Want to get paid for your musical talents? 

As a musician, there are more ways to earn money than ever before. Dozens upon dozens of ways, in fact!

While you should, of course, prioritize certain revenue streams as an artist who creates original music, there are times — perhaps when you’re first growing your career —when you just gotta pay the bills

And in that case, putting your music skills to use sure beats a job outside of music, right? Especially if your musical side-hustle helps you stay sharp as an instrumentalist, arranger, producer, educator, or content-creator. 

To help you get a sense of the wide range of options out there, I’ve put together a list of 75 ways you can make money from your music, grouped by category for easy scanning.

Streaming & Digital Sales

1. Streaming Revenue: Earn money from streaming activity when you get your tracks onto platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, or TIDAL.

2. Digital Downloads: Sell MP3s, WAVs, or FLACs of your tracks on platforms like iTunes, Amazon, ReverbNation, Bandcamp, or your own website.

3. Social Video Monetization: Get paid when people create social content using your music in videos on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and more. 

4. Monetize Your YouTube Channel: Generate advertising revenue from viewer activity on your own YouTube videos, and use additional creator tools to monetize subscriber engagement.

Music Recording Work

5. Music Production: Put your producing skills to work for other artists. Get paid in points, upfront fees, co-writer splits, or whatever other arrangement makes sense for you and your collaborator. 

6. Engineering: Are you good at recording, mixing, or mastering? Let other artists know! This can be a great source of revenue between your own recording projects or tours

7. Session Player: Got talents as an instrumentalist or vocalist? Are you quick at learning and arranging tunes? Recording sessions can be a great way to get paid while not tying up too much of your time at once. You can attend sessions in person, or do remote session work from your own home studio.

8. Studio Operator: Do you own a lot of recording gear that goes unused when you’re not making music? Maybe it’s time to consider renting out your studio to other engineers, producers, and artists. 

9. Mobile Recording: Whether it’s destination recording (“My band rented an airbnb and we want to turn it into a studio”) or capturing live audio for other bands at their shows, sometimes having a portable studio can make all the difference in getting the job. 

Music Publishing & Licensing

10. Mechanical Royalties: Collect this form of publishing royalty when your original songs — including covers by other artists — get streamed, downloaded, or pressed on CD/vinyl.

11. Performance Royalties: Earn this music publishing money when your original music is performed live in venues or publicly broadcast on radio and TV.

12. Sync Licensing (Songwriter Side): If you write your own songs and retain the publishing rights, you can get paid an upfront fee — and in some cases, ongoing royalties — when your music is placed in film, TV, games, commercials, etc. 

13. Sync Licensing (Label Side): Same goes for the “recording” side of the equation. If you own your own tracks, you are the label, and can get paid for sync placements.

14. Compose for Music Libraries: Prolific composer or producer? You could write music for music collections that are specifically curated for sync licensing opportunities.  

15. Sell Sheet Music: The original source of “music publishing” revenue! Depending on your genre, this can be a big seller. (New Age Piano, anyone?) But don’t just think of notation; you could also do chord-charts, tablature, lyric sheets, and more.  

Live Music Performances

16. Touring and Live Shows: Play live and get paid. This revenue could come in the form of ticket sales, door splits, bar percentages, or a guaranteed fee from the venue owner. 

17. Residency Gig: Same form of payment options as above, but a residency is a regularly scheduled thing. It could be “7 nights in a row in July” or “Every other Thursday all year.”

18. House Concerts: Play intimate concerts in private homes. These can be great fan-building experiences and help you sell a lot of merch, while reducing pressure for huge turnout. Plus you can save on travel expenses if the host puts you up for the night.  

19. DJing: If you’re not touring, you can DJ events, parties, or venues in your hometown. On the road? Do a DJ set at a festival or venue between your tour dates. 

20. Corporate Gigs: Want to get paid big bucks while entering The Twilight Zone? Play at a corporate function. It’s surreal. And lucrative.

21. Weddings and Private Events: Perform at weddings, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, family Christmas parties, birthdays, and other kinds of private events. These can often pay better than a standard venue gig.

22. City or Municipal Events: The annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, the summer beer garden in the park, the Arts Walk. Check with your local chamber of commerce or city council for opportunities. 

23. Festivals: It’s great to play music festivals, of course, but also research non-music gatherings that have live music as a component. Beer festivals. Balloon festivals. Food festivals. 

24. Busking: Play in a public space with lots of foot traffic for tips. Subway stations. Town squares. Boardwalks and piers. Just check the local ordinances first. Get a permit, if required.

25. Be in the House Band: Similar to a residency, where you stay put and different audiences come to you, seek out performance opportunities where you back-up other singers. Could be live-band karaoke, a big band or jazz group, etc.

26. Play Cruise Ships: If you don’t mind small rooms and many months at sea, cruise ship gigs give you a chance to play a lot (sometimes multiple gigs per day), and provide downtime to focus on practice, recording, reading, etc. 

27. Nursing Homes: While these aren’t glamorous gigs, they can be very meaningful for the audience and you as the performer. They can pay well, are usually shorter sets, and have the potential to become dependable repeat gigs. 

28. Virtual Performances: Want to combine the exclusive and intimate feeling of a house concert with the convenience of livestreaming? Play a private, virtual performance on Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.  

Music Merch Sales

29. Artist Merchandize: Sell merch at gigs, on your website, and on platforms like Instagram and Spotify. Items could range from t-shirts to mugs to books. 

30. Physical Music Formats: Despite what you may have heard, fans still purchase CDs, vinyl records, and even cassettes. Offer them in all the same places you would your merch, as well as in record stores via physical distribution or consignment. 

31. Limited-Edition Releases: Offer limited-edition or signed physical copies of your music to fans. For instance, you could sell tour-specific recordings that will never again be available to purchase.

32. Digital merch: Not all products need to be physical. You can offer PDFs of your tour diary or poetry. A digital cookbook. An unlock of a secret video. 

33. Digital “Box Set”: Same goes for music files. You may have a trove of unreleased recordings. Give fans paid access! Or bundle everything you’ve ever recorded into a digital package with bonus tracks. 

34. NFTs: “Non-Fungible Tokens.” These are crypto assets on a blockchain that represent ownership or engagement in some piece of music, imagery, community, artwork, or financial arrangement. 

Music Education

35. Teach Music: Whether it’s private lessons or a teleconference tutorial, you can help other people get better at an instrument, music production, or songwriting. 

36. Music Therapy: Put your skills to use in a therapeutic way that helps people improve their well-being.

37. Online Courses: Create and sell a digital course. It could be about your instrument, or your music-biz and promo skills. Lots of upfront work, but with the potential for it to become more “passive” income once your marketing funnel is up and running. 

38. Music Workshops: Host IRL or online community gatherings where learning and feedback happens in a group setting. 

39. Guest Lectures: Speak at schools, colleges, or music seminars. These are often paid opportunities, but even if you’re an unpaid speaker at a music conference, you should have the chance to make a quick sales pitch at the end of your talk or sell books afterwards. 

40. Music Transcription: Are you good at figuring out complex harmonies, blistering bluegrass breaks, or famous saxophone solos? You could earn money transcribing that music note-for-note. It might be work-for-hire income, or you could publish those transcriptions in a book. Or on YouTube (with the possibility of earning ad revenue). 

Crowdfunding & Fan Support

41. Project-Based Crowdfunding: Use platforms like Kickstarter or GoFundMe to raise money from fans to support a specific recording, tour, marketing, or video project. 

42. Membership Clubs: You can use a subscription-model platform like Patreon, or build your own online fan subscription through your website. In exchange for monthly payment, fans get exclusive or early access to content and other perks. 

43. Fan Donations: Accept donations directly from fans through platforms like PayPal or Venmo. These links can be listed on your website, livestreams, or even pinned to the top of your Spotify profile. 

44. Livestream Support: This is revenue fans give you for livestreaming. But unlike the Venmo or PayPal tips mentioned above, it can come in the form of a platform-specific currency or action: Stars, Bits, Subs, etc. 

45. VIP Experiences: Offer your diehard fans the chance to pay for an exclusive experience. Backstage passes, meet-and-greets, watch the soundchecks, dinner before the show, photos and autographs. 

Music Composition

46. Songwriting for Other Artists: If you’re a prolific writer, you may have ideas to spare! Pitch your unreleased songs to other artists, publishers, or labels. Or collaborate with co-writers to make new songs. Repeatable success in this area takes a lot of dedication, but could lead to a publishing deal. 

47. Write Jingles: Ya know, the catchy (and sometimes annoying) music that plays during commercials? There’s money to be made where art meets advertising. 

48. Film Scoring: Compose music for films, TV shows, and documentaries. Like many areas of specialization, this field can require a lot of time and dedication. Consider accordingly how often and when you want to accept scoring work.

49. Video Game Music: In theory, this isn’t that different from film scoring. Except that gaming has its own musical tropes, so the reference points may differ from cinematic orchestration and sound design. Many video games also feature songs that become part of the game’s soundtrack, which refers back to sync licensing. Lastly, there is a whole massive ecosystem of VGM covers on YouTube, where artists do their own creative arrangements of popular video game music. So if you play a unique instrument, this might give you a way to differentiate yourself: Halo on accordion, Final Fantasy on metal guitar, Zelda on harmonica, Mario Bros on banjo.  

50. Sell Beats and Sample Packs: Are you a prolific producer in a genre that relies heavily on electronic music, such as hip-hop, pop, or EDM? You can help other artists get a huge musical assist by selling your beats, production-starts, and sample packs. 

51. Write Custom Songs: Let your fans know you’ll compose and record personalized songs for special occasions like weddings or birthdays. Just be sure to charge enough for your actual time and effort!

52. Sound Design and Audio Branding: Create “audio logos” and “sound identities” for businesses. Or use your production skills to make sound effects and audio environments for media, public spaces, or other commissioned projects.

Retail & Venue Work

53. Record Store: Gig at night and work at a record store during the day. You’ll stay on top of the latest music releases, as well brush up on the classics.

54. Music Retail: Rather be near instruments? Work at a music store and develop your expertise in the latest gear, used instrument valuation, and more. 

55. Making or Repairing Instruments: Good at fixing guitars? Carving violins? Soldering effects pedals or synths? You could start your own business or work out of an existing shop or store.

56. Talent Buyer: Already in communication with a large network of talented musicians? Put those social and organization skills to use booking the acts at a local venue. 

57. Venue Staff: Prefer more of the “on the ground” venue experience? You could be a bartender, bouncer, box office assistant, or venue manager. 

58. Live Sound Engineer: Every good venue needs good live sound. You could be the key to making that happen. Bonus points if you’re not a grump!

Other Music Professions

59. Music Journalism: Write show previews, album reviews, feature interviews, and more. You may find an opportunity to do this as a side-gig for your local newspaper or arts weekly. 

60. Musicology, Criticism, Editorial, and Curation: Put your deep knowledge and passion for a particular genre to use. Teach others about that history. Or make music recommendations and exciting connections for listeners. 

61. Member of an Orchestra: Jazz, Classical, Ballet, or the pit-orchestra for Musical Theater. If you have great technical facility on your instrument and dependable sight-reading skills, you could make a living in a large ensemble.

62. Religious Music: Whether it’s the organist in a cathedral, the guitarist in a praise-and-worship band, the cantor at a temple,… many faiths have music as part of their regular service. 

63. Voice Talent: If you have a good singing voice, you might be able to translate those dramatic skills to provide voiceovers, audiobook readings, or character voices. 

Brand Collaborations

64. Brand Sponsorships: Partner up with some company who shares your values and aesthetic, and get paid when you rep their products, services, or mission. 

65. Endorsements: Get discounted (or sometimes free) products and services such as instruments, music marketing tools, or music production software. In exchange, you agree to use that gear in public and provide testimonials.

66. Affiliate Marketing: Promote a certain product on your website, do gear reviews, and link to the manufacturer or retailer, and earn a commission on any sales. 

67. Be an Influencer: “Influencer Marketing?” Easier said than done, but… if you have a large social following, you may be able to monetize that attention by doing product placements or promo shoutouts. 

Miscellaneous

68. Books, eBooks, & Audiobooks: I suppose this could go under the “merch” section, but that’s more about the final product and sales. Becoming an author is an endeavor all its own, of course. But if you already display a knack for lyric-writing, you may have longer-form literary talent too. It could be fiction, non-fiction about musicology, essays about band drama and tour mishaps, or even written instrument instruction with accompanying illustrations.

69. Music Blogging: I mentioned above that you could write reviews for an existing publication, but you could also host reviews on your own site in the hopes of monetizing your blog through ad placements and affiliate revenue. 

70. Podcasting: Start a podcast about your music, adventures, or other interests. If you get sufficient engagement, you can monetize through ads, sponsorships, or listener support. 

71. Competitions: These could be rap battles, songwriting challenges, bluegrass competitions. There may be an entry fee, but that also means there could be a big payout if you win. 

72. Interactive Music Experiences: If you have mixed media or web-development skills, you could create an immersive real-world or digital experience. Emma McGann’s multi-player “Monsterverse” RPG in Discord is a great example. You can ask your fans to pay to participate, or you can use it as a chance to drive merch sales at the end of the experience.

73. Consulting Services: Musicians need help, solid advice, and networking connections. Can you mentor someone in management, crowdfunding, digital advertising, or something else? Provide that strategy advice in exchange for a fee.

74. Open-Source Collaboration: This is when you make some creative work available for others to use, without a clear idea of who will collaborate, or what exactly will result. Making stems downloadable for remixers is an obvious example. You can approve your favorite remixes and officially distribute those tracks, splitting any revenue the remix generates. But artists like Holly Herndon and Grimes took it one step further with AI models of their vocals. 

75. __________: Yes, a blank space, because if there are 75 items in this list already, there’s bound to be many more ways to make money from your musical skills. And I wanted to leave room for you to imagine your own possibilities. Have fun!


Conclusion

Most musicians will never tackle every item in this list, and that’s completely fine. They shouldn’t. We all have our own specialties and interests. Best to focus on what’s rewarding, both in terms of personal growth and profit.

But hopefully this long list gives you an overview of your options as you make a career of your music, and as you supplement your primary music income sources with additional revenue streams. 

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