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How Many Songs Do You Need to Sell to Keep a Roof Over Your Head?

I’ve recently been doing some interesting research with a property search engine called Gartoo on how much it costs to keep a roof over your head as a musician in the United Kingdom, and I decided to put a post together to show the sheer volume of sales a musician would need to make to live in the various major cities around the United Kingdom – hopefully this should highlight the fact that there is a true need to monetise music through means other than just downloads, as the volume of downloads required to put food on the table and a roof over your head is incredibly significant.

With the average artist earnings per download on iTunes via CDBaby at $0.57 (£0.35) an artist would need to sell an astonishing 1,068,571 downloads to buy an average 3-bedroom house in London (£373,999). Over 25 years with a 5% mortgage interest rate you would need to hit a target of 15,707 downloads a year, or 1,308 downloads a month consistently for 25 years.

However, as you move closer to my hometown of Oxford you drop your annual download target drops to 12,389 (or 1,032 downloads per month) over 25 years. The cheapest of major UK cities is Glasgow, where you can keep a roof over your head as a musician for just 483 song sales / month consistently for 25 years.

Number of downloads per UK city

3 bedroom house in London – 1,068,571 downloads

3 bedroom house in Oxford – 842,857 downloads

3 bedroom house in Bristol – 741,000 downloads

3 bedroom house in Edinburgh – 669,485 downloads

3 bedroom house in Leeds – 552,000 downloads

3 bedroom house in Birmingham – 537,142 downloads

3 bedroom house in Manchester – 465,000 downloads

3 bedroom house in Liverpool – 450,000 downloads

3 bedroom house in Sheffield – 438,000 downloads

3 bedroom house in Glasgow – 414,285 downloads

In my opinion, it is not in the numbers that the problem lies for musicians, but the inconsistency and unreliability of download sales as a method of monetisation. It is incredibly difficult to consistently guarantee x many downloads per month over y many years, especially when x is a four or five digit number, and y is in the double digits – and this is of course not taking into account other vital living costs such as beer money ;)

How does this compare with the United States? My initial research on the Realtor website suggests that it is by far cheaper to live in the United States overall (I managed to find a beautiful 4 bedroom property in Los Angeles for the same price as a fairly average 1 bedroom in London!)

Do you think this impacts on the likelihood of becoming a full-time musicians in the UK vs. US? Do high house prices discourage art in a culture to some extent? As always, your thoughts would be great – i’d love to put together a report on this, so if anyone has any strong opinions please leave comments or drop me an email on [email protected]

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About Marcus Taylor

In 2013, Marcus Taylor won the award for 'Young Visionary of the Year' at MIDEM. Marcus is passionate about marketing and the music industry, and has consulted to some of the biggest names in the music industry through his agency, Venture Harbour. Marcus founded this website in 2009, and has reached over half a million musicians ever since.

12 Comments

  • These are some truly eye-opening stats Marcus, thanks so sharing this. I may not be UK based, but it is still interesting to see these numbers of 'X amount of downloads' applied to a real life situation such as this. Great stuff!

    • Cheers Jon – I was pretty shocked by the stats, even in the US it's pretty significant as we're still talking hundreds of thousands of pounds which = hundreds of thousands of downloads. I guess when you look at the numbers like this it becomes very apparent that to achieve the greater goal of becoming a full-time musician you have to look outside of the downloads market for funding – which I think is a good thing, incentivises more creativity!

  • attim says:

    Very interesting, Marcus … and now could you do the whole thing again using the projected income from Spotify streams?

    Only (half) kidding!!

  • Hey Marcus that sucks!

    This is why I like to just sell music from the main website because, you can keep it a little more exclusive and sell album bundles and fan club subscriptions etc.

    I'm going to tweet this and scare everyone!

    – Chris

  • Rob Lorenzo says:

    Fascinating insights, Marcus, demonstrating the realities of making a living as a musician from one income stream.

    Multiple income streams perhaps? Or maybe creating 'high value' products that can be sold consistently over time and hence a regular income.

  • Alex Massaad says:

    Wow that puts it in perspective and really opens up my eyes!

  • Alex Massaad says:

    Wow that puts it in perspective and really opens up my eyes!

  • Ceci says:

    So how do we get more money in the pockets of the musicians? I think musicians should be getting upwards of $0.75 per down load. What do you think? Maybe get a bottle of wine instead of the beer.

  • Sam says:

    Thank you for the time you have taken to bring us these figures. Thankfully we love what we do and that is priceless x peace x

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