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How to Make Money with Music: 6 Reliable Ways for Musicians to Monetize

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How to sell music online.

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.
concert

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 CanvaAdobe Spark, or the PressKitHero.

electronic-press-kit-exampleCourtesy 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

sell-merch-pup-thebandCourtesy 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:
  1. 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. 
  2. 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
  3. 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. 
Some of the more popular print-on-demand apps that integrate with Shopify include PrintfulTeelaunchPrintify, and Gooten.

merch-connectionCourtesy 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 UpworkFreelancer, and Twine have postings for vocalistsproducers, and skilled instrumentalists. There are also a number of apps and platforms available for finding other musicians to collaborate with. Examples include JambroProCollabsAirGigsVamprSoundBetterKompozBlendVocalizrMelboss and Audiu.

drum-brokerCourtesy 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. 

teach-musicCourtesy 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. 

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    2021 memorable moments

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    2021 like its predecessor (2020) was an eventful year through and through, from the advent of the streaming platform, Spotify, to the breath-taking world tours of two of Africa’s finest, Burna Boy and Wizkid, thanks to limiting the hardcore COVID-19 restrictions worldwide, to “Essence” and “Love Nwantiti” takeover and many more. This is a recap of some notable moments of 2021 in the Nigerian music industry. 

    Spotify in Nigeria:

     Spotify, one of the most used digital streaming platforms (DSPs) since its invention in 2006 in Sweden, finally made its grand entry into the Nigerian space on 23 February 2021 but streaming commenced in early March. Apart from its appealing UI/UX design, it edges over its competitors like Apple Music and Audiomack in all or some of the below stated reasons: 
    Spotify provides real-time information on the number of streams of songs and the average monthly listeners of the artists.
    The built-in podcast feature also gives it an edge over its various competitions. Apart from the available podcasts which can be found on other podcast streaming platforms, Spotify also provides exclusives, available only in the app, financially supporting the hosts of these exclusively owned podcasts. 
    The Spotify annual Wrappedgives a more detailed insight into what each listener has been up to year-round, not only his/her most listened songs, albums, artistes and hours spent listening to music, it goes further to dive into genre breakdown of each listener and provides a listener-to-the-world-listenership, a primetime comparison in percentage as to where the listener stands in streaming their favourite artiste(s) and song(s), etc.
    In less than 3 months, Spotify was able to amass thousands of streams and subscribers in the country, even having those who used other services switching to theirs in the blink of an eye. What a nice investment, a profitable one at that.

    Essence Global Acceptance:

    Wizkid and Temshad a surreal year in 2021. Not that Wizkid’s stance on the music scene was not acclaimed pre-2021 but thanks to the commercial success of track 11 off of 2020 released “Made In Lagos” album, it helped elevate his status and introduced the already blooming talent, Tems, to the world’s music stage.
    Yes, the foresight of Wizkid to have tweeted that he and Tems created magic months before the song’s release should have given fans a clue into what he had planned for the mid-tempo pop song but no one could have predicted it magically transforming into the wonderful track that it is today; fast forward to June 2021, Essence became the world’s favourite song, even being tipped as the ‘Song of the Summer’. 
    Not only is the “You don’t need no other body” chorus well-known and publicly hollered at festivals, shows, concerts, parties, clubs, and so forth but we need no other body to tell us how grand the track is, breaking records almost every other day. The remix with Pop superstar, Justin Bieber, assisted it to become the first song by an African act to debut on the Billboard Hot 200 top 10, peaking at No. 9.
    The certifications of Essence is mind-blowing: Gold in Canada and New Zealand, Silver in the United Kingdom, and Platinum in the USA (to name a few), in essence, becoming the Nigerian song African originated song to go Platinum in the States, selling 1 million copies; Essence nomination for the newly carved “Best Global Music Performance”for the 2022 Grammy Awards is a nice icing to the delectable hotcake the song is.

    Fireboy DML’s Peru Record-breaking Year: 

    When R&B star, Fireboy DML, said on the Afro-fusion track—Peru: “Wo ni won wa mi”, translated to “I’m being sought after” or “They are looking for me” in English, he was not lying. Immediately Peru dropped, it almost immediately became a fan favourite due to its easy-to-learn lyrics and enigmatic third verse which drew a lot of comparison to Wande Coal’s vocal texture.
    Peru provided Fireboy DML with his first-ever No. 1 on the 
    Nigerian Apple Music Top 100 and iTunes, it peaked at No. 1 on the UK Afrobeats Chart, eventually breaking the record as the song to have spent the most weeks at the summit of the chart, 4 weeks in total; the remix with global music icon, Ed Sheeran was released on Christmas Eve and immediately rose to the peak position on the UK Apple Music Top 100, becoming the first-ever Nigerian song to achieve such feat.
    To think of the fact that Peru would have remained in the hard drive, never to be released until Fireboy’s label honcho, Olamide, took matters into his hands and leaked the song is still mind-boggling to date. A record-breaking year for Peru and Fireboy DML at large!

    Love Nwantiti Resurgence: 

    2021 was undoubtedly one of the best years for Nigerian music traversing to an international audience. The mysterious humming buzzing “Ahh, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah-ah” sound by CKay proves that distinctly. Allow me to explain.
    Never in the history of the African music industry, probably the world’s, have a song released 2 years prior (2019), and its remix a year after (2020) trended as Love Nwantiti did, having the whole world at a chokehold. Thanks to TikTokand human’s inquisitive nature which transcended to the song being looked on Shazam, Love Nwantitiresurgence became a global phenom in the global music mainstream.
    The streaming numbers are ridiculous! On Spotify alone, Love Nwantiti is the most streamed Afrobeat song, occupying the Top 2 spots via its original and DJ Yo! &AX’EL (remix) versions. The certifications CKayaccumulate because of Love Nwantiti’sgrandeur is too many to count but to state a few: 2X Platinum in Canada, Platinum in Portugal, Gold in the UK, Austria, Australia, and Spain. Not forgetting that each official music video shoot for the original and its many remixes crossed the 50M views mark on YouTube. 
    What a comeback Love Nwantitihad in 2021, a beautiful sight to behold. A win for the “Afrobeat to the world” mantra and African music as a collective. 

    Burna Boy’s World Tour

    Arrogant, proud, egotistical, boastful, and many more qualifiers are available to describe the personality of Ogulu Damini—popularly known as Burna Boy. But one can’t deny that he makes great music. And in 2021, the African Giant went as far as expressing himself, his art, and his music on International stages. 
    Burna Boy came packed. Each show came with its tale, its own definition. From stepping out of a spaceship to his irresistible performances on stage, his flow with the melodies and harmonies of the live band, to the transitioning from one hit song to another, Burna Boy brought it all. From the sold-out show in the O2 Arena in London to selling out a 20,000 capacity in Bercy, France, having the people of Stockholm sing word for word his song, Burna Boy made sure the world heard him, see him and know him. 

    Amaarae x Moliy

    Known for her otherworldly voice and her calm likewise soothing type of songs she makes, Amaarae has fast become one of the most promising female acts on the African continent. In 2021, The Ghanaian act went as far as breaking into the Billboard Hot 100 alongside countrywoman Moliy and Kali Uchis with the remix of her amazing song ‘Sad Gurlz Luv Money’. The song peaked at no.80 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first female Afrobeats act to debut a solo single on the chart. 

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    Optimistic Luminous is creating a genre

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    Wizkid is Africa’s Apple Music Artist of the Year award recipient for 2021

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    Wizkid (sobriquet Big Wiz or StarBoy) receives the honour as Apple Music Artist of the Year (Africa) for 2021. The annual award held by the premier streaming platform praises individual artites for having a stellar year on its music platform both through streams and culturally.

    On Wizkid winning, an excerpt from Apple Music reads: ” In October 2020, he released “Made in Lagos,” his critically acclaimed and most commercially successful album, which included his hit song “Essence,” a track that gained 125 million plays on Apple Music and over 2.8 million Shazams. This past year, he’s been the most streamed African artist on the continent on Apple Music and ranked on the Daily Top 100 charts in 60 countries, in addition to his monthly plays on Apple Music growing by more than 250 percent outside of Africa.”

    “Thank you to Apple Music for this award”, Wizkid said, continuing, “It’s a blessing to get to do what I do, and I’m proud to be representing for Africa.”, Ayodeji “Wizkid” Balogun says in thank you speech. The Apple Music Award, the third annual series will air on Apple Music and Apple TV starting Tuesday, December 7, 2021.

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