How a Singer/Songwriter Doubled Her Income From Periscope

Clare Means on Periscope

Los Angeles based Clare Means has been street performing for the past 8 years on the Santa Monica Pier and Promenade. As two of the biggest tourist traps in LA, street performers can earn a substantial amount. Some average $100 an hour or more. And some average $5 an hour. It all depends on the the location, the crowd, the weather, the performer and their fellow street performing competition.

Clare has been a full time musician for the better part of 8 years and has supported herself (and paid her Santa Monica rent) primarily with her street performing sets.

Last September, she decided to prop her phone up against her tip jar and Periscope her street performances. She included a link to her website (for CD purchases) and a PayPal.me link for tips in her Periscope bio. Initially, she only had a few people tuning in for her scopes for the first few months. But because she scoped every street performance and she street performed nearly every day, she built up some regular followers. And they started tipping and buying her CDs. And because PayPal.me enabled people to tip whatever they wanted, some tipped her $50. Some tipped $200.

Clare Means on Periscope
Photo by Miguel Santana

By the end of December, Clare Means had built up about 1,000 Periscope followers. She started Periscoping from home in addition to the street, taking requests and giving even more interaction to her new Periscope “friends” – as she likes to call them.

And then this past January, the stars started to align. A fairly big Periscoper, @YoPickles, shared Clare’s scope to her 20,000 followers. @MitchOates happened to be walking the Santa Monica Pier and stumbled upon Clare. He Periscoped her and shared her scope with his 25,000 followers. @LennyJacobson also shared Clare’s scopes around this time to his 30,000 followers and Periscope featured Clare on the homepage List a few times.

As of today, Clare Means has over 34,000 followers – gaining thousands more each month.

But her followers are so much more than just a number. The reason Clare refers to them as her Periscope friends is because she interacts with them directly during her scopes and she has gotten to know quite a few of the regulars.

And more than that, her fans have gotten to know each other from tuning in so frequently and chatting during the scopes. They even formed their own fan club and call themselves “ClareBears” – in part because Clare eats gummy bears during her street performing set breaks.

“They’re friends with each other. Regulars talk amongst each other. Scopes are almost like a chat room”

One fan sent her a 17 pound bag of gummy bears. Another fan created a blonde voodoo doll (one of her songs is called “Voodoo Doll.” Another fan sent her a sweatshirt she made with a voodoo doll attached to the zipper.

And some nights when she has a really bad street performing experience, her ClareBears on Periscope step up.

“One time I had a really shitty night on the Promenade. A loud guy set up next to me. I made $200 in tips on Periscope and I didn’t have that many people in my scope. They wanted to make up for the bad experience,” Clare told me over the phone.

Whereas on the street, people typically drop in a dollar, or five if they’re feeling generous. On Periscope, people tip much larger amounts because it’s very easy to type in a higher number. No cash necessary. Someone tipped her $700 last month to help her buy a new guitar which had blown over on her stand during one of her set breaks on the street. And many of her regulars have bought her 3 CD for $25 package from her website (another direct link in her Periscope bio).

Clare Means on Periscope

The ClareBears even set up a fan website, Claresbears.com, to help fund Clare’s new guitar. There’s a photo page, a video page, and event info for a meetup Clare is participating in on October 8th in Santa Monica.

A couple that heard her on the pier while visiting Santa Monica, when they returned home started watching all of her Periscopes and then flew her out to play their wedding.

Last month she went to Nashville and busked a bit. She stopped by Third Man Records and hopped in the recording booth where one can record a performance straight to acetate. Third Man charges musicians $20 per song in the booth and the musician walks away with the acetate record of their performance. In the booth, Clare Periscoped her performance and asked her Periscope audience how much she should charge for this rare record. Someone suggested $100 and others concurred. A couple people said they’d pay $250 if she played their request (and sent them the record of their song). In just the hour she was in the booth, she made about $1,400 and sent out 10 records to the fans who happened to tune in.

Clare Means on Periscope
Photo by Miguel Santana

I asked Clare what advice she’d give to musicians who wanted to get started on Periscope. She said consistency is very important. Early on, you may only get a few people here and there tuning in, but if you interact with them, respect them and give an entertaining experience they’ll follow you and come back.

Always thank people for sharing and for tipping. Say hi to the regulars. Take requests. Try to interact as much as possible. She recommends to try different songs, different settings and maybe different instruments to mix it up.

She improvs songs occasionally during her home scopes and takes topic requests. One of her Christmas songs actually came out of one of these improv sessions.

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She mentioned that she encourages her viewers to share her scopes and invite their friends. And people do it.

The quality of the fan is more important than the quantity

Clare encourages musicians to not worry about the number of followers they have.

“You can still make good money even if you have less than 1,000 followers”

Now, she averages about 6,000 total viewers per scope. She usually busks for 2-4 hours and scopes the entire time, so she has a couple hundred people tuning in at any given moment. However, while we were on the phone, she checked in to last night’s stats and saw she had 10,400 people tune in over the course of the 4 hour scope.

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Photo by DC Buchanan

The way to make it as a musician in the new music business requires getting creative with the tools available. There is no one way to make it as a musician anymore. Anyone who tells you that you MUST put all your efforts into YouTube is flat out wrong and doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They are 5 years behind the curve. Yeah, YouTube is important and every musician should have some sort of presence, but Clare realized that her efforts were better spent on Periscope, not YouTube. DJ Khaled became famous on Snapchat. Shawn Mendes became famous from Vine.

But, as Clare, and thousands of other working musicians have learned, it’s not about becoming famous. Sure, everyone would like to grow their fanbase, but many DIY musicians are making comfortable livings doing what they love by getting creative with their monetization efforts.

You can bitch about Spotify royalties until you’re blue in the face or you can get creative with all of the new tools available to build a fanbase and make a living in the new music business. Your choice.

Check out Clare Means on Periscope 

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

18 Responses

  1. James K

    This is actually pretty interesting. I’d heard of Periscope but didn’t understand the appeal. This makes a lot of sense. Hats off to Clare for figuring it out. I guess I’ll make an account. See you on the street Clare.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Does Periscope pay the PROs for a license? This seems like a public performance if I’ve ever heard of one.

    Reply
  3. Timothy Buss

    You never fail to come up with great information. Remember I promised you drinks and dinner when I finally get to LA for all you have helped me!

    Reply
  4. RJ

    Just watched one of Clare’s “scopes”. She is actually really good. Surprised a label hasn’t sucked her up into their orbit of death and destruction. Good for her for staying indie and figuring it out on her own.

    Reply
  5. singer-songwriter

    THANK YOU! This was the inspiration I needed today. #keeptrucking

    Reply
  6. Piotar Boa

    “We are very happy for the great success of Clare Means. We supported and promoted for free this Great TopTalent of Piotar Boa Ranking in March 2016 using our account on Periscope, Twitter, Facebook, instagram. Shes has been picked up by TopFollowers of Piotar Boa and now we are proud of her. It will not be misunderstood or sound pretentious. Clearly the merit of her success is primarily in her talent and skills.  I and my friends have just shared her talent to the Community. This is the magical power of sharing”

    Reply
  7. Erika Sterner

    This article is great! There can never be enough said about Clare Means! She has become a great friend as well as a wonderful singer! Clare has become my medicine to help me threw the roughest of days. Anyone who hasnt heard Clare Means needs to check her out! You will never be disappointed!

    Reply
  8. Kerry Vernon

    I’ve followed Clare since her first week on Periscope when she had a handful of followers. Her talent is obvious from the first but it’s her glowing personality and smart marketing sense that’s built her following. She engages the viewer and wins their hearts and support. She promotes other Scopers building a network of independent musicians and artists who support each other. Listen to a musician in Tennessee or Europe and you’ll hear a reference to Clare. Brilliant beautiful Clare who doesn’t sell her soul to a record label is the Real Deal. Clare?Bears Forever.

    Reply
  9. Michael Pollock

    Ditto to all the other great comments! Here’s another anecdote about the hardest working artist I know:
    While busking on the 3rd St Promenade recently a stingy security guard ticketed Clare for setting up 80ft from her allotted spot (even though no other buskers were anywhere close). Justifiably upset, Clare maintained a more level head than many of us watching. During the time it took her to pack up everything, walk the short stones throw, and set up again she maintained viewership and sold some CDs!

    Reply
  10. faxquo

    On my first day of viewing random Periscope musician broadcasts I chanced upon Clare Means. Immediately I was drawn in by her perfect pitch, velvety voice and catchy original tunes. After a few minutes if watching the chat comments, it was obvious that Clare has a dedicated following of fans whom Clare interacted with in a friendly, charming and unpretentious manner.
    Clare’s personality and talent is refreshing, needless to say I can be counted as a fan!

    Reply
  11. BadStratnTele

    Simply put Clare Means is an amazing talent.
    Her vocals are breathy and airy, her guitar playing is on spot with her voice. Many “Scopers” have compared Clare to Edie Brickell or Suzanne Vega.
    Clare’s lyrics are well written, personal, and quite engaging, drawing the listener completely in. Wether it be songs like Timber, Chloe, Voodoo doll, or even the Truck Song. Clare evokes emotion and feeling in a way no other singer/songwriter has done in a very long time. When i think of similar Singer/songwriters, people like Joni Mitchell and Amy Grant come to mind. So if your looking for real music, music that speaks to you. Look at Clare Means.
    and yes, the Truck Song is a big people song too.. Honk, Honk!

    Reply
  12. Anita Nelson - ModelSupplies

    This is such an important story! It speaks to the ability and willingness to be flexible in the global economy which was created by technology. We can either open the magic doors that technology has created for us or sit back and long for the way it was for our parents or grandparents while knowing it will never be that way again. And I say, thank goodness! Thank goodness we are afforded the opportunity of freedom like no generations before us. Never before have people been able to take control of their lives and livelihoods the way we can now. If performing isn’t your thing, maybe it’s selling things online like it is for me. You have something that is unique to give the world. It’s up to you to find the ways to share yourself and that’s as it should be Unles you want someone telling you what to do and never really earning what you’re worth.

    This is a fantastic use of Perisvope and Clare is a highly talented individual – not only as a performer, but as someone who saw a way to promote herself and take control of her own career, not unlike the great one, Prince. I highly recommend she gets onto Tidal as well as Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Tidal pays the performers more. Kudos, Clare! Thank you for a lesson from which we can all learn!

    Reply
  13. Jeff Jones

    I’m not sure if Clare actually ever sleeps! When she is not on Periscope, she is probably shipping out CD’s to her fans! I appreciate that her songs are HER SONGS. All originals with a wide range of appeal, from children’s songs to songs about life experience. I’ve heard her voice described as “haunting”, in a good way, and I’d have to agree. I am a big fan.

    Reply
  14. RVFool

    Ditto all the above. Not only does her voice have that (I have heard people call it angelic) sound she is just a pleasant person to watch. And, HARD WORKING in a day where everyone wants it for nothing.
    Her voice sounds as good 4 hours into her scope as when she starts.
    If I could write I would go on and on.
    All I can say is, Clare, a Big Thank You.

    Reply
  15. Alainb

    Clare is very generous of herself, hard worker, fun, charismatic, thankful, loves her public , determined, such a pleasant voice that catches your heart, happy to have discovered her on periscope, such a beautiful human being. Thank-you Clare.

    Reply
  16. David H. Downing

    I am one of the many people who found out about Clare through Periscope, and now I try to listen whenever I’m able. Clare is a very impressive up-and-coming artist and I’m glad to hear that Periscope is helping her to come into her own. I’m also glad ti see that Clare is helping Periscope to be the valuable venue for new talent that it can be at it’s best, So if you have Periscope, I encourage to follow Clare. If you don’t have Periscope, you can remedy that very easily because its a free app. I can get through the worst of days when I know I have Clare to look forward to at the end of it.

    Reply
  17. Kinman Tam

    I first saw Clare perform in May on one of her Periscope broadcasts. She writes extraordinarily compelling songs that are at various times heart-warming, poignant, and haunting. I can think of very few songwriters of her caliber. Clare performs almost every night with high energy and an enthusiasm that is infectious. The silly dance contests that she incorporates into her shows are regular crowd-pleasers. Her performances often last 3-4 hours straight, without a break. The combination of that strong work ethic and unmistakable talent is producing results. Clare deserves all the success that she is achieving now.

    Reply
  18. Ron Kawaguchi

    I’ve been follow Clare Means on Periscope since September 2015. Some of us Clarebears also call ourselves Clareoholics. I think once you hear Clare sing you’ll become a dedicated fan, too! You first fall in love with Clare’s amazing lovely sweet unique voice and music that hits deep in your heart. Then you fall in love with her creative and talented songwriting that connects you with her own experiences. Then you fall in love with her happy and genuine personality that makes you want to know and support her further. Add to that Clare’s dedication to her fans and work ethic and the friendly camaraderie and community of all her followers on her periscope broadcasts, and you have an addictive performance and entertainment that will keep you coming back again and again! I am very pleased to see her getting some well deserved recognition of her accomplishments and talents! Clare and her fans rock!

    Reply

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