75% of self-releasing musicians are losing money on promo

Money thrown into a phone
(Image credit: Maarten Wouters)

File this under 'You don't say', or even 'Duh' if you like, but a new survey has revealed that fully three-quarters of self-releasing musicians never make their promo costs back, let alone any production investment.

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Pirate.com, an international network of studio and rehearsal spaces, surveyed 1,000 live musicians, producers, rappers and MCs from the UK and US, and the results make for interesting reading in an age where it's never been easier to release and invest in your own music and promo activity without management or label support. 

91% of the artists surveyed promote their music independently and 75% of those say they spend more than they make from streams, sales, syncs, and other music revenue streams combined. 

Further, when asked whether they would create visuals to support their next release, 56% of artists said they would, while 76% of those planned to make a traditional music video, cranking up the potential losses.

Dan Davis, Head of Community at Pirate says that the ever-growing popularity of visual assets is down to an increasing appetite for short-form video on social media platforms, with 54% using their main social media accounts for self-promotion above socialising. "As an artist doing your own promo," Davis said, "it’s both harder and easier in the social media age. Platforms reward a constant stream of content which takes a lot of work, the payoff is that you can build your own audience rather than just trying to break through gatekeepers."

Of the channels on offer, Instagram remains the favorite – 88% of respondents had an account, compared to YouTube's 69%, 58% on Facebook and a surprisingly low 42% on TikTok.

Those survey results in full...

  • 91% of artists promote their releases independently
  • 75% of musicians who spend money on promoting their releases don't make their money back
  • 56% of music creators will make visuals for their next release
  • 54% of musicians use social media for self-promotion above socialising
  • 56% use social media every single day
Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.