Writing, recording and performing are the core activities of an independent pop musician. These activities are surrounded by companies in which everyone has their own interests and specializations, and which are both commercial and subsidized.
The Dutch music industry
The Dutch music industry consists of musicians, record companies, booking agencies, venues and all kinds of other companies. A number of institutions are subsidized; venues often receive financial support from their municipality and pop umbrella organisations are funded by the province. There are also institutions that are subsidized from the basic infrastructure (BIS) such as the pop band De Staat and development institutions such as Popwaarts and WORM. The Performing Arts Fund subsidizes five pop bands in the period 2021-2024.
As an independent pop musician or band, you begin by writing or rehearsing music. At home or in the rehearsal room, behind the computer or in the studio, alone or in company. The next step is recording. You schedule a session in the studio and you work with a producer or a recording engineer. Or you set to work with software like Logic, ProTools or Ableton. The recordings are mixed, mastered and distributed via shops or the internet. Playing live is, of course, important, and streaming concerts is on the rise. Other revenue models include teaching, studio work, sponsoring and selling merchandise.
When writing music, songs and lyrics are created that are protected by copyright. There is an entire industry around these rights: publishers (not to be confused with record companies), creative agencies (like Massive Music and Sizzer) and sync agencies that match existing repertoire with films, games and adverts. You should register with Buma/Stemra to manage and lay down your rights. This is the official Dutch collective management organisation. SENA is responsible for neighbouring rights.
The most important companies that work with your music are record companies. They actively help build your career as an artist; they contribute ideas about the content and are involved with the marketing and promotion of both band and the recordings. In addition, they take care of the distribution: online via streaming channels (Digital Service Providers or DSPs) or physically through shops.
The first shows are usually at a smaller or regional venue. Examples include local youth centres. You can also take part as a support act, in a competition or the travelling festival the Popronde. The Netherlands has more than 1,000 festivals in all kinds of music genres. In order to be booked, you must approach the programmer of the festival. A booking agency can help you arrange shows.
An enterprising pop musician develops a healthy and sustainable balance between his or her artistic, organisational and financial activities. You can only spend your precious time on one thing at a time. A manager or management can help ensure the balance. He or she will always put you first and can mediate in the event of conflicting interests of the parties with whom you work.