For most of us, being a working full-time musician is more of a dream than a reality. It can be hard to make enough money to support yourself without having to give away precious hours to a “real job”.
I’m not here to tell you that you can make music into a full-time gig right now. It doesn’t usually happen that fast. It took me about a year and a half, and I got lucky. It can take years, and that’s okay.
Where you live, your cost of living, your family situation, and even your genre of music can affect the amount of money you can earn, and how much you’ll need to make a living. It will vary from person to person, so don’t feel bad if it takes you longer than expected.
All that said, there’s no reason why your music career shouldn’t at least generate a side income that makes your life a little more comfortable. Many artists choose to reinvest all of their music related income into their careers, and others use it to free up more of their time for music.
How you use your music related income is the fun part – figuring out how to make money is less fun. We’re going to look at a few small, out of the box ways to monetize your music career. These little things add up!
1. Monetize Your YouTube Videos
It’s not necessarily a lot of money, but monetizing your YouTube videos is a great way to generate money on content you’ve already created. I am all about finding income streams that work without having to tend to them every day.
Monetizing your YouTube videos is easy and anyone can do it. Follow the steps provided by Google here.
My only recommendation is to remove ads on videos you are using for booking. If I’m sorting through live videos of bands wanting to play my venue, I don’t really want to sit through a 30 second ad to watch a band I may not even want to book.
Put ads on cover videos and older videos. If you’re trying to get people to watch a video, don’t monetize until later.
2. Sell Your CDs/Merch At Local Physical Retailers
Many local music stores will have a local section and will agree to carry your CDs and sometimes even your merch. Again, this is a great way to potentially generate income without having to do something every day. Just stop by every once and a while and pick up your cash.
Many bands have even started doing this on tour. Particularly if you’re selling vinyl, many stores are happy to carry a few copies.
3. Make Your Music Available For Synch Licensing
Most digital distribution websites will give you the option to add your music to a music library. This makes your music available to be used in movies, TV shows, commercials, and so on.
Most of the time, this won’t happen without someone actively pitching your songs to music directors. However, having your music in the music library can present you with opportunities.
At some point in your music career, you’ll probably have a manager or someone who wants to actively pitch your music to TV shows. This can be a great way for you to make money with very little effort on your part.
4. Enter Contests – No, Seriously!
I know it seems silly, but every once in a while, take the time to scour the internet and enter any contest you find. If it requires excessive fan voting, I usually ignore it, because there will always be someone else who is more willing to hound their fans for votes.
But some contests are judged based on music alone. It can’t hurt! You might as well join up.
If a contest feels particularly winnable but still requires votes, it may not be bad. It’s possible to get your fans excited about voting, and it could end up being great for your engagement.
5. Make Charts/Transcriptions
If you’ve been through formal musical training, you can probably make charts and transcribe songs better than the average working musician! This is the kind of work that many musicians absolutely hate (I’m one of them), but if you’re willing to do it, some will be happy to pay you for it.
I have some friends that make a little bit of side income transcribing songs for pit bands that need their music transposed. It’s annoying, tedious work, but some people find it fun!
6. Play Schools Shows/Presentations
Maybe you’ve been in the industry a while and have some experience to share – some enlightenment for the musicians of tomorrow. Consider crafting a school show or presentation to generate a little extra cash.
If you’re able to teach workshops on an instrument, there is a huge amount of potential income in spending an afternoon with some high school jazz students. There is a great deal of wisdom a real live working musician can impart to young students!
Alternatively, you could share about the business side of the music industry. Nobody really talks to students about the very real possibility of becoming a career musician. If you can let kids know that it’s possible, you should!
The best part about doing things like this is that you can do them on tour. You could present at a school in the morning or afternoon, and play a show at night. There is also zero pressure. If you don’t secure a presentation, no big deal, you still have a real show to play!
7. Create An Online Store For Merch
I will admit that I often don’t buy merch at shows. There’s always a line, I don’t always want to meet the musicians, it’s very busy. It’s just not my thing. Instead, I’ll go buy it online.
It takes very little effort to create an online store and it’s yet another income stream that doesn’t require a huge amount of attention. You’ll only have to send merch out every couple of weeks, and if you’re sending it out more often than that, good for you! You’re probably making good money!
8. Aim For Spotify Playlists
Now, we all know artists don’t make very much money from Spotify. However, over time you can end up earning a respectable little sum, especially if you get placed in a few key playlists.
Consistent placements over time can add up to $50+ being deposited into your account every month. It can add up to more if one of your songs really takes off.
9. Do Admin Work For Other Bands
We all know a few artists that could really use some help on the admin side. If you’re the type that likes to sit down and work on a laptop for a few hours, you can easily earn a little side income from this!
In fact, there are sometimes grants that allow music businesses to hire admin assistants. Try offering your services to some artists that you like – you may be surprised by the response.
10. Promote Local Events/Shows
Cities and neighborhoods often have concert series in the summer. If your neighborhood doesn’t have one, approach your neighborhood community board and propose organizing one!
Booking shows like this is a super fun way to earn money. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other artists and learn about life on the other side of the equation.
P.S. Remember though, none of what you’ve learned will matter if you don’t know how to get your music out there and make people WANT to hear it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free music marketing ebook emailed directly to you! Or for an in-depth fool proof guide on how to get people to listen to your music, get our online music business course here.
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