The compact disk was a life-changing technology for musicians in the late 20th century. It made it easier for them to promote and sell their music, increasing their income. However, CDs have been quietly disappearing from the limelight for a while, and musicians have found other ways to make money.
Here are 10 ways musicians can make money without CDs:
- Holding live shows
- Creating a YouTube channel
- Streaming royalties
- Selling music on digital stores
- Music licensing
- Brand endorsement
- Selling merchandise
- Teaching music
- Creating a website
In this article, I’ll explore ways you can make money as a musician apart from selling CDs.
1. Holding Live Shows
Thanks to streaming technology, there are many options to make money by performing live. However, the usual live shows remain an excellent way for musicians to earn extra cash. It helps them interact with their fans and build a following.
Here are some ways that you can make money through live shows:
Selling tickets is a sure way to make money during live concerts. They contribute the most to your revenue, as fans are always willing to pay to witness your performance. However, you must be strategic. It helps to choose weekends and holidays for your concerts.
Entertainment joints such as clubs, hotels, and restaurants make great gig options. You can also perform in colleges and at private events such as:
- Corporate events
Make sure to set a reasonable ticket price. Live shows have incredible returns when you market them appropriately and to the right audience. You can use social platforms for advertising and creating hype around the event.
Don’t forget to give all the necessary details on the performance, including location, time, where and how to get the tickets, and the ticket price.
Find Your Gigs
Finding gigs on your own is tricky if you have no track record. But you can start small in local towns to build your reputation. You might have to start with free concerts to make yourself known. Roadshows, tours, and festivals are also a great way to create your portfolio.
Additionally, you can tag along well-known musicians to improve your portfolio. If you get a slot, ensure you give it your best by performing your hit songs.
If you’re an experienced artist, you should try to find your own gigs. This will give you an upper hand when negotiating with promoters.
Still, it’s a good idea to collaborate with other musicians to make the show more appealing to the audience.
The audience needs to see the value for their money, and some people are more likely to pay for a ticket if they’ll get to see more than one musician. Each artist has their fans, which is why collaborating gives you better chances of attracting a larger audience.
After securing a gig, keep the end of your bargain. Don’t keep your fans waiting only to show up in the wee hours of the morning. Giving your best performance helps you build trust and loyalty from your fans.
While shows are great ways to make money, sometimes it isn’t easy to reach all your fans and make your music known outside your area. Besides, some circumstances, such as Covid 19 restrictions, made it impossible to have a live performance.
To solve these problems, many musicians have opted for live streaming, and many have been earning handsomely from live streams since the pandemic arrived.
In addition, streaming allows you to interact with your fans from across the world, enabling you to create a one-on-one relationship with them.
Like with live shows, you need to engage and entertain your fans, so it’s best to plan adequately. For example, consider having ample space for your musical needs and invest in appropriate instruments to ensure the stream sounds and looks professional.
Additionally, it helps to take care of the lighting and ensure you have cameras at different angles to enhance the view. However, you can start small using your laptop and phone, especially if you aren’t charging any money.
You can sell tickets on your website and on social media. These platforms also help you market your live stream and answer questions from your audience.
You can use software such as Zoom, Vimeo, Twitch, and YouTube live. These allow you to sell tickets, but be sure to discount the prices. You can have a fixed price or a minimum amount they must pay to access the show.
Facebook and Instagram are also popular with live streams, but selling tickets is difficult. The best way to monetize on such platforms is to ask for donations and support from your fans. These are best for short videos (about 30-40 minutes) only.
Note that if you plan to make a lot of money with live streams, you must have a large viewer base.
Crowdfunding is one of the newest methods artists are using to make money from their music. Musicians are turning to their fans for funding various projects such as releasing an album, marketing, or organizing a concert.
Simply put, you’re asking for donations from your fans.
Connecting with your fans is the best way to generate revenue through crowdfunding. Make sure you have loyal fans that trust and believe in your art. Social media is the best place to start, as it lets you interact with your followers and build a personal connection.
Crowdfunding can also help you improve your skills, as it can support you for a more extended period and you can use the funds to improve your recording gear.
Crowdfunding works well when you engage with your fans. Ensure you are accountable and answer their questions as truthfully as possible.
In addition, be ready to give incentives and rewards to keep your fans motivated. If you manage to get their attention, they will want to give you what they can. Expect your fans to develop ideas to improve your content in a way that satisfies them.
Remember to keep an open mind to the different suggestions so you don’t ruin your relationship with your fans.
4. Creating a YouTube Channel
If you’re an artist without a YouTube channel, you’re missing out on earning opportunities.
YouTube is the most profitable and popular platform where your fans can access your music.
The beauty of it is that it’s free, and you only need to create an account and upload your content.
There are various ways to make money from YouTube, depending on your number of subscribers and viewers. In any case, you need a decent following before you start making money. Optimizing and marketing your channel is the best way to get viewers and subscribers.
You can use various strategies to market YouTube channels on social media. But first, let your fans know the channel’s name and ask them to subscribe. Also encourage them to turn on notifications so they can find out every time you post a new song.
Here are some ways to make money on YouTube as a musician:
Allow YouTube Ads
Advertisements are a sure way to make money through a YouTube channel. You’ll need to change the settings to allow ads to run as people watch your content. The beauty of YouTube ads is that they will enable you to earn royalties per view.
YouTube Ads won’t make you a lot of money unless you have a vast amount of subscribers, but it’s a good place to start.
YouTube Partnership Program
This partnership program allows you to earn money every time a fan watches your content. However, there are various requirements you must meet before becoming a Partner.
For instance, you must have over 1000 subscribers and 4000 public watch hours in the previous year. Additionally, you must follow YouTube policies and have no community guideline strikes.
The partnership program allows you to get a cut when others use your videos or songs. However, you must register your content to ensure YouTube can recognize you as the copyright owner.
Plus, setting up a YouTube channel is easy, and you’ll get all the settings from the site.
5. Streaming Royalties
Any musician benefits from streaming royalties when fans listen to their songs on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Although the returns aren’t much, they can accumulate into a sizeable amount. Additionally, it’s a great way to promote your music.
It’s also possible to get money from public performance royalties—that is, when a business plays your music in a public space.
Unless you follow the proper procedures, people will be able to do it without your permission.
You’ll want to register with a performing rights organization to ensure you can earn some revenue whenever this happens. This institution will charge those who use your music in public spaces such as hotels and clubs, or on platforms such as radio and TV.
6. Selling Music on Digital Stores
Streaming isn’t the only way to reach people with your music in the digital era. Many people still like to own and download their music.
Consider uploading your releases to stores such as Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes. Alternatively, you can use a service like CD Baby, which takes care of distribution for you.
Many fans will be willing to buy your music on digital stores as a way to show support for your work.
7. Music Licensing
TV shows, films, ads, and other productions that use your music must pay a licensing fee. There are usually two types of fees involved:
- Master use licensing fee. This one allows someone else to use the recording
- Synchronization fee. This is the songwriter’s fee.
The amount users will pay for your song depends on how they use it.
Productions can also contract you to compose an original song at a fee that you agree to. You could earn money by composing or licensing your music to commercials, films, or even video games.
8. Brand Endorsement
Brands will likely contract you to endorse and promote their products if you have a large enough following. Working with corporations is a great way to make money, and it usually allows you to make more than with other avenues.
You can also approach businesses that match your values and sponsor their products at a fee. In this case, you’ll want to take precautions not to get caught in controversies that compromise your relationship with your fans.
Sponsorships work in different ways depending on the company. Businesses may require you to incorporate the products in your videos, promote them on your social media platforms or feature them in advertisements.
Whichever your options are, you shouldn’t compromise your image. You don’t want to lose fans or go against your values.
9. Selling Merchandise
Selling merchandise is another incredible way for you to make money while connecting with your fans. It also helps you promote your brand to widen your fan base.
To earn with merchandise, make sure you have loyal fans willing to support you.
You can start on a small scale if you don’t have a massive following. For instance, you can begin by branding caps, t-shirts, and other cheaper items. This approach helps you learn the market dynamics before going for more expensive items.
The success of your merchandise depends on you as a brand. If become a sensation, you can introduce luxury items such as clothing lines, beauty products, and perfumes.
For better returns, consider promoting and marketing your products on social media. Moreover, take advantage of shows, concerts, and road trips as selling points.
10. Teaching Music
Music schools are expensive, which is why there are always people willing to pay for private classes.
The good thing about teaching is that it’s easy, especially if it’s your passion—even though it might take much of your time. The best way to start is by looking for clients in your local area. If you have a large budget, you could even create your own website for online classes.
If you’re still a beginner, you probably shouldn’t charge too much. As you become more experienced, you can increase your rates.
11. Creating a Website
Your music is your business, and you must run it like one. You need an optimized website where people can find your services, contacts, and music. A website enables you to sell your music and merchandise and makes it easy for people to find you on search engines.
Optimizing it to rank better on search engines is essential. Also, design the landing pages properly to make them appealing to your users. Furthermore, they should be easy to navigate for mobile and desktop views.