How Many Fans Do You Need To Make A Living In Music?

GuitWhile reaching a point where you can live off the money made from your music and fans is the end goal for many artists, most musicians are forced to work some kind of additional job in order to fund their creative exploits. Here we look at some numbers regarding exactly how many fans an artist really needs in order to live off their music.


Guest Post by Nicholas Rubright, CEO of Dozmia,

When it comes to the music industry, it seems all but impossible to reach a point where you can make a living writing and performing songs.  There are millions of people like you trying to do the same thing, with a majority funding their efforts by working full-time or part-time jobs.

If you’re able to reach a point in your career where you can make a living from the money your fans spend on your music, merchandise, and events, not only will you be enjoying yourself much more, but you’ll be able to grow your career much faster since you’ll be able to focus on it exclusively without being worn out by a day job.

So, how do you reach the point where you can afford to live off of the income your music provides?  How many fans do you need?

This can be hard to measure, but let’s take a look at some important things to consider when growing your audience, then put together a calculation that helps you determine how big your fan base has to be before you can quit your day job.

Find your most valuable fans

FanWithin your existing fan base, you want to find those who buy everything you put out – they buy every album, every piece of merchandise, and attend every event they can.  You want to identify your super-fans, and know exactly whom they are and where to find them.  Where do they shop?  What are their hobbies?  What other artists do they listen to regularly?  Knowing this information can help you target your music marketing efforts with a greater level of precision.

A great way to get to know your most valuable fans is to send them a survey after they purchase something from you.  Put together a list of questions, upload them to SurveyMonkey, then send it out to each person who buys something from you on your website or Bandcamp.  Ask how they found you, and figure out what caused them to buy.  This information will be extremely valuable in helping you identify which marketing channels are most effective.

Fan density matters

When measuring how many fans you need to make a living, it’s important to consider where, geographically, those fans need to be.

If you’re from Los Angeles, it’s going to be expensive to play events for an audience in Florida.  Additionally, if your fan base is spread around the world, it’s going to be hard to make any money playing live events.

To make a living in music, you want your fan to be as densely populated as possible.  This makes touring much more valuable in terms of revenue generation since more people will show up to your events.

Earning radio airplay on local radio stations can be a quick way to generate a dense amount of fans, and enable you to put on profitable live shows.  If you’re using paid advertising, be sure to enable geographic targeting when available.

The calculation

CalcIf you’ve identified your most valuable fans and have found a way to promote your music in local markets to build a densely populated audience, the next step is to estimate your revenues per super-fan, and your total expenses.

For this example calculation, all of these numbers are assumed.  When calculating how large of an audience you need to make a living, change the numbers given below to apply to your unique situations.

Now, let’s get into it.

Let’s assume you release an album every year, and with that album, you release new merchandise.  The new album is priced at $10, and your average merchandise price is $25.

Each year, you tour to the markets where you have an existing audience.  Let’s assume your event tickets are $25.

A super-fan will buy the album, a piece of merchandise, and go to your show.  So on average, for this example, a super-fan will spend $60 on your events, music, and merchandise each year.

From this, you need to consider your annual expenses.  While these can vary greatly according to different circumstances, here are some rough assumptions:

  • Cost to release an album: $12,000.
  • Touring costs: $1,000 per location.
  • Annual cost of living per person: $20,000
  • Share of event tickets for promoters/venues: 50%
  • Merchandise costs: about 30% of sales revenue.

With the above assumptions, a 4-person band with an audience spread among 10 different cities will need a fan base of nearly 2,800 to make a living in music.

Here’s the exact calculation based on the above assumptions:


Making a living in music is very possible.  Talk to your existing fans to find the people who are most loyal, then apply your marketing efforts to get your music in front of more people who will buy everything you put out.

It’s a lot of hard work, but when you reach the point where you’re able to make a living doing what you love, it’ll all be worth it.

Nick Rubright is the founder and CEO of Dozmia, a music streaming service currently available on iOS.  He has a passion for helping musicians understand various marketing concepts, and creating the perfect playlist.  Sign up for Dozmia's mailing list to get music marketing hacks straight to your inbox.


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