10 Income Sources You Should Be Pursuing As A Musician!

How to make more money from musicWhen it comes to making money from their musical talents, many musicians struggle. Talk about music sales slowing down is easily found on the internet, and many take that as a sign there's no money to be made for the average independent artist.

That said, there are a load of people who make a full or part time income from their music related talent every month. A lot aren't even well known out of their circles, but by taking advantage of the multiple income sources that are out there, they've managed to make their music earn them a very respectable income.

The truth of the matter is:

There's more than one way to make money from your music, and you should take advantage of them all! – Tweet This

Ok maybe not ‘all' of them, but you should be taking advantage of a few of them certainly. Trying to make money from just selling downloads or just getting paid gigs alone is leaving a lot of money of the table.

There are ways you can use your talents to make more of a income from yourself, and potentially earn a job leaving salary (Disclaimer: Results will vary depending on your talents, how much you work you put in and the like).

In this guide we'll look at what some of those income streams are, and let you know how you can get started with increasing your earning potential.

10 Income Sources You Should Be Pursuing As A Musician!

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What You'll Learn From Reading This Guide

  • Why tapping into multiple sources of income is important for making more money in your music career.
  • A good number of the ways you should be aiming to make money from your musical talent, whether you're a singer, rapper, producer, or instrumentalist.
  • The first steps to take to start earning from these income sources.

Why Diversification Is Important To Making More Money From Music

Many musicians who earn a livable income from their music do so by taking advantage of multiple income streams. They may only make a small amount from digital downloads and merch sales, but when they combine that with teaching others music and royalty collections, they may be making a full time living!

Admittedly, it's often hard to simply go down one avenue and earn a full time wage from your music. That said, there's no reason for you to only pursue one income source! It's possible to work on multiple at the same time, as often they comprise of short term contracts or work that doesn't require a lot of your time. Doing one alone may bring in a welcome monthly income padding, but doing three, four or five may bring you in a good full time living.

So, income diversification might be the way for you to go if you're looking to make a full time living from music.

Before we go any further though, here are some more reasons diversifying your music related income is the smart thing to do:

You'll Have More Opportunities To Make Money.

If you go out with the intention to only make money from say gigging, you're limiting the amount of money you can potentially make. As a musicians, you have skills that can be used by more people then just yourself. The great thing is that there will be people willing to pay for use of your skills if you're good enough.

By putting yourself in different situations and allowing people to hire your talent, you're opening yourself to more job opportunities and therefore a bigger overall income. If you do this in the right way, you can also give yourself more time to focus on your personal music as a result.

Doing More Things Will Make Your Income More Stable.

Relying on one source of income isn't the best of ideas in the music industry. For example, you may be making a nice living doing songwriting for a company. But what happens if that company folds and you need to replace that income some how? Staff songwriter jobs aren't the easiest to find, so you'll have a while with no income coming in.

If you were songwriting alongside doing paid gigs, licensing your songs and teaching music however, you'd still be making money if one avenue hits a rough patch.

Doing More Jobs Can Open More Doors.

While not all of the below jobs are ones that will work on improving your personal music brand, you can still use them to your personal advantage. Let's say for example you do backing vocals for another artist. You may build up a relationship with them or their management team along the way, which could end up leading to other opportunities. This may be in the form of a collaboration, in the form of them recommending you for other jobs, or simply by giving you ideas for other links you can pursue.

By being around people in the music industry who are already where you want to be you'll learn a lot. Just be sure to keep your ears open, remain friendly and network ready, and take advantage of any opportunities as they come up.

How Many Sources Of Income Should You Be Aiming For?

How many income sources should you go forSo now you know you should be aiming for more then one source of income from your music. The next question is, how many should you actually be aiming for? Well, that depends.

While some of the below income sources can be set up once and continue earning you money over time (E.G. Royalty collection), others are a lot more labor intensive. As in you have to be there to keep earning the income.

That fact that you only have so much time in the day will impact the amount of income sources you can personally aim for. Day jobs, families and the like also play a part in how much time you can dedicate to pursue different income avenues.

My advice is to go with as many revenue sources as you can without compromising on the effort put into each one. Focus on taking care of those less labor intensive tasks first, and once they're set up with the potential to earn you money, beginning working on the jobs that require you to ‘trade time for money'. In other words, that require you to be there to do the work.

Sources Of Income You Can Aim For

Ok, so here are some of the top ways you can make money from your talent. Have a look through them all, and see which ones seem most attractive to you. Which do you think will be easiest to do? Which ones would you enjoy doing the most? Bare these two things in mind and pick out three or four jobs you could potentially do. Make a note of them for future use.

Note: Under each section I've mentioned which type of musician can take advantage of them, whether a singer, rapper, producer or instrumentalist.

So, here are some of the things that can make money in your music career:

Teaching Your Talent To Others

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

One of the increasingly popular ways of earning a income through music, is teaching your talents to other aspiring musicians. Newbies who are looking to gain the same talent as you, and need someone who's experienced in the field to pass on their knowledge.

You can go about this in one of three ways:

  1. Offering personal face to face lessons to students. You can teach them at your house, their house, or hire somewhere to teach them. You'll be a freelance teacher working off your own accord.
  2. You can create a video course / ebook / membership website and teach people your talent through video lessons. This will allow you to deliver it automatically without having to be at each lesson, so it's largely a passive income once set up.
    This guide shows you what goes into making good instructional videos, and you can use software use as Digital Access Pass to protect your content and deliver your lessons to students. This is the software I use to protect certain areas on Music Industry How To.
  3. You can go through a learning institute. For example, getting hired to teach by a school or a youth club.

Teaching is a good way of making additional income for an increasing amount of musicians, so if you've something you can share with beginner musicians, you may want to consider this.

How To Get Started:

  • Singers: If you're aiming to teach people how to sing, you will need to gain a singing teacher award. There are many singing teacher courses out there, so take one to learn how to effectively pass your knowledge on to other people.
  • Instrumentalists: As with singers, there are courses you can go on for teaching other people how to play instruments. They're not as widely available as singing courses, but if you can find one then maybe go with it.
  • Rappers: It's harder if not impossible to find a course to teach you how to teach others to rap, so you'll have to pick up the skills for this by practicing on friends who want to learn the trade. Have a look online to pick up general teaching skills as they may help.
  • Producers: Again, there aren't many music production courses which teach you how to teach this skill. Instead, master it through practice. Also, think back to how you were taught to produce, and use the best parts of those lessons on your students.
  • All: If you're going for freelancing face to face lessons, you'll need to advertise yourself to get potential clients. You can do this in local newspapers, on your website, on relevant forums, on social sites and the like. Focus on local people so travel between you both isn't an issue.
  • All: If you're going to create a video course or membership site of some kind, look into how to make them. As I mentioned above, this guide shows you what goes into making good instructional videos. You can use software use as Digital Access Pass to protect your content and deliver your lessons to students. This is what I use to offer protected areas on Music Industry How To.
  • All: If you're looking to teach in a place of study, look for music teacher jobs on job sites.

Royalty Collection

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

It still amazes me how many musicians are losing out on money simply because they don't register themselves with a royalty collection company.

Every time you perform your song or have your song played to the public (E.g. On radio, in a club, on a TV show etc), you earn money in the form of royalties. The amount will vary depending on where your music was play and for how long, but it's all money that ads up.

If your song is played on a popular radio station with a lot of listeners for example, you'd get a lot more then if it was to get played on a small radio station with a much smaller listen base.

It's the job of royalty collection companies to track where your music is being broadcasted, and collect money on your behalf for these plays. Then every so often (Usually months), they'll send you a check for the royalties you've collected since your last payout.

Royalty collection companies vary from country to country, so do some research to find out who deals with this in your country. If you're from the US though, BMI is one such company. If you're from the UK, PRS can collect royalties for you.

Wherever you are, if you're not registered for royalty collection, you will miss out on money that's owed to you.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Find a good royalty collection company in your country and get signed up to it.
  • All: Find out with them the finer details of how things work. Often the price for joining is low, and can be made back easily if you're music gets a decent amount of exposure. If you're from the US, BMI is one such company. If you're from the UK, PRS can collect royalties for you. If you're from any other country, do a online search for a company in your country who does something similar (It'd be impossible for me to look into and list every country, sorry).

Licensing Your Music For Use In TV, Film, Games ETC

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

Music licencing in filmLicensing your music for use in TV, films, adverts, computer games and the like is becoming an increasingly popular source of income for many musicians. The above mentioned types of media often require multiple songs to be used in their projects, and often outside song makers are called upon to supply the music for them.

The way music licensing works is the song copyright owner/s are compensated for limited use of their song. So this might be having their song in a certain amount of computer games, or being played a certain amount of times on a TV show. The copyright owner then gets paid for allowing this usage.

Competition for licensing your music is becoming increasingly tough, as more musicians try and get involved in this area of music monetization. That said, there is still room to get in and make money with this avenue, so I suggest you make it one of the paths you pursue.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Look into licensing companies who accept music submissions, and submit your music there. Be sure to follow the guidelines and only submit your best work.
  • All: If you want to take this stage more seriously, you may also want to build up personal relationships with specific companies. You can do this by creating songs mentioning their product, and contacting them personally. More info on this in a future Premium lesson.

Direct Music Sales (CD Or Download)

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

Despite what people think about declining music sales, they do still make money. Even if they was to only make 10% of your overall income, that's still 10% more money you make every year. And besides, you might make more or less on music sales, depending on your audience and how well you push them.

Be sure to both offer digital downloads on your website and have CDs to sell at your gigs. People are a lot more likely to buy CDs at gigs if you approach them personally after you've put on a good show, so be sure to adopt this strategy when playing showcase events and gigs you've put on.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Learn how to sell your music both online. I've already created a guide for selling your music online.
  • All: Press up some CDs. Only do a run of 100 initially, and use them to sell at shows as well as on your website. You can do a internet search for companies that do CD duplication to get your CDs made.
  • All: Learn how to sell your music both offline. Selling offline in person requires you to let people know you've a CD to sell during and at the end of your gig, then going around and approaching people with your offer at the half time break and end of the show. If you also want to get your music into independent shops, then your best bet is going with a sale or return deal.

Paid Gigs

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Instrument Players.

Getting paid directly for gigging is still a good source of income you should be aiming for. While it's also possible to make money from gigs by selling CDs and collecting royalties for your performance, being paid by the event organizer is something you should still be aiming for.

Money from gigging is one of the top sources of income for many musicians, so I strongly recommend you get involved in this too.

It's common to be nervous about doing gigs when you first start, but it's possible to learn how to get over them. So regardless of what other income sources you aim for, I'd suggest you go for this.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Look for gigs you can potentially perform at. Venues that have a proven track record hiring people of your genre is a good place to start.
  • All: Get in contact with these venues, and pitch yourself performing. It's often best to do this in person and back your case up with footage of previous performances if you have any.
  • All: Negotiate your income. Some will have a set price they pay performers, others will be open to discussion. Some venues won't pay initially apart from your expenses, and you'll have to do a trial gig to ‘earn' future paid shows. It's up to you if you decide to do this.
  • All: I've written a basic guide on getting gigs here. There's also a more advanced section on getting and performing quality gigs in the IMA Music Busiuness Academy.

Merchandise Sales

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

Selling merch is a good way to gain an additional income from your music career. While it won't be bought by everyone, there will be a section of your fan base who want to buy into you as a brand. Merchandise allows people to do this.

While you can sell merch on your website and make sales that way, merch often sells best at gigs you put on yourself. After all, all your biggest fans will be at these gigs, so sales will be that much easier to make.

When it comes to making the merchandise to sell, you have two options:

  1. The first is to pay to get a load of products made, have them shipped to your house or place of work, and send them to fans as they order it. It's necessary to do this if you want to sell merch at gigs.
  2. The second option is to find a company who will make your merch to order. So people buy your merchandise on either your site or the store the merch maker provides for you. The order then goes directly to the merch maker, and they collect the payment and ship the order. While this option means you won't have to keep a load of merch lying around your house, your profit margins are usually a lot smaller then the first mentioned method.

It's always a good idea to offer some kind of merchandise. Start out small offering two or three bits, and increase this side of things as your sales start taking off.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Decide if you want to get merchandise pre made for a lower overall but upfront cost, or if you want to go with a ‘make to order' model through a third party website such as Reverbnation. While these types of services are getting harder to find, have a look around as there are still some left.
  • All: If you're performing gigs, be sure to set up a merch table if possible and showcase your stock.
  • All: Set up your website so your merchandise is available to buy on there. If you haven't got a website yet, learn how to set one up quickly and easily here.

Becoming A Backup Singer / Hype Man / Instrument Player (Supporting Performer)

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Instrument Players.

Backing Singer JobIf you're a good performer and don't mind doing backing work for other musicians, then teaming up with others for live gigs is a option for you.

There are many musicians who need others to come on stage and help them put on a show. Not only are these shows good for getting some additional money from your music related skills, but you'll also get good industry incite and potentially links as well. You'll get to do gigs you wouldn't have done by yourself (Always good for your music CV), and you'll get your face out there some more. Who knows, you may meet event organizers who book you for your own shows in the future.

As a backing singer, a hype man or a instrumentalist, you are basically either singing specific parts of the song the singer wants you to sing, getting the crowd involved with chants, or playing additional sounds for the performer to sing over. They will tell you what they want, as the main performer is often made the center of attention.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Network with other musicians. When it comes to one of them planning a gig, see if they're open for you getting involved with your chosen ability (Backing singer, hype man, or part of the band).
  • All: Search ‘talent directory *your country*‘ to find sites which you can sign up to and look for such work.
  • All: Look on job websites for any related jobs.
  • All: Look on classified advertising websites to see if there's anyone looking for this type of talent. Post a job advertising your services if not.

Recording Guest Vocals For Other Other People

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,

Regardless of how your music career is going, it's still possible to lend your vocal talents to others looking for what you have to offer. This could be in the form of doing vocals for other people's songs, doing vocals for other people's adverts, or just generally doing voice overs for whatever projects people have going on.

There are people who are willing to pay for a session musician. While these are often one off jobs, doing them can add to your income, especially as some of them can pay quite well. If you manage to land a two or three session jobs a month, with a few of the other income sources you could be earning a full time wage.

As well as the traditional job of session musicians being brought to the studio to record vocals for others, it's now also possible to hire yourself out for vocal work using the various outsourcing sites that have popped up such as Odesk. This allows you to find such work a lot easier, and hire yourself out to people all over the world. While the pay can be low while you're building up your profile, stick with it, build you rating up and you will be able to charge more in future.

How To Get Started:

  • Both: Sign up for freelance websites such as Odesk and Elance to advertise your talents and look for work.
  • Both: Network with other musicians. Let them know you've available to add additional vocals if they need at a cost.
  • Both: Search ‘talent directory *your country*‘ to find sites which you can sign up to and look for such work.
  • Both: Look on job websites for any related jobs.
  • Both: Look on classified advertising websites to see if there's anyone looking for this type of talent. Post a job advertising your services if not.

Recording And Selling Backing Tracks To Other People

Suitable For:

  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

In the same way singers and rappers can sell their vocal talents to others, producers and instrumentalists can also sell their beats and recordings to others. This could be to other musicians looking for a track to vocal, for advert producers looking for a backing track for their ad, or anyone else who needs a instrumental for any reason.

My advice is to set up a website where you can sell multiple licenses for each of your tracks on auto pilot. So when people come to your website, they can listen to your tracks and buy them if they're interested.

Using beat selling software (Which we'll look at below), all this can be done automatically. This is great as you don't have to be there to approve each sale or to collect money.

As well as selling your beats on your own website, you can join outsourcing websites as I mentioned in the previous section, and make backing tracks for others according to what they want. Again this isn't work you'll be doing every day, but as part of a bigger money making strategy, it can add a nice additional income.

How To Get Started:

  • Both: Set up your own website selling instrumentals or beats either on an exclusive or non exclusive basis. Software such as Euphony Beats, Beat Stars and My Flash Store can help you set that up. You'll need to have your own music website for these, then you simply place the widget they provide you with on your site.
  • Both: Promote your music selling website. Without promotion, you won't make any sales.
  • Both: If you're willing to make beats for other people from scratch, sign up for freelance websites such as Odesk and Elance to advertise your talents and look for work.

Become A Song Writer

Suitable For:

  • Singers,
  • Rappers,
  • Producers,
  • Instrument Players.

If you've a talent for writing songs, this could be another source of income for you. There are many people who have the need to have a good song written for either themselves or a project they're working on.

You could be a songwriter for singers, publishers, advert creators, record labels and the like.

It's quite hard to begin earning from song writing, as there is a lot of competition and many independent musicians now write for themselves. On top of that, many bigger companies have ‘staff writers' whose job it it to pump out song lyrics. Often, it's hard to get your song chosen over these people.

That said, if you're doing ok with your own music career and you then offer to write for other people, you instantly become more attractive to those looking for people to write them a song.

While it's hard to become a full time songwriter for most people, use it as one of the building blocks for a bigger overall income.

How To Get Started:

  • All: Write and store songs which you aren't going to use yourself. Make them great otherwise people most likely won't pay for them (Unless you already have a big name, in which case people will often want to work with you on that basis alone).
  • All: Get these songs copyrighted so when you present them to people your ideas can't be stolen.
  • All: Record a demo of someone singing the songs.
  • All: Start approaching publishers and singers and pitch your songwriting services. See if any are interested in hearing what you have to offer.
  • All: Advertise your songwriting service on your website and freelancing websites such as Odesk.

So To Recap

Independent full time musicians often make their money from doing a variety of different music related tasks. If you also want to use your musical talents to earn a full time income, then it's advisable for you to do the same.

What To Do Now

  • Pick three of the above money making methods to get started with, preferably the ones you're most interested in. I suggest you go with at least one that's not related to your personal music career, so one where you're hiring yourself or providing your talent as a service.
  • Follow the above ‘How To Get Started' steps to begin setting these things up. Depending on what you do, each could take a different amount of time.
  • Work on making your chosen methods work. Each one will take a different amount of time and effort to get up and running, which is why I've suggested starting with three. This isn't so much that you don't get enough time to work on each one, but it's enough that hopefully one will start to earn you some money before the others do. This'll be good for motivation.
  • As you've begun earning from one or more of the above income streams, decide if you want to set up any others as well. Only do this if you've the time to do so, and it won't affect the progress of making the other methods you've already started work too.

Good luck. 🙂

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 earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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