One of the biggest challenges for musicians, except for those rare superstars, is earning a decent living.
If you find yourself not bringing in enough cash playing music, it could be because you’re not taking advantage of all the money-making opportunities available to you.
You have more control over your career, and ability to earn cash, than you could be aware of. For the first time ever, you can record, distribute, stream, sell, and promote your music — and more — all on your own using many reasonably priced tools and online platforms.
Here are some earning opportunities you may have not considered yet.
1. Produce and sell CDs.
Does anyone still purchase compact discs? While the number has significantly dipped from when it was at its peak two decades ago, more than 20 million are still purchased each year, according to a report in Digital Music News. That number fell during the pandemic because people weren’t able to attend live performances, one of the biggest drivers of CD sales. Now that live music is back, the CD sales numbers should recover. If you do live shows, selling CDs could be a great, inexpensive way to generate additional income. People love commemorating their live music experiences with a CD.
2. Record and sell vinyl.
Vinyl record sales went up last year, overtaking the revenue generated by CDs for the first time in more than three decades. There’s something about the sound of music played on vinyl that people can’t get enough of. Producing an old-school record could be a great way to earn extra bucks. Record stores can’t find enough new product to keep in stock. You might be able to leverage this and find a local record shop willing to promote your music.
3. Don’t forget digital.
Much like CDs, digital downloads are still a dependable source of income for many independent musicians. In 2020, musicians who used Bandzoogle to build their website sold more than a half-million dollars of music downloads. If you’re not currently allowing fans to download your music, it could be a new way to earn revenue.
4. Earn money from streaming.
Many independent musicians gave up on streaming as a source of revenue. The payouts are just too low. Still, streaming on popular platforms helps more people discover your music and become fans. Plus, even though streaming payouts are tiny, they can add up over time. Does it make sense to miss out on a revenue source?
5. Blog or podcast about your passion for music.
Do you play a unique type of music or instrument? Why not write or do a podcast about it? While you won’t make money from it directly, promoting your blog posts or podcast through social media will keep you front and center of fans and increase your engagement with them. Plus, you can use your blog or podcast to cross-promote your appearances, music downloads, albums, CDs, and music lessons.
6. Play live shows.
Playing live events is one of the most lucrative ways for musicians to make money. However, pandemic-related music venue closings shut down this revenue stream for more than a year. Many musicians got out of the habit of performing live.
With concert halls and clubs reopening, it’s time to get performing again! Don’t limit your thinking about where you can perform. Consider booking gigs at venues where live music is traditionally played, like bars, clubs, coffeehouses, colleges and universities, music festivals, and restaurants, as well as private events like weddings, birthdays, and corporate meetings. At-home concerts are another popular option. The more you perform, the more opportunities you have to be exposed to new fans and generate revenue.
7. Live stream your music.
One of the good things that came out of the pandemic was the greater acceptance of paid live streaming. Even though musicians can once again perform in person, they shouldn’t give up on virtual performances. They can provide added chances to connect with fans during cold winter months when they’re less likely to want to leave the house. They’re also great for school and work night concerts. Live-streamed music is a money-making opportunity that should survive the pandemic.
8. Sell merchandise.
Why limit money-making opportunities to your musical talent? Sell merchandise that allows your fans to take home a piece of their experience with you. T-shirts, mugs, and buttons are obvious brand extensions. Do you have a unique style statement when you perform? Consider selling versions of it to your fans, whether it’s a type of hat, scarf, or belt. Explore selling sheet music or virtual lessons. Every dollar you can earn from a fan is another dollar in your pocket.
9. Try crowdfunding.
Do you find yourself in a situation where you need money to make money? Start a crowdfunding campaign. Your fans may be willing to pitch in to help you record a CD, purchase merchandise, or hire a band. A single super fan or group of them may be willing to help you out. You never know for sure until you ask!
10. Learn a new instrument.
When you mastered your first instrument, you did the heavy lifting by learning how to read music and understand music theory. Why not pick up an additional instrument? A little added effort will double your value to bands, students, and more. Find out about an instrument that’s relatively simple to learn.
Bonus: Stop thinking like a musician.
Musicians are givers, not takers. And that’s a good thing. Except when it comes to making money. Every now and then you need to take off your musician hat and put on your businessperson one. Take time to come up with ways to maximize your revenue opportunities with fans, students, and everyone you interact with.