9 different ways to live off your music
It is safe to say that 2020 and 2021 forced many musicians and creators to look inward and find alternative ways to make money with music. Here are 9 different ways you can receive income from your music.
A guest post by Janelle Borg of AmplifyYou.
Despite the challenges, forward-looking musicians and creators have managed to find passive income streams that do not require them to go on tour 360 out of 365 days a year. Therefore, there are various ways to make money with music in 2022 without necessarily playing live shows.
In this guide, we will be giving you a rundown of various revenue streams that you can explore. It is particularly useful if you want to ditch your side hustle or day job, and become a full-time musician or music creator.
If you are not familiar with the different types of royalties, we invite you to read our jargon-busting guide, which breaks down all things royalties-related.
Basically, songwriters and publishers make money off the composition, while labels, distributors and artists earn royalties from the recording itself.
If you’re a songwriter and want to make money off the underlying composition (publishing royalties), you need to register with a performing rights organisation (PRO) or get a publishing deal. This way, you get money every time your music is broadcast on the radio, played live or elsewhere.
Mechanical royalties are associated with the recording of the song itself. This can include physical reproductions, such as CDs and vinyl, as well as digital downloads.
The amount of money you get as a songwriter depends on the publishing deal. Some deals give songwriters up to 90% of profits, while others give them 50%. If the writer is self-published, they can receive up to 100% of the profits. This does not mean, however, that having a publisher is a disadvantage (more on this later).
Whenever you or someone else performs a song you’ve written, you’re supposed to get public performance royalties. To get these royalties, make sure that you and all your songs are registered with a PRO.
Print music royalties are less common than in the past. However, it still applies to sheet music and is based on the number of copies of that sheet music made. If your music is played by an orchestra or quartet, you should receive royalties every time your sheet music is distributed.
Syncs are a lucrative way to make money with music. When you give a third party the permission to use your music, you typically get sync royalties whenever that song is used.
For example, if your song is used in a Netflix episode, Netflix will pay you an upfront licencing fee, and you will also get sync royalties when that song is actually used. Therefore, if you’re both a songwriter and performer, you will earn the master use licencing fee, as well as the sync licencing fee.
A publisher is usually beneficial, as they are responsible for finding sync opportunities. They usually work with music supervisors who curate music for commercials, shows, films and so on. Therefore, having a publisher is crucial to generating passive income through such opportunities.
Performances – Live and Streaming
Live shows are back… and we couldn’t be happier! However, it is essential to ensure that you are paid for your efforts. Unless you’re playing a really good show, never accept exposure-only or pay-to-play gigs.
Having a reputable booking agent usually helps you get high-quality paid gigs that not only boost your reputation, but also have good, non-exploitative conditions.
Live streaming can also be a good way to make money without leaving your studio. Platforms such as Twitch and Bandcamp Live enable you to make money with music without spending money on transportation, accommodation, and all the costs associated with live performances.
Crowdfunding and subscriptions
Having a community of people that really support what you’re doing is crucial. Remember – followers do not always equal fans. Platforms such as Patreon, Only Fans and Buy Me A Coffee enable you to make money with music via fan support.
Using a subscription service has an evergreen and cyclical aspect. This is because fans pay a monthly fee in exchange for exclusive content. This way, you can rest assured that you’ll have X amount of dollars coming in every month.
Streaming and digital downloads
Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and all the other streaming platforms do get a lot of flak. However, streaming platforms are unquestionably a great music discovery tool. These platforms do not have a fixed pay-per-play stream. Rather, the fee per stream depends on several factors.
It is important to note that if we compare earnings to the pre-DSP era, 1 million streams on an album are equal to approximately 1000 album sales. This wouldn’t make an artist a star in the pre-DSP era.
Contrariwise, reaching 1 million streams enables you to tap into different territories, playlists and so on. In addition, independent artists can make more money via digital releases, as they eliminate the costs associated with physical releases.
For example, Spotify distributes around 70% of its total revenue to rights holders. They then pay artists according to the agreement in place. While independent artists receive 100 percent of DSP money, artists with record labels need a significant number of streams to see money from DSPs.
Merchandise is a great way to increase brand awareness, convert casual listeners into fans, and make money with music. More than five million vinyl records were sold in the UK alone in 2021.
In addition to selling merch at shows, you can also sell merch online at minimal cost via platforms like Bandcamp. Start from the basics – like T-shirts – and expand your line as you get more merch sales and fans.
There are many sponsorship opportunities for artists at any level. You don’t need millions of followers to get sponsorships and partnerships. The key is that you have an engaged audience and a good sense of what your brand is about.
According to Forbes, more and more brands are now looking to partner with micro-influencers than macro-influencers.
This is because micro-influencers tend to be more authentic and have a stronger relationship with their followers. This is therefore an excellent opportunity for musicians and music creators who want to make money with music as well as an alternative source of income.
The music industry has changed in a way that signing a label is not the be-all and end-all of your career. One major advantage, however, is that artists signed to bigger labels get an advance. This is a chunk of money the label gives to the artist when signing a deal. The catch? The advance must be paid back before the artist sees any additional profits.
Music grants are a great way to get that much-needed cash injection to finance an album or a big project. Depending on where you live, both governmental and private institutions usually have an annual allocation of money to support local artists. Take a look at the website of your country’s Ministry of Culture or NGOs that support artists to find out more about grants you may be eligible for.
It is important to note that making money through music looks different for everyone. Opting for multiple streams of revenue is better than just one income stream.
Amplify is here to support you at every step of the way. We serve as a bridge between Web2 and Web3, enabling musicians and creators like you to make the most of what Web2 and Web3 have to offer in terms of revenue streams.
Janelle Borg knows a thing or two about the music industry. Having been involved in the industry since the age of 13, she’s now involved in a variety of music-related projects and is always keen to share industry tips ‘n’ tricks with fellow musicians.