Hitting it rich while doing the things you love is the aspiration of most people, but for musicians it really is the dream.
The problem is that most musicians never get a record deal, let alone travel the world as superstars, but if you love playing then surely there has to be a way to make ends meet while dazzling people with you lyrics and beats?
Fear not, because there are ways to make by being a musician even if it isn’t millions in royalties.
Here are my top 16 ways to make money on and offline as a musician.
The old way of being signed because someone saw you at a bar is becoming rarer. Instead more and more bands and artists are being signed because they went viral on sites like YouTube.
Not only does adding your music to YouTube increase your reach and fan base, but you can also make use of the advertising system built in, that can earn you some ongoing money.
Really popular videos can make an incredible amount in advertising fees, but even moderately popular videos can make enough to help cover equipment and travel costs.
#2 Live Performances
This might seem like a silly one to add here, but trying to get local gigs is a great way to bring in some income. You just need to keep your costs low as you generally don’t get paid much by venues unless you can bring a crowd with you.
I’m pretty sure you have a wealth of musical knowledge that you can share with the wider world. Using a blog you can do just that.
With one you can earn money from advertisements, affiliate marketing, and even merchandise sales.
Not only that, but a blog can benefit in other ways:
- It proves your knowledge in the industry, possibly leading to other work like music journalism
- It can increase your reach and grow your fan base
- You can use it as a platform for selling records and merchandise
#4 Membership site
Off the back of the blog, once you have a solid fan base you could create a VIP membership system. Not only does this allow you to connect with your fans, but they could also get benefits like early access to new songs and even the ability to provide feedback.
From a monetary point of view, membership sites are excellent as they provide a recurring income.
These crowdfunding sites allow you to pitch your idea, and have people help you fund the cost of it.
You need to make sure that your pitch is solid and that you can follow through with any incentives you offer though, otherwise the whole endeavor could backfire.
PledgeMusic is sort of like Kickstarter, but the great thing about it is that it is wholly targeted at music fans.
This means that the people viewing your pitch will be eager to support up and coming bands, which will perhaps make it easier to fund your goal.
While Kickstarter and PledgeMusic tend to focus on support for a single project, Patreon is different.
Supporters pledge to give you money every month and you offer them something in return: access to new songs, discounts on gigs, access to VIP online gigs and so on.
Recurring monthly income, while doing what you love? You can’t beat that!
#8 Vinyl and CD sales
This is perhaps the most old school way to make money as a musician but it’s still a great one. A small selection of CD’s and vinyl that you can sell at gigs or even online, is definitely something all artists should do.
The markup might not be that much (especially compared to digital downloads), but many people still love having something physical to remind them of a gig, or they just prefer the sound on vinyl!
This site is alike a marketplace for musicians. Instead of selling your songs via your own site or a label, you can sell direct to fans via Bandcamp.
The most amazing thing about Bandcamp is that not only can artists set their own price for a record, but purchasers can pay what they want.
This means that your hardcore fans can actively support you by paying more than the minimum price. People paying hundreds of dollars for an album isn’t unheard of!
BandPage wants to be the place that fans connect with their favorite artists. It supports a profile, streaming of tracks and of course selling songs and merchandise.
Not only can you take advantage of this to promote yourself or your band but BandPage offers a unique spin on things with its Experiences.
These are VIP-esque tickets that fans can buy and get access to more than just the show. Common benefits of the Experience are to get access to sound checks, the tourbus, signed memorabilia, early entry, etc.
Of course, you’ll make sure the cost of this is higher than a standard ticket!
#11 Online Concerts
Fans tend to be spread around, and touring is expensive. Why not then take advantage of internet streaming and do an online concert?
With sites like Concert Window, you can do just that and easily!
Fans will also love it as with Concert Window they can pay what they want for a ticket and also tip you as artists; this is great for everyone!
#12 Get Hired
If you’re between gigs and need some extra cash, then you can use your knowledge and skills to earn more money with sites like SoundBetter.
This site allows you to find work as a sound engineer, producer or session musician.
If you love making music, and making some extra cash from time to time, you could consider adding tracks and soundbites to sites like AudioJungle.
AudioJungle is a marketplace where anybody can buy sound effects, tracks, etc. for you on websites, and other products.
The upside is that you don’t need to do any marketing; you just add your content and see what happens. The downside is that AudioJungle takes a commission from the sales price´.
As with selling CD’s and vinyls, selling merchandise is also a great way to cash in. You can sell the typical t-shirts, stickers, buttons and posters. You could also sell digital merchandise such as PDF e-books about your or your band, videos and more.
#15 Music Teacher
There’s always someone who wants to play what you know how to play, and here lies the money kaing opportunity: teach them!
You could do this face to face and charge an hourly rate, or you could create courses and e-books and sell those.
#16 Weddings and Parties
Finally, one more old school way of making cash as a musician. Playing weddings, birthday parties and so on might seem like a step backwards, but when you have rent to pay, this sort of gig pays well.
Usually the best way to find jobs like these is via word of mouth, but advertising in Craiglist or spreading the word of your availability via Facebook is also a great way to find work.
The Bottom Line
Until you make it big, bills still need to be paid, and there’s no reason why you should be sweating in a kitchen or delivering pizzas to do so.
Instead, take one or more of these tips and start making money with music!