HOW TO MAKE MONEY FROM YOUR MUSIC
It never ceases to surprise me, just how many independent musicians focus in on direct album sales, as not only proof of their own success, but as a hopeful form of a steady income. For those who fall into this category, please, help yourself by changing your perspective here, because I want you to succeed…and I want you to be able to pay those bills, keep a roof over your head, and at least a few items in your fridge.It is no surprise that physical album sales have plummeted due to the rise of online streaming-services. The profit margins have weakened somewhat in this area, but like any great change, the pendulum swings both ways, and now, more than ever, artists have even more opportunities to make some money.
Some of these ideas are so obvious that I might not even need to mention them, but if any of these can help even one artist make some extra money to help fund their dream, then I have done my part as a music promoter, and it can only help your own music promotion.
PLAY LIVE (But play close to home)
Of course, you already thought of this, but have you really put some thought into this? Have you considered the best way to maximize your profits versus the expense to drive to each place to play at?
At the beginning of your music career you can expect a lower cover charge for your shows, but as you gain in popularity you can expect the cover charge to rise. Yes, it is an exciting prospect to consider touring across the country, or even across the next one, but I urge you to stay close to home to keep the costs down, until you have some momentum, larger profit margins from busier gigs, and then you can look to taking over the larger area. I can already guess at the next obvious question: “I live in a very small town, and we don’t have a big music scene here, especially one that supports our type of sound”, and you can probably guess what my answer will be…
That’s right, if you are ready to take this music-thing seriously, then you need to give yourself the best chance at success, and if you are old enough to make this decision, and have the funds to go, then I suggest you move away from that small town, and you move somewhere that supports your music, and somewhere that has many live venue options. Staying in a town with no music scene is not going to open any real doors for you. Once you find yourself in a place with a healthy music scene and one that has multiple live spaces for you to play at, you should be able to eventually create a bit of a part-time job for yourself, and build your audience in the meantime! Win-win!
SELL MERCHANDISE (But do not go broke creating it)
Merchandise is awesome! It is creative, it helps strengthen the branding of any musician, with the bonus of putting some extra cash in your pocket (providing, you don’t give it all away to friends and family).
The biggest pitfall for the overly ambitious indie musician would be to put in most of their funds into all that awesome merchandise, and I am asking you to hold back a bit, do not blow all of it on those killer looking hoodies and patches. Start small, start inexpensive, sell what you have, and then reinvest in your next batch of merchandise. Keep this cycle up for every new product you bring out, and you won’t have to worry about running out of funds that could be used elsewhere. In this regard, we live in a time of great internet business models, and you can now ask your fans to pre-order products or help kick-starter potential ones. In many cases, you can see how much you will make before you even order a box!
On one final note here, make sure to create merchandise that is unique to you, but also something that speaks to the larger audience of people (your fans and potential fans). You want to make sure that what you create is something that people will want to proudly share, that way you can maximize your exposure, and potentially sell even more. The best way to ensure that your merchandise sells is to see what is currently popular, and then try to hit that style as soon as possible (unless it’s stickers, those never go out of style).
LICENSE YOUR MUSIC (but don’t give it away)
Chances are, you have not put much thought into having your song used in a commercial, a soundtrack, a video game, or even more; and for good reason, you are already far too busy just trying to sell albums and build your online presence.
I think we can all agree that there isn’t a lot of extra time in the day to pursue every avenue that a song can take to make a few dollars, but thankfully the internet is filled with great services looking to offload some of your stress, and these business’s will gladly sign you up and share your music for you; and the added-bonus; you do not give up the rights to the music itself!
Before I suffer the wrath of a legal advisor to the musicians, let me be clear that you MUST read the fine print before you sign on to any company looking to license your music. I am sure, like all business’s, there will be those who have a secret agenda at the cost to the artist. Take some time to look up the most credible music licensing business online, and when you find one that suits you, why not offer up a song and see where it goes?
Obviously, when you eventually reach mass appeal, this won’t be your first choice, but if you can land on a videogame, or in a movie (even an indie one), you will gain some killer exposure and industry credit in the process!
BE A HIRED GUN (but don’t miss band practice)
I am going to assume that you know how to play your instrument on a professional level, especially if you are reading an article focused on how to make money from playing it.
Your band might not be landing a lot of shows to start off with, but that shouldn’t stop you from playing live and making some money. Bands suffer the same struggles as any business does, someone gets sick or someone quits, and for whatever reason, bands frequently need a talented musician to step in and fill the spot; and wouldn’t it be nice if you helped another musician out, honed your live venue skills, ad made some money in the process? Hell, Yes it would!
Of course, this door is only open for you if you understand the fundamental of your instrument, which means that you have been studying your instrument or vocals like you are trying to get extra credit for it.
Every band has a sound they are looking to perfect, and they will need you to capture the essence of the missing member, which might be easy if you are filling in for a musician who plays your style, but what about stepping in for a musician who plays another style of music completely? You don’t have to play of course, but this article is about making money from music, so the answer to the question is, you will learn that style and make that band happy for choosing you (which hopefully leads to more gigs in the future).
On a bit of personal note here, my suggestion is that if you choose to do this, you let your band know, and you still make your band the top priority; so, no missing your own band practices to fill in for someone else.
Glad we had this talk.
EMBRACE THE ENTIRE MUSIC INDUSTRY (but do not leave the artist behind)
I think all artists believe in a future where they can make money off their music, and live a life of only art creation (I have seen that this is possible, and yes, you have seen it too). This makes it extremely difficult to swallow the bitter-pill of working for the corporate machine, to the pay the many bills and stay one step ahead of losing it all. A Zen instructor once explained that we should not look at everything in a negative or a positive light, that sometimes it is best to find a place of pure neutrality. With this in-mind, let us consider putting the creation of your own music aside for a moment, and just embrace the larger picture here; there is nothing wrong with working anywhere or for anyone, but you should at least find a common thread of interest in what you do.
If you are a musician, why not consider keeping one of your feet in the music industry always? You could consider working at the local music store, or if you are confident with the layout of tracks and computers, you could try producing music, mastering other people’s music, and offering services online to help other musicians on their own path.
With a bit of research, you can find so many potential career opportunities within the vast net of the music industry itself, and even though they do not all offer fame and fortune, they can offer some priceless industry knowledge that will go far in, once again, building up your industry cred.
I could fill another ten pages on possible music industry jobs, but the point here is that they exist for you, and since you are already a musician taking your career seriously, then this should be an interesting process of finding a job in-line with who you are as a person.
It is easy to find a comfortable space and stay put, and even though I am telling you to consider finding a regular job within the music industry, I am also just as intensely telling you to put in the same effort into your own dreams as a paid musician.
It has been proven, over and over and over, that what you put the most time into is what will eventually succeed, so I suggest that you keep any job a part-time one, or else music is going to end up getting benched for a while.
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