There are even more income ideas covered throughout this guide though, so keep reading…
How do Artists Make Money from Streaming?
It may sound obvious, but the key is to get your music streamed more.
To get your music streamed more, you need to get more people to hear your music.
So, you need to identify all the ways you can get your fans, your extended network, and your prospects to hear it. Think of every idea possible. It doesn’t matter how guerilla or mainstream the idea might be.
If you do a proper brainstorming session and sit down and generate as many ideas as possible, you’ll be surprised at what comes up.
But practically speaking, you can:
Run pre-save campaigns
Get your music reviewed
Send email campaign links to your fans with your streaming links
Embed your music on blogs and websites
Take advantage of whatever built in features the streaming platforms have.
Oftentimes they give you the ability to share your music on social networks, or to embed your music on your own website. Use these tools to grow your streaming royalties.
How do Artists Make Money on YouTube?
Basically, the only direct source of revenue on YouTube is revenue share ads.
There are other options that are unlocked as you continue to grow your channel but technically, you can’t even earn on advertising until you have at least 1,000 subscribers. That’s the point at which YouTube allows you to monetize your channel.
And then you may be able to add revenue streams like donations from live streams (Super Chat) or subscriptions.
But there are many indirect ways of earning on YouTube.
That includes streaming. So, for example, after you’ve created a vlog, and you’ve shared about your latest song, you could send people to Spotify to go and listen to it.
Another indirect source is merch. If you share about your latest T-shirt design or button design in your video, or maybe someone’s wearing that shirt in your video, you can link it up in the description.
You can do the same thing with affiliate links. What products did you share about in your video? Did you talk about a specific guitar or guitar amp? You can become an affiliate for these products and earn a commission on them with your affiliate links.
What about Patreon or another fan club or membership service? If people enjoy what you’re doing and what you’re creating, then it’s worth trying out some of these options.
I happen to like 10XPro for creating courses and membership sites.
Another way YouTubers often earn is through sponsorships. If you have a big enough channel and a big enough viewership, you might be approached with the idea of promoting sponsors for a flat fee, clicks and views, conversions, or otherwise.
How do Musicians Make Money Without CDs?
Now we know that there was a format shift from CDs to digital downloads, and eventually from digital downloads to streaming.
So, while it might seem like we are firmly and thoroughly in the digital age, it doesn’t mean that people don’t want physical goods anymore. Certain fans don’t. But there are still fans who do.
Bandcamp has been posting some numbers about people buying more physical media than ever, especially cassettes and vinyl records, and merch like T-shirts.
And while I’m not necessarily saying that these mediums are for everyone, the idea that CDs are no longer needed, utilized, or wanted simply isn’t true.
But more generally, artists can make money online through many of the other ways we’ve already talked about – merch sales, streaming, licensing and placements, YouTube, creator economy platforms like Koji, eCommerce, affiliate marketing, memberships or subscriptions, and even crowdfunding.
How do Musicians Make Money During COVID?
The best thing you can do for your music career is to disaster- and future-proof it.
Unfortunately, we can’t always know what’s coming.
In the case of the pandemic, it took everyone by surprise, and it had an impact on independent artists and their income, especially those who’ve relied heavily on gigging and live performance as their main sources of income.
Plainly, the main thing that was impacted was live performance. We can’t underestimate what that means, because live performance is the main way artists connect with their fans.
And without that physical presence, keeping and holding people’s attention can be a tough thing.
That said, many artists were still able to make an income in many of the ways we’ve already talked about, whether it’s merch sales, live streaming and tips, streaming like Spotify, licensing and placements, radio, YouTube and Vevo, and music lessons.
Innovative musicians even started looking to the creator economy for answers like Patreon or Koji.
While we can’t underestimate the impact of something like COVID, it doesn’t mean that all the other revenue sources went and dried up.
It just meant that gigging specifically wasn’t viable opportunity for a while. Of course, this isn’t to say that this can’t happen again. So, we do suggest disaster planning your career now.
Conclusion, How Music Makes Money
For most artists, music isn’t just about the money. Many artists would love to make enough to make a living so that they can focus on their creativity and their passion.
Many artists are more interested in the impact they can make on their fans and the world.
That said, an income does make a music career far more sustainable.
So, it pays to be shrewd when it comes to developing an income stream in music.
In this guide, we’ve covered many ways you can make an income from your music, but that isn’t to say this is a comprehensive list!
If you know me, you know that I’ve valued transparency over the years.
In the past, even if something didn’t exactly make me look like an authority, I published it anyway.
In a world of perfectly manicured social media profiles and shiny looking live streaming personalities, it’s easy to forget that everyone has challenges.
Name anyone who has recently achieved any level of success, and I can promise you the smoke of battle is still on them.
What does this have to do with anything?
Well, between June 2015 and March 2016 I published 10 monthly income reports.
And much to my surprise, people like you ended up finding a lot of value in them.
With my income reports, I was showing you how I was making money, and in turn you took those ideas and started making money off them. As a musician and creative coach, that got me excited.
So, it’s been a while since I published those reports, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable now than they were back then.
I may have changed my app subscriptions, my income comes from slightly difference sources now, and I may have some new products, but aside from that, everything I did back then is still quite relevant today.
So, here’s a special edition income report resource guide just for you.
My June 2015 Monthly Income Report – $1,351.98
In my income reports, I only ever shared my music related income, so don’t worry, I wasn’t living off a little over $1,000 per month in June or other months.
The first report establishes this, along with some of the other parameters and rules I had set for myself in creating these reports.
August 2015 ended up being a relatively “standard” month so far as the income reports were concerned. My first book, The New Music Industryhad just come out at that point, so that’s the main thing I was focused on promoting.
October 2015 was full of adventures, and not always of the pleasant kind. I had a bad experience at a gig, and I was experiencing some issues with my hosting company at the time. But you can read more about that in this report.
My December 2015 Monthly Income Report – $1,718.03
December 2015 is when I learned that a startup, I had invested in had completely failed. Considering it could have made me a millionaire (I don’t exaggerate), this was quite disappointing. I reflected on the pros and cons in this report.
2016 started with a bang, and I kept that momentum up until summer, when I had enough income coming in from my home based freelancing and business efforts that I could start working completely from home.
You’ve seen those big, sexy claims in articles and on YouTube, haven’t you?
This is how I earn $3,000 per month from my music.
She makes $50,000 per month selling on Amazon.
My affiliate business made six-figures last year.
So, you end up being lured in by the sexiness of the promise. Let’s face it – it’s hard not to click on those headlines.
Sometimes, the content delivers on its promise. But many times, you’re left scratching your head or shocked at the financial outlay required for the course, mastermind, or system that’s supposed to teach you how to get the same results. So, you don’t buy.
Was it worth it? Was it worth being ripped away from your goals and dreams to go and read that article or watch that video for 10 minutes?
Every Minute Counts
When you’re clear on what you want to accomplish and why, doesn’t every minute count? Aren’t all other things a distraction, pulling you away from the promise you’ve made to yourself?
Comparison kills all possibility. It’s easy to forget – but your journey is uniquely yours. So, while it’s good to tune into what’s possible, you’ve got your own path to walk, and that path probably won’t look a whole lot like anyone else’s.
Look, we’re human. We’re all going to be drawn in by amazing sounding promises from time to time. I used to chase the shiny object myself. It’s possible I didn’t have complete confidence in my ability or chosen path yet.
But then I had a realization. That whenever I came across an article or video with a title like the above, that there were some critical questions begging to be asked.
What follows is an excerpt from my latest book, The Music Entrepreneur Code. It explains how shiny objects are ruining your music career (let’s just say accurate thinking is key). I hope you enjoy it.
Managing Your Money & Understanding Shiny Object Syndrome
If you can’t hold onto money, or don’t know how to manage it, it’s of little consequence how much you make.
Millionaires have gained and lost their fortunes repeatedly. Just look at radio show host Dave Ramsey, entrepreneur and author James Altucher, or for that matter, MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice (this is a good lesson all its own, as it shows you can lose it all and still gain it back).
This goes a long way towards explaining why I’m not impressed by numbers. Everywhere you look, people are talking about the results they’ve achieved:
How I earned $3,000 from a single Medium post.
She makes $50,000 per month on Amazon.
I make $6,000 a month freelancing and here’s how.
How I make over $4,000 a month selling music online.
(Sidebar – I’ve been making high four figures for a while and don’t need any advice on how to do that.)
Now, I don’t want to diminish or make anyone wrong for sharing their successes. You and I get to learn from them and that’s awesome.
But these metrics mean nothing.
If a friend of yours is earning $8,000 and saving $80 per month, and you’re earning $3,000 and saving $300 per month, who’s coming out ahead? You, right?
So, whenever you come across these success stories, there are some questions you should be asking:
How much money did they spend to get to that revenue figure?
How much of their own time are they putting into earning it?
How much money are they saving?
How much money are they investing?
How much money are they reinvesting into their business/putting better structures into place?
Can they sustainably earn the same amount monthly or annually without burning themselves out?
Is their revenue recurring or do they start from scratch every month and work their ass off to earn the same amount?
When I first got started in business, I wasn’t asking these questions. And that had me chasing too many shiny objects to mention.
Being smart with money isn’t just about learning how to make it. You must learn to manage it and filter out distractions too.
Being Smart with Money
In episode 66 of The New Music Industry Podcast, I shared a little bit about how to manage your money as a musician.
You can have a listen here:
The Music Entrepreneur Code
Interested in learning more about managing your money? Want to discover the steps that will help you create an amazing financial future?
This does not mean we don’t need to adjust course from time to time. But we need more than just gut instinct to go on. And that’s where data can be a game changer (though it is beyond the scope of this article).
The main question you need to ask is whether adding more to your plate is going to help you do better work in the areas where you’re trying to grow.
Are you tired of working hard for cents rather than dollars?
Here’s the thing… There’s nothing wrong with pursuing success on Spotify or YouTube.
You could be putting the same amount of time and energy into earning real money. I’m serious.
And I’m not talking about gigging or live streaming. Gigging isn’t happening right now, and live streaming takes time to build.
So, where is the real money? Let’s talk.
Just Imagine – What if…
What if you didn’t need a manager, publisher, label, any kind of promotion, following or fan base, or a recognized brand, and you could still earn six-figures in music?
Not possible? Think again.
We’re going to be looking at one opportunity that doesn’t require any of the above. Then, we’ll look at two other opportunities that may require promotion and/or a fan base, but don’t require anything else.
And you can earn six-figures in any of these opportunities. Now that’s real money.
Not that you can’t earn mad stacks in music sales, Spotify streams, YouTube views, or otherwise. But have you done the math on those? I think you’ve got a much better chance at winning it big in one of the following.
Stop buying the lottery tickets and make your own luck.
#1 – Earn Real Money in Sync Licensing & Placements
Getting your music in commercials, TV shows, films, video games, and other media can be incredibly profitable.
And, true to form, you don’t need a manager, publisher, label, promotion, fan base, or a brand to make six-figures in it.
In episode 19 of my podcast, I had Juno award winning songwriter and artist Helen Austin on the show to talk about her experience in licensing and placements, where most of her career was built.
And most recently, I had Adam McInnis on episode 211 of the podcast talking about how sync licensing and placements can transform an artist’s career. If you listen to his story, you’re sure to come away feeling inspired.
Succeeding in this area of the business is mostly networking and hard work, but most of all, you’ll be spending a ton of time making music and working on your craft! And isn’t that what you’d love to be doing most?
You can create the life of your dreams by getting into sync licensing.
There are basically three ways to get into sync licensing:
You can work with companies like Rumblefish that have existing relationships with music supervisors. By doing so, you can put the submission process on virtual autopilot.
You can write for music libraries, who carry a large catalog of music buyers can license.
You can build your relationships with music supervisors.
This is the networking part of the business.
The “hard work” part of it is making music that’s suited to the media you’re pitching to. Learning to self-produce is essential because you need to be able to work quickly. And you should be able to make music in a variety of genres and styles. Not a bad idea to create a roster of fellow producers and musicians you can collaborate with, either.
Listen to the above mentioned podcast episodes – 19 and 211.
How To Get Sync Placements – in this article you’ll find all the nitty-gritty details you’ve got to know to do well in licensing and placements.
#2 – Earn Real Money with Sales Funnels
A sales funnel is generally built on funnel building software like ClickFunnels.
Since a confused mind doesn’t do anything, funnel builders are designed to keep all the typical website clutter out of the way. That ensures you get a higher conversion rate from people landing on your funnel.
Basically, funnels follow an ascension model where your audience is first prompted to download something enticing for free. Then, they are brought to a $37 to $67 no-brainer offer. Finally, they are upsold another one-time offer at the end (could be any amount, but $37 to $297 is common).
(By the way, not all funnels follow the same three steps. Funnels can be as short as two steps and can have about as many steps as you want).
The basic premise is that if your target customer already has their wallet out and have opted in for your offer, they’re more willing to purchase your one-time offer.
The goal of a membership site or fan club is to have a portal where you give paying members access to content (music, music videos, photos, guitar tabs, etc.), and foster community interaction. Of course, you can throw in as many bonuses as you want (like free tickets, front row seats, invites to meet and greets, and so on) to make it even more enticing.
(Just spy on other people’s Kickstarter campaigns and their incentives for more ideas.)
There isn’t necessarily a limit on how much you can charge for a membership, but somewhere in the range of $17 to $37 per month is good if you’re just getting started.
And yes, that does mean you’ve got to put some serious legwork into growing your fan base and nurturing them into super-fans to make real money in memberships.
But think about this…
The average Spotify royalty rate is $0.00331 per stream.
So, to make $3,310, you’d need to get a million streams. Ouch.
Meanwhile, you’d only need about 123 members in your $27 membership to earn the same amount. And assuming you can hold onto those members, that’s recurring revenue, which you can build upon.
I don’t know about you, but membership economics make way more sense than Spotify economics to me.
How to Action This:
Patreon is probably the easiest solution for most artists, since you can get on the platform, set up your profile, and start attracting patrons without having to set up your own website.
With that in mind, the previously mentioned 10XPro is also a solid option if you don’t mind taking the time necessary to build your site (if you’ve got additional resources, you can also hire someone to do it).
Fundamentally, you can build your membership on any platform of your liking, be it Slack or with a Facebook group. The only downside to this is that your account or group could be deleted.
To safeguard against this, it’s better to own the racecourse than to own the racehorse. In other words – beware of building on rented land!
Profitable Membership Business – James Scharmako is the authority on membership sites so far as I’m concerned, and his course is moderately priced, all things considered.
Earn Real Money in Music, Final Thoughts
Now that you’re aware of the opportunities available, it’s simply a matter of choosing one and going all in on it.
It is possible to earn real money in music.
And, again, while you can do it on Spotify, YouTube, TikTok or some other trending platform, for the same amount of time, effort, and energy, there are better opportunities out there. You’ve just read about three.
What are your next steps? What are you going to do with this information?
I would argue that the best place to start is with my latest book, The Music Entrepreneur Code, because it covers the three keys to every successful music career – mindset, productivity, and marketing.
Either way, thank you for joining me, and if you found this valuable, don’t forget to share it with your friends!
If you were promoting a $100 product, for example, and you were promised a 25% commission, you should be earning roughly $25 on every sale.
I say “roughly” because fees can add up, whether it’s processor, PayPal or bank fees. But considering the potential upside, fees aren’t too exorbitant.
Here, we’ll get into:
The upsides and downsides of affiliate marketing
How to choose what products to promote
How to get started
Tips on how to promote products and earn commissions
Whether affiliate marketing works
Upsides to Affiliate Marketing
The primary advantage of affiliate marketing is that you can earn money on products you didn’t have to create.
Having published two albums, two EPs, six singles, two eBooks, five books (and a great deal more,) I’m quite familiar with the man hours involved in developing a variety of products.
Even more work is involved if you’re thinking about making a sales funnel (i.e. lead magnet, tripwire offer, higher priced offers, etc.). And many funnel builders are needlessly complicated and frustrating to use.
Contrast that with affiliate marketing. You can promote a product you didn’t have to put any man hours into and start earning commissions as soon as your affiliate account is set up.
You can also use your existing marketing channels (website, email, social media, etc.) to promote products.
If you need a little inspiration, check out this quote via Bo Bennet:
Affiliate marketing has made businesses millions and ordinary people millionaires.
Downsides to Affiliate Marketing
As you can see, there are many upsides to affiliate marketing. But every rose has its thorn, right?
(I know, I know.)
Here’s the thing…
You’re not in control of the products you promote. The creator may discontinue the product or affiliate program. It may become irrelevant. Their product may get pulled from virtual store shelves. They might raise or lower the price, affecting your commissions in the process. Anything can happen.
If all your eggs are in one basket, you could lose all your earning at a moment’s notice (it’s good to diversify).
And, should you encounter such a scenario, you may not get paid for units already sold. You may even get chargebacks (it sucks losing money you worked hard to earn).
Additionally, if you don’t abide by the terms of the provider, you could lose your account.
Finally, although you can earn commissions on the products you sell, you’re never going to earn 100% on something you didn’t create. Sorry.
How to Choose What Products to Promote
Basically, you can promote whatever you want. But just like The Beatles had haters, trying to appeal to everyone is a losing battle.
I would recommend promoting products you understand, personally use and would happily recommend to others. That’s the best way.
And, you’re not going to make a ton of money on books, so aim a little higher in terms of price point.
Anyway, your seal of approval is worth more than you might think.
If you recommend good products and people love them, you’ll build a stronger reputation. If you recommend everything under the sun and your followers end up returning a bunch of products, they’re probably not going to come looking for recommendations again.
As for what products to choose, consider the things you already use every day. Musical gear is a good example.
Whether it’s guitar strings, drumsticks, accordions or otherwise, there’s a good chance you can promote it and make money.
You know Amazon, right? They’re only the #1 eCommerce behemoth in the world. You probably shop with them already and may even have a Prime account.
Amazon is home to a ton of products, not just books. They have thousands of products in these categories and many others – arts & crafts, automotive, electronics, home & kitchen, toys & games…
So, finding products to promote is easy.
For instance, one of my favorite guitar amp heads is the Peavey 6505 MH mini head, so once my Amazon Associates account is set up, I can simply search for that product, grab the link that Amazon gives me, and share that link with my audience.
(And, by the way, I’ve already done this very thing.)
Anyway, I know I made it sound easy, but sales are not guaranteed by any means. Generating revenue typically requires tons of traffic. But you also aren’t required to climb Mount Everest to start earning commissions.
Sadly, there was an article that recently said Amazon would be reducing their commissions on certain products. This is the bread and butter of an affiliate marketer, however, so get used to it. We’ve all got to roll with the punches.
The good news is that there are tons of companies with affiliate programs, so opportunities aren’t in short supply.
This is a beginner’s guide, however, so I won’t be getting into other affiliate programs here.
How to Promote Products & Earn Commissions
Now that we’ve got a solid working foundation, we’re ready to start promoting.
Here are five simple ways to start earning juicy affiliate commissions:
Share Your Link on Your Blog
It’s best if you mention products in the natural flow of content instead of forcing them in.
But when you’re writing about your latest stop on tour and mention your favorite multi-effects pedal on Instagram, that’s the time to link it up.
We promote plenty of products on Music Entrepreneur HQ.
Just don’t share your link out of context. Don’t start talking about what you had for lunch and then sneak in your affiliate link promoting something entirely unrelated.
Share Your Link on Social Media
If it makes sense, you can share your affiliate links on social media.
Again, as with sharing on your blog, you don’t want to spam your followers or post deceptive links, as this isn’t going to help you earn a thing.
But if something naturally comes up in the flow of the post, share away.
Share Your Link in the Description of Your YouTube Videos
Know it or not, many YouTubers are affiliate marketers. These days, they depend on sponsorships more than anything, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart when it comes to creating multiple sources of revenue.
Hmm… something fishy going on here.
Think of it this way:
You’ll be doing your viewers a solid by including links to products mentioned in your video in the description. It’ll make them easy to find.
Create a Resources Page
Many marketers and entrepreneurs, such as Chris Ducker and Pat Flynn have resource pages on their website.
You could just as easily call these “money pages” because they only feature links to products and services the business owners have the potential to make money on.
I like the sound of “money pages” myself.
You can do the same. While you might call your resources page something else, there’s nothing stopping you from making one.
Here’s an example of what a resource page might look like:
Make Product Reviews
Making product reviews can take a lot of time, and if you ever wanted to become a full-time affiliate marketer, you’d need to produce a ton of reviews.
Either way, one of the main ways, affiliates earn money is by making reviews for their favorite products. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a blog post, podcast audio, video or otherwise. All forms of content are fair game.
Affiliate Marketing Best Practices
Search engines (like Google), email service providers (like Mailchimp) and even some users don’t always look kindly on affiliate marketing (you can’t please everyone).
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t overdoing your affiliate promotions:
Abide by the terms and conditions. I know that no one reads this stuff, but if you start earning some serious money and get your account banned by the provider (because you ignored their terms), your life is going to suck. So, do things by the book.
Let your users know when you might earn money on a purchase. Say something like, “if you purchase through this link, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you” (you saw me do this earlier). But if you know you’re going to be adding links everywhere, you should have a notice in the sidebar, footer or somewhere visible. I’m not an attorney, so if in doubt, please consult a qualified professional.
Use a link cloaker. I like to think of this as a link shortener rather than a cloaker. If you’re using WordPress, check out a plugin called Pretty Links. If not, there are plenty of great catch-all solutions like Bitly. You can turn your affiliate links into something short and easy to remember/type in.
Never spam. Just don’t do it.
Does it Work?
I don’t intend to show off all my earnings or affiliate relationships (not that they’re a big secret), but you can see I do okay (and I do mean okay, not amazing) with Amazon Associates:
Final Thoughts on Affiliate Marketing for Musicians
What I’ve shared here is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s so much more you’ll want to learn if you want to be great at affiliate marketing, such as content distribution and syndication, SEO, advanced marketing tactics and more.
So, if you enjoyed this guide and would like to learn more about affiliate marketing…
Whether you’re interested in music as a side hustle, or something to do for fun, becoming a freelance musician seems like an attractive proposition to many.
The music industry is a bit of a weird one, because getting your music streamed or purchased is NOT the superhighway to wealth.
But if you know where to look, there are some incredible opportunities. There’s much we could cover, but in this guide, we’re going to focus on the three opportunities we’d consider the best to pursue, especially since they don’t require you to become a full-fledged entrepreneur, digital marketer, or publisher in any capacity.
The only skill you need is the ability to make beats. And that’s something you could learn in 20 minutes (I said COULD – that’s not a guarantee, but the point is it’s not that hard, and it does get better and better with practice).
To get your music placed, you will need to find music libraries or licensing companies to work with. Fortunately, I covered that in detail in another guide.
The number one thing you need to focus on isn’t on music libraries or licensing companies though.
First and foremost, you’ll want to get in the practice of pumping out new music all the time. This is essential.
Secondly, I recommend building relationships. Find the decision makers and people who are connected to them.
Finally, look at the licensing companies in the guide I linked to above.
Collaborative Opportunities are Where it’s at
Musicians are everywhere. All you need to do is go looking for them.
You can find plenty of artists who don’t have much of a following, and therefore would be a good fit for you to work with.
You could approach them with the idea of co-writing a track. And you could appear on each other’s YouTube videos. You could even interview each other podcast style. There are plenty of possibilities to explore.
Really the biggest advantage of collaboration is that you can get in front of a wider audience rather quickly.
Plus, you don’t need to be the best musician in the world to be able to work with others. If you’re a good hang, life is your oyster.
Just recognize you’re not going to be able to compete with, or even collaborate with, people like Jared Dines or Stevie T without paying the price, rising through the ranks and honing your craft like a beast possessed.
Still, if you’re just looking to have fun and maybe build a bit of a side income, this is a good way to go. If you play your cards right, you should be able to find plenty of people to collaborate with.
And if you keep at it, more opportunities will present themselves.
YouTube Might Propel Your Career Forward
I need to be 100% honest with you. Yes, YouTube is cool. And it is a great place to put your content. But growing your subscriber base there is not an easy feat.
And you shouldn’t expect to get paid by the truckload either. Even with a lot of views and subscribers, unless it’s in the millions, your income is bound to fall in the “a few hundred” to, if you work your little tail off, “a few thousand” range.
This isn’t to say there aren’t a ton of different ways to monetize your channel. You can: