18 Ways Musicians Can Make Money

18 Ways Musicians Can Make Money

One of the biggest challenges facing musicians is generating income. Gone are the days when a band could rely solely on music sales and touring to earn a living.

Part of the reality of being a working musician today is the need to diversify your revenue streams. Although sales of recorded music have gone down significantly in recent years, there are new sources of income available to musicians.

[Download our Free eBook: 23 Ways Musicians Can Make Money]

A mix of traditional and more modern income streams can help today’s musicians earn a living. Here’s a list of 18 ways to generate revenue for your music career:

18 Ways Musicians Can Make Money

1. CD Sales: If you’re going to be playing live shows, having CDs on hand is still a good idea. They make great takeaway souvenirs that can easily be signed by band members.

2. Vinyl Sales: Vinyl sales surged 30% in 2013. Again, if you’ll be playing live shows, printing a small batch to have at your merch table can help generate extra income.

3. Digital Sales: You should be selling digital music through your own website to make the most money, but also through online retailers. Keep in mind that online retailers take a percentage of sales (ex. iTunes takes 30%, Bandcamp takes 15%). Some digital distributors that place your music in stores like iTunes and Amazon will take a cut on top of that.

4. Streaming: Although per-stream payouts from streaming services tend to be small, they can add up over time. Keep in mind that these services also help new fans discover your music, and shouldn’t be seen solely as an income generator.

5. Live Shows: Money made from live shows can vary greatly, but it’s still one of the best ways to earn income. Not only can you make money from selling tickets, but it’s also one of the best ways to sell merch. Be sure to also read 14 Ways Musicians Can Make Money from Live Shows to make sure you’re getting the most out of your gigs.

6. Physical Merch: Income from physical merch can depend heavily on the amount of live shows you play. If you go out on tour, be sure that you have some t-shirts, as well as smaller items like buttons and stickers that you can sell to fans after the show. For tips on selling more merch, check out The Ultimate Guide to Selling Band Merch Online

7. Digital Merch: You can also sell digital merch items like PDFs, videos, and images to your fans. Things like lyric books, live concerts, sheet music, exclusive photos, artwork and more. Check out this post for ideas of digital items you can sell through your website: Using the new File Download feature: 20 Items you can now sell

8. Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding can be a great way to generate income for your music career. A well-executed crowdfunding campaign can help you raise enough money to offset the cost of producing and marketing your album. For tips on crowdfunding, check out: Successful Crowdfunding: A Musician’s Experience of Kickstarter vs. PledgeMusic vs. DIY

9. Publishing Royalties: You should be signed up to a performing rights organization so you can collect royalties on your music. This includes public performance royalties (radio, TV, live venues), mechanical royalties (sales through retailers, streaming, etc.), and sync royalties (commercials, film, TV).

10. Digital Royalties: Whenever your music is played on services like SiriusXM radio, Pandora, and webcasters, they must pay royalties. Sign up for a free SoundExchange account to make sure you’re collecting those royalties.

11. Live Performance Royalties: When performing original material, you can earn royalties from live performances. Whether you perform at a bar, restaurant, club, or other music venue, Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) will pay royalties from those live performances.

12. Licensing: If you get your song placed in a film, commercial, or TV show, chances are they’re going to pay you a licensing fee. These fees vary greatly, depending on the budget for the project, and how badly they want your particular song.

13. YouTube: On YouTube, whenever your music is used in videos that are running ads, YouTube pays a portion of that advertising money to the rights holders of the song. Digital distributors like TuneCore and CD Baby can help you collect that money, as well as Audiam. Be sure to read our post How to make money from your music on YouTube to help develop your YouTube monetization strategy.

14. Sponsorships: If you’ve built up a fan base, some companies are willing to sponsor musicians to reach those fans. Sponsorships can range from cash, to free products, services, and gear. Read this excellent post from Dave Huffman about sponsorships: Musicians: How to Get Sponsored

15. Session Work: Another way to make some extra money is to put yourself out there as a session musician. As a singer or instrumentalist, you could do session work for other musical projects, or even in advertising.

16. Songwriting/Composing: If you’re a songwriter, you could write songs for other musicians, or compose music specifically for film and television.

17. Cover Gigs: Playing cover gigs at bars, restaurants, weddings, and other private events is frowned upon by some musicians. But those shows can pay really well, and allow you to get paid to play your instrument. There’s no shame in that. And if you’re looking to book gigs at parties or private/corporate events, definitely check out GigSalad.

18. Music Lessons: Many musicians teach their instrument to others to help generate revenue towards their own career. This can be a nice way to supplement your income, and allows you to hone your craft at the same time. If you’re looking to give music lessons, check out 10 Ways to Make More Money Selling Music Lessons on Your Website


As a Musician, How Do I Get an Endorsement Deal? (Questions from SXSW, Pt. 1)

Endorsement Deals for Independent Artists

HELPFULAW FOR THE INDIE ARTIST is a legal advice column on matters pertaining to the music industry.  If you have a suggestion for a future article that you would like to submit to our columnist, entertainment attorney and indie artist Christiane Cargill Kinney, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below or send them to her at Christiane.Kinney@leclairryan.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @musicalredhead for more helpful indie-artist tips.

I had the honor of being a mentor at SXSW this year, and it was a wonderful experience.  Mentoring at SX is a lot like speed-dating; six people block 10 minutes of your time to pick your brain as an industry expert.  The range of people and questions I got during those 60 minutes varied a lot, and few were directly related to legal issues.  Still, there were certain questions that came up multiple times, so I thought it would be worthwhile to break form this month and share my 10 minutes worth of advice on these hot topics with the #indierevolution.  (And also to brag that I got to go to SXSW).

Here is part 1 in this 3-part series…

How Do I Go About Seeking An Endorsement Deal (or, as Jaded Fans Call It,Selling Out)?

The most common question I was asked was how artists should pursue endorsement opportunities. My specific advice on how to seek endorsement deals will vary depending on the genre and style of music, the look and feel of the artist, audience demographic, and where and how frequently the artist performs live.  However, there are some general pieces of advice that work across the board.

1. Search for brands that support music.

Google is your best friend (not the brand; the search engine).  Search for brands that support and align themselves with other DIY artists.  When you attend music conferences, look at the brands supporting those conferences. Get an overall idea of the brands who are most receptive to the conversation.

2. Know what you bring to the table.

The main (and perhaps only) question a company/brand wants to know is what you can do for them.  Put yourself in the company’s shoes. Speak their language. Walk in with a pie chart of your fan base by demographic and geographic location with your annual touring, merch and music sales numbers to show them how sponsoring you can equal major dollars in their pocket and you will blow their mind.  Of course, you don’t have to go in with pie charts, but have answers to the questions they will ask you, so you can put them at ease that their marketing dollars are being well spent to expand their brand to a larger audience – your fans.  Most importantly, be honest about it; just like a girl who pads her bra, if you start padding the numbers, you’re sure to get caught just as you’re about to seal the deal.

3. Look for a good fit. 

This is where genre, style, and message come into play.  Find a cool company that matches your band’s vibe.  Look at what these companies are already doing to sell their product, and see if you match their pre-existing formula.  If not, perhaps you have a pitch outside of their existing formula that might improve their sales.  Then find someone in the marketing department and see if you can make a love connection.

Legal Issues Related to Endorsement Deals

These deals are relatively straight forward, but make sure the terms are clearly defined so you can uphold your end of the bargain. As Samuel Goldwyn once said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on.”  Most companies will spell out certain restrictions on how, when, and where you are to use their company name and logo, when to display company banners, etc.  They will put it in writing to protect themselves, so make sure you read and follow their terms to keep your sponsors happy!

If you have a certain number of shows and appearances you must make on behalf of the company each year, make sure you don’t overextend your time where it’s not feasible to fulfill your part of the agreement.

Also, when exploring multiple sponsorship deals, you need to make sure they aren’t going to compete or conflict.  Generally, you can only have one endorsement deal for each type of product, e.g., one beverage, one clothing line, one instrument, etc.  Remember, you only have so much space to showcase your sponsors, so don’t end up like an old biker with too many ex-girlfriend’s names tattooed up his arm.

So, here’s the quick recap:

  • When exploring endorsement deals, look for a company that is in alignment with what you do, then look for opportunities for synergy.  Review the terms of the agreement so you know when and how you are to use their brand name and logo, and make sure you can easily fulfill your end of the deal without becoming overextended.  As a general rule, you can’t take on sponsorship deals from companies offering competing products, so don’t expect to get free gear from 10 different guitar manufacturers; it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the quick quick recap:

Find a similar company, & be clear on your contract.

Here’s the quick quick quick recap (yep, this is called beating a dead horse):

Clear contract, be smart, and get sound advice.

Wow; when you sum it all up, that’s my exact same advice for hiring circus performers.

And now, here’s some not so quick fine print.

© 2013 Christiane Cargill Kinney.  All rights reserved.  This Blog contains information of a general nature that is not intended to be legal advice and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice.  Any reader of this Blog who has legal matters involving information addressed in this Blog should consult with an experienced entertainment attorney.  This Blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this Blog. This Blog contains no warranties or representations that the information contained herein is true or accurate in all respects or that it is the most current or complete information on the subject matter covered. Do you need a quick quick quick quick recap?  Oops, ran out of room, so sorry.  Christiane Cargill Kinney is a Partner and Chair of the Entertainment Industry Team of LeClairRyan, LLP.

How Artists Must Dress

Artists must first of all distinguish themselves from members of the adjacent professional classes typically present at art world events: dealers, critics, curators, and caterers. They must second of all take care not to look like artists. This double negation founds the generative logic of artists’ fashion.

The relationship between an artist’s work and attire should not take the form of a direct visual analogy. A stripe painter may not wear stripes.

The relationship between an artist’s work and attire should function in the manner of a dialectic, in which the discrepancy between the personal appearance of the artist and the appearance of her work is resolved into a higher conceptual unity. An artist’s attire should open her work to a wider range of interpretive possibilities.

The artist’s sartorial choices are subject to the same hermeneutic operations as are his work. When dressing, an artist should imagine a five-paragraph review of his clothes—the attitudes and intentions they reveal, their topicality, their relationship to history, the extent to which they challenge or endorse, subvert or affirm dominant forms of fashion—written by a critic he detests.

Communicating an attitude of complete indifference to one’s personal appearance is only achievable through a process of self-reflexive critique bordering on the obsessive. Artists who are in reality oblivious to how they dress never achieve this effect.

Whereas a dealer must signal, in wardrobe, a sympathy to the tastes and tendencies of the collector class, an artist is under no obligation to endorse these. Rather, the task of the artist with regard to fashion is to interrogate the relationship between cost and value as it pertains to clothing, and, by analogy, to artworks.

An artist compensates for a limited wardrobe budget by making creative and entertaining clothing choices, much in the way that a dog compensates for a lack of speech through vigorous barking.

Artists are not only permitted but are in fact required to be underdressed at formal institutional functions. But egregious slovenliness without regard to context is a childish ploy, easily seen through.

An artist may dress like a member of the proletariat, but shouldn’t imagine he’s fooling anyone.

The affluent artist may make a gesture of class solidarity by dressing poorly. She is advised to keep in mind that, at an art opening, the best way to spot an heiress is to look for a destitute schizophrenic. Middle-class or working-class artists, the destitute, and the schizophrenic can use this principle to their social advantage.

The extension of fashion into the violation of norms of personal hygiene and basic grooming constitutes the final arena for radicalism in artists’ fashion. Brave, fragrant souls! You will be admired from a distance.