101 Ways to Make Money as a Musician

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Ways Make Money as a Musician

This is a guest post from , editor-in-chief at PT Money, where the focus is on fixing your finances so you can build the life you want. His podcast features interviews with successful part-time entrepreneurs. Here’s Philip…

There are a ton of different ways to make money as a musician. I’m not suggesting that everyone can make money with each of these ways. But I can promise that you can make money using at least one of these ways.

I present to you 101 ways to make money as a musician. Help add to the list by leaving a comment below.

1. Teach Live In-Person Lessons for a Record/Music Store – The Bounty Music store in Maui, Hawaii employs music teachers who teach lessons in-store. Have you inquired about teaching positions in your local music store? If it’s something they’ve never done before, let your entrepreneurial mind go to work and negotiate a possible partnership.

2. Speak/Teach About Music – Attend a conference and earn a speaking fee by performing and teaching others about music or other creative subject. Check out Mike Rayburn’s TEDx talk for a little inspiration.

3. Land an Endorsement Deal – If you have enough influence among other musicians (e.g. music instructor) or simply have a huge following, you should be able to land an endorsement deal with a music industry company.

4. Build a Referral Relationship with Your Local Music Store – Get friendly with the staff and owners of your neighborhood music store . When people are looking for music teachers, they will refer potential students to you. Provide a commission and they’ll really be motivated to recommend you.

5. Join the Military Band – Would you love to serve your country and play music? Combine the two by signing up for the military and auditioning for the band. Uncle Sam just might want you. Ryan Guina played in an Air Force entertainment group and was able to see the world. His group traveled to over 20 countries and all across the U.S., and he even managed to meet his wife, who was also in the group.

6. Write for a Music Publication – If you’re in the industry already, you’ve got an insider’s perspective to share with the publication’s readers. If you’re a good writer, you could get consistent, albeit low-paying work in this area. Marilyn Manson actually started his career as a writer for the music publication 25th Parallel.

7. Win an ASCAP Plus Award – The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) gave away more than $1.8 million in cash awards last year. If you qualify, why not give this a shot?

8. Become an Affiliate for Other Musicians’ Books/Guides – If you have a website for your music business or band, become an affiliate and make money by referring your traffic to music books or other helpful guides. A great example is the guides from Cyber PR.

9. Perform as a Stand-In for Other Bands – It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Get to know the other bands in your scene. When one of their band members can’t make a gig, you’ll be a person that comes to mind–and you’ll be the person that makes a few extra bucks as a result.

10. Sell Video Recordings of Your Live Performances – Capture your next live performance on video and package it up to sell to fans who couldn’t attend. Offer it for free to those who attended as part of a paid insiders’ club. Package it up into a DVD for further distribution.

11. Produce Music Recordings for Other Musicians – Producing and recording your own music is getting easier everyday. You can use this skill to help other musicians and charge them for your time.

12. Transcribe Music for OthersTranscribing music typically involves either notating music that’s never been noted (like an original or improv recording), or taking music intended for one instrument and tabbing it out for another. If you’ve got a great ear and a lot of patience, you might be well suited for this work.

13. Offer Sounds for Sampling Licensing – Other musicians may want to use a beat or riff from your music. You can get paid to license just a sample of your music.

14. Enter Sweepstakes for Musicians – There’s always a sweepstakes going on for musicians. In fact, right now you can enter to win over $15,000 in prizes from this Indie Musician Sweepstakes that CD Baby is partnered with.

15. Try to Win Video Contests – Music videos typically do well in video contests. Most of these contests require you to use royalty-free music anyway. Why not use your music and creativity to enter a contest?

16. Create a YouTube Channel and Share a Link to Buy Your Music – Greg Skalak, pianist and artist here at CD Baby, who performs under the name TalkWithYourFingers, recorded himself covering Everlong by the Foo Fighters. He posted the video to his YouTube channel, which contains a link in the description to buy the song on CD Baby. Dave Grohl spots it and posts it to his Facebook page. Thousands watch the video and share it with their friends. Almost a million views later, Greg’s YouTube channel has 15,000 subscribers, all waiting for his next song.

17. Play a Gig – So you’re ready to book your first gig? There’s an art to securing your first show according to DIY Musician. An art that includes networking with other bands, finding the right venue, and crafting the perfect inquiry.

18. Act as a Spokesperson – You don’t have to be a famous musician to become a spokesman. If you have an interesting story, like buskers Mr. Reed and Tom Larsen, you can work for a major music company testifying about their products or services.

19. Earn Neighboring Rights Royalties – Neighboring rights royalties are paid to performers who played or sang the music that was broadcast and earned a performance royalty. As far as I know these aren’t paid in the U.S., but Canada and other countries pay them.

20. Become an Impersonator and Sell Originals – Have a lot of people told you that you look like Dolly Parton or that you sound like Mel Torme? There’s good money to be had in impersonating singers. And since people will need a place to contact you, why not create a website for your impersonation business, as well as including an online store like this one from an Elvis Impersonator, where you sell some of your original work?

21. Sell Your CDs at a Local Store – Have a connecting with a cool local music store? See if they will carry your CD and sell it to their hip customers.

22. Offer Your Music for Direct Sync Licensing – Make connections in the film industry and work out a direct deal to license some of your music. Here’s a great interview with independent musician, Mr. Robotic about his direct licensing.

23. Crowdfund Your Next Album or Single – Tell the world about your music project and let them help you make it monetarily possible. It’s all possible with today’s crowdfunding technology. It certainly helps to have an audience already established, but even an upstart can reach a bigger audience using these platforms. Singer-songwriter John Mark McMillan recently successfully funded his next album to the tune of $69,000 through Kickstarter.

24. Work as a DJ and Mix-in Your Music – You know music and you know how to have fun, right? Start djing for events, and while you’re there, throw a couple of your own songs into the mix. It’s a great way to get exposure for your music. Well, unless you’re producing hip-hop and you’re djing a polka party.

25. Create Music for Video GamesDanny Baranowsky got fed up trying to make a living composing music for films, and his shift into the musical world of video games paid off. Someone has to write the music and sound effects you hear when you play the Wii, Xbox, or PlayStation. Why can’t it be you?

[Click “page 2” below to view 25 more ways you can make money as a musician!]

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  • We strongly support #45. 🙂

  • Gail Parenteau

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  • Tony Cooke

    An excellent article, thank you. A lot of the ideas were things I already knew about, but there were a few times when I stopped and thought, “now there’s a good idea!”. I will use this guide as part of my “checklist” from now on! Tony Cooke, http://www.tonytunes.co.uk

  • Thanks, Tony.

    Glad you enjoyed.


  • What's good for the goose is good for the gander… or something like that? ; )


  • Wow, that’s quite a list! Pretty good. I am not sure if some of those suggestions should be here though. Recommending sweepstakes as an option to earn money is equivalent to suggesting people that need a job to play lottery!

  • Pingback: Defining Success And How To Achieve It With A Career In Music | Schwilly Family Musicians()

  • Claire Batchelor

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for including me on your list! I would say though – creating music for corporate videos is a very specific niche – and if you're only used to writing songs or playing in a band you will need to improve your skillset to work extensively with picture / video. That means creating tempo maps to fit the video, being able to understand a plethora of musical styles and write and record to exceptional quality.

    Claire (No. 48!)

  • Richard McCargar

    Except that entering a contest doesn't cost money. It isn't gambling. It is nothing more than an additional opportunity to be seen/heard.

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  • Dip Axom

    Thanks a lot… ♫

  • very interesting

  • Holly

    Twitter @Hollysteele1111 Always looking for new talent — View list of current opportunities at http://musicxray.com/profiles/2924 #Artists #Musicians #songs

  • Sam

    #22 – Try this website I’ve recently joined offering paid music licensing opportunities – for free. It’s called http://www.needajingle.com

  • Some good ideas here although some may be a long shot. I have come up with 24 workable ways to make money with your music know – how and am continuing to to build my list.
    at soundrecordinggear.com
    A good idea is to take an inventory of your personal skills and see if any of those are useful – you would be surprised – there are people out there that will happily pay for those skills.

  • Artists have lost a lot of control due to services like Facebook and Twitter owning their fans. A key way to get ownership of your fans is to use a social band app such as GigRev’s system. Its an app with a “personal” Facbook style wall with the key difference that you own your fans within the app. Its also got cool features like Live Broadcast to your fans and a fan club subscription service which allows you to earn money in the same way as a fan club would have done in the old days.

  • Jenna Dexter

    Thanks for the great post! I thought you’d like to know I included a link to it in Dexter Music’s new resource:

    Be a Successful Musician: The Total Guide for Music Artists, Bands & Musicians.


    Thanks again. 😉

  • Awesome. Thanks for sharing it!


  • PapaEpa Uganda

    Thanks for the great post. Will keep in touch.
    Papa Epa, (To connect; FB/Twitter/Soundcloud/Numberonemusic: PapaEpa Uganda)

  • Demian Kundilovski

    Hello Christopher. Check plz my band “against the wind” on soundcloud. Hope you’l enjoy it 😀 In any event, thank you a lot for these tips. Have you ever tried to make money on slots? My band’s bass guitarist use 777 Spin Slot if he looks for some extra cash

  • Calvin Thomas

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you very much for the advice! My name is Calvin and I am an upcoming musician currently working on a 6-song EP. This information will definitely help me take my career to the next level, especially when it comes to performing and producing music for myself and other musicians I have networked with. Thank you very much and take care!