How To Make Money From Music: 15 Ways You Haven’t Thought Of Yet
The coronavirus pandemic has altered life as we know it. Many musicians, myself included, have had to pivot our strategies in working and making money from our craft. During the first few months of the shelter-in-place order in the United States, I spent hours trying to find side gigs and part-time music work, with little success. After a few months, I decided to brainstorm and research different ways to make additional money through my own music and content.
Today, I'm here to share with you all the different strategies I thought of. Depending on the music you make and what type of musician you are, these may or may not apply to you. Take a look at the list below to see what you should try yourself!
1. Making TikTok and Snapchat videos
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing short-form video apps. Despite nearly being shut down by a presidential order in 2020, it continues to draw in millions of young viewers. The funny, informational, and entertaining videos on TikTok are filmed by creators of all ages and from all parts of the world.
Creating TikTok videos featuring your own music can help your songs reach a wider audience. Several young and independent musicians have been signed to major labels through their viral TikTok videos. One of my songs No Friends has been used in roughly 80,000 videos on the platform already!
In 2020, TikTok introduced the Tiktok Creator Fund, allowing creators to make money from their videos based on viewership. To apply, you'll need to convert your account into a creator account and reach the following requirements in the photo below.
Per this Wired article, creators enrolled in the creator fund program make roughly 4 cents per 1,000 views. You'll need to rack up a large amount of views on your videos to earn a full-time living, but it may be worth a shot.
In 2020, Snapchat (another short-form video app) introduced a similar feature called Spotlight, which highlights viral public snaps. Snapchat pays creators money for videos that make it to the Spotlight page. The more views you get, the more you are paid. Snapchat hasn't released any specific details on pay rates, but you'll know if you've earned money if you see a message from Team Spotlight in your app inbox. Read more about the program here!
2. Brand deals and sponsorships
If you have a large following on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram, try reaching out to companies for brand deals and sponsorships. The larger your following is, the better chance you'll have at connecting with a marketing representative. Craft a friendly but concise e-mail on how you'd be able to successfully market and integrate the company's products into your content. Give them an estimate of how many views you'd be likely to earn on a sponsored video.
Be ready to negotiate your rates - companies often are willing to pay more than their first offer.
Several musicians, DJs, and gamers have found success through livestreaming during the coronavirus pandemic. If you're not camera-shy, learning to perform for an internet audience can be a financially rewarding endeavor. Several livestreaming platforms such as Sessions and Caffeine are offering incentive programs that will pay you for reaching specific metrics during your streams. Make sure to stream on platforms where viewers can gift you a form of currency that you can cash out after your stream (for example: bits on Twitch).
If you're performing through livestream shows, you'll need to learn how to engage with your audience between songs to keep people interested. My past livestream shows consisted of equal parts musical performance and engagement with my audience. The upside is that you don't need to spend as much time planning and rehearsing songs for your upcoming streams. Spontaneity is often fun to watch!
Play games with your audience. Ask them questions. Let them give you song requests. And don't be afraid to plug your own socials or ask for donations.
4. Producing, songwriting, and recording for hire
If you love creating music, you might consider offering your services for hire (and/or for future royalty payments). Websites such as SoundBetter (now owned by Spotify) and Vocalizr are great platforms for you to help other musicians bring their projects to fruition while getting paid for it.
Make sure not to undercharge for your services. As a singer and songwriter, I usually charge no less than $600 for one project (including feature credits and a royalty percentage of future earnings). Before starting the project, don't forget to sign an agreement with your client specifying payments, royalties, feature credits, revisions, and more. SoundBetter and Vocalizr won't handle any royalty or copyright disputes between you and your clients.
A great way to grow your fanbase is to reach fans from another musician. Collaborations exist in a multitude of different ways: producer with producer, singer with producer, singer with songwriter, and more. Send friendly e-mails introducing yourself to potential collaborative partners, and tell them what you're hoping to create together.
Once a connection is made, make sure to determine royalty splits, marketing and release efforts, expenses, feature credits, and other details before starting the project. Having everything down in a written agreement will help you make sure that no misunderstandings occur while you work together. Be ready to compromise if you want your collaborations to succeed - you won't end up with any successful projects if you try to dictate your own terms all the time.
Performances are a wonderful opportunity to get paid doing what you love. A great performance will also help you secure future bookings from audience members.
Create a press kit for yourself and compile a list of all the songs you're able to perform. Showcase live video recordings of your recent performances on your press kit. Make sure to include an e-mail where you can accept bookings. Send out cold e-mails to venues and festivals looking for performers. Be ready to respond to inquiries with your rates; most musicians charge by the hour. You'll need to charge a rate that will factor in all the time and money you need to rehearse, prepare, and transport yourself to and from the performance.
Most events request musicians to perform more cover songs than original songs, so check with the event organizer to see what they're looking for. Some events won't allow any cover songs at all.
Performances occur at private events, birthday parties, kids events, festivals, and more. The opportunities will differ depending on where you live. Do a search on Google for festivals, clubs, bars, lounges, and anywhere else you see other musicians performing. Reach out to wedding planners to see if any of their clients are looking for wedding performers. I'd recommend registering as a performer on GigSalad to find more opportunities.
Even though most performances in 2020 and 2021 have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may live in a state or country where they haven't been. Take some time to see what your options are, and make sure to follow laws and regulations regarding performances during COVID-19.
7. YouTube Videos and Vlogging
Plenty of musicians and content creators have achieved successful careers through making YouTube videos. It may take a long time for you to develop a following and cut through the competition, but consistency may offer rewards in the future. If you're not sure what you want to focus your video projects on, use a shotgun approach and try creating videos in all different fields (cover songs, original songs, instructional videos, etc). When something sticks, hone in your efforts on those types of videos.
If you like writing, blogging is another great option to earn passive income. Create a blog or website and start writing articles on music advice, music news, music reviews, or whatever else you want to write about. In your blog posts, make sure to include keywords relevant to the topic you're writing about.
Next, index the post on Google Search Console to increase the discoverability of your posts. Link your website to Google Adsense and place display ads throughout your blog posts to collect advertising revenue. Every time someone clicks an ad, you'll earn money.
Many musicians earn side income by teaching their skills to others. There are plenty of ways to get involved with teaching. If you're a pianist, consider teaching piano lessons to children. If you're a singer, consider teaching singing lessons to a fiance who wants to impress their future husband or wife with a song on their wedding day.
I personally haven't explored this option, but doing a Google search might help you find the best websites to offer your teaching lessons on. Many YouTubers offer lessons as a reward through Patreon subscriptions. Patreon is a website that allows your fans to contribute a monthly payment to you to support your work.
10. Online course
Offering an online course takes more work in the beginning, but allows you to collect passive income without putting in any more effort after the online course has been released. Websites such as Teachable allow you to offer your course to the entire world through their website.
You'll need to spend time planning, recording, and editing your online course. What do you want to teach? How many lessons will be involved? What will each lesson cover? How will you film and produce each lesson? How will you market your course? Some of these questions might be pretty daunting, so doing some research and seeing how other creators offer their online courses might help.
If time spent teaching in front of the camera sounds like too much for you, you might want to consider putting your knowledge down in writing as an e-book. An e-book is usually PDF file filled with pages of useful information. I've learned many things about the music industry and collecting music royalties from e-books provided by other music companies and music creators.
Keep in mind that just like with an online course, you'll need to find ways to market and promote your e-book. Facebook Ads and Google Ads may be a good option. To find out more about how I grew my Facebook page to 30,000 likes using Facebook Ads, click here.
Selling merchandise featuring your artist name, cover art, or other designs can be a lucrative way to make money if enough of your fans are willing to purchase them. Merchandise can range from shirts, hats, stickers, posters, pins and more.
Avoid buying merchandise in bulk before selling if you're not sure you'll be able to sell all of it. Work with companies who are willing to produce the merchandise once an order is placed. Spreadshop, Merch by Amazon, and Teespring are merch platforms you can consider in creating your own merch for sale. Creators in the YouTube Partner Program can feature a "merch shelf" on their channels, making it easier for subscribers to find their merch offerings.
13. Work at a music-related job
If you find yourself having a lot of spare time, consider applying for part-time or temp jobs related to music. There's plenty of jobs related to music: A&R representative, music administrator at a music instruction company, sound designer at a tech firm, and more.
Do a search on Google or Indeed to see what positions are available. Working in a music-related job also offers opportunities to network with other musicians. Who knows who you'll meet?
14. Selling ownership of your music
If you've written, recorded, or produced several unreleased projects and don't know what to do with them, consider making them available for sale to other musicians. Producers are often looking for stunning vocals for their next project. Vocalists are often looking for hit productions to write vocals for and release as an upcoming single.
If you've built up a network of friends and collaborators in the entertainment industry, send them a friendly email offering your work for sale. Be ready to negotiate fees, royalty payments, feature credits, and other terms of the sale. A transfer of copyright agreement will be needed if you plan on selling ownership of your music.
15. Licensing your music
If you have a library of unreleased vocals and tracks but don't want to sell your copyrights, you may want to consider licensing opportunities. Websites such as Splice offer licensing deals to creators in return for royalty-free content that they can provide to other musicians. Submit for licensing opportunities with Splice here.
Another way to license your work is through synch deals; there are a multitude of music supervisors and music libraries out there looking for music to place in upcoming films and television shows. Some popular music libraries are Audiosocket and Songtradr. This area of the entertainment industry is extremely competitive, but you're likely to earn payments in the thousands for high-profile placements.
Hope this list was helpful! If you have any of your own suggestions to add to my list, please leave them in the comments below - I'd love to keep building on this post with your feedback.
Make sure to read part this article HERE and submit your music to independent Spotify playlists for free!
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