How to Make Money in Music

This article is part of our FAQ series, published on our blog. Click here to view the blog archives.

Question: How do I make money in music?

So many musicians, producers, and engineers want to make music their full time career.

Or, if they can’t quite do that, they at least want to get some extra spending money from their work.

This is an important question to answer!

In the interest of time, here’s a broad overview of potential ways to make money in music.

The 7 Major Music Revenue Streams

In general I’d say there are there are seven huge “revenue streams”… but not all apply to every musician, producer, or engineer.

  1. Selling recording, mixing or mastering services.
  2. Selling beats (music production), songs (ghostwriting), or other items (loops, samples).
  3. Selling your music and merchandise to fans (either directly selling albums and t-shirts, downloads, iTunes, etc..).
  4. Collecting streaming or online ad revenue (Spotify and YouTube come to mind here).
  5. Licensing your own music for use in commercials and film.
  6. Playing gigs or getting paid as a session musician.
  7. Giving lessons.

If you’re wanting to make money in music, you first need to decide which of these revenue streams you’ll try to tap into (of course you can and SHOULD consider trying to tap into as many of them as you can).

Deciding On Revenue Streams to Pursue

Understand that making money in music takes time and effort.

If you’re hoping that one hit song is just going to make you rich… you’ll probably ended up disappointed.

The process of building a fan or client base (depending on what you’re trying to accomplish), and growing your brand, isn’t easy…

Especially if you have other things demanding your time (like a non-music 9 to 5 job).

Here are a few quick tips to help you decide what to pursue:

  • Determine what you could see yourself doing in music long term. Does selling beats interest you? Does recording and mixing music for others interest you? Do you just want to play gigs and sell records?
  • Determine what would give you the most momentum now. Maybe selling a bunch of albums isn’t possible because you haven’t finished recording one yet. Maybe then just trying to get some paying gigs (and using your recording/mixing skills for the demo) is the best move.
  • Go with what has the most reasonable startup costs. If you want to sell a bunch of albums and merchandise that’s great, but maybe start by trying to sell some downloads first before shelling out a bunch of money to print CDs.

The point here is, consider the path of least resistance. It will make momentum so much faster.

Five Steps To Take To Pursue Your Music Revenue Streams

Once you decide on what you are trying to pursue, here are surefire steps you should take no matter what you decide.

Step #1: Create a web site

It’s never been easier to do so. I’d recommend you try, Squarespace, or a similar service if you’re not the most tech savvy. Your web site should be the window to you, your music, your services.

Step #2: Get social.

If you don’t at least have a facebook or a twitter account, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

You should definitely try to set up a Soundcloud or Bandcamp profile if you haven’t done so already.

Step #3: Leverage other services that can help you.

There are all sorts of sites out there that can help you find customers and leverage your products or services.

  • If you’re trying to teach lessons, a place like Takelessons might be a good place to start.
  • If you’re selling beats online, here’s an article covering 20 places to do so.
  • If you’re selling your music, I’d recommend starting with bandcamp.
  • Craigslist isn’t perfect, but can absolutely help with many musical pursuits. Throw up a craiglist ad offering your mixing or mastering services. Search craiglist for paying gigs or session work.
  • Soundbetter is another great place to sign up to get freelance work for mixing or mastering.

There are many more great places to start… search them out!

Get out to shows and network.

No matter where you are, there is bound to be some kind of music scene in your location.

Find it. Go to shows, talk with other artists.

Talk with owners of the venue. This can be huge for:

  • Getting gigs (obviously), just talk to venue owners.
  • Getting recording, mixing, or mastering work… talk to bands and musicians. “Hey I like your sound, I actually mix music in my home studio…”
  • Finding new people to sell your songwriting or beats to.

Yes we live in an online age, but there’s no substitute for old-school, pound-the-pavement relationship building.

Get emailing.

You never know what can happen if you just reach out to someone!

  • Email venue owners to inquire about paying gigs.
  • Email rappers if you’ve got some beats to sell.

You can also start building your own email list once you set up a web site.

This can connect you with fans and potential customers.

Here’s a shortened url to an article talking about setting up and growing email lists:

Remember to Make Sure You Have Something Worth Selling

Before doing any of this you need to make sure you have plenty of work to show.

So record demos, offer mixing services for free and build up a portfolio, get a catalog of something like 50 beats for sale… If you try to get a gig with one poorly recorded song, or try to get a mixing client with 1 amature mix, you’re not going to get very far.

Making money in music isn’t easy, it’s a grind. But if you’re serious about it, then treat yourself like a business and build it!

Learn More

  • Scott H
  • September 29, 2017

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