Ok, so on to the big question of money. How much can you expect to make from your music career?
This is a subject that everyone seems to have an opinion on. If you ask a relatively new musician that hasn’t already tried their hand marketing in the music business, they will tell you that they aim to become rich from their music. That it’s possible to make a bucket load of cash, and that they’re going to achieve that. If on the other hand you ask someone who’s tried to make a professional career out of their music for years, some of them will tell you it’s impossible to make money from music and that it should only be done as a hobby.
Ask a big musician signed to a record label, and they’ll tell you that you can make a lot of money if you put the work in. Ask a ‘successful’ but not mainstream musician, and they could tell you the exact same thing.
But the truth?
It IS possible to make a full time living from your music career!
Now I’m not saying that everyone will achieve this or that it’s as easy as simply wanting it so it will happen. A lot of work will need to be put in, and you will need to be doing the right things. You will need a load of talent; a good portion of luck wouldn’t go amiss either. That said, it is possible to sometimes ‘make’ luck.
Let me break things down for you a bit more. When it comes to making money from music, there are five levels you can reach. These levels are:
- Losing Money.
When you first start out taking your music career seriously, you will need to do a few things. You will need to get your songs made, get your promotional materials made, invest in your musical education, buy any required equipment, and the like. Even though some can be done on the cheap, all of these things cost money, but are essential if you want to progress and get where you eventually want to be.
This is the same in all types of business. If you want to get into buying and selling property, you first need to invest in buying a house. If you want to create your own shop, you first need to put in the money to rent the storefront and buy your stock.
As a musician, once you know you want to make a career out of your talent, this is generally the first stage you will go through. You need to invest in your music career if you want it to take off, and you need to invest wisely. We’ll look more at this later on.
- Break Even.
After the investing stage, you will want to start doing thing to make back that money you invested in the first place. It will take a lot of work, but once you have made back the money you initially invested, you will be at the break even stage.
Your new equipment and knowledge will give you the tools needed to start making your money back, now you just need to go out there and do it.
When you start to make money from your music career, this is one of the best feelings ever. It’s good to know your hard work is starting to pay off, and you have enough talent to earn from your music. The first time someone pays you for your talent, you will know you’re on the right track. From here it’s a case of rinse and repeat on a wider scale.
- Part Time.
If after you break even you continue to do the things that are working for you, you will get to this stage. You will be earning more money then you are investing (you should still carry on investing where it’s needed), and you will be earning a more regular income from your music. It may not be enough to focus on music full time, but it helps with your living costs and gives you money to put back into making your career move forward even faster.
This part time living wage is the level I truly believe ALL talented independent musicians can reach IF they put the work in. There are more ways to make money from your music then just selling CDs, so as long as you are willing to learn those ways and play to your strengths, it’s possible to make more money then you spend on your music career.
- Full Time Wage Lower End.
A full time living. I’m sure most musician’s would be happy with earning enough money from their music to not have to work at anything else on the side. After all, being a musician is part of a lifestyle choice. Not having to wake up in the morning and work for someone else, being able to focus on your passion as a full time job.
While you won’t be rich at this stage, not having to work as anything else will seriously benefit your lifestyle. This level is harder to achieve then earning a part time living, but is still possible as an independent musician.
- Full Time Wage Higher End.
At this level you have ‘made it’. You are earning more then a comfortable living, and a year’s music work will help you survive for years after that. You can afford more expensive things in life, and money isn’t an issue for the short term future as long as you use it wisely. This level is only usually achievable if you get a good record deal and it works out well for you.
So, which of these wages should you aim for? And which are you most likely to reach? I know that if you’re honest with yourself, you’re going to want to reach stage 5, the full time higher end wage. We as humans all want to earn more money, no matter what we want to spend it on. We may not NEED this extra money and may be able to live a very happy life without it, but if someone was to give you a few million dollars without you having to do anything in return (no catch), I’m sure there would be very few people who would turn that offer down.
Unfortunately though, earning a higher end full time wage from our music isn’t what you should be aiming for. I’m not saying it’s not achievable, just look at Jay Z or any of the other people that have made millions from their music. That said though, the majority of musicians won’t reach that level.
While you can still dream of getting there if you want (who knows, ‘it could be you’), you should take a more realistic and strategic approach to earning money with your music. This will help you see where you are, and help you stay motivated about what you can achieve in your music career. With that said, here is what you should INITIALLY be aiming for in your music career:
To break even.
Hmmm, not what you were expecting right? Before you get demotivated, let me explain why this should be your first step. Later we can go on to aiming to make more money, but things should be taken one step at a time.
Like I mentioned before, you will of course need to invest in your music career. For example, you invested in this book to learn about how to get started as an independent musician (good choice by the way). If you play an instrument, you will need to spend money to buy that instrument. If you want to make a rap song, you will need to invest in getting studio time. The list of expenses goes on.
Before your music career starts taking off and before people will want to buy your music, you will need to put your money into creating some kind of product that people will want to buy. Therefore, you will essentially be starting your music career at a loss. But that’s OK, as we’re now going to work on recovering those costs and breaking even.
Once you start promoting your music and getting yourself known, you will notice that more opportunities start coming your way (providing you have the talent and are doing the right things of course). A trickle of income will also start coming in. Maybe not much at first, a CD sale or two, or even a small amount of royalties. As you start doing more shows and getting your name known more though, things will start to pick up.
The important thing you’ll be learning at this stage is how to make money from your music. When you have made your first CD sale, digital download sale or got your first paid gig, this is a big step in the right direction. You can see it can work, and you now know it’s a case of refining the process and scaling things up.
Once you have done this enough to break even, make one more sale and you’ll be at the stage where you are making more money then you are spending in your music career. Once you reach this stage and have made back your initial investment on equipment etc, you are automatically from then on earning a part time living. You are after all earning more than you’re spending.
From here, you can change your financial aims. You can aim to earn a bigger part time living as you already have a good base to work with and eventually work on creating a full time living as things move forward. You are making money from your passion, and you have proved to yourself it can work.
You may want to invest more money into achieving this goal, but that’s only if it is necessary. We will look more at some of the things you can invest in in the ‘When To Be Cheap, And When Not To Be‘ section later on, and at other times throughout this book.
There’s no point aiming for the top right away as it’s often better to take things in stages. As you hit each stage, you should adjust your goals to aim for the next stage up. Hitting each stage will encourage you to do better, and help you see what is really achievable for yourself.
It is not unrealistic to make a part time living from your music. If you have talent, marketing knowledge and are willing to put in the necessary work, this is definitely achievable. You will also need a small budget to get things started, though using the tips I will give later in this book, this budget can be kept to a minimum. This will make it easier to reach the break even stage, and then go on to earn a part time then hopefully full time living from your music.
Aiming for the top and not getting there as fast as you wanted (or not hitting it at all) can be demotivating. In fact, it’s one of the reason why many musicians stop making music in the first place, or why they feel that it’s impossible to make money from music. In reality though, there are many reasons why these people who preach that “you can’t make money from music” may have failed.