All too familiar is the time-old tale of the struggling musician. Busting a gut as an independent musician or selling their soul, all to just make ends meet. And this is somewhat true – making money from music can be a challenge. But – it’s achievable. And very much within reach.
If you’re willing to diversify your skill-set and try your hand at a couple of different music side hustles, you’ll actually find a wealth of revenue opportunities that you can tap into. Because if you can, why not make money from both your music, and your expertise?
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10 ways to make money from your music
As an aspiring musician or someone looking to start a band you’ve probably wondered - where does the majority of an artists’ revenue come from? How do artists build a financially stable career from their music?
Well, here you go - 10 major revenue streams that’ll make up the bulk of any artist’s income.
1. Streaming Royalties
2. Music Publishing
4. Touring & Live Shows
5. Physical Sales
6. Sync Deals
7. Brand Partnerships
9. Music Libraries
10. Teach What You Know
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1. Streaming Royalties
Kicking off with the most obvious way to make money from your music – through music royalties and releasing it online, to all the major music platforms. Including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal and so on.
Although streaming sales won’t necessarily rake in the big bucks straight-away, they can begin to really add up over time, especially as your followers and number of monthly listeners begin to grow. Which makes streaming a regular source of revenue for many artists – new or old, big or small!
Through streaming royalties. Streaming royalties are the money that's owed to you every time your track is streamed or downloaded on a digital music platform.
Find out how much could be making from streaming with out Spotify pay per stream calculator!
With Ditto as your music distributor, we’ll not only make sure your music gets to every big music platform and digital store, but we’ll ALSO make sure you receive 100% of all the streaming royalties you’re owed. You can even access streaming insights and analytics on your personal Ditto dashboard, to find out exactly which platforms the majority of your streaming revenue is coming from.
Start your free-30 day trial and try it for yourself.
Whether you're making money as a recording artist, composer or music producer, streaming can monetize your music in the long-term, via more lucrative income streams (such as live shows, merch and sync deals).
Distributing your music online acts as a platform for listeners to discover you as an artist and get a taste for your music. Then if they like what they hear, they’ll be more likely to go a step further and buy a ticket for your gig, or some kit off your website. Full circle – ah?
Learn more about streaming:
How to release music in Spotify
How much do music streaming platforms pay?
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2. Music Publishing
<br>One of the most important sources of income for independent musicians is the money you make through music publishing royalties.
Understanding how music publishing works can be a tricky business. But – it’s really important that you have a general grasp of it, to make sure you’re getting all the royalties you are owed as a musician.
So here’s a (VERY) brief overview.
As a form of intellectual property, music compositions and recordings come with a set of rights. That means when organizations (such as radio stations, streaming sites and venues) want to use this piece of property, they are required to pay an annual license.
From this licence, two (main) types of royalties are distributed;
- Mechanical royalties - money owed to you when a song is streamed, downloaded or reproduced as a CD/Vinyl.
- Performance royalties – money owed to you when a song is played on the radio, on television, in a venue, live on stage or at any other public place.
And as the owner(s) of the work, it is generally the artist who is entitled to the money from these royalties.
Royalty collection and management is a tricky and tedious process, even if you’re already registered with a music royalty collection agency.
But good news!
Ditto Music Publishing can do the job for you. When you sign up with Ditto Music Publishing, we only take a 10% commission on the publishing royalties we collect, and you keep all the rest. There’s no better deal anywhere else in the industry.
Not only this – but working with Ditto Publishing also means we can pitch your music for sync deals, meaning even more royalty opps – but more on that later!
Learn more about music publishing:
What are mechanical royalties?
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<br>Selling your own merchandise is another key way of generating income as an upcoming musician.
Manufacturing merch can be pretty cheap if you know where to source it. And if you sell merch at your live gigs or concerts, the money you make can be a great way to subsidise concert travel expenses and/or venue hire.
Your merch line doesn’t have to be limited to just clothing. It can include a wide range of products – from mugs, to phone cases, to posters, to bottle openers and more.
And actually, offering a range of products can help create higher and lower level price points in your merch line. So yeah, maybe not every fan can afford to buy a $20 tour tee. But they’ll be more than likely able to swing a $5 keyring. And those $5 dollar bills add up!
So when should you invest in merch?
You should invest in merch once you’ve started to gain a following and play regular shows or sets – as these events are where you’ll make the majority of your merch sales. But you can also sell merch via your online website or using an existing online store, such as Shopify.
When it comes to merch sales, just remember to keep your business hat on. Monitor your stock levels and keep track of payments, so you’re always stocked up with the fan favourites for the next big gig.
Learn more about music merchandise:
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4. Touring and live shows
<br>Now that the world’s opened back up again (hooray!) live music and shows are one of the prime sources of income for musicians.
There’s a few different revenue sources you can tap into from playing a live show;
- Ticket sales
- On the door fees
- Payment from the venue owner or promotor (if it’s a paid show)
When you’ve begun to establish yourself and you’re getting regular gigs, whether as an opening act or the main headline, you can start to charge fans for tickets to come and see you play.
As a general guide, tickets for unsigned shows generally range from between $5 - $15.
And if you’ve got a support act or if you’re a group/band, you’ll need to come to an agreement on how the revenue will be split, advisably before the actual show.
It’s also important to take into account any possible expenses against you as the live performer – such as the venue hire/deposit, any catering costs or promo material. So just make sure you dig around to find the best value venue deal for your money.
Psst – if you’re playing original material, remember to take a note of all your set lists to claim money owed to you for live performance royalties.
Learn more about live shows:
Guide to live streaming for musicians
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5. Physical music sales
<br>The thing that started it all.
In today’s industry, income in the form of physical music sales – such as CDs, vinyl and cassettes – are certainly less prominent than before. But that’s not to say physical music sales aren’t still a viable income revenue for musicians and artists.
CDs could be a good way to go. They’re cheap to make, easy to reproduce, and they can be bundled up and sold with other merch items. But to be honest, very few people actually listen to them nowadays.
Vinyl however has seen a huge cultural resurgence, and continues to surpass CD revenues year on year. A recent Spotify fan study found that vinyl was the TOP merch choice across almost every genre!
With many bands bringing out their own limited vinyl runs, making and selling vinyl copies of your music could be a great way to tap into current buying trends!
2020 also saw a 50% increase in cassette tape purchases. Perhaps a short-term trend, but there’s no harm in hopping on the bandwagon if it fits with your authentic image and branding.
And remember, you can also sell CDs and vinyl at shows, on your website or any other online store, as well as through physical music distribution to record stores and ecommerce wholesalers, such as Amazon.
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6. Sync Deals
<br>Making money from music sync can be hard to do, but if you can crack it, you’re onto a winner.
Music sync is somewhat a whole other world.
But for these purposes, in short – music sync, also known as “synchronising licensing”, enables artists to earn money by having their music featured in a form of visual media – so that’s movies, television shows or video games.
The media business must pay the artist for a licence to use their music in their media – known as a flat fee. Flat fees vary, but can stretch up to $10,000 per sync placement, plus continuous royalty pay-outs for ongoing media usages and repeated broadcasts.
So yeah - it’s easy to see why sync is a very lucrative revenue stream for musicians.
The best way to submit your music for a sync deal is through your music publisher.
Here at Ditto Music we have a wealth of experience pitching artists’ tracks to huge global networks and video streaming services, such as BBC, HBO and Netflix.
Interested? Sign up with Ditto Music Publishing today and we’ll start pitching your music for sync placements!
Learn more about sync:
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7. Brand partnerships & sponsorships
<br>Ever seen one of your favourite artists collaborating with a specific brand or product?
Well that’s essentially known as a brand partnership or endorsement deal. This is where the musician makes money as an endorser for a specific brand or product.
The common types of brands/companies you might partner with as a musician include;
- Musical instrument manufacturers
- Clothing lines
- Social media app developers
- Grooming product lines
If you decide to partner with a brand, they will negotiate a deal with to promote their brand or boost their visibility, through association with you as an artist. This could be in the form of sponsored posts on social media, at your live shows, on you YouTube channel, and much more.
Now as an emerging artist, it’s unlikely that the CEO of Marshall or Fender is gonna come and bust down your door to work with them. Let’s be real. Big brands like that tend to work with musicians who already have either an established fan following, or a strong and consistent online digital presence.
So the key with this one is to start small. Reach out to smaller, maybe local or independent brands and see what you can negotiate. At the beginning, payment may only be through some free kit and the likes – but it’s a good place to start!
But importantly – if you are lucky enough to work with a brand – just make sure the brand aligns with your own branding as a musician - whether you're a pop goup, soul singer, rap artist, whatever!
For example – South Korean boyband BTS patterning with South Korean motor brand, Hyundai, in aid of World Earth day and climate change, makes sense.
Snoop Dog as a pioneer for Just Eat, begs to differ...
Maintaining your authentic self as an artist is key – so unless your association with a brand or product strengthens that image, it’s best to say no-deal. Don’t run the risk of compromising your authenticity and your fans’ loyalty.
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8. Crowdfunding & membership subscription services
<br>Another great revenue stream is the money you can make via crowdfunding and membership subscription services.
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is essentially turning your followers and community into a sustainable form of funding for your projects. Whether that be buying new music equipment, bringing out a new album, or creating new artwork.
It allows you to ask for some monetary support from your audience and fans – as an alternative to looking for a huge advance from one individual source (like a record label or loan). Which makes it an especially great option for independent musicians.
There are now a number of crowdfunding platforms on the market. Some of the best ones for artists and creatives specifically include;<br>
Plus loads more!
What is a membership subscription service?
A membership subscription service is slightly different from crowdfunding.
These are where you start a membership with a subscription service, that your fans can then become subscribers to.
The difference is, subscription services like Patreon, allow subscribers to receive exclusive content (such as artwork, photographs and videos) from their favourite artists, via a monthly subscription fee.
The artist can then allocate the money they’ve raised through these subscriber fees, to whatever project they’re currently working on. So it’s very much a two way street!
When it comes to both crowdfunding or subscription services, the platform you opt to use is very much based around what exactly you are trying to fund for.
For example, if it’s just for music equipment, it might work best on a music-specific crowdfunding site like Indiegogo. Whereas, if it’s more creative funds you’re looking to raise, for albums and songs, Kickstarter is a better bet. And for an on-going funding campaign for bigger projects that you might need more than a one-time amount, Patreon for musicians is the way to go.
It's also vital that you keep up to date with any music funding opportunities in your region to ensure you're getting all the help you can get.
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9. Writing for music libraries
<br>Writing and producing music for music libraries and production companies is not only a way to make money from your music, but it’s also a really amazing way of building on your musical ability.<br>
What is a music library?
A music library is essentially a curated collection of music-related materials, such as musical scores or audio recordings, that are only available for licensed and private use. Specifically made for ad agencies, videographers, indie filmmakers, YouTubers and other businesses with a license.
When you’re writing music for a music library, you’ll more than likely be writing or composing in a style that's outside your own genre of music. Although this may sound daunting, it’s actually an incredible opportunity to break into new musical territories and challenge yourself as a writer and musician.
Now with music libraries, payments are made via royalties with the PRS. This means you may not necessarily get paid for quite some time, and it could be anywhere up to a year.
But, if you’re good at writing music for a brief, open to something different and looking to up-skill, then make sure you get involved with writing for music libraries.
Some of our favourite music libraries include:
And there’s a ton more out there! So do some digging.
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10. Teach what you know
<br>Last up but definitely not least – why not make some money by teaching others the secrets of your craft?!
If you’re a rapper, singer, composer or producer, all of these things can be sold to a younger artist in the form of online tutorials, workshops and vlogs.
If you’re an instrumentalist, you could use your evenings and weekends to tutor an aspiring musician part-time.
The bottom line is – you can sell your expertise to whoever else wants to learn and buy that knowledge.
Music Fibre is a really useful tool to get into teaching. You can join their huge directory of hand-picked music professionals, with expertise in every possible avenue of the industry.
So repurpose your music abilities and start making money from it!
So what are you waiting for? Time to start widening your revenue horizons and making yourself a sustainable music career!