How To REALLY Make Money From Your Music, Short Medium And Long Term Strategies

make money from musicPre 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.

The Solution

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!

Important Note:
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

Make money with free music downloadsPeople 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:

Direct Payment:

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:

Make 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:

Collecting Royalties:

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 make a lot of money from musicRoyalties 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.

Conclusion

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.

P.S. Want to learn how to take your music career to the next level using music marketing? Then click here!

Comments

  1. Oscar says:

    This is a great roadmap to making money from our music. Quick question, would you recommend (or have you tried) giving away your songs in exchange for their contact info (email)? then you could use that list to promote to in the future?

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Oscar

  2. Independent Music Advice says:

    Hi Oscar. I have actually done this for some of my previous clients (I no longer take on clients), and with great success I may add. This is actually one of the strategies I have talked about in my ebook How To Make Money From Free Music. I also elaborate on how you can then use your mailing list subscribers to make you money by giving them free weekly songs to download. This doesn’t cost them anything to do, but will make you money for each person who downloads one of these free songs.

    So yes, it is a good idea to give out a free song in exchange for their email address.

  3. Oscar says:

    Thanks. That makes sense and thanks for the link to the ebook.

    Oscar

  4. Dj says:

    I have played in a band for about 5 years know an the owner of the band has not gave me any royalties we have CDs out on the market an the band is really popular what kind of legal action can I take

  5. Independent Music Advice says:

    Hi DJ, in all honesty it would be best to talk to a lawyer or other legal representative.

    Did you by any chance have any type of contract with your band owner? And are there any paper with figures of CD sales and the like? If so get hold of them and bring them to your legal advise team to see what they’d recommend.

    Bare in mind that if no profit was made by your band’s owner however, then you most likely wouldn’t be able to claim any compensation… Good luck.

  6. Rashida says:

    hi i would like to know where to start in regard to building a network of musicians to launch my website. Where would you recommend to start?

  7. adminima says:

    Hi Rashida. Could you elaborate on what you mean by getting a network of musicians? What kind of website is it you’re launching?

  8. Thankyou- this has totally inspired me and totally changed my opinion. I have been putting in ridiculous amounts of time in posting our music videos and links on every friends wall on Facebook. Im definitely going to start monetising our business using your steps. Im looking forward to the results.

  9. Great stuff Georgina, that was a really nice comment to read. Putting your effort in the right places will definitely speed up things for you a lot. Good luck, and let us know how things go.

  10. This sounds a bit strange

    Who will pay me for the downloads?

  11. If you get the book all details will be explained. :)

  12. Chisom vt Jonathan says:

    For me this is an eye opener. I need to step up my game real fast.

  13. Glad you feel that way Chisom, these are the things that will make your music career a lot more profitable. We go into a lot more detail into all these things in the IMA Music Business Academy, giving your specific steps you can take to achieve these things. Just remember to take action or gaining this knowledge will have been for nothing.

  14. Dale says:

    sorry about that. ok lets say you have quality music. and excellent performance. however your style of music seems to only have a small scene in your area. what if you get credit elsewhere but not locally? how do you do that without spending too much money traveling?

  15. Unless you do online performances, there’s not much way around it. How about you get people to sponsor your traveling to perform for them? Or you make money from the shows via CD sales / royalties to cover your traveling costs?

  16. Ty says:

    vie been putting out money for my artist for years and i have not been able to generate any revenue……we have the talent we have good music but for some reason i cant figure out how to bring the money back into the label to further their careers…..do u have anymore advice that u can give its kind of frustrating putting out money and not generating money

  17. Hi Ty. It’d depend on where you’re putting your money, and how you’re expecting to make it back. I couldn’t know that unless I could see what you’ve been doing. There are plenty of article on this site that could help, so have a look around. If you want a more comprehensive guide though, you may want to check out the IMA Music Business Academy.

  18. Dario says:

    Hey! You wrote a really great article! I am a musician/composer myself and try to find my way through the jungle of the music business. I haven’t thought about your principle to make money with music without people paying for it directly. I will take that into account. I was really inspired by your post and so I wrote a list of 77 was to make money with music.
    Wow, you really do a good job with your site. I have to come back from time to time.

    Greetings,
    Dario

  19. Glad the post inspired you Dario, thanks for stopping by. :)

  20. jasmine says:

    Hi im really trying to get back n to music but overtime i start there’s always something that stop me..i write my own music and i create my own beats i just need some one or something to work with thats serious just as much as me.

  21. Having a partner to bounce off is always handy Jasmine, good luck finding that person.

  22. shama says:

    Hi. Your website is fab. Really informative particularly for those like me that have decided to become my own manager. My question to you is this. I have released one track that seems to be doing quite well. Have recently been approached by a company who want to use my track for their compilation album. Am I entitled to anything from the sales and is there any due dilligence I should observe before saying yes

  23. Shama, if they are going to be making money from the album, then you definitely are entitled to some form on compensation. If it’s a promotional album however, it most likely won’t make any money, and you may instead only get promotion out of the deal. Find out either way, and make your decision from there.

    P.S. Congratulations of your song that’s doing well. :)

  24. Kev says:

    Hi, Have been reading lots of the articles on this site of late – It is becoming so much clearer to me that a independent band is much like small business and must be run as such. I have this left side of the band this in other unknowlegable peoples hands for too long. Thanks for the wake up call.
    Apart from PRS and MCPS is there anywhere else needed or useful to claim royalties or fees for live and recorded music. Is there a way for not just for the Artist to get royalties but also the contributing musicians as individuals.
    Thanks

  25. Kev, glad to hear you’re taking things into your own hands. There’s nothing wrong with getting help along the way, but you do essentially need to know what’s going on in your music career, and ensure it’s running how you’d like.

    There are other royalty collection companies, do a online search for ones that operate in your area of the world. It is also possible for individuals to get a cut of each song, they’ll also need to join the relevant royalty collection companies and put in for their share to be tracked.

  26. Sholi Trend says:

    please where can i put m songs online and as well get paid for it

  27. Sholi, you may want to check out guide on getting your music on iTunes. That said, you’ll still need to promote your songs in order to make sales. There is no where online you can upload your music, not promote it and start making money. Good luck.

  28. charlie mac says:

    Hi this is great in theory but what if people dnt have there own website. I dont i use youtube facebook and twitter to promote my music. And can this stratagey ever help you make it mainstream. Thanks

  29. Hi Charlie. How do you promote your music? I suggest you start building up an online presence, you’re missing out on a lot of potential fans by not utilizing those tools you mentioned (A website, social sites etc). Check out my guide on setting up a music website here.

    These tips aren’t meant to be used for going mainstream, they’ll more useful for making money from your music career as an independent musician. Mainstream musician also use these methods to make money, but they’re not guaranteed to launch you to mainstream status. They will however help fund your music career.

  30. Maja says:

    How can I earn money for free downloads of songs?
    I’m a 16 years old girl and currently working on my debut album.

  31. Hi Maja. I may be giving access to the book which tells you how to do this away soon, so be sure to sign up to the newsletter to be informed if this happens. If you don’t want to wait until then, you can get it free with this course.

  32. ks says:

    I want too release my song

  33. You can do KS; make it, release it, market it. :)

  34. On what website can i upload my song and get paid for downloads?

  35. You most certainly can Omotolani.

  36. Do you have any tips on soliciting investors to obtain some type of cash infusion?

  37. I haven’t done a guide on that yet BM, but if I do I’ll be letting people signed up to the newsletter know so you may want to sign up via the sidebar. You get a free ebook for doing so. :)

  38. Daniel.R.C says:

    Very informative and inspiring page for the up and coming musicians who aim to make a little profit (or even a living) from their personal harmonies.

    As a multitalented instrumentalist, Who has not yet earnt a great deal from business out there, there are certainly many ways to earn including busking, selling cd’s WHILST busking, free gigs (in the short term to get your name heard)… Realistically, the possibilities and endless!

    I would like to start composing music for artists to perform, which of course is a struggle as I don’t work well in bands.. Would you suggest I find a band to perform these songs or stay as a single artist? Advice would be astronomically helpful, which of course if I ever made a living from this 1 thing I am good at, I would certainly help fund the site and help expand for other trainees to learn :)

  39. Hi Daniel, thanks for the comment. Busking is definitely one way to make money from your music, and one that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time. Your comment may have just given me the push I need to sit down and write it. ;)

    With regards to whether or not you should work with a band, it would depend on two things:

    Firstly, if it’ll give a better final product.

    Secondly, if it’ll make your life easier. You may not like working with bands, but will they save you time and energy in the long run? Especially as you wouldn’t have to do all the work yourself, and they could possibly help with promotion of your new compositions.

    It’s really up to you, but generally having more people on board does make things easier (If you choose serious people of course). That said, if you’re not strong you could loose some creative control. Other views can be a good thing sometimes though as other people can come up with some good ideas you may not have thought about by yourself.

    Let me know what you decide. :)

  40. Emilio says:

    Very enlightening! and as I can see, time goes on and the article stays alive.
    I am a composer, mainly of contemporary classical but I also love to listen and make songs. Although I play bits of several instruments and sing decently, I don’t think I’m a good performer, nor I have the leadership or charisma to lead a band. What advice would you give to someone that intends to be only a composer? Like, how to ‘pitch’ songs for artists to sing?

  41. Hi Emilio. Your best bet is to network with other people in your industry, and see who needs songs. Go to events, join related forums and the like. The more people who make your genre of music you have connections with, the more likely you are to find someone in need of songs. Good luck.

  42. BuddY says:

    I like and I can but I haven’t got a lot of money to make a track.

  43. You’ll have to save up Buddy, if you want to record there’s no real way around that.

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