The story of the struggling musician is a tale as old as time.
But that story is turning around thanks to the wealth of online music platforms and streaming channels available today.
If you love making tunes, there’s a good chance you want to know how to make money from music—and why wouldn’t you? Whether it’s your full-time job or a lucrative side gig, selling music online is a creative way to make money doing something you love.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of ways you can make money as a musician so you can diversify your income. Doing this removes the pressure of churning out records and gives you the freedom to pursue new projects while maintaining a steady income.
14 ways to make money as a musician
- Music licensing
- Merchandise sales
- NFTs (non-fungible tokens)
- Social media monetization
- Crowdfunding for musicians
- Patreon for musicians
- Music teaching
- Music streaming revenue
- Live performance income
- Music production
- Music publishing
- YouTube for musicians
- Twitch for musicians
- How to sell music on online platforms
Music licensing involves selling a license for your songs to filmmakers, TV producers, or ad companies to use in their content. There are two different types of music licensing you can pursue depending on how large your music catalog is and what genre your songs fall into.
Sync licensing for musicians
Sync licensing requires production companies to pay a fee to re-record the original track. They’re essentially paying to “edit” your song to fit their production.
Master use licensing
Master use licensing requires production companies to pay a one-time fee to use your song in its original form. They must use the original recording and can’t remix it in any way.
Start by choosing three to five of your best songs and creating a catalog spreadsheet that documents the song title, genre, keywords that describe it, and meta information that will ensure it’s searchable in licensing databases. Then, register the songs with a performance rights organization (PRO). Its job is to make sure you get paid when your song is played on the radio, in a film, or on a TV show.
Music libraries are platforms that connect musicians with opportunities to license their music for use in TV shows, movies, and commercials.
Some of the most popular music libraries include:
Selling band merchandise is a great way to make extra income as a musician. With a fully automated merch store, you can generate income without taking any time away from writing and performing music.
How to sell band merch online
You can set up a merchandise store in minutes with Shopify. Start by deciding what products you want to sell—t-shirts are a go-to for musicians, but you can also design and sell other products, including your own water bottles, canvas bags, and even home décor items.
Next, follow these steps:
- Create your designs: If you know how to design a logo, it’s easy to create a variety of unique designs for your band that can be printed on merchandise.
- Set up your store: Start your Shopify trial and set up your store. If you’ve never set up a Shopify store, here’s a tone of resources to help you get started.
- Automate with a print-on-demand app: With print-on-demand apps, you can outsource manufacturing, shipping, and logistics to a third-party company. Print-on-demand companies are paid a percentage of your sales, so you don’t need to pay for products until they’re sold.
Once you’ve set up your store, you can sit back and relax. The print-on-demand company handles printing and shipping and is paid via a cut of your sales.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens)
Musicians are using NFTs to sell unique digital assets like music, artwork, and collectibles to fans. This allows them to monetize their creativity in new ways and create a direct connection with their audience.
NFTs are unique cryptographic tokens that are traded using blockchain technology. Each one represents a tangible asset, like a piece of art or a song. You can “mint” an NFT and create a token that represents an asset, like a new audio recording or your latest album—and then sell it to your fans.
Here’s a quick guide to getting started:
- Set up an account with a platform that’s dedicated to selling music NFTs (OpenSea.io is a popular choice).
- Open an Ethereum wallet.
- Create a collection of music you want to “mint” and turn each one into a unique asset token.
- List your tokens (or NFTs) for sale on your chosen website’s marketplace.
Note that there’s a lot of volatility in the NFT market. The value of NFTs can fluctuate rapidly and, as with any investment, there’s the potential for fraud and scams. Carry out due diligence and make sure you’re using a reputable NFT platform to create and trade NFTs.
Social media monetization
Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram offer new ways for musicians to monetize their content. There are a few ways you can use social media platforms to make money:
- Get royalties: Earn money when your music is used to accompany video content on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.
- Brand partnerships: Join forces with brands you love in your niche to promote their products and get paid for it.
- Sponsored posts: Get paid to share content about companies and organizations on your channels.
- Affiliate marketing: Earn a slice of commission every time someone buys a product through your unique affiliate link.
Crowdfunding for musicians
Crowdfunding helps you raise money to fund your upcoming projects. For example, you can ask your fans to donate money toward your next album release or tour in exchange for a reward.
Crowdfunding tends to work in tiers: Fans can choose to pay as much or as little as they like, and in return, they’ll get a reward that matches their donation size. This allows you to get support from multiple sources rather than counting on an advance from a record label or taking out a loan.
Here are some crowdfunding platforms to consider:
Once you’ve chosen your platform, decide your target monetary goal and the tiered rewards you’ll offer for each level of support. You could offer a free t-shirt to small-time backers, right up to a high-value reward like free platinum tickets for each leg of an upcoming tour to generous backers.
Then, promote your campaign on your social channels, via your email list, and at your events.
Patreon for musicians
Patreon is a platform that allows fans to support their favorite artists by subscribing to their content. Musicians can offer their subscribers exclusive content, merchandise, and experiences in exchange for a monthly fee.
This provides a stable way to generate income, since fans pay a monthly fee to access your exclusive content and goodies. It can also lead to deeper connections with your most loyal fans.
Why not make some money by teaching others the secrets of your craft? You can teach your skill set—whether it’s rapping, composing, singing, or producing—to other up-and-coming musicians, in the form of online tutorials, workshops, or vlogs.
As well as online courses, you can teach in-person in your local area or provide one-to-one training sessions to other artists.
Here’s a quick, step-by-step guide to getting started:
- Choose your sellable skill: Decide what it is you’re going to teach. Guitar tuition? Singing practice? Producing?
- Decide on the format: Will you teach local artists in one-to-one sessions or would you rather create online content you can sell at scale?
- Find students: Promote your classes and sessions on your social channels, via your email list, at your events, and on music directories.
- Set your rates: The amount you’ll charge will vary depending on how small your classes are, whether your tutorials are in-person or online, and the content of your lessons.
Music streaming revenue
One of the most common ways for musicians to make money is via streaming revenue from popular platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. It’s not a massive earner (Apple Music pays artists $6 to $10 per 1,000 streams), but it can help you reach a wider audience.
It’s important that you stream your work on Spotify and Apple Music, the two largest, most globally available services. Other popular streaming services include Google Play, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music—plus genre-specific streaming services like BeatPort and JunoDownload, both of which cater to electronic music producers and fans.
To get your music on platforms like these, you’ll need to sign up with a distributor. Most will charge a fee or a commission, but they will also be the ones that pay your royalties whenever someone plays your song.
Here are some distribution networks to consider:
Live performance income
Playing live is one of the most profitable ways for musicians to make money. While the internet has made it possible to livestream music performances, there’s nothing that quite matches seeing one of your favorite artists perform in person.
Playing live is not only a good way to generate income but also one of the best ways to build an audience. Gig fans always win out over social media fans in terms of how valuable they are to your music career, since they’ve proven themselves willing to pay money to watch live music.
You’ll need to find good local venues to play if you want to build an audience of real live music fans. One way of doing this is through gig-booking apps and websites like ReverbNation Gig Finder.
Gig booking sites and platforms are more accessible, which means many of the shows tend to be corporate events targeted toward a broader audience. These performances can be very lucrative, but keep in mind that they’re less valuable in terms of building a loyal audience.
Thinking long term, you want to build relationships with local venues in your “scene.” This is where your networking skills will come in handy. Start small and find venues that are open to new acts.
Live shows also present a good opportunity to flog your merch, too, for an extra bump in cash.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual concerts have become a popular way for musicians to make money. These concerts can be streamed online and offer a way for fans to support their favorite artists while enjoying live music from the comfort of their own homes.
Sites like Stageit let musicians livestream their gigs to fans online.
Producing music and getting paid to create songs is the holy grail for most musicians. But it’s tricky to get clients if you’re just starting out—you have to prove you can consistently create amazing tracks. In the meantime, you can dip into ghost production, which is essentially where you get paid to produce tracks for other artists and companies.
You don’t get credited for your creations but you can earn a decent side income producing songs for a range of artists. The industry standard for someone starting out is between $200 and $400 per song, depending on your experience and the quality of your portfolio.
Here’s a quick guide to getting started:
- Choose your genre and build a portfolio of tracks to showcase your skills.
- Identify your market—do you want to target local folk performers or big-scale producers who work with global hip-hop artists?
- Create a website where you can highlight your experience and share your sample tracks.
- Use online marketplaces like SoundBetter and Airgigs to advertise your services.
Publishing royalties are a popular source of income for musicians. You essentially get paid every time a radio station, streaming site, or venue wants to play your piece of music, because music compositions are considered a form of intellectual property.
Here’s how you can get started with music publishing:
- Choose the tracks you want to publish.
- Sign with an independent publishing company or hire an administrator to register the copyrights of the tracks you want to publish.
- The publishing company you use will collect your royalties and pay you, taking a small cut for themselves.
Royalty Exchange is a platform that allows musicians to sell a portion of their future royalties to investors. This provides an upfront payment to the musician and allows investors to earn a return on their investment.
YouTube for musicians
YouTube is a great platform for sharing your music and growing your audience. The most common way to earn money is through Adsense and running ads at the start of your content, but you can also use your channel to promote your online store, merch, and any affiliate links you have.
Here’s a basic guide to using YouTube to make money:
- Create your channel and brand it with your colors, images, and personality.
- Upload videos of your gigs, songs, and behind-the-scenes content of you creating tracks.
- Engage with your audience to build a community.
- Promote your products, whether it’s merch or online music classes.
- Once you get to 1,000 subscribers you can monetize your channel with ads.
Top tip: You can claim money from YouTube videos that use your music without your permission. The platform’s content ID system identifies videos that use your music and places ads to collect revenue on your behalf. There’s a strict set of criteria to meet to make use of the content ID system, so it’s best to sign up with a content ID company that does it all for you, such as Airbit.
Twitch for musicians
Twitch is a livestreaming platform that has become popular among musicians. Musicians can perform live, interact with fans, and earn money through donations and subscriptions.
It’s a great way to connect with your most loyal fans while at the same time receiving financial support.
Here are some steps to getting started:
- Set up a Twitch account.
- Build a community by directing your fans from other platforms to your Twitch account.
- Set up and organize your stream by tagging relevant keywords and categories.
- Monetize your Twitch stream by sharing affiliate links, your Patreon account, crowdfunding information, or online store.
How to sell music on online platforms
Finally, you can sell your music yourself on dedicated online platforms. To do this, you’ll need to set up accounts on your chosen sites and upload your music. This will help you reach a much wider audience than if you were marketing your music only on your own website.
Once you’ve uploaded your tracks and albums, you can collect the email addresses of fans who’ve purchased your music so you can market your merch, gigs, and other events later down the line.
Here are some of the most popular online music platforms to consider:
There are multiple ways to make money as a musician
There are plenty of ways you can make money as a musician, from earning royalties through licenses to selling merch and tickets on your own website. Experiment with a handful of these methods to diversify your income streams and maintain a stable cash flow.
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How to sell music FAQ
How can I make money from my music?
- Sell your music directly to fans. You can sell your music directly to fans through your website, Bandcamp, or other digital music stores.
- Licensing your music. You can license your music to TV shows, films, commercials, and video games. This will earn you money when your music is used in these projects.
- Live performances. You can play live shows to earn money. You can make money from streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
- Merchandise. You can sell merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, and other items with your music or logo.
- Crowdfunding. You can use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise money for your music.
- Subscription services. You can sign up for subscription services such as Patreon, where fans pay a monthly fee to support your music.
- Radio plays. You can promote your music on the radio and get paid when your song is played.
- Sync deals. You can sign sync deals to have your music used in movies, TV shows, and more.
- YouTube monetization. You can monetize your music on YouTube and make money from ad revenue.
What are the best ways to monetize my music?
How can I make money from live performances?
How can musicians create and sell music NFTs?
How do I get my music on streaming platforms?
- Register with a music distribution company.
- Submit your catalog of songs.
- Add metadata to your songs to make them searchable.
- The distribution company will upload your tracks to key streaming platforms.
How can I sell merchandise as a musician?
- Choose the merch you want to sell, whether it’s t-shirts, mugs, or home décor.
- Create your designs.
- Set up your online store using Shopify.
- Automate production with a print-on-demand app.
What is music licensing and how can I make money from it?
How can I make money as a music teacher?
- Consider what skills you want to sell.
- Decide on your pricing and rates.
- Set up your online school (or find somewhere to provide in-person lessons).
- Promote your classes to your audience.
- Use a teaching marketplace like Udemy to reach more people.
How do I get started with music production and make money from it?
- Create a website and samples of your tracks.
- Choose your genre and the type of clients you want to produce for.
- Sell your beats online.
- Ghost produce tracks for other artists.
What is music publishing and how can I make money from it?
How can I build a fan base on YouTube and make money from it?
- Upload videos of your concerts and performances.
- Engage with your community and host live shows.
- Run ads on your content.
- Share affiliate links or promote your online store and merchandise.