Making money from music will constantly be on your mind as a modern musician. This isn’t meant to be a road map to major-label deals, glistening limos, and rivers of champagne (though there’s nothing wrong with shooting for the stars). It’s all about finding ways for professional musicians to keep afloat while also remaining creative, allowing you to pursue your love while also earning the bills.
If you ask your BandLab peers, they would tell you that musicians work very hard for their money. According to a poll, the median wage for a musician in the United States was under $25,000 in 2018, while the average musician in the United Kingdom earned £23,059 (compared to the UK average of £29,832) in the same year.
However, this does not imply that you should accept a life of low-paying jobs. The experts believe that diversifying your income as a musician is the greatest way to make money in today’s industry.
a prosperous portfolio career by incorporating all sources of income.
We’re all about building connections, offering advice, and helping each other move forward at BandLab, the world’s most popular social music community. But, to get you started, here’s a rundown of 14 of the most profitable methods to make money with your music.
Read more: Sync licensing: How to Get Your Music Licensed for Films, TV Shows, Games, and Advertisements
1. Make your merchandise more varied.
The merch table can be a musician’s greatest friend, with transactions increasing 9.4% year over year and totaling $3.1 billion worldwide in 2016. However, to acquire a piece of the pie, you’ll need to merchandise more effectively and stand out among the sea of black t-shirts.
Consider eccentric, personalized, and limited-edition items.
R&B performer from Canada The Weeknd, for example, offers anything from a bobblehead keychain to a gilded ashtray, while UK rockers Massive Wagons and These Wicked Rivers kept the cash flow flowing.
Curry powder and teabags using the band’s logo during the epidemic Offer merchandise at all price points, from vinyl to bottle openers, and make sure your band’s logo and website are displayed for free publicity.
For the time being, Covid-19 may have put an end to face-to-face sales, but don’t give up: develop a dedicated merch page on your website and use social media to direct followers there.
2. Receive royalties from sync licensing
With significant upfront sync fees and recurring royalties, hearing your music in movies, TV shows, video games, and advertisements isn’t just an unmatched buzz; it’s also a true money-spinner.
It may seem impossible to match Pharrell Williams’ Happy’s multiplatform popularity, but you don’t have to be a global superstar to write atmospheric stuff that will capture the attention of a sync agent or music supervisor. On BandLab, we recently published an in-depth sync licensing function.
3. Agree on compensation for live performances.
The live circuit may have been shuttered by Covid-19, but it is still the lifeblood of a modern musician’s livelihood. It’s crucial not to undersell oneself. Calculate how much you’ll need to make a living.
Be lucrative (considering everything from gas to insurance) and bargain respectfully with the booker, demonstrating your live fanbase and social following, as well as industry testimonials and an up-to-date EPK.
Walk away from a venue that says “pay to play.” The most important thing is to follow in the footsteps of US metallers Killswitch Engage, who have played 148 performances this year and are the hardest-working band in the world.
4. Increase your fan base by using music streaming.
Since the outbreak, musicians’ streaming fees have been scrutinized, with initiatives like Fix Streaming Now calling for a larger share of the major platforms’ income.
Unless you have a global success, streaming alone is unlikely to keep you afloat – but don’t overlook the benefits of casual listeners tasting your music for free, becoming enthusiasts, and then actively seeking out paid-for items such as performances and souvenirs. You simply cannot afford to be absent.
5. Make direct sales to the followers of your songs.
BandLab, for example, allows you to make money from your music while maintaining complete control over your content as an artist or independent label.
For example, take BandLab’s Albums feature: it’s free to upload an Album, LP, EP, Mixtape, or Single to BandLab, and you can then charge however you like. BandLab does not deduct any fees from your revenue.
6. Crowdfunding is a viable option for funding an album.
Inviting fans to fund your album can be a clever approach to sidestep the traditional industry for everyone from first-timers to legends like The Libertines and Public Enemy.
But there’s a lot that can go wrong when it comes to crowdfunding. First and foremost, do your math, estimating estimated expenditures that include everything from gear to the 5% cut that sites like Kickstarter take.
To stand out, you’ll need a compelling pitch with a unique slant, as well as a clever promotion strategy that includes one-offs like online guitar lessons or a guerrilla performance at a fan’s home. With a shareable video, you’ll have a much better chance of success.
Take images, and when it comes to marketing, work hard and fast, intending to complete the campaign in a month.
7. Work for a royalty company in the music industry.
There are more royalties out there for musicians with portfolio professions than you may think, ranging from mechanical and sync to public performance.
Because you can’t collect royalties directly – and wouldn’t have time to do so anyway – it’s critical to join the appropriate music royalties organizations.
These organizations collect royalties on your behalf and remit the funds to you. In the United States, that implies ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC (by invitation only).
It’s PRS, MCPS, and PPL in the United Kingdom. Don’t be put off by the one-time joining fee; if you’re serious about pursuing a career in music, it will pay for itself many times over.
8. Putting on a street show can help you promote your brand.
It sufficed as a substitute for a pre-fame Street performance is a great impromptu money-maker – not to mention an invaluable apprenticeship in handling a rowdy crowd – for Ed Sheeran and Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela, and street performance is a great impromptu money-maker – not to mention an invaluable apprenticeship in handling a rowdy crowd – for Ed Sheeran and Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela.
Make sure you have all of your papers together (in the UK, the minimum age is 14, and you’ll almost always need a permit from the local council as well as a PRS license).
Find a solid pitch, be respectful of local shops, and carry your merchandise with you to increase your day’s sales.
9. Teaching allows you to diversify your sources of income.
Many professional musicians combine their artistic endeavors with instruction for a variety of reasons. It’s simple to accommodate daytime classes around evening responsibilities, and they can provide a consistent income stream in difficult times, with a decent hourly rate of $39/£30.
If you choose this path, keep in mind that investing in a high-quality webcam can save you time and money.
By providing courses via Skype or Zoom, you can save money on transportation.
10. Obtain Sponsorship
Companies are always eager to link their brand with the next great thing, and if you fit the description, you’ll get paid handsomely — just look at Stormzy’s latest partnership with Adidas. Sponsorship agreements, on the other hand, are a two-way street.
Any brand will be incredibly choosy, requiring you to demonstrate that you’re a unique potential with unstoppable momentum. Similarly, you must be judicious in who you contact for sponsorship: if you become associated with an awful corporate bloodsucker whose name is mud on the music scene, it will harm you in the long term.
11. Make a concerted effort to secure session work.
Since the golden age of LA’s Wrecking Crew, home recording has decreased the session world, but there’s still money to be made for the greatest performers – the MU estimates that a three-hour session should fetch at least $172/£130. If you haven’t already, do so now.
If you don’t yet have a reputation, attend industry events and jam nights in your city to get your name in front of every promoter, booker, studio boss, and venue manager.
Remember that virtuosity is nice, but if you can play any genre, nail any session, and never make a mistake, your phone will ring more.
12. Work as a member of a party band to make money.
Working as a band for hire may not have the same clout as a club engagement, but it can fill in the gaps in your schedule and provide consistent year-round income as the festival season winds down.
At events like weddings, the MU gig rate proposes charging $222/£170 for a four-hour set (plus $82/£63 per hour for overtime), but remember that you may (and should) charge more for corporate jobs. The secret to getting repeat engagements is to be on time, professional, well-rehearsed, and capable of nailing both old and new songs.
Hits without the use of analog instruments.
13. Work as a MI Trade Show Demonstrator and earn money.
Not until the world returns to normal, but once the trade shows resume, if you’re good with the public, a solid performer, and familiar with the guts and bolts of music equipment, the trade show circuit might provide a useful source of money.
Whether it’s at the NAMM show in California or the yearly Musik Messe in Frankfurt, MI companies are always searching for musicians to display their latest equipment. Start by looking for artist relations contacts at your favorite gear companies on LinkedIn, then send them a message explaining your pitch and credentials and see where it takes you.
14. Submit a funding application
No artist wants to live on handouts, but in these trying circumstances, it’s not a bad idea to apply for grants and hardship monies — they’re there for a reason.
Look for changes from New Music USA, The Alice M. Ditson Fund, and The Foundation For Contemporary Arts in the United States, while UK musicians can use Help Musicians’ helpful Funding Wizard and the MU’s Funding Advice.
That’s all there is to it. Making money from music isn’t simple, but the 13 paths we’ve identified will give you a fighting chance, so try them all and keep grinding away – because once you’ve mastered one of these ways, there’s a good chance you’ll find success with others.