Being a musician is a fulfilling career but it can be hard to generate reliable income. If you want to quit your day job and make it as a musician full-time, you need to diversify your revenue streams. Here are nine ways you can make money in music from the obvious to the obscure.
Play local shows
Getting active in your local music scene is one of the best ways to build a following as an up-and-coming musician. As you attend live shows and talk to artists and promoters, you’ll make the connections you need to start booking shows of your own. You won’t earn as much from ticket sales playing local concerts, but it’s a great opportunity to improve your live show before taking it on the road.
Music festivals put new artists on the map with lineups that slot major headliners alongside independent musicians. However, getting booked at festivals is easier said than done. Submit applications to festivals known for booking bands similar to yours and make your application stand out with a professional-looking press kit.
Tours can be regional, national, or global, but for your first tour, we recommend sticking to a handful of cities within driving distance from your hometown. Start researching appropriate venues and reaching out to venues and promoters in each city at least six months in advance. As an alternative to booking shows on your own, link up with local bands in your genre with an established fanbase.
Ticket sales aren’t the only way musicians make money from live music. Selling CDs, vinyl, cassettes, and other merchandise maximize the profits from each show. Plus, there’s no better advertising than a loyal fan wearing your band t-shirt! In addition to setting up a merch booth at live shows, you can sell merch online using print-on-demand to avoid buying and storing inventory.
Don’t expect to earn a lot from streaming royalties without a huge listenership. However, it’s still worth getting your music on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music for the exposure and extra pocket money. You can also sell digital downloads online via Bandcamp, iTunes, SoundCloud, or your own website.
Musicians generate revenue on YouTube through ad revenue, royalties for copyrighted content, and YouTube Premieres. In addition, pop-up screens can be added to videos to sell tickets, merchandise, or link listeners to other videos and content.
Subscription platforms like Patreon and Bandcamp give musicians a way to monetize their fanbase for consistent monthly revenue. In exchange for a monthly fee, members receive access to exclusive content and build a personal connection with their favorite musicians. This idea works best for musicians with a loyal fanbase who enjoy releasing new content on a regular basis.
Licensing music to brands, tv and film producers, podcasters, and other types of content creators is a lucrative endeavor for the right musician. Use a synchronization license to give a third party one-time permission to use your music or register your music with a Performance Rights Organization to receive royalties any time your music is used. When using a sync license be sure to outline the exact terms of where, how, and how long your music can be used.
Music is a skill many people wish they had. Turn your talents into a profitable side gig by teaching music lessons in-person or online. Since private music teachers set their own hours, it’s possible to manage a business alongside your live music career. In addition to being skilled at your instrument, working as a music teacher requires planning lessons, familiarizing yourself with teaching techniques, and managing the administrative side of your business.
You don’t have to choose between making a career in music and getting a “real” job. It’s possible to earn a comfortable living doing what you love when you diversify your income. Use these strategies to start growing your music income or get creative with your own ideas for making a living from music.