How to make money with music?
Money and music. Making money with music.
As artists, we often think about that either as a dream or with some kind of disgust.
If you read this, I assume that you want to make money with music.
Who doesn’t want to make money doing something he/she loves!
But you may think that it is possible only if you are a professional musician with an established career.
There are many ways to make money with music. And you don’t need to wait to be a “professional” at all.
There are many ways to do it.
For example, if you offer you services as a musician on Fivver, you might even start to get some money this week. Not a lot, but still.
But there is a system to make money.Read here what is the right system to get money from your music.
But to start with, why should you even think about making money with music?
Why making money as a musician?
Maybe you think that you should do music just for pure Art.
But to share your music to the world, you need money.
Without people making money from music, you wouldn’t be able to listen to the music you love.
And money gives you power. Power to do more of what you love. Power to help more people.
And to buy more gear, produce higher quality music.
Money gives you more choices.
Why I started this blog for example? first because I believe that everyone should be able to make music, that music is for all.
But also because if I can earn some money out of it, I will be able to help more people (and myself) to make music.
And live a fulfilled life.
But there more than that.
When you make music for yourself in your bedroom or your basement, for your own pleasure, you don’t put the same effort to it.
If it is only for you, well, you may play around and do interesting things. But how many times you don’t really go further.
Then what happens, when you start to play or write with the aim of making money out of it? Knowing that people may pay for this?
I bet that you put in all your heart, all your energy to make something awesome, right?
Not really because there is money involved. In the end, money is not that important.
Because you know that you will share your music. And you want to share good stuff, not half-baked songs.
Also it creates an accountability. Even with yourself.
You start to make this real and it will push you to create more and better.
Imagine two sessions: one where you play for your own pleasure and one where you have the goal of making a new song to be released next week. Don’t you think you won’t have the same approach?
It will challenge you and therefore help you grow as a musician.
In the end, don’t forget that your music is an asset.
A valuable asset.
You bring value to the world.
Money is a way for the world to provide value back to you.
After all, when you have a job, you exchange your time and skills for money. Why not with the time and skills you put into creating music?
So, where to start? how to do this?
21 ways to make money with music
Here is a list of 21 ways of making money with music, starting with the more traditional ways up to more original solutions.
There is no other particular order.
This is… a list.
Pick what you resonate with and what you see yourself doing on a long run.
Because the key to success is consistency.
You will have to commit for some time, months and likely years to get results.
And you don’t want to build yourself a cage by doing something you are not comfortable with.
1. Sign with a record label
Let’s start with the most traditional way of making money with music. The one lots of musicians have dreamed of. And failed.
Because it is certainly the worst for a beginner.
Sure, it can make you become a super-star, because they have a strong network for distributing your music. And lots of money for marketing, getting you on stage, creating a full artist branding.
But it is very difficult to get a contract with these label. At least the majors. And it may be difficult to keep your artistic freedom.
I would not recommend chasing this as a goal.
If it happens, why not. It can be a very good opportunity.
If you read very carefully the contracts and are aware that you are only a way for them to make money. They don’t care about you. So don’t care about them either.
If you already use one of the other ways to make money with music presented here, you will be more likely to negotiate.
And more importantly keep control of what is happening with your career.
On the bright side, there are other more artist-friendly labels out there: independent (indie) record labels.
They can help you in your career without transforming you into a money-making machine.
You can learn more at IndieMusicAcademy, in particular in this article on the Pro and Cons of indie labels.
You can find a curated list of indie record labels here.
2. Distribute and sell your music independently
You can also forget about record labels and have more control of your music distribution and promotion.
But if you want to release your music on the major streaming platforms such as Spotify or Apple Music, you can’t do it yourself.
You have to find a distributor.
Basically, you pay them, either with a monthly subscription or with a fixed fee on your sales. And they make contact with the streaming platform to make your music available to the public.
The most known are Distrokid, AWAL, SongTrust, Audiam, CD Baby, Ditto Music, and TuneCore Publishing, OneRPM…
I don’t know them directly and I don’t have much recommendation for now, but be careful when you give any rights to a company.
For example, be aware that people have had problems with Distrokid:
As well as Ditto or CDBaby.
But as always, it might work perfectly for you and you will never have to complain.
From what I have seen around, AWAL seem to be the favorite at the time I write this article.
OneRPM is also a recommended one, watch this for example:
Alternatively, you can go for a more personalized option.
For example on other platforms such as Bandcamp which has the great advantage of being well known and with ready-to-go services.
Soundcloud is another popular option.
In the end, it seems to me that a winning combination could be AWAL to be distributed widely without exclusivity contracts. And Bandcamp for a more personalized experience and to build up a fan base.
I will give them a try and I will let you know.
3. Create a website to promote your music and sell it
You can have even more control on the distribution and sells of your music.
By creating and running your own website.
But you will have some hard work to do to bring traffic to it.
I can tell you as the creator of this website that it is quite some work.
And if you are able to read those words now, it is not only because I typed of a few words and voilà. There is quite some tough work behind this, for months.
The good thing is that you have a total control with your content.
You have your own online property and your own precious email-list of fans.
If you like having control over what is happening it can be a good thing to do.
Even if you distribute your music by other means, I think it is worth having your own website than to rely only on some third-party service.
If you want to know how to do this, learn how to build your tribe here.
Probably the most important action you can take to grow your music business.
4. Playing live
The most important thing you probably want to do is to play live in front of an audience.
It is the main activity most musicians are willing to do.
And you can earn some money from it. Not a lot or not at all at the beginning, but when you will be more famous, it will start to pay off.
You can even start early if you focus on more specific gigs, such as weddings or corporate events.
Maybe not the most exciting gigs, but hey, you will get some money out of it.
And practice never hurts, right?
See it has a paid rehearsal 😉
As you probably noticed in every concert you went, or almost, you can buy T-shirts, CD or other stuff.
This is called merchandising and it might be the only way to get some money from your live performance.
But more than that, it helps build up your precious fan base.
They will keep the memory of your concert and will be more likely to spend money on you later on.
It is a psychological trick, well known by marketers. Once you have bought something from someone, you are more likely to buy again from the same person/company.
Because you have some trust on them.
The same here.
If people trust you enough to spend once some money on you, guess what, they will likely do this again. (See here how to do this in more details)
Of course, if you have a website, don’t forget to put a shopping area to sell online your stuff.
Your fans and your wallet will both be happy!
And how cool is it to see people with a T-Shirt of your band or your EP?
You can earn some money by playing in the streets (busking).
You have certainly seen many other musicians do this.
It can be a good way to make some money and even make a few new fans.
Like a mini-concert with low expenses (apart from a bit of equipment) and direct pay-back.
But there are rules here.
Not every town and every place allow playing in the street for money (or even for nothing).
I am not responsible if you get arrested or if you end up in a fight because you took the favorite place of another busker!
Life is a fight I agree, but be smart and avoid fighting for nothing!
Also, be aware that you won’t have the perfect sound you spend nights after nights to fine-tune.
It will be noisy and the amp will probably not reproduce the same frequencies as your studio monitors or headphones.
A small tip here: test your music on the final equipment and adjust the EQ or the mix to have something correct.
7. Gigs as session musician in a studio or a freelancer
The idea is that you are hired by someone or a company to create some music or play a part on an instrument.
Like a play on demand service. And a direct way to make money with music.
This is often belittled by musicians because it might be less creative, but it has some interesting advantages.
First, you get paid quickly.
Second, you get do this from home.
Third, you practice and learn new things.
Fourth, you build up your musical network.
There are session musicians who became famous, such as Chet Atkins, because they were good, and they worked with many other great musicians.
And the word of mouth works well.
See this list here of famous session musicians for example.
You can do a full musical career this way.
And nothings forbid you to do your own music at the same time.
How to do this?
The easiest way is to register as a freelancer on a platform like Fivver.
Easy and quick.
Find out more information here for example.
8. Participate to contest/awards
There are many types of contests and awards you can compete for as a musician.
They can be local, national or international.
They can be general or very specific. Such as the Ibanez flying fingers which were (it seems to be halt now) focused on guitar shredders.
Find out giveaways organized by established musicians or YouTube channels where you can get money or gear.
There is no point to list them here because they usually have a short deadline and change all the time.
You will also find more evergreen websites, such as UnsignedOnly.
Keep an eye around you and don’t be shy, try it. You have nothing to lose.
Even if you don’t win a prize, you will have made some progress on your instrument or performance skills. Always good, right?
9. Transcribe music
This one is for the most patient and educated in music theory.
You can get paid to write down on music sheet what you hear.
Honestly, if you know how to do this, I could very well pay you some day to transcribe my own music.
I am soo bad at this. I totally suck. The drawback of playing mostly by ear.
Even if you don’t know now, you can learn and become good at it if you like that.
And get paid.
10. Teach your instruments or other musical skills
This is a quite common way to make money with music.
But I know what you think.
You are not expert enough to teach.
Think of all the different skills you use when you create your music.
You are probably playing an instrument.
Why not teaching others how to play it? And you don’t need to be a virtuoso to do this.
Think about someone getting in front of a piano for the first time. Or holding a guitar. There are many things to learn to get started and you know them already.
If you are only one step ahead, you can show other what to do to reach your own level.
And you know probably how to record, mix or master.
Many valuable skills.
Also, if you have a home-studio, you can teach how to make one and how to use the different equipment.
Think also about coaching.
It is quite common for singers to become voice coaches outside the musical world. But maybe it is another story here.
11. Help other musicians
Talking about others. You can make an extra step.
Instead of teaching, you can help other musicians to get gigs, to promote their music.
Be their manager in a way.
Even if you like to create websites, you can help them a lot by making an outstanding website for them.
Or manage their YouTube channel.
So many things to do.
Something like: “Let me help you keep focusing on your music. I will make you famous.”
Well, maybe less ambitious but you get the point.
Quite exciting I think.
12. Create a YouTube channel
I am a massive user of this platform. And mostly for music.
I bet that you are too.
You already know that you can make money from YouTube. We all heard about very successful YouTubers making good money from it.
Guess what, you can also.
And even if you don’t make big earnings (because honestly, it is hard), it is a very efficient way to promote your music.
Or be discovered by a record label, like Justin Bieber or Ed Sheeran.
I wish you the same success!
To be more practical, here are the way you can make money from YouTube:
- Sell your music by linking to your distribution platform or website.
- Sell your merchandizes
- Get royalties if others use your music (which need to be registered first)
- Direct YouTube monetization by ads (if you meet the requirements)
- Promote products via affiliate marketing
- Membership for recurrent income, using Patreon for example
In addition, YouTube is a great way to get feedback from your audience and engage with fans.
13. Create a podcast
This a more recent trend and it seems that it could be more and more valuable to own a podcast channel.
You have to find content that people want to listen to and that is compatible with an audio-only format.
For example, check out this list of musical podcast to find inspiration.
The good news is that if you already have other contents, such as blog posts or videos, you may already have all you need to create a podcast.
Just record your voice or extract the audio from your video and voilà!
14. Write about music
If you also like to write, you can combine both passions and write about music.
You can contribute to magazines, to blogs or even write a book
You can write about any topic, from instrumental technique to musical creativity or how to set up all the equipment for a live performance. Many topics can be covered.
Of course, you have to write about something people want to read.
And usually, people want to find a solution to a problem they have.
For example, they have difficulties to get a “thick” sound when they record guitars. If you know how to do this, you can write about that and get some money.
There is a lot to say about this and this is a topic that I like since I am practicing myself obviously!
Indeed, one way to make money by writing about music is to create a blog like I did.
Yep, blogging is a business, not just a kind of personal journal where you talk about your day (who cares!).
You are reading a blog that is there to help you to become a musician. And which helps me make some money (well it will hopefully one day, I am just starting!).
Well, because it is simply the best resource to learn how to build an online business. I spent months and months searching for and trying other (well-known) resources.
And this is the ONE.
If you don’t trust me, you can read the free guide and see by yourself.
Or you can lose time and money by going elsewhere. Like I did.
I could write more about this, much more but let’s keep focused on music for now.
Unless you ask me to. Then I can write a whole article on this. Or several. Your choice 😉
15. Make music for movies
Movies are an important part of our cultures.
They entertain us, make us reflect on a topic, feel emotions.
But whatever the quality of images, the play of the actors, the intensity of the story, if the music doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work.
Imagine that during a critical scene in a thriller movie you hear a joyful song instead of a tense, mysterious music?
I guess that the whole intensity of the scene would be just destroyed.
And you would be more likely to laugh than being afraid of what will happen!
Also, some movies have a particularly good original soundtrack. Which can be even more popular than the movie itself.
So why not create music for movies?
And get paid for it of course!
Apart from money, it can be an interesting composition exercise also.
Check out this video by a master of the topic:
To get started, think about students in Art and film making. They are certainly in need of some music to go with their creations.
How to make money with this then?
One of the most efficient ways as always is networking. That’s why the more you do it on actual project, the more likely you will get noticed.
And get paid.
An easy way if you don’t have already the network is to use freelancer platforms or dedicated websites for royalty-free music.
I have no particular recommendation for now, but you can check Envato for example.
16. Make music for commercials on TV, radio
In a rather similar way as movies, commercials are part of our lives and even our culture.
Why not give it a try and see your music featured in the next TV commercial for a brand you like?
How cool is this?
How to do this?
Well the same way as for movies.
By networking, being on freelancer platforms, or getting your music on platforms distributing royalty-free music.
17. Make music for video games
Ah video games musics.
They are legendary for some of them. Such as the legend of Zelda or Super Mario.
Video games creators are always in need of good music for their games.
And it could be a cool collaboration if you like that.
It works likely more efficiently by networking.
But you can send a demo to a game editor. Take a clip of one of their creation and put your own music on it and send them.
Or you can offer these services on your website or through a platform such as bandcamp or Fivver.
Just for fun or to give you inspiration, here is compilation on the piano of the most famous video game musics:
18. Create and sell ringtones
Yep, it sounds like a thing of the past, but you can still sell ringtones.
It seems to be even quite trendy.
Which means that there are probably scams in the way, be careful.
You can also use one of the usual music distributors I mentioned above.
I haven’t tried myself, so treat this just as a few pointers to save you some time, not as actual recommendations.
19. Sell backing tracks
I love backing tracks.
It is a very efficient way to practice a song or to improvise.
But do you know that you can make money with music by selling backing tracks?
There are several websites where you may be able to sell them, such as Bandcamp.
Or you can always do it on your own website.
Also, you can propose this as a service as a freelancer on Fivver for example.
20. Create music for Yoga or meditation
If you ever took a yoga class, you probably listened to some background music to help you relax and focus on your exercises.
Guess what, you can make and sell music for this exact purpose.
That’s a nice way to make money while helping people to feel better.
21. Work for or create a rehearsal/recording studio
I kept this one for the end because it is a bit extreme, but it can be very interesting as well.
If you know your stuff about audio engineering or studio related work, you can work for a music studio.
And you can even create one if you have a dedicated space in your (big home) or if you can get money to invest in it.
It is a business in itself and I don’t have much knowledge of it, but I wanted to mention this option.
It has several benefits:
- you would have the perfect place to rehearse with our band or yourself
- you would have everything to produce high-quality recordings,
- you will meet and maybe produce other artists which can be very cool and a nice opportunity to build your network.
- you will have your own recording studio.
How cool is this?
OK, it is not for everyone. And not for me. But a pretty cool project for you maybe?
We have seen a good list of option when it comes to make money with music.
It might not be completely exhaustive, but you have the main solutions (and a few more exotic ones).
You can also use several ones of course.
In my case, I am just getting started and I will consider the following options:
– distribute my music,
– create a YouTube channel,
– have a dedicated website for promoting and selling my music,
– create a podcast on music creation,
– and of course, writing (you already know that!).
It might change over time, like having paid gigs, and I may not do all the things on my personal list. But this is my plan for now.
To understand further how to build a successful music business of any kind, learn here the right system to make money!