If you love making music, it’s one of the most fulfilling ways to earn a living. Whether it’s your full-time job or a lucrative side-gig, selling music is a creative way to make money doing something you love.
But what if the money’s not there? Selling your music doesn’t come with any guarantees. For a lot of musicians, the siren song of a profitable music career just isn’t worth the risk.
So how do you reduce that risk? Or even eliminate it altogether?
Making money from music isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. By setting up diversified, automated revenue streams, musicians in 2020 are able to reduce the risk and take a chance on their dream career.
Wondering what that entails? You’ve come to the right place.
In the early stages of your music career, it’s crucial to have multiple revenue streams. Without the backing of a major record label, any single stream is unlikely to generate enough income for you to earn a living.
But operating together, a number of (mostly) automated revenue streams can help you mitigate risk and focus on making music, rather than selling it.
Let’s go over the most common revenue streams artists use to monetize their music:
1. Earn streaming royalties through digital distribution
It’s important here to understand the difference between a streaming service and a distribution network:
- A streaming service is a platform people use to listen to music. The most popular are Spotify and Apple Music.
- A distribution network distributes and collects royalties from those streaming services.
Musicians don’t really have a choice when it comes to streaming services. Not even the biggest artists in the world are protected from backlashwhen removing their music from popular streaming platforms.
It’s important that you stream your work on Spotify and Apple Music, the two largest, most globally available services. Other popular streaming services include Google Play, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music—plus genre-specific streaming services like BeatPort and JunoDownload, both of which cater to electronic music producers and fans.
How to find and select the right distribution network
Most distribution networks are able to send your music to all major streaming platforms, so this isn’t a major concern. However, there are significant differences in what services distribution networks offer, their pricing, and their royalty payments that are important to consider when you’re looking for your distribution service.
2. Make money playing gigs
Playing live is one of the most profitable ways for musicians to make money. While the internet has made it possible to live stream music performances, there’s nothing that quite matches seeing one of your favorite artists perform in person.
How to find paid gigs for musicians
Playing live is not only a good way to generate income, but also one of the best ways to build an audience. Gig fans always win out over social media fans in terms of how valuable they are to your music career, since they’ve proven themselves willing to pay money to watch live music.
Assuming you haven’t bought a tour bus yet, you’ll need to find good local venues to play if you want to build an audience of real live music fans. One way of doing this is through gig-booking apps and websites like ReverbNation Gig Finder.
Gig-booking sites and platforms are more accessible, which means many of the shows tend to be corporate events targeted toward a broader audience. These performances can be very lucrative, but keep in mind that they’re less valuable in terms of building a sustainable audience.
Thinking long term, you want to build relationships with local venues in your “scene.” This is where your networkingskills will come in handy. Start small and find venues that are open to new acts.
Creating an electronic press kit
When you start reaching out to venues, there’s a chance they may ask for an electronic press kit (sometimes called an “EPK,” “promotional package,” or simply “press kit”).
An EPK is a digital collection of documents, videos, images, and, of course, your music. Venues use EPK’s to get a quick overview of your “brand.” You can create a press kit using design tools like Canva, Adobe Spark, or the PressKitHero.
Courtesy of The Suburbs
What to include in your electronic press kit:
- Links to your songs on Spotify and Apple Music
- Professional, high-resolution photography
- Links to your social media profiles
- A brief bio of your band—similar to an About Us page
- Music videos, if you have them, or any other media
- Press quotes or reviews
- Contact information
Courtesy of Pup the Band
3. Sell band merchandise online
Selling band merchandise is one of the best ways to make extra money while working as a musician. With a fully automated merch store, you can generate income without taking any time away from writing and performing music.
How to sell band merch online
With Shopify and print on demand, you can set up a fully automated merchandise store in minutes. Start by deciding what products you want to sell. T-shirts are a must for bands, but print-on-demand companies offer a wide range of products, from water bottles to canvas bags to home decor products like pillows:
- Create your designs: If you know how to design a logo, it’s easy to create a variety of unique designs for your band that can be printed on merchandise.
- Set up your store: Start your Shopify trial and set up your store. If you’ve never set up a Shopify store, we’ve got a ton of resources to help you get started.
- Automate with a print-on-demand app: With print-on-demand apps, you can outsource the manufacturing, shipping, and logistics to a third-party company. Print-on-demand companies are paid a percentage of your sales, so you don’t need to pay for products until they’re sold.
This means that once you’ve set-up your store and products, you don’t have to do anything else. The print-on-demand company handles printing and shipping and is paid via a cut of your sales.
Courtesy of Merch Connection
5. Collaborate with brands and other musicians
A lot of musicians make extra money through side hustles. There are a number of ways to make money through collaboration, depending on what kind of music you make and your specific music skills.
Freelance sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Twine have postings for vocalists, producers, and skilled instrumentalists. There are also a number of apps and platforms available for finding other musicians to collaborate with. Examples include Jambro, ProCollabs, AirGigs, Vampr, SoundBetter, Kompoz, Blend, Vocalizr, Melboss and Audiu.
Courtesy of The Drum Broker
4. Sell beats and samples
If you’re a producer, one common way to make money is by selling samplesand beats as digital products. For some producers, this can even become their primary form of income. Selling samples and beats allows you to spend work hours making music, which is the primary benefit.
What to know about selling your beats online
- Mixing and mastering. Performers purchasing your beats will expect a level of technical quality. If you’ve never produced beats before, it’s not something you can pick up in an afternoon.
- Licensing. When performers purchase beats from you, they’re actually purchasing a license to use that beat in their music. There are many types of licenses, so make sure you understand what rights you’re giving up when selling your beat.
- Marketing. There are a ton of places to find beats to license, but performers tend to be very picky about what they’re looking for. This means that successfully selling beats online will be very dependent on your ability to find a niche and build a reputation on social media.
Courtesy of Reid Music
5. Teach music classes or sell lessons
Not all musicians are after global superstardom. For some, training the next generation of artists is a bigger accomplishment than playing the Super Bowl half-time show.
If you’re interested in training others, LectureOwl is a great place to apply to be a private music teacher. You can also create a music course on a number of online learning platforms.