

But if we can get back to the heart of why we’re doing what we’re doing, why we’re making the music we’re making, we should be always be casting that vision so others can come be a part.

Don’t deprive someone of being a part of your unique story and gift.

Sell yourself.

Since when did selling out become negative by the way? If you sold out of all 1,000 copies of your physical EP that’s a good thing right?

I realize “selling out” refers more to people who become untrue to themselves in order to make a buck.

That is not what I’m talking about.

There’s a way in which you sell out that is good…. It’s the unique and compelling methods that you are meant to use to get people to jump on your bandwagon.

It’s ethical and honest; and you know what?

It’s necessary if you want to grow and see your message and music spread like crazy.

Don’t deprive someone of being a part of your unique story and gift. Don’t let your ego get in the way of that.

If you can do this, you will break the starving artist mold. People will recognize the value you have to offer, and will give you their money for it.

Action Items For This Episode

Alright guys. I have a book I’d like to recommend for you to go and get and consume. You could read it one sitting.
At the risk of sounding like a fan boy I want you to check out the follow up to his book steal like an artist.
It’s called Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon.

Austin Kleon is seriously inspiring. His book provides as he says “an alternative, if you will, to self promotion.”

Don’t forget to take action. That’s the only way to move forward. We could theorize and plan and talk all day, but at some point you have to move.

In The Next Episode

Next up in episode 10, we’re going to wrap up this important talk on selling. I’m going to give you 5 reasons you will fall in love with marketing.

See you there!

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