Wouldn’t it be nice to be a full-time musician? Every musician wants to quit their day job and play music all day. Why wouldn’t you?
The problem is, music is a notoriously bad way to make money. When you’re starting out, you’ll be playing for next to nothing. You won’t have very many people buying your music. You’ll have to make some investments in opportunities, showcases, and gear.
Becoming a full-time musician is not an easy thing to do, particularly if you’re making original music. Yet, it can be done.
There are lots of ways to increase your income to the point where you are able to support yourself. Don’t get me wrong, they all require extra work and effort, but it may be worth it if you end up spending more time making music.
If you find this guide helpful, be sure to check out our Music Revenue Streams Unleaded training as part of The IMA Music Business Academy. That training goes deep into the various ways to monetize your music career, showing you the potential income and how to get started.
1. Teach Music Lessons
Teaching music is one of the first things that many full-time musicians turn to when they are looking to make the leap into being a full-time musician. The great thing about teaching is that it can be as much or as little work as you want it to be.
If you’re just looking for an extra $300 a month, you probably only need a few weekly students to make it work. On the other hand, if you want to replace your income completely, you could teach every night! It’s up to you.
Teaching music allows you to focus on music all day and go and teach it at night. Your nights often end early enough to go to a show or play a show afterwards.
The only drawback is that students rely on a weekly schedule. Sometimes opportunities come up and you will have to cancel lessons on short notice or leave the city for weeks at a time. You a) don’t make money when you don’t teach, and b) some students might seek out another teacher if you bail on them too often.
It’s up to you to make it work!
2. Start A Cover/Tribute Band
If you’re smart about it, you can start a cover band that will literally pay all of your rent and food in one or two gigs per month.
Two of the members of my band started a Buddy Holly tribute when they were 16, and it now makes them at least $650 per show. They play twice a month and most of their living expenses are covered. Everything else is just gravy.
The trick is to make your tribute marketable to older people who have money to pay for it and put on events that suit a tribute band. Then, you just need to make it good and start getting gigs! It also helps to have a small band. Less people = more money.
Alternatively, you can go after cover gigs on your own. I have another friend who supports career by playing three to four weekly cover gigs at restaurants. Each one pays between $200 and $250 plus a meal.
Suddenly he’s making $2,000 – $3,000 a month just off music. Not bad!
3. Do Editing Work/Engineering Work For A Studio
These days it’s pretty easy to get good at editing in Pro Tools. Pro Tools is now available for $24/month, and if you have a few microphones and an interface, you can make a lot of music to gain experience.
Nobody really wants to do editing work if they can avoid it; editing takes a lot of time, is not terribly creative, and is quite tedious. But if you’re good at it, you might as well make some extra money!
Make some connections at studios in your city and let them know that you have this skill set. Producers and engineers are often looking for people to do some grunt work for a few extra bucks.
If you have the skill set, engineering can also be a fun way to do something music related and make a few bucks. Engineering demo sessions, EPs, live video, and overdub sessions are good jobs to develop your skills as an engineer and make some money.
These gigs take a while to acquire because everyone wants them. The key is just to be good friends with people who work at studios and do some freelancing with your own/rented gear. You may find yourself picking up work!
4. Sell Your Beats Online
Many hip-hop and R&B producers end up making part of their income selling beats to other artists. There are a variety of sites online you can use to sell your beats.
It takes a while to become well-known enough to make a living selling beats, but it can happen! The best way to do it is simply to make a lot of music.
5. Be A Side Musician For Other Bands
Most of the people I know who are full time musicians are also side musicians in other people’s bands. In fact, it’s one of the main ways I make enough money to live.
Getting these gigs is a matter of becoming part of the scene and being good at your instrument. You also need to be very “hangable” and reliable. Learn your parts, show up to rehearsal, have fun, and get paid. It’s very fun work if you can get it!
6. Write For Music Related Publications
If you’ve got some writing chops and are involved in your local scene, you may be able to earn a few extra dollars writing for a local music blog, magazine, or column in the paper.
The only way to get this gig is to start pitching. Email the editor and pitch them your story. Give them an example of your writing and hope for the best!
7. Create A Premium Fan Club
This doesn’t work for everyone, as it can take a lot of effort to find fans that are willing to part with their hard-earned money. However, if you have fans that are committed enough to spend a couple bucks a month for exclusive content, it might be worth creating this service.
Premium fan clubs are rarely more than $10/month, and usually give fans access to pre-sales, behind the scenes photos and videos, new music, new videos, announcements, meet and greets, etc.
How do you make it work? How long have you been a full-time musician? Let us know!