TV channels like MTV used to have music videos on high rotation and even had entire niche programs based around the various genres of videos that were out there.
While these programs are few and far between in mainstream media now, music videos still play an important part in bringing artists to market. Some would even argue that a music video is the most important promotional tool an artist can have.
But how do music videos even make money? Don’t they cost a lot to make?
Let’s look at 11 ways music videos make money.
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Music Videos Offer Both Direct & Indirect Monetization Opportunities
Music videos, for better or for worse, are largely misunderstood, and there aren’t too many people either able or qualified to explain the many ways they can make money. There is more to this than you may have initially thought.
The most important thing to understand is that music videos offer both direct and indirect monetization opportunities. We will be looking at both in this guide.
While there are a limited number of direct revenue opportunities, indirect opportunities are plenty, so the list that follows shouldn’t be considered comprehensive.
As with any endeavor, if you don’t have a strategy behind it, it’s unlikely you will derive the greatest benefit from your efforts. But if you determine what it is you hope to accomplish and come up with a plan for its achievement, you’ll set yourself up for a better experience overall.
So, choose which revenue streams you want to pursue and focus on them.
A Music Video Is To An Artist What A Book Is To An Author
Although a musician might make some money from their music videos, they tend to benefit more from the additional opportunities created by their videos.
Similarly, while an author might make a bit of money from their books, they usually benefit more from the opportunities that result from having a book – consulting, clients, public speaking engagements and more.
A book does more to boost an author’s authority and credibility than it does to boost their income.
Likewise, a music video does more to give an artist legitimacy than it does to increase their revenue.
So, while it is important to be aware of direct monetization opportunities, if you aren’t tuned into indirect opportunities, you may not be seeing an ROI.
Direct Revenue Streams
There aren’t as many direct revenue streams for music videos as there are indirect revenue streams.
This is simply because music videos can help open doors for artists, and there is no telling where those doors might lead.
With that, here are the basic revenue streams generated from music videos.
Where do people upload their videos these days? If you answered “YouTube”, then you’re on the right wavelength.
And, as we all know, it is possible to monetize your YouTube videos with ads. This rarely amounts to much, even for popular artists, but it’s better to have some money coming in than none.
It is possible to distribute one’s videos to other video streaming platforms that also allow content creators to monetize their uploads for additional revenue.
Influencer marketing is all the rage right now, and if there’s a meaningful intersection between an artist’s audience and a company that’s trying to reach them, there’s a good opportunity for product placements.
Product placements typically don’t happen by accident, and while there isn’t always money changing hands, in most cases it would probably be safe to assume there is.
Drake’s “Headlines” video heavily features Nike. Calvin Klein boxers can be seen in Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” You don’t need to search far and wide for more examples.
It is possible for artists to benefit from product placements in their music videos.
Sponsorships can take different forms. Because of this, “revenue” might be a slightly misleading term.
For instance, some artists looking to bring a music video idea to fruition may not have all the resources and connections required to make a music video.
In a scenario like that, it can be worth finding a sponsor who can provide the necessary funding. This does not work, however, unless the artist can offer the sponsor something of equal benefit.
This usually comes in the form of brand exposure, though it can take other forms.
While this is the basis for most sponsorship collaborations, there can be other instances where it makes sense for artists to find a sponsor, or for a sponsor to step in and offer their resources.
Artists sometimes forget that they can also sell their music videos as digital downloads on a variety of platforms.
It’s also not uncommon for artists to sell DVDs with a music video compilations, behind the scenes footage, interviews and other video content.
Indirect Revenue Streams
There seem to be many forgotten and otherwise misunderstood or unknown revenue streams for music videos that industry and artists alike would probably do well to study and embrace.
These are largely “indirect” revenue streams, meaning they result from having music videos versus creating music videos, much the same way an author can make more money from having books versus publishing books.
Here are several indirect revenue streams you should be aware of.
It is possible to earn commissions on the sale of products you never had to create.
Many companies – though not all – have existing affiliate programs in place that just about anyone can sign up for and utilize.
When you do, you are given a unique link to promote their products through, and when your audience clicks on that link and buys something, you are rewarded with commissions.
In practice, this would probably look a lot like product placements. You could feature a product or brand in your video and include a link in the description of the video to promote it. If the product is matched to your target audience, you will likely do well with it.
But artists could also promote the cameras, lights, green screens and other equipment that was used in the making of the video. This would give their audience the opportunity to go out and buy the gear and achieve the same results for themselves.
Digital Sales & Streaming Royalties
Your fans watch your music video. They like the music, and they like the video. They watch it a few times. What are they most likely to do next?
There’s a good chance they’re going to look up the song on their favorite streaming platform and maybe even add it to their playlists.
Some fans are old school and may buy your music on CD Baby or Bandcamp.
So, if your music videos send your fans over to Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, TIDAL, Google Play and the like to stream your music, you will benefit indirectly from your content.
Many YouTube content creators use Patreon to monetize their content. Essentially, it is a continual micro crowdfunding platform.
So, for instance, a member of your audience could give you $2 per month in exchange for various patron-only benefits. Except, instead of receiving a one-time payment of $2, you would continue to receive the money month after month, unless the fan cancels.
That means you can continue to build your revenue as your audience grows and more people become patrons.
This isn’t the only way one could solicit donations, as you could just as easily do this with something like PayPal.
But it’s fair to say Patreon is one of the most beneficial models since you can continue to get paid month after month, especially if you can retain and grow your subscriber base.
Live Performance Opportunities
There’s nothing quite like a high-quality music video to sell an act.
With any luck, it won’t just be fans watching your music videos. You’ll begin attracting additional fans and industry too. Of course, you can also send your venue to prospective venues and festivals.
This can naturally lead to playing on bigger and better stages, especially if you attract the attention of the right people.
If your music videos get a lot of views, you will be able to book more gigs, which can lead to more revenue.
Launching music videos can easily lead to increased merch sales, from CDs and T-shirts to buttons and stickers and more.
If you want additional exposure for your wearables, you can wear them in your videos or even have extras wear your gear. But even if not for that, if your videos are sending the right messages and signaling your audience in the right way, your fans are going to clamor for your merch.
So, when you’re ready to launch a music video, double check your stock to ensure you’ve got plenty of product to sell. If your video gains some traction, you might even consider creating some unique merch around it.
An artist would be owed performance royalties from getting spun on the radio and radio airplay opportunities could come from having a popular music video.
These royalties, however, do not go to the artist unless they are also the songwriter.
Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”, for instance, was written by Max Martin and not Spears. So, whenever that song gets played on the radio, it's Martin who benefits.
When it comes to popular artists, many do not write their own songs. But if you're an independent artist and you write your own sons, you can tap into this revenue stream.
If your music video gains traction, then it’s entirely possible your music will cross the desk of important decisionmakers.
This could lead to placement opportunities for your music, which can be quite lucrative depending on usage.
With so many productions constantly pushing new content, the demand for great music is only going to increase, and I don’t think it will be unusual for good opportunities to come from having a well-timed, expertly made music video.
How Do Music Videos Make Money? Final Thoughts
While there are many revenue opportunities for music videos, if you aren’t strategic in your approach, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to tap into the various sources available.
So, while putting together a music video, don’t just think in terms of launching the video to promote a single. If this is all you do, you’ll only be scratching the surface of opportunity.
Take your time and consider all the ways you want your music video to benefit you. Then, come up with a plan and execute.
If you are intentional about the process, you can leverage your content in a variety of ways and derive more benefit from it.