Artists no longer earn big bucks by simply selling records (through physical CDs and digital distribution). Starting from over a decade ago, artists have had to not only promote and sell their songs across different platforms but also go on performance tours to rake in the ‘real big money’. Live concerts are necessary to make up for the income loss resulting from ever-deteriorating record sales.
According to Forbes, Ed Sheeran’s Drive Tour grossed a massive $776 million USD over two and a half years. To put this in perspective, Ed Sheeran’s Drive Tour Concert overtook U2’s all-time record for the largest sum earned in a single tour. Pretty impressive for the 30-year-old Brit! Extraordinary talent can surely take you a long way, but not everyone is Ed Sheeran. You’ve got to have the talent to create incredible music, the energy to tour around the world, good management skills, and a bit of luck.
Many top-grossing artists today actually make the majority of their income outside of music. Star power can generate some loyal following from fans. To capitalize on their success, many artists are branching out to different creative avenues in addition to musical achievement, ranging from licensing their names to launching a consumer-focused line of products and businesses. A vast amount of Kanye West’s income (approximately $170 million USD) comes from his Yeezy deal with Adidas. Meanwhile, pop idol Billie Eilish just launched her kids clothing brand with H&M selling tops, T-shirts and bags.
It is almost a must nowadays to have a signature perfume attributed to your name. J.Lo’s Glow, Beyonce’ s Heat, Christina Aguilera’s Xpose, Mariah Carey’s Dreams, Ariana Grande’s Ari… and the list goes on.
Gone are the days when intrinsic musical talent determined an artist’s success. It now takes a whole digital army to build engagement and awareness across different digital platforms. Without engagement and digital presence, it is very hard to set up a fan following. The music pie has become highly scattered, where indie artists can also accumulate a huge following and mega pop stars must continuously engage with their fans to keep up their following. The number of fans also translates into monetary gains with licensing, branding, and live concerts. The end game? Talent still comes first. Without genuine talent, there won’t be any following at all.