5 not-so-obvious ways for you to make money from your music

Make money from your musicThere’s an article in the most recent issue of Performer Magazine called “5 Not-So-Obvious Revenue Tips For Musicians,” written by Michael St. James.

I thought it was informative and gives some good tips, such as making sure you get vocal-only mixes of your songs (which can be used in remixes).

Then — in a kind of patting-myself-on-the-back moment — I realized that CD Baby already helps musicians earn money from all these less obvious revenue streams!

But are you set up to earn money through these non-traditional revenue sources?

Let’s go through Michael’s article one item at a time and see.

Master/Sync Licenses

Michael says:

By far, this should be the most important part of your music business plan now. In other words, this is where the real money is.

Without boring you (again) with music publishing and rights laws, here’s a basic breakdown.

If you wrote and paid to record your own music, you are the songwriter, publisher, AND label. This gives you an advantage over most majors, as they have separate labels and publishers to grant licenses for the Master and Sync rights, respectfully. You can negotiate a deal granting the Master (recording) and the Sync (underlying song) rights, all by yourself.

With CD Baby’s sync licensing program, your music will be listed in a catalog of pre-cleared songs that are available to license for commercials, TV shows, films, games, corporate presentations, and more.

(“Pre-cleared,” meaning producers that are interested in using your music don’t have to wait around and negotiate with five different people before they can license the tune).

Recent CD Baby Sync payouts include a $15,000 product spot, as well as a network TV placement that earned one of our artists $47,000!

Are you opted in for sync licensing? If you’re already distributing your music through CD Baby, there’s no additional setup fee for sync licensing, and it’s a non-exclusive deal, so you can work with other licensing agencies AND continue to try to place your music yourself!

Get started with sync licensing today.

YouTube Monetization

Michael says:

Every song you have ever recorded should have at least an album cover video and a lyric video… But, the key here is to have your music available for other content creators (like your bother’s sister-in-law in her basement making fashion videos) to use simply and in a way that makes you money.

That’s right. If a complete stranger needs to use music for their video on YouTube and your music is available, it’s free for them to use, but you get paid

Through CD Baby’s YouTube Monetization program, we take advantage of YouTube’s Content ID system to make sure you earn your share of advertising revenue on ANY video in the YouTube universe that uses your music (not just in videos you upload yourself).

And there is SERIOUS money to be earned here. In 2014, CD Baby artists earned almost $4 million in YouTube ad revenue, with some artists earning as much as $20,000 in a single quarter.

Want to make sure your music is set up to generate YouTube revenue? Sign up for our YouTube Monetization program. (Again, if you’re already distributing through CD Baby, there’s no additional setup cost).


Michael suggests:

Probably the most important facet of lost musician revenue is the lack of a clean instrumental track. To effectively license music, and make sure you have as many chances as possible for uses, make sure that you have an instrumental version (no vocals) and a “TV-up version” (just background vocals – “oohs” and “ahhs”), as well as a separated vocals only track, in addition to the final master mix of the song.

So, you have 4 “songs” now: a Full Mix (regular song), Instrumental, TV Up, and Separated Vocals (a cappella).

Having all these options gives you the most opportunities to license your music. Plus you give other musicians and fans a chance to collaborate on a remix.

And when you DO have alternate mixes, CD Baby can help you license and distribute them!


As Michael says, “Shazam might be one of the most important drivers of the future of music. Industry insiders are watching these charts very closely, trust me.”

Everyone uses Shazam, but not many CD Baby artists know that we make your music available in Shazam’s database! So if someone Shazams your song, the app will recognize it (and link to various outlets to purchase the song).

Once you know your songs are Shazam-able, Michael recommends:

… you plan a “Shazam Party” by asking all of your fans to download Shazam (free), then play that song on their computer or stereo at a time (like Tuesday night at 7pm EST) and all of them Shazam it at once. You will hit the top of local charts and possibly larger ones. It will get you noticed and might lead to a larger licensing deal.

Get worldwide digital distribution for your music, including iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Shazam, and many more.


We’ve talked a lot about SoundExchange on this blog recently. They collect royalties for “non-interactive” plays on web radio (like Pandora) and satellite radio on behalf of artists, labels, and session musicians, for the usage of a particular sound recording.

These are NOT publishing royalties (which have to do with the underlying composition and are paid to songwriters/publishers), and are thus NOT collected by ASCAP or BMI. So… SoundExchange!

You can sign up directly to collect your share, and we recommend you do. BUT… if, for whatever reason, you have NOT signed up to claim royalties from SoundExchange directly, we’ll collect them for you and pay you the following Monday (along with your $$ for downloads, streams, CD and vinyl sales, YouTube, etc.)

The reason we’ve partnered with SoundExchange in this way is to make sure you don’t lose out on a chance to collect those royalties. After 3 years any unclaimed royalties disappear, and we didn’t want that to happen.

If you do NOT want CD Baby to collect your SoundExchange royalties, simply register with them directly or opt-out in your CD Baby members account.


These are just some of the ways you can earn additional money from your music, and we hope you’re taking advantage of all of them.

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