Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, making money through music is notoriously difficult. When many people expect to get their music for free, it’s difficult to carve out a career in the field. But new technologies have also created avenues for profitability and exposure.
You don’t have to be a full-time, professional musician to be enterprising with music. People make money with music in a variety of ways, whether it’s by using online platforms or approaching live performance in a new way.
Gone are the days of making a demo and sending it to record companies in hopes that they label you the ‘next big thing.’ There are plenty of ways to take your musical career into your own hands. Here are some of the best.
1. Personal SEO
The bad news about streaming is that it has caused a steep decline in record sales. The good news about streaming is that it has created a way to reach millions of listeners. You just have to get those listeners’ attention. You can improve your personal SEO by expanding your web presence. Whatever your budget, you can create your own website, YouTube account, Twitter, Facebook and online store. You can even put a tip jar on your website, or have a newsletter to grow your subscriber base. It’s a straightforward process to upload your music into streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud. The smarter you get about online marketing channels, the more chances fans will have to discover your music.
2. A New Way To Play Live
For decades now, artists have improved their chops by busking, playing weddings, and performing at open-mic nights. There will always be a need for live musicians at a variety of gigs. Now, you can get more leverage out of your live performances by recording them and live-streaming them. Many live-streaming platforms also allow you to interact with fans and sell merchandise. Musicians use forums and fan groups to book small shows with dedicated fans who are willing to pay to see an artist they like in an intimate setting.
3. Crowdsourced Patronage
Podcasters, critics and writers use crowdfunding platforms to raise money from individual patrons. Musicians can do the same through platforms like Patreon, Pledgemusic and Indiegogo. Some of the most successful ones can raise thousands of Euros a month, made up of small one-time or monthly contributions by individual donors. Crowdfunding is an easy way to support your music, and also a way to provide your biggest fans with special messages, giveaways and performances.
4. One-Off Business Gigs
In the day of the ‘sharing economy’, gigging has taken on a broader form. Traditional musicians supplemented their creative endeavors by gigging at weddings or birthday parties. Today, through platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, you can take gigging to a different level. For clients around the world, you might offer to write a catchy jingle for a product, design a band’s logo or record a quick demo that they need as background music for an advertisement.
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5. Teach Students Around The World
Musicians often give lessons to less experienced students in order to make money. You can now teach music any time through online platforms like Wyzant or Live Music Tutor. On these platforms you just create a profile and wait to get plugged in with a student whose needs match your skills.
6. Cover A Song, Put It Somewhere Visible
On YouTube, the best covers of popular songs sometimes get as many plays as the songs themselves. People have launched careers off covering popular songs in an interesting way. You can put your website in your profile, and you can link to other songs you’ve done at the end of your video. Stand on the shoulders of giants to generate widespread attention.
7. Affiliate With A PRO
Performance Rights Organisations distribute licenses to retail shops, restaurants, radio stations and television networks. They essentially make sure that songwriters and publishers are getting their due when their music is used. Once affiliated with a PRO, they will ensure that you are paid royalties any time your music is used in a retail playlist, television advertisement or commercial venue.
8. Pitch To A Background Music Provider
Once affiliated with a PRO, you can pitch to a background music provider. There are a multitude of music providers that provide large stores of music to commercial services, restaurants, stores and other businesses. Pitching them is as simple as finding them on Google and writing them an email with some song samples. Google phrases like ‘background music provider’ or ‘in-store music services’ or ‘music for business’ to find them.
9. Get A Sync License
A sync license grants third parties permission to use your music. If you get a sync license, your music can be included in video games and other visual media. That’s a great way to find new fans and gain exposure with a new audience. You can work with a licensing company if you’re stuck on how to deal with the intricacies of licensing.
10. Create A Ringtone
If you can write and record a catchy ring tone, large wireless companies are required to pay you royalties any time it is downloaded. This is known as a reproduction and distribution copyright. Once recorded, simply upload your ringtone to the iTunes store and see what happens.
11. Develop An Online Course
Through YouTube your website, you can create tutorials. If you’ve mastered classical guitar, share that knowledge via video. If you’ve discovered a great way to hack reading music, show that hack in a video and put it online. Maybe you just want to do a product review of all of the most useful tools you’ve used to boost your musical skills. Budding musicians are sure to find this information helpful. You can make the decision to put these tutorials and lessons behind a paywall, or simply share them far and wide to grow a larger audience.
One particularly useful tool you can check out is Sheet Music Scanner. This app will scan sheet music and play it back to you. It’s as simple as taking a picture with your phone or tablet.