So, you’ve been gaining some experience as a guitar player.
Maybe you’ve played hundreds of shows. Maybe you’ve contributed to dozens of recordings. Perhaps you’ve worked your way through a handful of Musicians Institute guitar books.
It’s not necessary to have achieved a level of notoriety or skill level as a guitar player to start charging for what you do. What matters is that you know your time is worth something.
So, let’s look at 13 ways you can make money playing guitar.
Session gigs come in many forms.
You may be hired to record a part in the studio. This is something you can even do from the comfort of your own home, with a decent studio setup.
You may be asked to play a few shows or go on the road with a touring act.
If it involves tracking guitar parts or performing for others for pay, then it’s considered a session gig.
If you want to get gigs as a session player, you should spend time developing a signature style and sound that’s instantly identifiable.
Being a generalist usually isn’t to your advantage, since there are plenty of great guitar players out there not even charging what they’re worth.
I’ve carved out a decent niche for myself locally as an accompanist for singer-songwriter types.
That’s not a niche I knew I would get into, because rock and blues is what I play, but being versatile has had its advantages, and it helps me get the call.
So, it can’t hurt to be flexible.
Rehearsals & Preproduction Sessions
You’re a professional guitarist. So, shouldn’t you get paid for rehearsals?
Now, I will be the first to tell you that most rehearsals don’t pay. If it’s your own project, you may even be the one paying others!
But I’ve certainly been paid for many rehearsals and preproduction sessions, and I’m confident that will continue to be the case moving forward.
Many gigs simply offer a flat fee. If you can negotiate rehearsal or practice fees, then do so.
But I still occasionally take gigs that are 10-hour commitments where I’m only being paid a couple hundred dollars.
Basically, it just depends on what you want to do. If it’s a project you love, maybe you’ll waive the rehearsal fees.
If it’s not something you’re excited about, maybe you’ll request it and see how it pans out.
There are many money-making opportunities that fall under the umbrella of live performance.
You could gig the local scene (pubs, bars, clubs, coffeehouses, etc.) and negotiate a guarantee, ticket sales, a percentage of bar sales, or a combination thereof.
You could book out of town gigs and tours.
You could set up your own show in a community hall or church and charge for tickets.
There are plenty of other types of gigs, too, whether it’s college gigs, corporate gigs, weddings, parties, festivals and so on. These types of gigs usually pay well but are harder to get.
Busking or street performing is another form of live performance. Here, you aren’t guaranteed anything, but some people make good tips playing the streets.
The type of live performance opportunity you seek out will largely depend on the type of act you are and where you’re located.
There are several types of royalties you can earn from your recordings, though I won’t be breaking them all down here.
The most obvious ones include music sales and streaming.
Of course, there’s nothing saying you can’t sell CDs or vinyl records either. Some fans prefer that.
I can’t say I’ve made a lot of money this way, but it’s always nice to see a trickle of income roll in over time, especially since I have plenty of other income sources.
If you want to make a serious go of making money from your recordings, you will need to release regularly and build a fan base to support it.
But it’s also fun just to make recordings for the sake of making recordings.
It doesn’t matter which way you go about it. It’s just good to know that some money can be made here, and in some cases, a lot of money.
Songwriting & Ghostwriting
Writing songs is big business.
There are always artists looking for great songs to record.
To be fair, the market is saturated, but if you carve out a niche for yourself, you may end up writing songs for some well-known artists.
This opportunity isn’t exclusive to known songwriters. I’ve had guitar students who had some success submitting their songs to country artists.
If you’d like to explore your opportunities in this regard, see if you can pitch directly to an artist or work with a service that helps songwriters get their music in front of decisionmakers.
Whether it’s movies, TV shows, commercials, video games or otherwise, there are plenty of media creators looking for music to license for their projects.
Some artists make money almost exclusively from placement opportunities.
If their songs are played over and over, or used in a variety of projects, they can earn some serious royalties.
You don’t need to have the best production in the world to do this. I’ve talked with Juno award-winning artist Helen Austin, and she created some great Lo-Fi recordings that got picked up.
If you want to get a leg up in this sector, you’ll want to work with a company like TAXI to get your songs in front of the right people.
Again, learning guitar is big business but it’s also fiercely competitive.
With that in mind, new students are popping up every single day.
I spent over 10 years teaching in a variety of settings, whether it was from home, in the home of my students, at guitar stores or otherwise. And, I made good money.
If you want to, it’s possible to grow and expand your teaching business over time, especially using some of the tactics laid out below.
For others, it’s simply a good way to earn a bit of money on the side.
Teaching isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth looking into.
If you’re a teacher, then you may want to hold year-end (and even mid-year) recitals for your students.
It can be quite motivating for them, because they get to show off what they’ve been working on in front of an audience.
You will need to put work into promoting the event and convince your students of the value because not all of them will want to do it.
And, it may not be a huge money maker. Some teachers even say they don’t charge for recitals.
But if you need to cover the costs of the venue, for instance, I think it makes sense to at least charge a small cover fee, like $5 or $10.
Recitals are also good for retaining your students, long term and giving them motivation to keep practicing.
Workshops can be thought of as group lessons.
You can determine a focus or topic, generate interest, charge for tickets and teach your attendees. You can even bring out other known experts and companies to boost the appeal.
You want to create an environment where attendees can focus on just playing guitar for half a day, a full day or even a weekend. That makes it fun and inspiring.
I’ve attended, and have also taught, multiple workshops myself. I tend to enjoy teaching workshops more than I do teaching individual lessons, but to each his own.
The focus of a workshop could be just about anything – the CAGED system, songwriting, jazz improvisation… Whatever you know best.
But you must also keep your audience in mind, and you may even want to group your attendees into beginners, intermediates and advanced players and have them go through different lessons with different instructors.
Workshops are a blast, and they can help you make some money. Just keep in mind you will likely have expenses too (venue, food, special guests, etc.), so seek out sponsors and charge for the event.
Product Reviews & Demos
Virtually every guitar manufacturer and company launch a new line of products every single year (guitars, amps, pedals, accessories, etc.).
And, many are eager to get their products reviewed. If they can get big names behind their products, they will partner with them, but otherwise it’s off to social media influencers big and small.
I’ve been sent several products for review and have had a lot of fun writing about them.
Generally, you’ll be asked to review the product on your blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or other social media platform.
Some companies will pay you for that. Some will just send you the product for free. Either way, there is still a way to make more money.
For instance, you could sign up as an Amazon affiliate. That way, when people click on your links, you’ll be rewarded with a commission for every purchase.
You may also get to work directly with a company and tour around various music stores to promote their products. I’ve met some people who do exactly that.
There are plenty of opportunities to write articles for magazines and guitar sites.
It might seem as though every topic has been covered already, but every student resonates with a different teacher and their specific approach.
So, don’t dismay. Your insights could end up helping hundreds if not thousands of students.
Finding publications that pay for articles may be a little more of a challenge, but not impossible.
I’ve been writing articles for many years now, and generally I do it in exchange for payment.
If you feel confident in your writing skills, this may be a path worth pursuing.
I’ve talked a little bit about making money on other people’s products already, and this can be relatively lucrative.
But if you have your own products and sell them at a price point of your choosing, you can keep more of the money for yourself.
I would avoid creating products around general topics like “How to Play Guitar”, “Learn to Play the Guitar”, “The Beginner’s Guide to Guitar” and the like. These markets are saturated.
Instead, hunt for the niches. Create an eBook or course around how to play 70s style funk guitar or soloing for power metal players. Find a unique angle.
Even if there’s a bit of competition already, that’s not a problem. Just look out for niches that are already well-served and don’t go into those.
Some of your most rabid followers or students may want more personal attention from you.
You could just offer more lessons, but there’s a logical limit to how many people you can serve one-to-one.
You can write blog posts or create other types of helpful content, but people don’t place as much value on what’s free and general versus what costs some money and is more specific and personalized.
What do you do? Set up a membership site!
You could put all your information products in your membership site. You could have a forum and offer personalized tips through private messaging. You could do monthly training calls.
Your membership can be structured however you want it to be, and if the market will bear it, you can charge whatever you want too.
Although memberships do take work to maintain, you can collect recurring payments from your students, making your income more predictable long term.
Of course, people will come and go. So, you’ll want to put some measures in place to keep attracting new members and retaining the ones you already have.
Who knew playing the guitar could be so lucrative?
There are many other ways of making money as a guitarist that weren’t covered here, so that should lift your spirits.
My general advice would be to determine which areas you want to focus on, as generating revenue from every possible stream can be challenging.