Entertainment lawyer Neeta Ragoowansi on surviving in music

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In this segment of our series on how to build a successful music career, entertainment lawyer and musician Neeta Ragoowansi offers some tips for nurturing an income stream early on in your music career.

Neeta Ragoowansi
Entertainment lawyer
President, Women in Music
Lead singer/keyboardist, The Oxymorons

CreditCards.com: Is it harder to survive as a musician today?

Ragoowansi: It's different. It's easier now for folks who may never have gotten signed by a label to break through, but the great musicians that would have gotten signed then won't necessarily get signed now because the labels don't have the money to develop them. They wait for artists to prove themselves now before they pick them up.

CreditCards.com: Where's the opportunity today?

Ragoowansi: The untapped frontier is the global market. In Asia, for example, fans there are fanatical for American music. A Brooklyn band I know that used to play for 50 or 100 on a good club night performs there for 20,000 to 25,000 people. Every artist needs to think beyond the U.S. If travel expense is prohibitive, get crowd-sourcing through Kickstarter or PledgeMusic to help out.

CreditCards.com: What's the biggest mistake musicians make today?

Ragoowansi: Not knowing enough about performance rights organizations. You need to sign up and register your original songs with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and your performances with SoundExchange, which collects and distributes digital royalties from non-interactive streaming services like Pandora. There are independent artists making really healthy five-figure checks annually just from SoundExchange.

CreditCards.com: What's the best business model for musicians today?

Ragoowansi: You need to create your own team. Start with a business manager, then find a marketing manager, publicist and digital marketing person and give them shares in your success. You're basically creating the different departments of a good independent label.

CreditCards.com: How can you best use social media to monetize your music?

Ragoowansi: You want to go after the best streams of digital income. Right now, the popular online service is Pandora. What's fun about Pandora is it's the first time that the artist is not at the mercy of a radio station to play their record. You want to properly submit your product to Pandora, then use your social media to tell everyone to start a channel campaign for you. Then find other artists who sound like you and ask your followers to start a channel for them because you'll get played on their stations hopefully. All those little checks won't make you super wealthy, but they'll give you enough to survive and continue your career. That's what I would be doing. It's very underutilized.

See related: Credit and finance options for young entrepreneurs , Creative financing for small businesses

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