How to Make Money in the Music Industry: 19 Ways for Musicians & Artists
It can be hard to make money in the music industry when you’re starting out. But believe it or not, there are more ways to make money in the music industry than simply through ticket sales and soon you could see the cash starting to roll in.
Expand your horizons as a musician and look at different ways to perform your music and get your artist name out into the public domain. Whether it’s busking, teaching or streaming your music, there are a whole host of things you can do to make more money as a musician.
There is a mix of traditional and modern income streams available for you to explore. From songwriting to crowdfunding, here are 19 of the best ways musicians can make more money.
How to make money in the music industry
You need to create, release and promote your music to make money, as well as treating your career like a business. If you can balance the business and creative side of music then you have a better chance of making money in the music industry.
- Sell tickets
- Make music merchandise
- Create a YouTube channel
- Earn public performance royalties
- Get radio airplay
- Earn publishing royalties
- Write songs
- Release your music to streaming services
- Sell vinyl copies of your music
- Get sponsorship and endorsement deals
Ways to make money in the music industry
#1 Sell Tickets
Ticket sales are now one of the most important ways for artists to make money. Ticket prices in the music industry keep increasing with the demand from fans and can make up the bulk of a musician’s income.
#2 Make music merchandise
Your hardcore fans will be keen to pick up your t-shirts, keyrings and hoodies so make sure you’ve got a good supply. Put your stall in the line of vision at your gigs and make sure there is a price list for your fans to see. Don’t underestimate the power of merchandise. If you put some effort in your fans will appreciate it and you will start to reap the benefits.
#3 Create a YouTube channel
If you’ve not done this already then sign yourself up! YouTube has been a platform for so many emerging artists over the years. You can earn royalties whenever your videos are played. As well as making money, it’s also a great way to get discovered, as Justin Bieber has proven, being one of the biggest and most popular artists in the world.
You are entitled to ad revenue generated from any video on YouTube that contains your music, and Youtube has a Creators Academy to guide you through the process of monetising your music.
How to create a YouTube channel
YouTube is becoming more and more popular with millions of people of all ages watching its content. For musicians, it can be a great way to start your music career as artists such as Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepson have shown. It’s one of the more popular methods you can use if you want to know how to make money as a musician.
Firstly, plan your content and make sure that you keep it interesting and engaging. The more people that can relate to it, the more fans you are likely to make and the higher the chances they will want to watch to the end and then find out more.
Make sure for any videos that you want to record, you have the right equipment to produce good, high–quality videos. It sounds obvious, but you want to ensure you captivate your audience and there’s nothing worse than a poorly recorded video.
#4 Earn Public performance royalties
You may or may not realise that when you are performing original material, or have your songs played in public, you can earn royalties from live performances. It could be a performance at a bar, restaurant or a club. Either way, Performance Rights Societies (PRSs) will pay royalties from those live performances.
A PRS collects the royalties you are owed whenever your music is played in public and you hold the copyright, which can really help you out as a musician and it is definitely worth joining. Find out more here:
#4 Get radio airplay
Local radio stations and services such as BBC Introducing could be a great way to kick start your career. If your music gets picked up, it could catapult you to success and you will get royalties every time it’s played on the radio. Even if it’s only a couple of times, it will still help to raise your profile as an artist.
Do artists get paid every time their song is played on the radio?
Often, artists try so hard to get their song played on the radio, that they forget to take the necessary steps to ensure they get the royalties they deserve. It can be an excellent way to support your music career, especially when you are just getting started in the industry.
You need to sign up to two organisations: The Performing Rights Society (PRS for music), which collects royalties for songwriters, composers and publishers, and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) which collects royalties for performers and record labels.
Both of these organisations will dish this money out to you in various instalments.
The amount of money the radio stations pay per play will change each year according to the individual station’s listenership, which varies year by year.
You also need to ensure that your track has the International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) from the PPL for the tracks you intend to send to radio stations as these allow radio stations to identify you as the owner of the track.
Make sure these are encoded on your CD and MP3 tracks. Then, register the tracks with the PRS and the PPL. It’s all part of an important step to ensure you don’t miss out on radio royalties.
#6 Earn Publishing royalties
Whether your music gets played on television or film or in an advert, you can earn royalties from it. You just need to be signed up to a performing rights organisation in order to collect royalties on your music.
#7 Write songs
Songwriting is one of those skills that is very useful to have if you’re a singer but not always necessary to make it big, so people who are great at both are in big demand. There are many superstars who started their career writing for other people before they went on to become singers themselves. Prime examples are Lady Gaga, Kesha and Charlie Puth. It’s a fantastic way to earn extra money and to make your name in the music industry.
#8 Release your music to streaming services
Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play are all brilliant streaming services and they are another great way to ensure your track is getting as much exposure as possible. It also means that you can release your different versions out to different platforms and will be a great way to get your brand out in the public domain.
How do music artists make money from streaming?
Some artists don’t like streaming services because they feel it pays too little. But for those of you just starting out in the music industry, it’s a really good way to bring in some money and to get your name out there. Streaming is a very popular service amongst music fans so why not embrace its popularity?
The best way to make money from streaming services is simply to make your fans aware of its presence. Whether it’s through Spotify, Apple Music or Google Play, direct your fans to it through your website and via social media. Once they know it’s there, you’re likely to get a lot more interest.
You can also look at advertising on Spotify or Facebook so that more fans know your music is available and waiting to be listened to.
Spotify is a great streaming service for both artists and music lovers because it’s available either free or to upgrade with paid subscriptions. Although they typically take around 30% of revenue, Spotify then distributes the remaining 70% as royalties to the publishers, who then pay artists according to their agreements.
How can musicians make money?
#9 Sell vinyl copies of your music
The sales of vinyl records have soared in recent years. According to Forbes, “Music industry watchers know that vinyl records have been enjoying a resurgence since their near-death in the mid-2000s, and the market continues to grow.”
If you’re playing live shows, arrange to have some copies at your merchandise store, alongside CDs.
It can be a good little earner.
#10 Get sponsorship and endorsement deals
If you have already built up a fanbase, some companies might be willing to sponsor you to help them reach those fans. This is a really good money maker and something you should be very aware of as you progress in your career. It could be cash, free products and services, or gear such as clothing for you to wear and advertise on behalf of the company.
#11 Record a cover song
Some artists are more famous for their covers than for their original songs. As long as you get the right licence to do it, a cover could end up being your biggest hit. Look at ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ by King Harvest, famously covered by Toploader to become a global hit. Make sure you put your own unique spin on it so the audience feels like it’s your own song.
#12 Busk at cafes, clubs and shopping centres
Busking isn’t for everyone, but it can be an excellent way to start your career. Businesses enjoy having musicians performing because it helps to set the mood for their customers and it could help to create a new audience for you.
Keep in mind that you are likely to make more money busking in the summer months when the weather is better and kids are off school — people are more generous when the sun is shining as they are more likely to be in a good mood.
It’s a good idea to do some research into local regulations before you get started, but other than that, busking is a great, and often profitable, introduction to live performance.
#13 Write for a website
If you have experience in a certain area of the music industry and can write well, consider writing guests blogs and content for websites.
Websites such as Upwork and Freelancer offer platforms for freelance writers to find writing work and are free to sign up. You can agree with your price in advance, and you just pay a percentage fee for using their service.
Also, consider creating your own website if you want to showcase your music. It’s a great way to advertise your upcoming gigs or sell some albums. Make sure it features some of your videos and keep uploading content on a regular basis. Who knows, you might find yourself writing for sites like Pitchfork!
#14 Play at bars and clubs
Bars and nightclubs can be another great way to boost your earnings. It’s another way to find new fans and a whole new audience. Monday or Tuesday nights are a good way to start as they are often quieter and easier to find spaces. Then, once you’ve proven yourself as a performer, you could be asked to come back and sing on one of the busier, more popular evenings. In the long run, they will help you to become a more recognised and successful artist in the long run.
#15 Host an Open Mic Night
Hosting an open mic can be a great way to generate a source of income.
The host decides the structure of the night, such as who plays when and how long each set is. You can make arrangements with the business owner for a cut of the bar profits or an hourly rate.
Before you approach any venues though, read our article on how to host an open mic night to see what skills, equipment and experience you need to have and how to promote and run an event.
#16 Sell off old instruments
If you’ve recently bought new instruments, consider selling off your old ones to make a profit and put towards your career.
Check out dedicated sites for musicians gear like Reverb or list it in a Facebook group or put it on eBay.
#17 Enter Singing Competitions
As well as entering singing contests, competitions for songwriting should not be underestimated. Many competitions hand out cash, prizes and give recognition and there are different categories available for entry.
This has become a great way for musicians to make money in recent years as crowdfunding platforms surged. A crowdfunding campaign can help you raise enough money to offset the cost of producing and marketing your album. Musicians ask for their fans to chip in if they are unable to fund their concerts on their own.
If you play an instrument or if you’re a singer, teaching is a great way to inspire and motivate others as well as bringing in a bit of extra money. Did you know that in London an hour-long piano lesson could make you around £35?
You’ll need to have received at least a grade C in your GCSE maths and English exams and earned a degree in a relevant subject in addition to gaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) if you’d like to teach in a school as a music teacher.
If you want to give private lessons in singing, you don’t need any formal qualifications.
#20 Start a music event
Another one of the ways to make money in the music industry can be to start up your own event. If you like live music, then perhaps you look to starting up your own open mic event by approaching venues in your area.
If it’s electronic music you’re into, then contact local venues to see if you can start up your own club night or event. This is how many DJs start their careers.
How to crowdfund as a musician
Crowdfunding campaigns are a great way for musicians to raise money although they also require a lot of planning and preparation so make sure you make time for this. Through the use of your website and social media, fans are asked to contribute to the project.
Start by releasing an album. This is an effective way of releasing albums because it gives artists the opportunity to see if there is enough demand for their music before they decide to release it.
Artists set a campaign goal in relation to the amount of money that they need to record and manufacture the album and then campaign to their fans to pre-order the album. If enough fans do so, the project reaches its target and the artist records, manufactures and distributes the album within the pre-determined timeframe.
Set yourself clear goals and crowdfunding could be your route to success.
Have you got any other ideas about how musicians can make money? Share your comments and suggestions below on how to make money in the music industry.