How Music Makes Money

by | May 18, 2022 | Uncategorized

Have you ever sat down to work out all the ways you could possibly make money with music?

I have, and I was surprised at the sheer number of ways I came up with.

If you’re new to the music business, then it’s not your fault that you don’t know all the secrets yet.

So, in this guide we cover a variety of ways musicians make money.

How Do Artists Make Money? Primary Income Sources

According to Business Insider, some of the biggest revenue streams for major artists are touring, selling merchandise, licensing and placements, and streaming.

But they also point out that streaming is not a lucrative revenue source. And while there are some artists that do well with streaming, generally they have an even greater income from other sources.

If you’d like to go deeper, then stick around. What follows below is an FAQ section that can help you figure out your path as an independent musician and shed light on more possible income sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section we’ll answer your most asked questions about making money in music.

How do Independent Artists Make Money?

As Bopper indicates, independent artists make money in much the same way major artists do.

It’s generally some combination of licensing and placements, radio or digital radio airplay, streaming, gigging, and merch.

That doesn’t mean these are the only income streams available and we do cover a variety of others in this guide.

Tell Me How to Make Money as a Musician Online

One thing every musician should know:

It’s much easier to determine a specific focus for your career and to earn an income from it than it is to take the shotgun approach to revenue.

It's much easier to determine a specific focus for your career and to earn an income from it than it is to take the shotgun approach to revenue. Share on X

When it comes right down to it, there are just so many ways to make money in music.

You can take donations, you can sell NFTs, you can become an affiliate marketer, you could create your own courses, you could teach music lessons online.

So, you really need to ask yourself:

How do I want to make money online?

Do you want to sell merch, grow your following on streaming platforms, build your own membership subscription or fan club, pursue licensing and placements, or otherwise?

There are just so many artists out there nowadays that if you don’t determine a clear focus for your activity, you’re unlikely to be effective in creating a solid income stream from your music.

The more sharply and clearly focused you are, the better the chance that you can make an income in one of the categories already mentioned, or possibly another.

The more sharply and clearly focused you are, the better the chance that you can make an income in music. Share on X

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
  • Pitch playlists
  • 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.

But that doesn’t mean CDs are completely dead.

In fact, you can still sell CDs if you do it right. And this is typically done through direct response marketing campaigns or eCommerce.

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!

I, for example, have earned from music in 27 ways, and we hear there are easily 100 ways you can earn an income from your music.

We hope you enjoyed this guide and wish you all the success in your music career.