There are many ways that musicians can make money with their music. Most people only think of selling downloads or playing shows, but here are 6 ways you can make money with your music:
- Sell music to followers and fans (via mechanical distribution, paid downloads, or a subscription-based support network).
- Perform live, play out, and tour.
- Use sync licensing to get your music in videos, TV shows, and films.
- Collect streaming royalties and performance royalties.
- Compose music for commission.
- Use your music to monetize a YouTube channel.
1) Sell Music to Followers and Fans
You can make money by selling music to followers and fans via mechanical distribution, paid downloads, or a subscription-based support network.
You can sell music to your followers and fans in multiple ways.
You can distribute your music to stores like Apple Music and Amazon Music where fans can buy and download your songs. The easiest way to do this is using a distribution channel like CD Baby, Distro Kid, or Tune Core. When people buy your music the money is tracked and paid to you through your distributor.
You can go the mechanical distribution route by selling physical copies of your music in the form of CDs or vinyl albums. These can be sold on your website or on the road. They make great collector's items for your most dedicated fans.
You can also create a subscription-based support network using a platform like Patreon. You can offer fans and followers access to music, videos, photos, and anything else you'd like to share for a monthly fee.
2) Perform Live, Play Out, and Tour
There are a few ways you can make money performing live, including in person performances, digital performances, and private gigs.
There's the traditional route of performing at local venues. This could be individual shows or strung together as a tour. Touring can be a great way to build up your fan base, but it's also expensive.
Restaurants, community events, and shopping areas are always looking for live entertainment as well. Look up a few businesses whose ambiance and layout match your type of music. Reach out by sending your EPK and offer to book an audition show. If it goes well, these types of gigs can be recurring and become a steady source of income. Just be prepared to mix in some well-known music along with your catalog.
Finally, you can host live digital performances. If you have a fan base, you can sell access to your event on social media platforms. If you don't, team up with a more established band as the opening act for their live streaming event. Some fans may also want to book private performances. This is a great way to engage with your most dedicated fans and can be done with any video conferencing software.
However you play out, it's helpful to have a payment processing account like PayPal or Square so you can send invoices and receive payments.
3) Use sync licensing to get your music in videos, TV shows, and films
"Sync licensing" is shorthand for "synchronization licensing". Sync licensing is a process by which you register your works with music libraries used by content creators to find music for their videos.
These companies place music in film, commercials, television, video games - any type of content that has moving pictures synchronized with music.
Sync licensing can a sustainable and substantial revenue stream for musicians.
When people make video content, they need music.
Content creators rely on companies that manage libraries of music available for licensed use called "Sync Licensing Companies".
The content creators choose the music they want and enter into a licensing agreement facilitated by the licensing company to use the music.
There are many licensing companies out there such as Music Vine, Art List, Musicbed, Song Trader, Tune Core, and more.
Some sync licensing companies have open enrollment, while others require that musicians apply and are accepted into their library.
To apply, you'll typically present 3-5 songs as a sample of your work for them to evaluate. If they feel you're a good fit with the type of music their clientele is looking for, then they will accept you into their library.
The agreements between a musician and licensing company are generally non-exclusive. Unless the terms are heavily in your favor, it's best to opt for a non-exclusive rather than an exclusive agreement. This allows you to work with multiple libraries instead of just one.
Once accepted by the licensing company, you submit music to their library. Each song is reviewed before being accepted. Listen to other music in their catalogs to get a sense of the types of songs they may be more likely to accept. You can submit as many or as few songs as you like as long as you meet the minimum terms of the artist agreement.
The more songs you submit to the library, the more opportunities you have for your music to be licensed.
When a song is accepted, there are 2 ways you can get paid:
Consideration Fees - This is an up-front payment from the licensing company to the musician for adding your track to their library.
Sync Fees - This is a fee paid by the content creator when they choose to use your music in their video content. This is the most important revenue stream because it compounds on your publishing.
When a content creator pays a sync fee, they're paying one time for the right to use your music in their video. When that video content is broadcast under certain conditions around the world, it falls under a second licensing category (performance licensing) which entitles you to earn royalties. Performance licensing is part of what is tracked by P.R.O.'s. That is why it's necessary to register your work.
4) Collect streaming royalties and performance royalties
When your music is broadcast, performed live, or streamed you're owed a form of payment called "royalties". Organizations called P.R.O.s (which stands for performance rights organization) are primarily responsible for tracking and collecting royalties on behalf of musicians.
Music distribution services may collect some streaming royalties, but the amount you're owed from streams can vary based on the type of streaming platform, the location of the people listening to your song, and the type of membership or affiliation the listeners have with the streaming service.
All of these factors can change how much a stream is worth to the artist. P.R.O.s manage those calculations for you. To collect royalties, you must register with a P.R.O. as a songwriter and then register all of your songs with the P.R.O. They will track the use of your songs, collect royalties, and pay you those royalties minus their collection fee on a set schedule. It's recommended that you register your songs with a P.R.O. before you release them through your distributor to maximize the collection of royalties.
5) Compose music for commission
You can make money by composing original music for other people. This is called working on commission.
Content creators and business owners are often looking for unique, original music for their projects. They may hire a musician to work on commission and write music for them.
You can find opportunities to compose music on commission through several sync licensing organizations. You can also advertise your songwriting services on freelancing sites like Fiverr.
When composing music on commission, make sure that you have a contract in place up front that clearly defines expectations and payment terms before you begin working. In addition to the cost of your time, make sure that you incorporate the cost of any collaborators you'll work with as well as studio time and equipment needed to fulfill the requirements of the project.
6) Use your music to monetize a YouTube channel
You can earn money with your music on YouTube by using it as a tool to promote streams and downloads of your music, using it as a promotional channel for performances and events, selling using affiliate links, and growing an audience to monetize the channel.
You can promote your music by releasing lyric videos or music videos and linking back to all of your streaming and sales channels in the video description. You can make video content about your songwriting process, showing the equipment and instruments you use, or even just recording practice sessions or private performances.
Create accounts with affiliate sales programs that sell your equipment and instruments and provide affiliate links in the video descriptions so that viewers can buy similar gear. You'll get a commission on every sale generated from your links.
Release vlogs when you play out or go on tour to build interest and showcase different areas of your city or new places you travel. You can also make videos about fan encounters or host live streams and performances.
It takes consistent effort, but over time you can build your channel up to the monetization threshold of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 organic watch hours. Once your channel is monetized, you'll earn a cut of revenue for ads served on your videos.