A List Of Income Streams For Musicians

This guest post by David Sherbow looks at potential artist revenue streams. David is the CEO of LiveMusicMachine.com and blogs MusicBizGuy Speaks.

The artist music business model has been in flux for years. The record deal dream that most artists sought is no longer the viable alternative that it once was.  The leveling of the music distribution playing field by the Internet is virtually complete.  Terrestrial radio is on a path towards destruction that even the major labels can’t compete with.  People now access and download music from multiple sources, usually for free. D.I.Y. solutions are everywhere, but fimage from www.nomad4ever.comor many artists hard to integrate into their daily lives.

Where does this leave the average independent artist? At the beginning. Every artist wants to know how they can make music, make money and survive to write and play another day. Here, in no particular order, is a list of possible income streams. Please add anything I missed in the comments section below.

  • Publishing
  • Mechanical royalties
  • Performance Royalties from ASCAP and BMI
  • Digital Performance Royalties from Sound Exchange
  • Synch rights TV, Commercials, Movies, Video Games
  • Digital sales – Individual or by combination

  • Music (studio & live) Album – Physical & Digital, Single – Digital, Ringtone, Ringback, Podcasts
  • Instant Post Gig Live Recording via download, mobile streaming or flash drives
  • Video – Live, concept, personal,  – Physical & Digital
  • Video and Internet Games featuring or about the artist
  • Photographs
  • Graphics and art work, screen savers, wall paper
  • Lyrics
  • Sheet music
  • Compilations
  • Merchandise – Clothes, USB packs, Posters, other things
  • Live Performances
  • Live Show – Gig
  • Live Show – After Party
  • Meet and Greet
  • Personal Appearance
  • Studio Session Work
  • Sponsorships, and endorsements
  • Advertising
  • Artist newsletter emails
  • Artist marketing and promotion materials
  • Blog/Website
  • Videos
  • Music Player
  • Fan Clubs
  • YouTube Subscription channel for more popular artists
  • Artist programmed internet radio station or specialty playlist.  Any artist with a base creates a station or playlist for distribution programming the music he/she/they is/are into including their own. Fans could pay for shout outs and sponsors could pay for blocks of time or ads to support it.  It could also be a subscription podcast that people could pay a couple of bucks or more a month for.
  • Financial Contributions of Support – Tip Jar or direct donations, Sellaband or Kickstarter
  • Patronage Model – Artist Fan Exclusives – e.g. paying to sing on a song in studio or have artist write a song for you
  • Mobile Apps
  • Artist Specific Revenue Stream -  unique streams customized to the specific artist, e.g Amanda Palmer
  • Music Teaching – Lessons and Workshops
  • Music Employment – orchestras, etc, choir directors, ministers of music, etc.
  • Music Production – Studio and Live
  • Any job available to survive and keep making music
  • Getting Help From Other Artists and Helping Them -  Whatever goes around come around. – e.g. gig swapping, songwriting, marketing and promotion
What income streams for musicians can you add?

Share on:


  1. Great list. It’s really hard to think of anything that isn’t on there in some way, but what about partnering with other local musicians, venue owners, bookers, etc, and putting on a music festival in your city? Get local businesses as well as corporate brands (energy drinks, cellphones) to sponsor, solicit vendors (who pay to set up booths) and, if possible, attract bigger, out-of-town acts. Great potential for failure, sure, but if done right … well, the SXSW’s of the world all had to start somewhere.
    In fact, here’s an interesting piece from 2001 on the first SXSW. http://bit.ly/7OIF8B
    Or think on a smaller scale. Put on a themed songwriters’ showcase sponsored by a guitar string manufacturer or local coffeehouse chain.
    Or you can always sell plasma. 🙂

  2. Great list!! Thanks for this! I haven’t used it yet but I also recently hear about a site called http://www.feedthemuse.net that allows fans to donate to artists. Would love to hear some feedback on that site if anyone has any, or if there are any similar sites!

  3. i dont understand publishing being listed separately and above mechanicals, performance, synchs, sheet music etc – what publishing revenue would u generate other than those listed separately?

  4. this wouldn’t work for every band, but a band could partner with a company like artist arena to sell tickets through their website. it could fall under “fan club”, but you wouldn’t have to sell fan club memberships in order to sell tickets direct to your fans. also, sites like bandsintown have a revenue share program so you can collect half of their affiliate payment on tickets sold through your website.

  5. Bands are usually hired (paid or otherwise) by venues to help sell booze. So by “gigs” we can be more specific and say “entry fee” and/or “guarantee” and/or “percentage of bar”.
    Back in the day we used to get a temporary alcohol license for one night, hire a hall and sell the booze ourselves. By far the most profitable option if your local laws allow it.
    Or why not own a chain of music venues in every town you want to tour so when you pass through you play your own bar and make all the booze profit that way. (Ok that’s a little far fetched).

Comments are closed.