Hi friend, Shaun Letang here. In this article we’re going to look at how you can begin to replace lost income from your teaching and gigging during this tough time.
With gigs being canceled left and right, coronavirus has been playing havoc on the income of gigging musicians. Music teachers are also feeling the sting, with students pulling out of lessons and many schools around the world closing down.
While I’ve read other articles about how musicians can replace this lost income, I feel they generally fall short in a couple of key areas:
- They tried to put a band-aid on a severed arm. Advice like ‘teach your lessons on Skype instead of in person’ and ‘do gigs online’ are just patch jobs. They don’t really think outside the box and look at how you can use this downturn to make a drastic change to your music career and potentially see great results for it.
- They didn’t give realistic expectations. Doing online gigs, teaching online, and all the other examples I saw aren’t quick fixes. If you’re only now seriously looking into teaching online and online gigs, chances are you haven’t already built up the necessary audience and systems to make these things work. And that will take time, at least a year or so. So why not instead take this time and put it into something which will potentially give you much better rewards at the end?
In this article however, I’m going to share with you what I feel to be the best path you could take if you’re at a crossroads in your music career. While what I share won’t replace your teaching or gigging income overnight, it’s what a small but smart group of musicians have been doing to replace their day job income and earn between $2,000 and $20,000+ per month.
No that’s not a typo, between $2,000 and $20,000+ per month.
While for privacy reasons I can’t share specific musician’s estimated income numbers, in this article I will give examples of people doing well in terms of audience size and views. Even from this and by reading between the lines and doing a bit of quick math, you should be able to see this is a real opportunity and what’s possible for yourself.
To set a realistic expectation, if you do everything right and you’ve got a decent talent level, it’s possible to hit those numbers in a year or two.
Some people may hit a decent income quicker, for some it may take 3 years plus. Some may never hit it. I’m not giving you any guarantees, I’m just sharing with you what I see to be the biggest opportunity in the music industry right now. It’s down to you if you make it work or not.
I won’t leave you waiting any longer, let’s look at what this ‘mystery’ 4 step strategy is.
Step 1: Focus Your Music Career Around Youtube
Without doubt, Youtube is one of the biggest opportunities for musicians right now. Yet, it’s also one of the most underused.
Let me ask you, what comes to mind when you think of musicians on Youtube?
Behind the scenes?
Forget all that. In fact, forget everything you think you know about how a musician should approach their career on Youtube! There’s a much better way. One that has allowed a number of independent musicians like yourself to earn a full-time income from their music.
In its simplest form, the strategy looks something like this:
- Create 1 – 3 videos per week.
- Promote these videos, at least initially. As you get bigger Youtube will begin promoting them for you.
- Monetize that audience using various methods, both low friction (YouTube ads, Spotify streams etc) and ones that will make you a higher income per fan (bundles, experiences etc). More on this later.
Sounds underwhelming and too simple to work right? That’s because you don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle yet. These next sections and examples will help fill those in.
Step 2: Become More Than A Musician
So I said you’ll be making at least one video per week. But who has time to create a new music video every week?!
Well fear not, you won’t be making music videos, at least not in the traditional form. Furthermore, you’ll be throwing the traditional playbook out the window and actually start doing what’s currently working and earning musicians money!
Keep an open mind for a minute: if you want to thrive in the current music industry, you’re going to want to become more than a musician.
That’s not to say you won’t be making music anymore; you will be, and it’ll still be a core part of what you do.
But how many musicians are there in the world? Well this website of mine Music Industry How To got 2,208,136 unique musicians visiting us in 2019 alone.
Only a small fraction of musicians visit our website, there are many, many more millions of musicians out there.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are. Music is such an easy to come by form of entertainment, making it extremely hard to stand out from the crowd if you’re taking the traditional music career route.
What I recommend, and what some people are already doing, is taking a hobby, interest, or lifestyle topic and combining it with your music.
There are many musicians who are doing really well with this, but you’ve likely only ever heard of a few of them if any.
Here are some examples. All numbers are correct at the time of first writing this:
He combines rap, producing and comedy. He creates short, funny, highly sharable skits which feature his music.
He combines guitar playing with being a samurai. Yes you heard right, a samurai. And that’s not even the most out there example I’ve come across.
Irish singer / producer Gavin Dunne, owner of Miracle Of Sound, combines his original music with footage from videogames, movies & TV.
The Ukulele Teacher
The Ukulele Teacher combines, as I’m sure you can guess, ukulele playing and teaching. This is a great example of how you can take your talent and use it to teach online. This option is much better than Skype lessons, but we’ll leave that for another day.
You can see more musicians who are doing well on Youtube in our free ebook; great for both inspiration and getting an idea of what works.
I won’t talk about it too much here as I already go into much more detail in that above ebook. But in short, when you make the shift from a musician to a standout entertainer, a few things happen:
- Your perceived value goes higher. Meaning you’ll find it much easier to stand out from the crowd.
- Your marketing costs go down. As people are more likely to naturally share you because you’re so different, each promotion will get you much more results.
- As you’re doing this on Youtube, if they see you’re doing well, over time they’ll push your video more and more. It’s not like paid traffic where if you stop spending money your exposure dries up. Over time the eyeballs you’ll get will generally increase.
- As you get higher video views, you can use lower friction monetization methods and still do really well without having to hard sell.
Let’s dig into that last point a bit more.
Step 3: Diversify Your Income Streams.
The next step is to diversify your income streams. If you’ve been relying on gig income as your bread and butter, you’ll likely understand how important this is. It doesn’t matter if it’s gigs, Spotify streams, merch or anything else; it’s not a good idea to rely on just one way to make money from your music.
Instead, you want to set up a few different ways, ones that don’t rely on each other to keep going. So if one, or even two different income sources dry up, you’ll still have others to help keep you afloat.
The great thing about being a Youtube based musician is you can monetize it any way you want. You have the low friction methods such as:
- Youtube ads.
- Spotify streams.
None of these require your visitor to take their wallet or purse out, but you can still make very good money from it.
It’s widely accepted that you can get an average of $2 per 1000 views if you monetize with Youtube ads, and $7 per 1000 ‘monthly listeners’ on Spotify (‘monthly listeners’, not to be confused with ‘streams’ which is something different). While it takes a lot of views to make a good income from that, Youtube is very open right now, and many musicians who use this strategy I share get millions of views per month.
I won’t name names for privacy reasons, but I’ve a growing list of nearly 50 independent musicians who fit into this category and do at least 1,000,000 views a month. By looking at income sources which are publicly display and can be estimated (namely Spotify streams, Youtube ads and Patreon combined), I can see that all of these musicians earn at least $2000 per month. Some earn over $20,000+ per month.
It’s not always people with high quality equipment or big budgets that are hitting these numbers, in fact it’s often not. Many of the videos these musicians make can be easily replicated with your iPhone and some good ideas. And to be honest, not all of them are the most talented musicians in the world.
That said, they’re all doing something really important: they’re giving the people what they want.
They’re not being snobby and sticking to ‘what a traditional musician should be’. They’re not writing a million songs, ‘paying their dues’, or trying to get approval from record labels, music universities or other industry gate keepers.
Instead they’ve jumped on Youtube, tried a few things, interacted with their audience, and over time built up a full-time income through the platform.
I’ve gone a bit off topic, but I’ll keep the above in there as it’s still valuable information. To get back to my original point of this section though, some other ways you can monetize your YouTube based music career include:
- Song sales.
- Digital downloads. Packaging these can be great; they’re low cost for you but have a decent perceived value. It still amazes me how many musicians haven’t caught onto this.
- Gig tickets, when you’re outside of coronavirus season of course.
- Live or online personal meetings with fans; stick to online for now.
Now, let’s move on to the final stage.
Step 4: Diversify Your Fan Acquisition Strategies
While Youtube is the biggest opportunity in the music industry right now, as we’re talking about stabilizing your music career, I think it’s important to mention that it’s never wise to 100% rely on any one platform.
No platform is guaranteed to be around for the long term. YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, all are platforms which you don’t fully control. Yet they can all serve a purpose.
While you should solely focus on Youtube for at least the next year in order to build up traction, when it gets to the point where you’re consistently making say $1000+ per month from it, you should think about slowly diversifying.
Not to the point where you forget about Youtube, you’ll still want to spend the majority of your effort there and get to higher numbers. But you’ll want to dedicate a little time to getting eyeballs from other places too. This is to cover you against the unlikely event Youtube ever goes down.
I also recommend having your own website where you can collect email subscribers. That way if one platform goes down (it’s happened before, and as corona is showing us, things can change in an instant) you still have access to a portion of your fans. You can then use these fans as a launching pad to get your name out there on a new platform.
I’ll wrap it up there. These are hard times no doubt, especially for gigging musicians who rely on that income to support themselves and their family. While unfortunately I can’t give you a magic pill that will help you reclaim that lost income overnight, I hope the above will get you thinking about the future and be the first steps to you setting that up.
By using the above plan and consistently applying yourself to it, it’s not an unrealistic expectation to have a job replacing income within 2 years. That’s not a guarantee of course, you need to consistently work at this, have a decent level of talent, and give people what they want to see. But many others have done it before, so it’s not unachievable.
If you want to see other musicians who have been successful in this strategy, as well as get a lot more details, you’ll want to have my free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career’ ebook sent to you.
Please share this article if useful, I’m sure your fellow musicians will appreciate it.