125 Ways to Earn All Your Income Doing Music Only
This blog is a warmup and introduction to my new book Make Millions Making Music.
“Make Millions Making Music” will be available on Amazon in March.
I’m going to be super proud of the final result and can’t wait for it to be published so musicians can start reaping the benefits from all the work I put into developing this book. I’m currently still adding tons of info. The book is going to be around 280-300 pages. Then I’ll be proofreading, refining, rewriting, and editing. Getting closer to publication. Hooray!!
Fore more info, visit MakeMillionsMakingMusic.com
This book is a MUST have if you dream of becoming a successful musician.
The following blog will show you why that is.
The Joys of Being Self-Employed.
Every once in a while one of my guitar students has the ambition to make music his/her full-time income.
Needless to say though: the leap from their regular job security to earning a living doing music gives them a lot of anxiety.
It’s easy to get stressed or worried about finding work in an industry known to be so fickle.
There’s also the complete lack of job security, which is intimidating.
Moreover: it’s hard to figure out where to start.
For those who contemplate taking that leap into the unknown: this blog will help you tremendously 🙂
Let me start with the following: “NOBODY ever has any job security”.
I always felt that holding on to the thought that job security is an illusion in any industry or company, is actually motivating.
Derive motivation to pursue your music goals, from the thought that a company can’t offer you more job security than you’ll have being self-employed?
The only difference between someone who works for an employer and someone who doesn’t is that in the latter, you are responsible for finding the clients and the work.
That is pretty much the ONLY advantage you get out of working for an employer though.
Sure, you have to put in more work hours when you’re self-employed than when you’re working for a boss.
After all: you are responsible for everything all by yourself.
You do your own record keeping, accounting, mileage tracking, scheduling, sales calls, promo, customer service, and so on.
However: the “burden” of extra work and extra stress you have when self-employed, feels worth it when compared to the great feeling of accomplishment you get out of running your own business. It’s not really extra stress; but rather a “different kind” of stress.
You also have a stronger sense of control (over your own life) and more freedom when you are your own boss.
In a previous life: I worked at a company having a regular day job for 8 years.
So I know the feeling of both ways.
Yes… my life was definitely easier then and I worked a lot less.
No… my life was not 1% as much fun or as fulfilling as it is now.
But, when you’re self-employed:
- It doesn’t feel like work when you run your own business.
When your business is music: you derive extra energy, joy, and satisfaction from earning your income doing what you love doing the most.
- The more you work, the more successful you will be, and the more income you will probably generate.
That is not necessarily the case when you work for a company. The harder you work, the more money THEY make.
You have much more control when self-employed.
- You can make much more money when you have your own business than you ever could as an employee.
I do understand though that making that leap into doing music full time, is scary in the beginning.
The following list usually takes away, or at least diminishes, some of the student’s fears, worries, and concerns.
It is energizing and hope-giving when you start brainstorming ideas to make extra income with music.
When you see the vast amount of possibilities: it makes you feel like you can really do this after all.
Guess what?? You CAN!!!
(Get snacks and your favorite drinks: this is an elaborate, detailed read)
125 Ways To Earn Income Doing Music
By no means is following “a complete” list of every possible way you can earn money with music.
This is just a good starting point to build from.
This blog is a bit of an introduction to an eBook I am about to publish listing 150+ ways to earn money as a musician. The book of course explains everything in much greater detail than is possible in this blog.
But without any further ado:
- Teaching Music
I obviously think this is the greatest job in the universe. 🙂
Be careful with teaching: don’t do it when your heart isn’t into it.
People who want to learn an instrument or music, deserve to learn with someone who is in love with teaching.
If you aren’t: focus on other ways to earn your income with music.
If however, you do have a passion for teaching people, you have lots of options.
a. Teach guitar, vocals, other instruments.
b. Teach music theory
c. Recording teacher
d. Production teacher.
e. Teach webcam lessons from the comfort of your home, or from anywhere in the world.
You could literally move anywhere on the planet where there is an internet connection, and make money teaching guitar from your laptop.
f. You could also teach in schools that have music programs.
g. Teach in a music store.
h. Be a teacher at band camps or guitar camps.
- Help People With Their Song Writing
There are so many people out there who love writing songs but who have no idea how to improve their songs.
It has been my experience that when you give feedback that greatly enhances someone’s song, that songwriter is going to keep coming back for more feedback.
For a songwriter: instantly seeing his/her song improve tremendously, is a bit like being a 6-year old in a toy store.
It’s exciting for them to see their song improve a lot, and people are willing to want to pay for that joy.
a. Performing your own music, fronting your own band.
b. Performing as a backup musician in somebody else’s band
c. Play in a cover band (great money to be made with this if your band is really good)
e. Network with various bands, befriend the guitarist, and offer to sub for him in his band if he can’t make a show.
- Play Recording Sessions
This is a pretty challenging world to break into, but just like anything in life, definitely doable.
You can offer friends to play on their songs for free, post flyers in your local music schools and music stores to announce you play sessions, or befriend people who work at music stores to see if anyone they know might be looking for a session guitarist.
It’s really all about who you know and who knows you.
- Cut Deals With Songwriting Friends
You could co-write songs with friends, and then offer them to give you an advance on future song earnings.
As an example: let’s say that you write a song with a friend who is thinking of recording an album.
That friend falls in love with the song, and you know she is going to want the song on her album
You could ask her to compensate you in advance for the song, in return for you giving up on your share of the song’s earnings till you have paid back your co-writing friend.
After that whatever earnings the song generates are split 50-50.
This is an easy way to generate a lot of cash in a short amount of time.
- Sell merch from your website
It’s pretty simple these days to register a domain name and have a website up and running in no time at all.
It is also very easy to create merch and sell it from your website.
One of the popular merch creation and store services is Zazzle.
Click HERE to visit Zazzle.com
- Sell songs from your website
You could sell your songs from your website and use your site to create more exposure to your music.
As you work on getting your site more known, sharing the URL at your shows and with the people who sign up for your mailing list: over time you will start generating more sales of your music.
- Have songs in movies or TV shows
You can look into taxi.com. Visit Taxi HERE
Taxi is an independent A&R company. They are the middlemen between you and people in the industry who are constantly looking for music for their tv shows, commercials, films, or artists they are producing.
There is also no substitute for networking.
Talk to people, keep in touch.
Chances are, especially if you live in Los Angeles or New York, that you know a couple of people who are active in T.V. and film.
- Start your own recording studio
It’s amazing how much money you can save on recording studio costs if you develop your own studio.
Sure; it takes an initial investment to buy all the equipment, the plug-ins, the microphones, and so on.
The learning curve can also seem daunting.
However: you win in 2 ways.
- You can generate extra income-producing and recording other people
- You save a lot of money not having to hire engineers, producers, or rent studio time on your own music projects.
This is a smart investment.
- Music Production.
You can produce demos, bands, songs, albums, …
Production is fun and there is fantastic money to be made with if you are good at it.
- Record voice-overs
You could do voice-overs in your studio, or have voice-over artists come to your studio to record audiobooks, voice recordings for commercials, spoken word performances, etc.
- Diversify Your Skill Set
When you’re a guitarist, you benefit tremendously from also getting a banjo, a ukelele, a mandolin, sitar, balalaika, and any stringed instrument you can get your hands on.
This leads to you being able to play more recording sessions or accept more students when you can teach more different instruments.
- Save money recording your own music from your place
I saved thousands of dollars in studio time by having my own small home studio.
- Do Your own Accounting
In case you’re wondering why this made the list of ways to earn more income with music:
Every dollar you save is a dollar you earned.
Get Quicken or Quickbooks and keep track of your own accounting.
While I know doing your own accounting does not belong in the list of “ways to make income”, it will help you find ways to budget and save a lot of money.
- Film scoring
You could work for Hans Zimmerman or other film composers.
You could also try to break in from the ground on up: befriending people who study at film schools.
All these students are your future pool of clients who might at some point need music for their productions.
- Music for Video Games
The video gaming industry is a very lucrative business.
While you might wonder how you can possibly compete with the already established big guns in this industry; keep in mind that every big company once started small.
In addition: you could always become one of the composers or sound effects creators at one of those companies, and take things further from there.
- Write for Music Libraries.
Same as for video games above: you could become a writer at a company that specializes in writing for libraries.
You can also contact plug-in companies, recording gear companies, connect with people you know who might already write for libraries, to see if there is any chance to get a writing gig.
- Speak/Teach About Music
You could be a guest speaker at music conferences, music schools, or at events in music stores.
You don’t need to be famous for this.
A couple of years ago, before I even had zotzinguitarlessons.com or had ever written any blog, I was asked a couple of times to be a guest speaker at Musician’s Insitute in Hollywood in one of the music business classes.
I got that speaking engagement because I knew someone, who knew someone, who taught a music business class at Musician’s Institute. After checking out my background, that professor found that me talking to his students in his class would be something his students would benefit from.
- Build a Referral Relationship with Your Local Music Store
You will find in this blog that it constantly comes down to the same thing: networking.
It is necessary that you get your name out there, that you get people to know you and what you are doing.
Go to your local music store. Let them know that you can give them extra business in return for them referring clients to you for lessons, or recording.
Work out your sales pitch beforehand.
If they refer students to you, you can through your weekly connection with that student, keep that student a regular customer to their store.
- Give Referral Discounts to Your Clients.
Whether you have your own business as a music teacher or your own recording studio: invite your clients to bring in more income by giving them a commission.
There are amazing WordPress plugins that are designed to set up an entire affiliate marketing campaign on your site.
As a matter of fact: if you want to generate extra income right away, you can actually sign up for the ZOT Zin Music program HERE right now!
It only takes a minute.
For every student you refer, you get 10% income. It’s easy and simple: you just share your personalized ZOT Zin Music link with anyone who tells you that they would like to take lessons or learn guitar.
You don’t even have to sell anything to anybody. You just share your personalized sales link and earn money any time someone who visited ZOTZinGuitarLessons.com via your link, buys a lesson.
- Have Testimonials
It’s unbelievable how valuable testimonials are to your business.
You HAVE TO have them on your site.
The very best marketing is still: OTHER people telling the world how good you are and how much fun it is to work with you.
Testimonials raise your credibility in the prospect’s mind.
Just this one thing will get you extra income instantly.
- Join the Military Band
If you would like to serve your country and earn your income playing music at the same time: this would be a great way to kill 2 birds with one stone.
To top it all off: you’d probably be doing lots of traveling and have an adventurous life.
- Be a Stand-In for Other Bands
It’s not uncommon for bands to have gigs that one of their band members can’t make for whatever reason.
The guitarist might have gotten sick the night before the show, or have accidentally double-booked himself.
If that is the case, and you are a friend of that band, chances are they will call you to take the gig.
Get your name out there, connect with bands!
- Offer Sounds for Sampling Licensing
You never know: if you get your music out to your website, on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and so on, someone might hear one of your songs and fall in love with a beat, a sound, a string arrangement, or any part of one of your songs.
You can license a sample of one of your songs and get paid for that.
- Submit to Win Video Contests
We all know YouTube as the main videos site, but there are literally hundreds of video sites.
Some of them offer video contests.
You can get creative with your band doing a music video. If your video is unique, it could literally go viral overnight or get picked up in video contests.
Imagine the joy of winning the contest and getting paid good price money.
- Sell Your CDs at a Local Store
You are only limited by your imagination.
If you have a connection to your local book store, coffee shop, or music store: ask them if they would want to carry your CD and put it up for sale at their place.
- Work as a DJ: Play Some of Your Own Songs
This is a great gig if you love partying.
DJ parties and events, and every once in a while throw in one of your own songs in the mix to give extra exposure to your own music.
- Earn Mechanical Royalties
“Mechanical Royalties” is what you get paid when a song you’ve written, gets printed and sold on a CD, streamed on internet Radio, or services like Pandora or Spotify, or downloaded from a digital music store website.
- Set up Your YouTube Channel and Display Advertising
Take advantage of YouTube advertising to generate extra income.
If you put in the time to share your videos you posted on your YouTube channel, you will get people to watch your videos and build a YouTube following, which will start generating advertising income from your videos.
- Fill in for a Band Member
Chances are, that some of your band members might be in other bands besides the band you are playing in together.
Let them know that you’d be glad to sub in case someone in their other bands can’t make a show.
- Re-sell Equipment You No Longer Use On eBay
It is really easy to earn extra cash, selling old instruments or gear you no longer use on Craigslist or eBay.
There are a couple of advantages to doing this.
You earn extra cash easily, and you diminished the clutter in your life.
It’s good to create more space in your life.
- Video Tape Your Shows and Sell The Video
A fantastic, fun way to earn extra easy cash, AND make your fans happy.
- Earn Neighboring Rights Royalties
Other countries pay what are called “neighboring rights royalties” when the music you played was broadcast and earned a performance royalty. (Not in the US)
- Promote Your Music Through Your Blog
I know blogging is a lot of work, but it is a very powerful tool to connect with your fans.
Write about your shows, your fans, about your musical adventures, and feature your fans in your blogs, to create a tighter fan base and following.
The better the story you tell, the more interesting your blog, the sooner your blog will take off.
- Affiliate Marketing
Sign up for the affiliate marketing programs with Amazon, iTunes, Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend, and CD Baby.
Every time one of their products gets sold from your site or your blog, you earn a commission.
- Create A Blog focused on Helping Musicians
I always liked the following 2 ideas:
1. Whatever goes around, comes around
2. This is a world of abundance.
If you feel you have acquired a lot of knowledge or have an experience that you feel other musicians can really benefit from: why not share it?
It will bring you new clients who will want to pay you for career counseling.
- Have Your Artist App
When you have your own app, you create yet an extra way for your fans to connect to you and download/buy your songs from the app to their phone.
The app could list your tour schedule, and offer certain things that you know would make the lives of your fans more fun or easier.
- Create Your Own Music Festival Or Summer Concert Series
There are many ways to approach this.
Clubs might be interested in taking part in this.
You can engage your local community to sponsor your event. This offers a great opportunity to build closer connections with other bands, who would be glad to perform at your events.
- Twitter Advertising
“Sponsored Tweets” is a Twitter advertising platform that connects advertisers with tweeters.
Work on developing your Twitter presence.
If you have a good deal of Twitter followers, you could make good money doing nothing more than sending a tweet.
Learn more HERE
- Sell Your CD’s On The Street or At Your Shows
Sell CDs to your fans after your shows, or while performing on the street.
Another approach is to follow the example of the many hip hop and R’nB musicians who talk to random people on Hollywood Blvd or on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
They try to entice people on the street to listen to their demo and buy it.
I’m not sure how successful they are actually also selling some of their music, but I believe anything is worth a try.
- Teach Webcam Lessons
Teaching webcam students gives you total flexibility to move or travel anywhere without losing income.
You don’t have clients in your house, no furniture to buy for your student to sit, or music stand, no handouts to print.
All you need is a laptop, a good camera, an internet connection, a teaching plan, and a guitar.
Great business idea, low overhead.
- Sell Vinyl
The CD never really ever made vinyl obsolete.
On the contrary: it looks like vinyl might be around for many more years to come. Vinyl also has its own little niche market now.
We all know that “niche market” also typically means that there is a loyal customer base and thus good money to be made.
- Transcribe Music for Others
I hired a transcriber in the past because I had tons of songs I needed chord charts prepared for my teaching business.
The artists, music teachers, producers, and so on who need the services of a transcriber, are definitely out there.
- Record and Sell Backing Tracks
There is nothing any musician benefits more from than from playing with other people.
The next best thing, if you can’t find anyone to jam with, is jamming along with backing tracks.
If you have your own home studio, or if you have a friend who has a recording studio, record tracks and sells them from your website or retail online music stores.
- Create Sound Files
Composers and companies who program recording plug-ins and software synths are always on the lookout for new sounds and textures.
If you play any unique sounding instruments or you enjoy programming synths sounds, there is a whole market out there for you of music professionals who are looking for your sounds samples.
Create a database of sound samples and sell them online.
- Sell Your Songs On CD Baby–
Besides iTunes, we tend to forget that there are other services that are good platforms to sell your music.
One of those services worth looking into is CD Baby.
You can sell single songs on CD Baby.
- Sell Instruments At Events
I’ve seen this done on Venice Beach.
Hand percussionists who start up a drum circle, and who then get bystanders who would like to take part in the drum circle, to buy hand drums from them.
Another example: you can organize an event for kids who want to learn guitar.
Mention in your promo for the event that they don’t need to own a guitar yet.
Give the kid an amazing learning experience: then offer the parents the possibility to buy the smaller scale guitar their kid just had so much fun with.
- Create Music Apps
Come up with music games, or fun music learning experiences, and then turn them into an app.
There is good money to be made with music apps.
You could also create apps that do cool things with the music on your phone: apps that for example create a little fun light show based on the song rhythms or apps that make the music sound better on the phone, etc.
- Become An Orchestra or Ensemble Musician
If you get into a world-class orchestra like the Boston Pops, you make amazing money and get lots of benefits.
Not easy to get in, but I describe tons of other possibilities in “Make Millions Making Music” in case your dream is to be a musician in a classical orchestra.
You have to be good, but it is possible and doable.
- Be a Street Performer or Busker –
Some of my guitar students have gone that route with considerable success.
You might be surprised by this: but you can make really good money busking.
You get to practice and perform nonstop and get paid more for it than you would if you play a club in LA.
All you need is a performance permit from the city and you’re rocking.
- Get Your Music In Commercials or TV Shows
To make a chance of getting your music featured in commercials or TV shows, submit your songs to the Shazam database.
Learn more about the Shazam database HERE.
- Stage Manager
You could be the stage manager at a local club, as a means of extra income, with still enough time left during the day to work on your own music.
Another possibility is to be the stage manager of a touring band or part of a touring crew.
You’d get paid a salary for the duration of the tour.
There is a lot of downtime driving.
Use the time on the tour bus to work on your own music, or on your marketing using your laptop, etc…
- Tour Manager
Even if you feel that you want to have a more active role as a performer rather than a managing job, you can always be an assistant to a tour manager to get to know the ins and outs of touring.
It’s a great way to learn the ropes: you get paid for it, and you get to make tons of connections.
Same as above: use the downtime on the tour bus to work on your own musical goals.
- Become a Tech
Travel the world touring with a band as their guitar tech or drum tech. The same comments apply here as discussed in the previous 2 points.
- Image Consultant to Bands
If you have a good eye, strong vision, or a knack for marketing (preferably all 3 combined), you will find bands with ambitious musical goals who will be willing to pay you for your ability to make the band’s appeal “more special”.
A&R, image ad marketing departments at record companies used to take care of that job.
However: with record companies’ revenues dwindling, that role has virtually become non-existent.
This leaves an income opportunity for anyone who has the required skills to deliver this service.
This job could entail you for example having close connections with amazing rock photographers, rock journalists, music critics, or possessing publicist connections or skills, or access to music video crews and teams, or an ability to come up with a strong musical vision and direction for bands.
You could help the band write better banter (the talk in between songs), work on their stage presence, self-confidence, choreography, give stage clothing suggestions, lighting suggestions, poses and moves, attitude on stage and energy, and so on.
- MicroSync Licensing
Every time someone posts a video on YouTube, using your music as background, you get paid MicroSync licensing.
You need to set this up first through CD Baby, or Rumblefish.
Set your microsync licensing up on Rumblefish HERE
- Record a Cover Song
After you acquired the mechanical license for a song you want to cover, you are free to record it and share it with the world.
- Organize Your Own Tour
Earlier I covered working as a tour manager or as an employee in a company specialized in organizing band tours.
If on the other hand, you set up your own tour, you not only learn the ropes firsthand but also save a lot of money not having to pay a tour manager.
To make this work, it helps to pick the brains of musicians in other bands who set up their own tours.
They can give you tons of valuable information.
There’s also Jeri Goldstein’s great book “How To Be Your Own Booking Agent” which is going to put you on the fast track.
You can get the book here:
I studied a music business class with Jeri at MI in Hollywood.
Her book is outstanding and she really knows her stuff.
- Being a Roady
This means being part of a touring road crew, as a technician, backline tech, lighting engineer, driver, touring stylist, or helping hand who helps drag equipment in and out of trucks on stage.
If you want to learn more about road crew work, following is THE must read:
The author of the book gives a great overview HERE.
- Write, Produce and Record Jingles
A jingle is a short tune used in commercials or advertising.
The easy accessibility and affordability of technology, including Logic and Protools, have leveled the playing field.
You no longer need crazy expensive recording setups to be a jingle producer or recording studio.
You can virtually run a jingle writing and production business from your laptop in your living room.
If you have a knack for coming up with catchy melodic hooks, fun rhythms, and funny, memorable product descriptions (lyrics), you’re on your way to becoming a successful jingle writer/producer.
- Give Clinics and Lectures
If you have a love for music, and you find joy in helping and teaching people, this is a fun way to combine both.
You can give clinics, basically educational concerts or events, on a wide range of topics, including:
Stage performance techniques
Guitar technique development
Certain new product showcases
You could organize these events in music stores, schools, rehearsal venues, concert halls, or music fairs, and generate revenue through sponsoring ticket sales for the event, or a cover charge at the door.
- Apps for Fans
It is not too expensive to have apps created.
Take advantage of apps to create a stronger following and a stronger community with your fan base.
You could come up with a band app for your fans that does fun things, like for example synchronizing or interacting with certain parts of your show.
The fan and his/her phone could become part of your show that way.
It could be silly things, like for example having a dedicated computer on stage that sends certain pulses, or light patterns or pictures to the phone of anybody in the audience who has the app activated during the show.
The app could make a connection to that fan’s FB page on his/her phone and automatically post a “You are currently rocking out here (name of band and venue)” on that person’s FB page.
The sky is the limit.
- Sell Your Sheet Music
Besides selling mp3’s of your songs and CDs, an extra stream of revenue is created if you have sheet music of your songs.
If you’re a guitarist, also sell a tablature version.
Sell the sheet music of your music from your site, or from online sheet music retailers.
You should also get paid anytime anybody reproduces copies of your sheet music. (Although it is challenging of course to keep track of this, if not impossible)
- Sell Vinyl Copies of Your Music
Check out www.Feedbands.com
This is a crowdsourced record company.
You upload your songs or CD to Feedbands.com, and listeners can be a vote on your music.
If people really like your stuff and vote you to the highest-rated band, Feedbands presses you a vinyl record.
They ship the record to you and you get paid.
If you do your research, you might find other such record contests that have cash prices.
- Save Money Crowfunding Your Musical Projects
Recording your music can get expensive. All the costs for a producer, engineers, and studio time quickly add up.
Crowdfunding solves that problem. Crowdfunding services let you set up campaigns to raise money, directed towards your networks of friends, fans, and acquaintances, who give you financial support to reach a specific goal.
In return: you usually offer credit on the album or other free stuff in return for the pledges you received.
You probably want to look into:
Patreon (For smaller projects)
- Give Away Your Music for Free
There are sites where you can submit your song or album for free leaving people the option to tip when they get your song.
Check out noisetrade.com/
It’s surprising how many visitors leave a tip.
- Start a Music Festival
You can build a stronger following in a shorter amount of time with your band if you pool your resources with other bands and set up an event where you all perform together.
Fans of the other bands discover your band, which over time will generate more sales for your band.
- Get Government Grants
You can obtain support from the government or from non-profits in the form of grants for projects that for example preserve a musical heritage or the music of a certain culture.
- Sell Your Music from Your Artist Website
Sure there is iTunes, CD Baby, Tunecore and so many more places you can look into to sell your music from, but you can also make your own website and sell your songs from there.
- Do Live Sound In A Club
This is a job you get a lot of benefits from beside the pay.
You make tons of new connections and new friends whose brains you can pick on anything band stuff.
This is a great way to learn a lot in a short amount of time from the plethora of musicians you are working with all the time.
- Do Live Sound For A Band
Different than being the live sound engineer in a club; when you are hired doing live sound for a band, you will be traveling with the band to their shows to do their sound.
If multiple bands are playing in the venues, befriend them and keep in touch with them.
Build your network of contacts.
If you’re traveling from gig to gig with a tour van or bus, find ways to work on your own music and goals in the downtime.
- Direct Sync Licensing
If you know people in the film industry who you think might be able to get some of your songs in movies, offer to get a deal for direct licensing.
Sit back and relax while royalties come in every time the movie is played.
- Submit Your Songs to A Songwriting Contest
There are quite a number of songwriting contests out there.
A couple of years ago, I submitted a song to The USA Songwriting Competition and won an award.
This is an easy, fun way to earn extra cash or prices with your music.
- Work At A Radio Promotion Company
In my first couple of weeks in LA, I started interning at a radio promotion firm.
Though I worked for no pay, it was worth it because of the great exposure I got to people in the industry.
The contacts I established working there for a couple of months, generated work and income for many years to come.
- Work At A Record Label
You get paid while you develop your network of musicians and learn a lot about the music business.
- Earn Performance Royalties
You get paid performance royalties when a song you wrote or published, is performed or broadcasted in public.
In other words: you get paid if you are the writer and you get paid if you are the publisher.
You could act as a publisher to other artists their music.
You then get paid every time you get their music played or performed.
- Rent Your Studio to Other Musicians
On the downtime when you’re not recording yourself, rent out your recording space to other musicians looking to record. You then keep making money even if you’re not working.
- Get Roommates
Again following the reasoning that every dollar saved is a dollar earned, you save a lot in rent when you share the space where you live, with a roommate.
If he/she is a musician too, which is highly recommended, you get to jam together, learn from each other, and benefit from each other’s contacts and networks.
- Live off Of Ramen Noodles (If you have to)
While I was a student at Berklee College of Music in the late ’90s, I practically lived off of Ramen Noodles to save money.
I knew tons of other students at Berklee who had Ramen noodles multiple times a day, every day.
While I am not suggesting at all that you should do so, I am merely pointing out that being frugal on food expenses is a great way to save money for very important goals.
- Get On Odesk.
oDesk is an outsourcing service that allows you to hire people from all over the world.
I used oDesk to hire people in India for marketing www.ZOTZinGuitarLessons.com.
I also hired transcribers on oDesk, web designers, graphic artists, and even musicians to write content for some of my blogs.
The biggest advantage to oDesk is that you can hire people in countries where the wages are a lot lower than in the US.
An amazing way to get lots of work done, for a fraction of what it would cost if you hired someone here for the job.
- Enter Music Awards Competitions.
It doesn’t take a lot of work or effort to upload your song to a music competition website. If you win, you oftentimes are awarded pretty substantial financial rewards for the 10 minutes it took to enter the contest.
A great example would be The Ascap Plus Awards, which you can learn more about HERE
This is very similar to songwriting contests. The difference lies in the evaluation process.
In songwriting contests: your song is judged and analyzed and if you win, then the jury’s or voter’s decision is based on the quality of the songwriting and on how much they liked the song.
In an award like for example the Ascap Plus Award, you win based on other criteria. (i.e. how much your song has been broadcasted, or how many other artists have covered your song, etc.)
- Enter “Battle Of The Bands” Type Contests.
If you believe your band is pretty hot and you love competition: enter “Battle of The Bands” events.
These contests are usually organized in music stores.
You compete on stage against other bands and win cash and/or equipment prices when you win.
- Do Your Own Legal Work.
Important: I am NOT dissuading you from seeking legal counsel when necessary.
I also would not recommend you go the DIY route in your legal matters, unless you are willing, have the time and the energy to want to do the research.
All that being said: I saved about $10,000 in the past couple of years when I chose to take on some important legal matters without the help of an attorney.
I felt strongly that I could bring these legal matters to a successful ending by myself.
Again: I do not recommend you do this if you are not completely certain you’ll do a great job and if you’re not good at doing research. Use an attorney if you need to.
I upgraded my business to an LLC ($2500), trademarked the ZOT Zin Music logo ($2500-$3000), and got my GreenCard ($3000-#3500) doing all the paperwork myself.
The amounts in between parenthesis are what attorneys typically charge to get these things done.
Getting these 3 important things done, took me about 12 hours of work total, but saved me about 10 grand.
Not a bad investment, considering that this equals about $830 I earned/saved an hour.
I used NOLO.
Visit NOLO.com clicking HERE
Another popular online legal service provider is LegalZoom.
You can get lots of important legal matters accomplished from these legal sites, from a fraction of the cost.
In addition: NOLO does such a great job of guiding applicants through the process, it is much less complicated to upgrade your business entity or to trademark a company logo than one would think.
- Work As A Substitute Music Teacher
Get the schools in your school district to know about you, and offer to substitute for their music teacher in case they need a sub on short notice.
People sometimes get sick, or get laid off, or move.
If this happens to a music teacher in an elementary or high school, you want to be the first person the school board remembers when a music teaching position opens up.
Once you get your foot in the door and the school board likes the work you do with their students, you might be offered a full-time position.
- Organize a Music Conference
Find out what musicians in your community are lacking that they would really benefit from, find out what their needs are: then organize a conference that solves their problems.
The idea is that you create a positive learning environment bringing musicians together who all learn from each other’s ideas and opinions.
You’d be required to do thorough research on the topic of the conference you’re organizing.
You’d then want to put a panel together of 3-4 experts in that field.
Some ideas for conferences:
“Networking in the Music Industry”
“Finding ways to override the Pay To Play system clubs are enforcing”
“AFM: Should I Join The Musician’s Union”?
“Ways To Be More Successful As A Songwriter”.
“How to maximize the current technologies available for composers”.
- Sell Sheet Music
Selling sheet music of your songs, you generate extra revenue besides the revenue from sales of your songs.
In case you were contemplating the idea of selling sheet music you transcribed songs from other artists: it’s probably not worth the time and effort.
You will lose whatever profit you made in royalty payments to the artist who wrote the song.
- Make Money With Twitter
Twitter gives you yet another means to connect with fans, build a network, find like-minded individuals.
Twitter however can also be used to do business and generate extra income.
Learn how to generate income from Twitter HERE
- Sell Video Recorded Lessons Online
Jake Reichbart is a solo guitar virtuoso who plays his own great solo arrangements of well-known songs.
He posts videos of his solo guitar performances on his YouTube channel.
His YouTube videos advertise the instructional DVDs that he sells on his website.
His DVDs teach in great detail how to play those solo guitar arrangements.
- Work as a Spokesperson
You don’t necessarily need to be an expert at something to be a spokesperson.
You just need to have a great story to tell.
Being fun, upbeat and uplifting is also a plus.
You could be a spokesperson for an artist, speaking on that artist’s behalf, or for a music company.
As a spokesperson for a music company: you represent the company at music fairs and festivals and give presentations, showcases, and demonstrations of their latest products.
After hours, you get to work on your own music and musical goals.
- Offer Acoustic Versions of Your Music
It’s smart to make different mixes or versions of your songs.
A stripped-down version of one of your songs might be exactly what a publishing company needs to pitch for a movie or tv show.
Some of the things you can do with your songs:
Adding dancy loops and samples.
Shorten and edit songs to fit 30-second commercials.
- Find a Sponsor for Your Tour
Nobody generally looks forward to the prospect of “having to ask someone for money”.
The thing to keep in mind though is that you are offering to expose the possible sponsor to your fan base and audiences.
You are getting sponsor money in return for you generating possible future revenue for that sponsor.
Though it might not always be easy to get sponsor money, if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get any.
There’s really nothing wrong with asking a question.
A good-size fan base, a well-developed business plan, and some kind of track record will augment your chances of getting a company to sponsor you.
- Negotiate an Advance from A Record Label
If you are lucky enough to be under a record label, you might be able to get the label to give you a recording advance.
Keep in mind that the label will withhold earnings from your album sales as payback for that advance.
Nevertheless: you get to record an album and don’t have to pay anything out of your own pocket.
You are paying the costs with future earnings.
- Publish eBooks.
Maybe you play a rare instrument, that you feel people would love to know about.
Maybe you have acquired considerable success in the music industry and feel that other musicians could greatly benefit from hearing about your success story and about the steps you took to achieve that success.
Write, publish and sell an eBook.
Consider publishing and selling your book as a Kindle version on Amazon.
It’s a win-win situation: you help other musicians, AND you earn extra income.
If you have a certain way of teaching an instrument that your students find unique and effective: write an eBook teaching how to learn the instrument.
It practically doesn’t cost anything to publish and sell an eBook.
You only have to do the work once, after which income from the book sale keeps coming in for a long time to come.
- Manage Other Musicians
Do you have a passion for helping and seeing a band grow from humble beginnings to a big, famous act?
Do you have great people skills, a lot of great connections, and a knack for marketing and business?
This might be the perfect job for you.
If the idea of running your own artist management company seems a bit daunting, you can always work for an artist management or public relations firm first, till you have built enough self-confidence to start your own company.
- Compose Music for Theatrical Productions
Connect with your local theaters and see if there is a way you can get a foot in the door composing the music for their productions.
If that fails, apply for assistant composer positions (or even transcriber positions) with composers or at companies that specialize in composing for theater.
- Perform in Someone’s Living Room
I’ve played in bands in the past, that played the occasional show in the living room or yard of a fan.
I have very fond memories of these performances, as there’s always a very intimate, lovely, peaceful atmosphere at those gigs.
Your pay comes in the form of donations from the fans attending the show, or from ticket sales to the house performance.
Make sure you have a merch table set up and CDs available for sale, to generate extra profits from the event.
- Share rehearsal Space
This doesn’t earn you extra income, but it saves you a lot in expenses.
You could also rent out your rehearsal space to other bands, and that is good income right there.
The difference between the 2 options is that:
In the first scenario, you pay rent to use the space and share that rent with another band.
In the 2nd scenario: you probably own the space yourself and rent it out to bands.
- Be an Actor Playing A Musician
From the jazz band in “The Aviator” to “The Pianist” to “Marina”, the film, theater, and TV show industries occasionally are in need of musicians who act the performance.
Get your name registered in all the casting agencies.
How much fun is that: getting paid to be in a movie, acting the role of musician, playing your instrument on screen.
- Create Music Minus One Versions
In 1950, Irv Kratka started his music production and recording company “Music Minus One” in NY.
His company specialized in releasing classical and jazz records with one of the instruments missing in the mix.
It’s a fantastic business idea.
Musicians LOVE playing the lead part on their favorite album, filling in for the missing instrument.
It’s very exciting to feel like you are part of the original band.
You also hear your instrument and your playing really well in the overall mix, because the original lead is no longer “competing” with you.
Top guitarists Steve Vai and Greg Howe, released remixed copies of their albums with the lead guitar part left out of the mix.
Those albums are heavily coveted by guitarists who love Steve’s and Greg’s music.
It’s an incredibly smart money-making move.
Many of the fans want to buy the 2nd remixed version too even if they already had the original release.
- Create Karaoke Versions
This point is similar to the above “Music Minus One” idea.
If you have built a strong, significant, loyal fan base, you could offer mixes of your songs with the vocals left out.
People LOVE singing along out loud with songs they like.
You’d do your fans a fun favor.
You’d also sell much more albums, having a remixed karaoke version of your albums.
- Perform in Restaurants, Hotels, and Department Stores
Finding such gigs might be a challenge.
Think results by numbers: the more restaurant owners you connect with, the higher the likelihood of you finding a restaurant where they consider having live music.
This works best if you play piano, classical guitar, or solo guitar arrangements of jazz standards.
Once you land such a gig, and it proves to be a success for the restaurant, chances are that you will get a foot into the door in other restaurants and hotels.
- Organize a Summer Music Camp
All you need is a location, a good curriculum, good teachers, and good word of mouth.
With nothing on their hands during the long summer vacation, kids get bored and parents seek an outlet to keep their kids entertained and active.
What better way to keep the kids active and entertained?
They are developing themselves while playing music, and the learning experience might very well be one of the highlights of their whole vacation.
Some of the kids might even want to continue studying with you long after the summer music camp.
- Play Music on a Cruise Ship
All that is pretty much required is that you have great sight-reading skills and stylistic versatility.
You have these 2 things taken care of, and you could be traveling on a cruise playing music.
You get paid a decent salary and health benefits, you travel the world, you make many friends, and all you have to do is play music.
It sounds like a dream.
- Offer Ringtones of Your Songs
You have a lot of fans who come to your shows and who love your music: offer them your most popular songs as ringtones.
It’s a fun little extra stream of revenue that you add to all your other income sources.
Here’s an informative read: Playing On A Cruise Ship
- Become an Impersonator
Do you look or sound like a world-famous artist?
Chances are you could make a lot of money as an impersonator.
Have your website built with an online store where you sell your merch and products.
During your performances, occasionally throw in one of your originals, so you can warm up your audiences and fans to your own music.
Over time, once you’ve built a large enough fan base, you could gradually move into doing originals only with the occasional cover song mixed into your sets.
- Organize A House Concert Tour
Imagine that you have a loyal fan base or a network of connections spread out over a certain geographical area.
Contact your fans and connections, to inquire if they would be willing to support your tour, letting you perform at their houses.
If you can set up and schedule enough performance locations and dates, you have a tour.
Sell tickets in advance and/or charge an admission fee. Sell merch and CD’s the night of the performance.
Tip: You save a lot of money if you bring your sleeping bags and or camping gear and sleep in or around the fan’s house.
People LOVE hanging out with their favorite bands, hearing all the cool stories.
- Perform Mass at a Church
Many churches pay musicians to play music and lead worship at the Sunday morning mass.
I have friends who are not religious at all, but who play in church every week on Sunday morning, and love the gig.
- Post Musical Gear and Software Demo Videos on YouTube
This ties in a bit to affiliate marketing.
There’s a lot of musicians on YouTube who post videos of them giving product demonstrations and tutorials.
If you have built a large group of followers on YouTube who see these videos and comment on them, contact the companies that make those products.
You could potentially negotiate with these companies to get paid for future videos.
After all: by posting these videos, you are giving these companies free advertising.
You are also giving that company extra value with your free tutorials.
- Enter Sweepstakes for Musicians
There are many offers out there to win music gear.
Googling “Sweepstakes For Musicians” gives a list of music stores that all give away thousands of dollars in equipment.
One of the very popular musician sweepstakes is The Disc Makers & CD Baby Independent Musician Sweepstakes.
- Be a Music Librarian
I still remember the amazing music library at Berklee College of Music.
It takes someone with organizational skills, a music degree, and some form of library studies to do this job.
Public libraries oftentimes hold such specific positions.
Other places where there is a need for someone with these skills: radio stations, colleges, and conservatories.
- Have a Subscription To Your Online FanClub
Make part of your online fan club on your website, subscription-based.
Die-hard fans are willing to pay you to get the premium insider band information and the special perks and freebies that come with being a premium member of the fan club.
- Sell Your Music From Your YouTube Channel
Post videos of your performances on YouTube, and embed links in the video to your webpage where you sell your songs.
- Get Your Music In Corporate Videos
Connect to companies specialized in corporate video productions.
Offer to provide music for their corporate videos.
Another idea is to try and land an assistant composer job with a composer who writes music for corporate video production companies.
- Play the Occasional Gig for Free
It might seem like a waste of your time and energy, but it isn’t if you reap the benefits afterward in added exposure, more people on your mailing list, more fans, and probably some extra merch sold at the show.
All this leads to extra revenue over time.
- Make Deals with Your Local Guitar Repair Guy
Set up a referral arrangement with your local guitar repair person.
You send him business when your friends or guitar students need guitar setups, and you get a commission on the income the repair person makes.
- Be a Music Therapist
This career path requires a number of years of solid studies in the fields of psychology and music therapy.
Berklee College of Music offers a Music Therapy major.
You get to combine the fun of doing music with a passion for helping people; earning a good income while doing it.
- Be an Affiliate for Music Stores
Guitar Center, Musiciansfriend, and AmericanMusical are just some of the many music stores that offer affiliate marketing.
Once you get it set up, you get a commission on every sale that gets generated from your personalized sales link the store gives you.
- Do Affiliate Marketing for Other Musicians’ Products
If you know of any musicians whose books or products you use or like, you can contact those musician’s proposing to help them sell more of their products for a commission.
Just a quick sample of ideas off of the top of my head:
Eddie Van Halen’s D-Tuna
Michael Angelo Batio’s guitar string dampener
Bruce Arnold’s ear training and sight-reading books.
Ear training programs that are out there.
- Hire Teachers and Start A Music School
This is different from the teaching ideas mentioned earlier.
You could start a school, even if you don’t like teaching music yourself.
There is really great money to be made with this. You basically advertise to find students, who you assign to a teacher you hired.
That teacher works from your place. He gets paid an hourly rate, you keep the rest of what you charged the student.
If you charge $60 an hour, and you pay the teacher $35: you earn $25 an hour without having to work for it.
If you find 20 students, which is really not that hard to do: you earn $2000 a month.
You might think to yourself: “If it is that easy, why are not more teachers doing this”
Answer: Not everybody is that entrepreneurial.
Some teachers just want to teach music without having to worry about finding and keeping students, or dealing with the contracts and legalese, etc.
It also takes a bit of work to find a good location, do the advertising, hire a teacher, make the contracts, etc…
- Create an App That Teaches Music
Sure, there are tons of apps already out there that teach guitar chords, offer tabs or teach music theory, but maybe you can come up with a way to do it better, or in a way where for example people who use the app can track their progress, etc.
Or maybe you play a unique instrument or know how to do unique things on a guitar that guitar students would want to learn about (i.e. how to simulate other instrument sounds on a guitar).
Create an app that teaches it and see the money coming in.
- Publish a Book
I mentioned eBooks earlier in this list.
You can also publish an actual real book, or a Kindle version, or both.
If you have certain expertise or a way of doing things or a way of explaining things that you feel has not been done yet before, or that you feel people would want to know about or pay for: write it down and publish it.
- Reading books:
Yes, your income is dependent upon how well you educate yourself.
The more you read, the more it opens up your imagination, the more ideas you get, the more confident you get, the more successful you become as a result.
Here are some of the books to get you started.
a. This Business Of Music (Krasilovski, Shemel)
b. All You Need To Know About The Music Business (Donald Passman)
This book is required reading for all music business majors at Berklee College of Music.
c. Making Music Make Money
d. Music Marketing And Promotion
e. The Musician’s Handbook (Bobby Borg)
I studied music business with Bobby during my time at Musician’s Institute.
His book is golden.
f. The Self Promoting Musician
g. Sell Your Music
h. Networking Strategies For The New Music Business.
i. How To Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People (Les Giblin)
You need to make your services known, so potential customers know where to find you.
More advertising = more income.
A quick list:
e. Yelp.com (have testimonials)
f. www.Musicianscontact.com (performing)
(way more listings to be found in the book of course)
You want to be proactive in spreading your name and building your network.
a. Start a band Facebook Page
b. Start a teaching business Facebook page
c. Twitter about your teaching
d. Start myspace pages for your business
e. Get serious about having your own website. Come up with a good domain name, and register it on www.godaddy.com (register it for 10 years or so and buy a long term hosting package from the same company/service to save money)
a. Talk to people in clubs
b. Flyers in stores
c. Business cards and flyers in clubs
d. Connect to people at your local music schools
e. Hang out at your local music stores and talk to the people working there (and even their customers)
After having read such an intensive list: you KNOW you CAN do music full time, right? 🙂
I mean: what are the odds that you will fail?
Well… not quite!
The blog gives you a listing but doesn’t really tell you HOW to do it all.
That is why you need the book “Make Millions Making Music”!
The book has many more money-making ideas, much more info, much more detail, and more tricks and techniques to succeed as a musician.
I really hope this blog helps anybody out there who is trying to make a living doing music full time.
If even only ONE person benefitted from the work I put into typing all of this info…
then that one person MADE MY DAY, and it was all worth it.
If you are that person: hit me up in the comments below.
I want to hear from you. I want to hear your stories.
If you thought this info was helpful or if you have any ideas or suggestions, give this blog a rating and give me your feedback in the comments section below. I believe everything can always be improved, and I gladly would implement your suggestions and ideas in this blog or the next.
Can you think of more ways to earn money with music: absolutely share it below. Help everybody out here with your expertise.
Hit me up anytime at email@example.com if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
These free lessons are cool, but you will never experience the progress, joy, and results that my students experience in lessons when you’re learning by yourself from blogs and videos.
That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas than you can get from a blog or YouTube video.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.
If you want to see amazing results and progress in your guitar playing, buy your first lesson here and get started ASAP.
You’ll impress your friends and loved ones in no time with your guitar playing!
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