Pre note: In this article we look at three main strategies to make money from your music career: How to make money from giving out free downloads (Short term), how to make money from gigging (Medium term) and how to make money from royalty collections (Long term). This is a potentially life changing post. It should change the way you think about your music career, and give you the steps to turn it from a hobby into something that actually makes you money. Please make sure you read it from start to finish then put into action what you’ve learned. You may want to bookmark it for easy reference in the future, and share it with fellow independent musicians. But anyhow, let’s get started…
I’ve seen it time and time again. Many people get into the music scene for the love of the music, but sooner or later realise they can actually make money from their hobby. So they decide to start treating their music as a career, putting more hours in and recording more songs. They work and work on making it successful, but no matter what they do they seem to struggle to make any real money for their efforts.
The reason why I feel so many musicians fail at making money is not because they don’t have enough talent, it’s just because they don’t put their time and effort into doing the right things. A lot of people focus purely on social media to promote their music. While it can get you small results in the short term, a lot of the time with social media it’s hard to target the right people. You’re also targeting these people one by one, which isn’t the best use of you time or energy.
Social media also doesn’t generally generate money (Well at least not in this situation). If you’re ‘lucky’ you’ll get a few free downloads of your song and a message saying ‘It’s good’. This is OK if all you want from your music career is a small ego boost, otherwise you need to take a different approach and fast.
I’ve broken down what I think are three of the best ways to make money from your music. I’ve divided them into three categories: Strategies you should be focusing on short, medium and long term. As you get the hang of one and start making money from it, you should start thinking about the next stage and working on that too. By the end you should be doing all three of these things, and hopefully making a good extra income from your music (If not turning it into a full time career). So ready to get started? Then let’s go!
All of these strategies can make you money even if you’re not a big name musician. Independent musicians you may never have heard of have been using these strategies for years to make money from music, so as long as you have talent you can do it too. It’s about working smarter not harder, and putting your effort into 20% of the things that make you 80% of the money. Using the following strategies you can start earning more money from your music in a matter of months (If not sooner), so get started right away!
1. Short Term Music Strategies – Money From ‘Free’ Downloads
People are becoming more and more reluctant to pay for songs, and instead often tend to download them instead. One of the main ways I’ve seen musicians counteract the effect of downloading (Though I don’t agree with it) is by giving fans all their music for free. The idea is that people give out their music to build up their name, then their loyal fans buy the paid copy when it’s released. For me, this isn’t a strategy I’m particularly fond of. The thing is, where does giving out all this free music stop? After they’ve got so many of your songs for free, why are they going to start paying for any songs you do release that you charge for? While some people may have success with this strategy, it’s not something the average musician will have any luck with.
Give Out Free Downloads, Make Money From Them:
What I prefer to do instead is make money by giving out downloads that fans don’t have to pay for. I put songs up on my website in different forms, and each time someone downloads one of these different songs I get paid for it. It doesn’t cost the fans anything to download this music, but every time they do I still get money going into my account.
I then drive traffic to my site using automated social media tools as well as building myself up in the search engines for various terms. This means I get short term but easy traffic from social media sites, and then eventually long-term traffic from search engines such as Google. The more traffic I get, the more people download my songs free of charge, the more money I make from these downloads.
The good thing about this strategy is it sets up a good foundation for the rest of your music career. We’re raising awareness for our music by giving out ‘free’ downloads, but we’re getting paid for doing so at the same time. We’re also building up one of our best assets, our website. This website will be used as a communication tool between us and the fan for the rest of our career, so getting people in the habit to use it regularly means we’re killing two birds with one stone.
If you want to know how to fully implement this part of the strategy and how to make money from giving out your music to fans for free, check out our book “How To Make Money From Free Music” for the full process. In here we detail step by step how to make money from free downloads, and how you can turn each fan into regular downloaders earning you money each time.
So when do you stop working on this strategy? Well while you should keep this strategy going for much of your music career, once you get traffic from Google you’ll be automatically getting new visitors to your site every day. This means you’ll start making money on autopilot, meaning you’ll have more time to focus your efforts on the below medium term music strategy.
2. Medium Term Music Strategies – Money From Gigging
OK, so we’ve got our short term strategy up and running. We should be making money from people downloading out music free of charge, and our website should be receiving new fans daily on auto pilot (Full details of how to do this can be found in “How To Make Money From Free Music”). The next stage is to focus on making money from gigging.
Now some of you may have done gigs before. Gigging isn’t anything new for an independent musician to do, but often it’s not done to it’s full potential. Many musicians get booked for a gig, turn up and perform their music then go home. So, where does the money come in?
In reality, these are so many opportunities to make money from gigs that aren’t exploited by the average musician. Even if you don’t get paid for doing a show, you can still walk out of there with more money then you started with. Here are the main ways you can make money from performing shows:
This is the obvious one, but one that you won’t have the luxury of getting until you’re a more established act. The idea here is to get paid money by the event organiser for performing at their event. You get paid a set amount which you both agree to, then you turn up and play your gig. The reason you won’t get access to this gig until later on is because promoters only tend to book acts that can draw in the crowds. If your name isn’t big enough to get the event organiser new paying customers, then most likely you won’t get paid for your booking. As you do more gigs and build your rep however, you will get directly paid gigs.
Selling Of CDs And Then Merchandise:
Since most of the early shows you’ll be performing won’t be paid ones, you’ll have to make money in other ways. There are two main ways to make money from gigs which you don’t get paid directly for, the first being selling your CDs after your performance. This is a easy thing to do, you simply perform your songs then inform people you’ve got a CD to buy if they like what they heard. Let them know you’re coming round and for them to ask you if they want a copy. Once your shows done, take some copies of your CD round and ask everyone if they’ll be interested in buying a copy.
This strategy is simple but works very well. It can make you some nice money from each show you do, so if you don’t already do this then you’re missing out on a lot of extra money. Many musicians don’t do this, probably because they’re too shy to ask people to buy their CD. If this is you, you need to overcome that shyness and quickly. I know a lot of musicians aren’t sales people, but if you’re making your music independently you need to at least learn some aspects of selling. You’re only asking people if they want to buy your CD, they then have the option of saying yes or no. You’re not inconveniencing anyone’s life, and will be introducing some new people to the joy of your music. On top of that you’ll be making money from your night out.
I’ve found showcase and talent show type events the best for making money from CD sales. The people that go to these type of events are often interested in less main stream music, and are up for supporting independent musicians. As they’ve often been to a few of these sort of events they know what to expect, and usually bring some extra money in case they come across a act they like and want to buy some of their material. So make sure you always bring a tangible product with you and probe the crowd to find these people. The relaxed environment often makes for an easy few sales.
As you’re making more money from your music career you can also create merchandise and sell that as well. I wouldn’t recommend doing that until you’re headlining your own gigs or are playing at concerts however, as they’re the type of crowds that are willing to take that extra bit of money out of their pockets.
Ok, so we’ve covered the short term and the medium term. Not, the long term:
The other way you can make money from performing live shows is by collecting royalties from each performance of your songs. Whenever you perform one of your songs at an officially licensed venue, they should pay a set amount to the people that collect royalties in your country. You can then get paid from these royalty collectors once you earn enough money. Want to know more about making money from royalties? Well that’s part of our long term strategy, so read on…
3. Long Term Music Strategies – Money From Royalties
Royalties is one of the real ways to make money from your music. For those that don’t know, royalties is money you earn for each time your song is played in a public place. It doesn’t matter if your song is played on radio or if you perform it live at a licensed venue, you should legally get paid royalties for your efforts.
The collecting of royalties is something many musicians don’t actually bother with, mainly because they don’t know how to do it. At initial glance it seems complex and something they can’t be bothered with, but it’s not really that hard to get your head around and is essential if you want to make any real sort of money from your music.
The first thing I want to say is you don’t have to collect royalties all by yourself. There are companies that keep track of where your songs are played and will send you royalty checks every three or so months. The companies that do this for you vary from country to country, but in the US the main one is the Harry Fox Agency (HFA). In the UK PRS which is now joined with the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS). Elsewhere in the world there are other companies that will monitor and collect your royalties for you, so have a look for who deals with it if you’re from another country.
These companies will be responsible for digitally monitoring where you music is played and collecting the money from each of those plays for you. You know that that means right? Get more radio, event, film and TV plays and you earn more money! You don’t however get paid from getting people to listen to your SoundCloud player, so stop wasting your time on social media and get your music played where it really counts!
A Good Way To Make Money From Music Royalties
The obvious strategy for making money from royalties is to get a lot of radio play. Instead of making a mass of songs and giving them out for free online, why not focus on one big song at a time and aim to get it a lot of radio play? That means building up relationships with DJs, and making the type of songs they’ll want to play again and again! You’ll also get paid when your song is played in venues such as bars, clubs and pubs, so making sure you song is appropriate for as many of these places as possible is a good idea.
Even if you haven’t got a typically commercial style of music, you can always get specialist DJs to play your songs for you. While it may not get as many plays (Remember, the more plays it gets the more money you’ll make) you can still make some decent money if your song gets played week in week out.
The aim however should be to make a classic song which will still be played for a long time to come. If you make a song about Christmas for example and it gets played a lot every year, there’s a good chance that one song could make you a full time living. Any song that will be played for years to come is a real asset as is a consistent income source even when you’re not doing anything. So you may want to make a song about a yearly event or occasion?
You can also make money from performing at venues as I mentioned in the mid term strategy about gigging. This is why I said to read the whole post through before starting out, because aspects of your long term money making efforts are going to cross over in to the medium term, and potentially some of the medium term into the short term. What is important however is you do all of them, focusing on the things that will start making you money in the short terms and work your way up. If you try and do them all full on in the beginning you’ll lack focus and not get as many results as you could have otherwise.
Making money from your music can be a lot easier then many people think. It’s all about doing the right things for your music career to take off, if you focus in the wrong areas it’ll be a much slow and less profitable journey for you. Remember, you should do the 20% of the things that need to be done that’ll make you 80% of your money. Things like messaging people on SoundCloud and Facebook asking them to listen to and download your music for free takes up more then 80% of a lot of people’s time, and makes them around 0% of their income. So, how much is this really helping you?
I hope this article has gone a way to changing your approach to your music career. It’s all about being smart, learning the music business and adapting to new trends. And that doesn’t mean giving all your music out for free, it means getting paid whether people consume your music via ‘free’ downloads, or by performing and having your songs played on radio and at events.
So go back to stage one, implement this strategy into your music career, and once you start profiting from it move on to the next stage. Good luck.