Well, that's perhaps how things work at the top, but what about near the middle? Suzanne Lainson of BrandsPlusMusic has written a short overview of the more traditional ways that musicians make money and the paradox of taking such sources of income.
"Here are the ways most non-famous full-time musicians make a living:
1. Playing in multiple bands so that they gig as much as five times a week. And playing those gigs in bands where they are paid at least $75-$100 per gig rather than having to split beer money five ways.
2. Playing at weddings and other gigs that come with a guaranteed $1000 - $3000 per gig.
3. Teaching music, as much as 20 -40 kids a week.
4. Church music director. There are many opportunities to give beginner lessons on takelessons.com.
5. Being in a cover band.
6. Playing on cruises or in dinner theaters.
7. Playing in a house band or being the solo piano player at a bar. However, these gigs are much harder to come by than in the past.
The problem with all of the above is that the musicians who do it tend not to get a lot of respect, either from the music reviewers or from other musicians. Being a wedding musician tends not to be something musicians proudly announce.
It's not considered very prestigious. The non-famous musicians I know who are making the most money are viewed rather condescendingly by local music critics and by up-and-coming musicians who think that kind of thing is akin to selling your music soul to make a buck.
But playing original music that the bloggers love tends to be the least lucrative kind of music you can do.
The advantage of having a day job that pays the bills is that you can do the music you love without regard to whether it pays the bills. That can be very creative."
What other ways do non-famous musicians make a living?