Making it as a musician isn’t easy. It takes a lot of grit, determination, and long hours to make your mark and, if you’re lucky, start seeing some financial gain from it. But I’m a firm believer that you can make a living as a musician if you’re willing to get creative and step outside the box of what you think that looks like.
At the very least, you can certainly add some extra income to your pocket, and a lot of times, you can do it without even leaving the house. (So, no excuses!) There are a lot of revenue streams out there just waiting for someone to take advantage of them. And why shouldn’t that person be you?
1. License your music
My number-one recommendation for combining exposure with income with the least effort possible is, by far, licensing your music. Finding the perfect music licensing company for your style of music takes work, but if your song is chosen for a project, it's one of the best ways to get more eyes and ears on your music while banking a little cash. The best part about this is that music supervisors are always looking for the perfect track for a TV or movie spot, and you don’t have to be a mega-star artist to score a spot, you just need to have the right music for the scene.
Take the time to find the right music supervisors to submit to (or hire someone to help out) and make sure you’re including all necessary info such as contact info, meta data, etc., in your submission, and then just be patient, but don’t be afraid to check in. This isn’t the kind of thing where you need to follow up monthly, but it never hurts in any facet of the industry to form a relationship with the people you’re working with. Who knows, your song could soon be gracing the soundtrack of your favorite TV show!
2. Take on a few students
Maybe you’ve dabbled in teaching before, but taking on a few students in your spare time can be a great way to take in a little extra cash while truly making a difference in someone’s life. You get to be the kind of person you wish you’d had when you first started, and you don’t even have to leave home while you do it.
Research teaching opportunities in your area (if you do want to leave the house, there are plenty of music schools out there), and evaluate different rates and packages so you can tailor yours to fit your needs and the students, while staying competitive with local rates.
3. Host a webinar
The world of webinars is vast, and in it, you’ll find some of the industry’s leading experts. However, there’s a largely unoccupied space, and that’s from musicians. It’s true that musicians are usually the one’s watching the webinars rather than teaching them, but if you’re an expert in your field, who says you don’t already have an audience willing to watch? A successful webinar doesn't come with a built-in viewing audience (so you may need to brush up on your networking skills first to find your tribe), but once you have that, I say go for it.
Maybe you’re a musician who has completed several Midwest or cross-country tours that spanned several weeks and actually turned a profit. That’s something musicians want to learn about. Maybe you landed an indie label deal or booked a run of college tour dates and massively grew your audience. Perhaps you’re just really good at social media (and have the stats to back it) and know you can offer struggling musicians a few tips. Think about what you excel at and how you can turn it into a teachable moment.
Most webinars run as a free courses, offering a taster of information that’s strong enough to be helpful and create clout, but then offer a sale at the end that promises to dive even deeper into what you’ve just learned, possibly even working one-on-one with the participants via phone, email, or exclusive private Facebook group. Keep this format in mind and start brainstorming how you can become part of the webinar world and earn a little bit of cash for your expertise.
4. Set up a Patreon account
Good ol’ Patreon. How could we leave this one off the list?! Patreon is an excellent platform for connecting with fans and offering them a very exclusive and insider relationship with you and your music for their small donation. Set up like a Kickstarter but without an end date, Patreon allows fans to send a monthly donation to the bands they love in exchange for exclusive merch, videos, online concerts, first listens of songs, and really anything else you want to give them.
Fans can donate as little as $1 a month, which might sound small, but if you get 50 of your most diehard fans to contribute, that’s an extra $50 in your pocket that you didn’t have before. As you continue to grow your tribe, you can expect donations to grow while creating a strong bond with your audience (because who doesn’t like feeling like a VIP with exclusive perks?).
5. Hold e-concerts
Online concerts are, in my opinion, a highly underutilized space. Musicians are sleeping on the opportunity to connect with fans across the world in a very unique and intimate way, while earning income from a virtual “tip jar.” Platforms like StageIt and Concert Window offer your fans a chance to see you perform live from the comfort of their (and your) home, along with the option to tip you. You can even offer different reward levels for your best tippers, similar to Patreon.
There’s also the potential to appeal to new fans who may be just browsing the site looking for something to watch. At the end of the day, this is the internet at its finest, allowing you to connect with fans who might otherwise never see you play live and combining it with the practicality of earning income for doing something you love.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations and Infectious Magazine. She has also founded several chapters of the free weekly music industry meetup Balanced Breakfast. Muddy Paw specializes in working with up-and-coming artists on personalized campaigns designed to bring their careers to the next level. To date, they've secured placements on sites such as Noisey, AbsolutePunk, Substream, Property Of Zack, PureVolume, Anti-Music, and many more.