Let’s talk straight: For your music to be a career, you need to earn money.  

Some acts make their living on the road. Others stay in the studio recording music for TV shows. Of course, megastars like Taylor Swift seem to make a fortune in almost all the ways. 

Building a professional life as an artist, band, or producer requires that you either maximize your profits in one or two areas, diversify your earnings across a wide range of revenue streams, or some combination of both approaches. 

More ways to earn money from your music

No matter what you see in news headlines, there are a lot of revenue opportunities for musicians today. In fact, there are more ways than ever to earn money, which affords modern creators the ability to pair their unique talents with particular forms of monetization.

From music distribution and licensing deals, to crowdfunding and merch sales, you’ll want to understand your options when it comes to earning potential. 

Because knowing what to try, where to focus, when to pivot, and how to collect your royalties can mean the difference between your music being a side-hustle and a thriving business. 

Essential income for artists in 2024

Though there are many dozens of ways to earn money from your musical talents, I’m making a distinction in this article between “artist revenue” and other music-related professions — such as music education, being a paid session player, a church pianist, a ballet accompanist, an orchestra member, running sound at a club, etc.

If you’re an artist whose career is built upon original music, these are the ten forms of revenue you should prioritize:

1. Digital Music Revenue

This is money you earn for streaming and downloads when you release your music on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. The revenue is paid to the label (or you, if you own your own recordings) for the usage of the track.

Though downloads aren’t as popular as they once were, the per-unit price can still make MP3s or WAVs a lucrative format to sell via iTunes, Bandcamp, ReverbNation, or even your own website. 

2. Physical Sales

This is money you earn when you sell physical copies of your music on vinyl, CD, tape, or even sheet music.

Though we’re decades into the digital music century, physical media will still appeal to many of your top fans. Yes, even CDs. 

3. Merch Sales

“Merch” is a quick way of saying “stuff for sale that reflects your artistic brand.” It could be t-shirts, sweatshirts, flasks, posters, hats, socks, books, anything!

You can sell merch at gigs, on your webstore, or via integrations with platforms like Instagram and Spotify. 

4. Live Performances

This is income earned from your concerts, gigs, tours, and festivals. It could be in the form of ticket sales, door fees, bar percentages, or even grant money.

Of course live events also give you a way to sell merch and physical albums!

5. Licensing and Sync Deals

This is money you earn when you license your music for use in movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games. 

Sync licensing can be lucrative, but it’s an area of the music industry that requires a lot of dedication if you expect to score frequent placements.

6. Publishing Royalties

These are songwriter royalties earned from the publishing rights to your original music, including mechanical royalties (from sales and streams) and performance royalties (from public performances and radio play).

Need help collecting your songwriter royalties?

7. Crowdfunding, Memberships, and Fan Support

This is money you generate through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, fan support platforms like Patreon, or via your own membership club.

The fan contributions can be project-based, or in support of your overall music career, but the point is to give your audience more direct and immediate access to your artistry in exchange for… money!

(Don’t forget the virtual tip jar if you’re doing livestreams).

8. YouTube Revenue

This includes earnings beyond whatever streaming and publishing money you’re earning from activity on YouTube Music.

It includes be a share of ad revenue generated when you music is used in other creators’ videos on YouTube, tracked and paid via the YouTube Content ID program. Or partner program revenue if your channel reaches certain benchmarks. 

Other video platforms such as Twitch have similar monetization programs for successful creators and streamers.

9. Sponsorships and Endorsements

This is money (or other forms of support, such as free gear or discounts) given to you by brands that fit with your artistic identity and audience.

If you have a dedicated following on social, you could also consider being an “influencer” and doing paid product placements. 

10. Immersive experiences and new tech

Plenty of artists have found revenue opportunities by stretching beyond traditional merch and VIP experiences.

For instance, Emma McGann built an interactive Discord game. Artists like Holly Herndon and Grimes have made voice-simulators available so that other musicians can create new tracks using their voices. And many crypto-native artists have found success selling music NFTs.

The idea here is: Think outside the usual bag of revenue tricks. 


Conclusion

How much you earn in any one of these categories depends, of course, on the size and dedication of your fanbase.

Success in most of these areas also requires that you actively market your music and make sales offers

But hopefully this article gives you a sense of possibility for your music to generate money.

And remember, as you move forward in your career, ReverbNation is here to help with your music distribution, promotion, and publishing administration needs.

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