10 ways musicians make money without sacrificing creative freedom

by Liz Moy on September 19, 2012 · Comments

This guest post is written by Jo-Ná A. Williams, Esq., a former vocalist and songwriter and a solo practitioner with her own firm in New York, J.A. Williams Law – The Artist Empowerment Firm.

Due to collapsing album sales, piracy, and less money generated from digital downloads, artists are now faced with the question, “How do I make money with my music?” Well, if the sales aren’t cutting it and the only people at your shows are your family and a few high-school classmates, how will you really make a living with your art?

Show me the money!! How can musicians make money nowadays?

I’m sure you know licensing and live shows are great money generators for musicians, but what are some less common ways that artists are making money in the music industry today? I’ve spoken to musicians on this topic recently and here are 10 ways that artists are making good money, maintaining their creative freedom all while paying the rent:

  1. Hold live online shows

    Create an online streaming concert and charge your fans and followers to watch your live performance from the comfort of their home. Great way to increase your fan base and take full advantage of technology. Try the site Stageit.com. They allow you to perform a live streaming concert for a portion of your ticket sales and they even allow fans to tip you while you’re performing!

  2. Become a partner with YouTube

    Partnering with YouTube on your channel is a great way to generate revenue by allowing ads and placements.

  3. Music for web-shows

    The web-show movement is booming and many shows need songs for their introductions or throughout their episodes and they can’t pay the hefty licensing fees for mainstream music. This is also a way to expose your music to larger audience. Start by contacting some of your favorite web-shows via sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Ask them if they are looking for original music to add to upcoming episodes. Be sure to include web-links in your correspondence so they can easily access samples of your music.

  4. Compose for Off-Broadway shows

    Theatre productions need great composers for their music. This is an awesome revenue stream if you can snag a position on a new play — it’s less common but lucrative way to make money. These gigs are generally through the web of networking. I never recommend agents because they tend to only work with people that have BUZZ or through their own networks. But If you can connect with OTHER artists via networking…you’d be surprised how you can get a great gig. I know some musicians that have contacted theatre companies in their area to see what new projects they are developing and snagged jobs this way. If you don’t have a theatre in your area, tap into your web of artists. Sometimes musicians know other performing artists that need help with their plays and productions. Get creative!

  5. Become an affiliate

    Many companies that you love have affiliate programs. If you promote their products or services to your email lists and people purchase as a result, these companies will give a percentage of the proceeds to you. Don’t you love getting unexpected checks in the mail?  An example of  a great company with affiliate programs is Ariel Publicity. Visit the site for details on how to become an affiliate.

  6. Start your own publishing company

    Publishing your own music is great because if you enter into co-publishing agreements with larger companies not only will you get your writer’s share of royalties, you’ll also get ½ of publishing royalties. First step to starting your own company is to register the proper business entity within your state. For example, a Limited Liability Company or Corporation. Next, register your songs as a publisher with a performing rights society such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. These steps will put you in the driver’s seat as your own publisher. Get those royalties!

  7. Be a freelance sound engineer

    As a musician you have a great ear for sound so put it to good use. Companies, events, and less-experienced performers need someone to oversee the sound in their productions.

  8. Pre-sell your upcoming album

    Pre-selling your album gives you the money to produce a higher-quality product. Not only is this a great way to get cash flowing to your new project, this is also a way to generate excitement for your upcoming album with your fans! Free marketing AND money, where do I sign up?

  9. Rent your studio

    If you have home studio where you’re producing your own music, share the wealth!  Some artists need quality production of their music and they can’t afford the larger studios. This is a great way to help your fellow musicians and make money at the same time.

  10. Build your email list

    This is an age-old marketing tactic that you definitely want to incorporate into your life as an artist. You don’t want to have your fan base only connected to your social media. What if that method goes away? You’ve lost them and you have to start all over. Always have someone to market your next product or concert to by building your list. Add links to your music on iTunes or your new merch. Use ReverbNation’s mailing newsletters option to give you a professional and fun way to connect with your fans.

As an independent artist, I know that you would prefer to have all your money come from the screaming fans at your concerts or people clamoring to get your CD, but the reality is, you have to make ends meet until you finally reach your stride in your career. Take at least one of these ideas, apply it and then take that revenue and re-invest it into your career. Careful planning and monetizing every aspect of your art is the key to success in this industry. It’s time. Let’s do this!

Jo-Ná A. Williams, Esq. can be reached at jo-na@jawilliamslaw.com and on Twitter. For a FREE copy of her guide “Blueprint: The Insider’s Guide to Empowering Your Career as an Artist and Ditching your 9-5 for Good” Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/iOqe1.

(Legal stuff: this article is for information purposes only. It does NOT replace the advice administered by a licensed attorney in YOUR state based on your specific situation. I know you wouldn’t assume I was your lawyer cause your mama “didn’t raise no fool.” But mine didn’t either, hence the disclaimer!)

Comments

  1. [...] Reverb Nation Due to collapsing album sales, piracy, and less money generated from digital downloads, artists are now faced with the question, “How do I make money with my music?” Well, if the sales aren’t cutting it and the only people at your shows are your family and a few high-school classmates, how will you really make a living with your art? [...]

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