One of the biggest challenges for underground artists is to find sustainable ways to make money. Many musicians don’t rely on a single source of income, instead, they diversify and nurture multiple revenue streams. While each stream may not be enough to make a living in it’s own right, it all ads up and this approach can help you support yourself, and eventually, free up more of your time to make music by earning an income passively. Discover 10 ways you can make money online for your band or music project below!
Granted, streaming does not provide artists with huge amounts of cash, with Spotify netting artists about 0.00437p per stream. However, musicians these days should be thinking about using their music as a loss leader to promote themselves, so any income off the back of this is a welcome bonus.
To get your music onto streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, you need to sign up with a music distributor like Distro Kid, CD Baby or Emu Bands. Then look at getting your music heard, by reaching out to playlist curators and try and get your tracks included in relevant playlists. This is a great way to get your music out there – not only will you start to earn some cash through streaming, it will help make many of your other income streams below more viable!
Just like with streaming platforms, you can also earn royalties when your music is used in a YouTube video by signing up with a music distributor. Yes, that could be one of your own videos, or even if someone else put your track in their video. So, why not reach out to streamers you like and see if they’ll feature your music?
It also goes without saying, you should upload your music to YouTube in your own videos. You might not have the time to create a polished music video for each of your songs, so a good alternative is to create a lyrics video. You don’t even need expensive software to to this, as you can use presentation software like Google Sheets or Powerpoint to create an animated lyrics video and then sync with your music.
Many musicians teach music as a way to supplement their incomes and hone their craft too. More well known, influential musicians can also charge more for their teaching services, particularly if they are well known for a signature style or have a big following. This is a source of income that can turn into a business in it’s own right over time, as you may eventually hire other musicians to teach students while you take care of advertising and sales.
While not a passive source of income, playing cover gigs at local venues is way to help fund your real passion for writing and playing your own original music. Cover bands tend to be paid fairly well, particularly for private functions. While you’ll need to invest the time into learning a broad repertoire of music, it can be a good money maker with the top earning bands earning around £200-500 for pub gigs or as much as £1500 to £2000 for weddings and other functions. Just remember to get your equipment PAT tested and to get liability insurance if you want to start earning money as a function band.
Physical music sales
While streaming is the widest used method of listening to music, physical media is making a come back, particularly Vinyl which has seen a big increase in popularity in recent years. While vinyl manufacturers require a minimum order size, if you have a devoted fan base it can be a good product to sell, particularly if you tie it in with a crowdfunding campaign where you can ask fans to commit to a purchase up front before you press the discs.
CDs are also an option, and while no longer as widely used as streams or MP3, or as popular with audiophiles as vinyl, they’re durable, cheap to make and easy to sell at gigs. While you can get CDs professionally made for a much lower price than vinyl, less established bands can also go the DIY route and burn their own discs.
Crowdfunding is a great way to fund specific projects such as a new album or tour, especially if you have a devoted fan base. It’s always a good idea to tie a goal to crowdfunding initiative to ensure that everyone that contributes gets a pay off from helping you out. For example, if you run a crowdfunding campaign to fund your next album, a great thank you for fans who help fund you would be to send them a signed vinyl or CD once it’s complete.
Merchandise is another great way to make money from fans, for example t-shirts, posters, phone cases, even bags and shoes! You’ll see many bands selling merchandise at their gigs, however it’s also possible to sell online at stores such as Lost Divide Clothing without even having to invest in stock. That’s down to a technology called Direct To Garment printing, which means every product is made to order, all to a high standard. This is ideal for bands wanting to sell a range of different designs, for example unique t-shirts for each tour, without having to invest in a minimum amount of stock upfront.
As well as physical products, you can offer digital merchandise. A great way to do this is through the Patreon platform, where you can offer exclusive benefits to fans who support you through a subscription. Think behind the scenes footage from music videos, exclusive tracks or mashups, or even free gig tickets to reward your biggest fans who support your music financially. Patreon is used widely by YouTubers and streamers, and can be a great earner for musicians too!
Getting your band sponsored is another way to fund your music, particularly if you have a strong local following. Start by identifying a hit list of businesses that may want to sponsor you. An obvious starting point is considering what companies make the equipment you use in your music, but the truth is it doesn’t need to be music related.
For example if you drink beer, could you support a local brewery and help them gain exposure? Or have you bought or hired a van for your tour – could you support them with a testimony of how you used the vehicle?
A good way to start is to make a list of possible businesses that may want to work with you, then putting together a package of what a sponsorship might look like, which you can then pitch to the business. It’s worth explaining that they can negotiate on this, as there may be some terms they like and others they’d want to change.
Music licensing allows you to earn money when your copyrighted music is used in ads, videos, films, or anything commercial, and can be a great earner if you’re willing to put in the time to create and make music available for these types of businesses.
Before you get started, register your music with a Performance Rights Organisation (PRO). In the UK, that’s PRS. You only need to do this once for the organisation in the country you live in, as all PROs collaborate internationally.
Next, research audio libraries online and find one to sign up to. You can then submit your music and earn royalties whenever it’s used.
When creating music for licensing, be sure to think about where it might be used and what sort of keywords describe it. When you upload your music, you can include these keywords which helps people find your music for inclusion in their projects.