How to Maximize Earnings in the Gig Economy as a Performing Musician

Learn how to make your music career financially rewarding with practical tips on budgeting, networking, and diversifying income streams in the gig economy.

Guest post by Charlie Fletcher

As a musician, performing can be a rush, filling your heart and soul with meaning. It’s a unique feeling getting to share your creative pursuits with a captive audience. However, you must find a balance between your passion for performance and your paychecks. 

In the gig economy, it’s commonplace to have unpredictable income. When you’re performing actual gigs, this is certainly the case. From venue differences to travel and everything in between, you have to create harmony between your talents and your financial success. Learn how to take the stage and maximize your earnings as a performing artist. 

Budget Effectively

To control your finances as an artist, you must be able to remain realistic. Even with lofty goals of making it big, you have to have a handle on your current financial state to keep afloat. This way, you can produce and perform music at a caliber that you are proud of. Staying true to yourself as an artist doesn’t require lots of money. However, it helps your mental, emotional, and physical well-being to have some semblance of financial stability. 

Whether performing is your full-time job or something you do after work hours, you likely have a more unpredictable income than most people. Keeping track of your income and expenses is the first step to taking control of your budget. Although you don’t make the same amount every month, you can still use historical data to make estimations. Take into consideration the time of year and your capacity for performing to determine how much you are likely to make each month. Then, you can set a realistic budget, set aside some cash for savings, and stretch your earnings to their full potential. 

Try Various Sources of Funding

Many people and organizations are dedicated to advancing music and the arts. You can use this to your advantage. Aside from funding your performances yourself, you can look into alternative entrepreneurial financing options. Look into possible funding sources like:

  • Crowdfunding: one-time or recurring funding amalgamated from a variety of individuals or organizations that donate to your cause, often on sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe;
  • Grants: sums of money offered by organizations, government and otherwise, to selected individuals who apply and meet certain criteria set forth by an organization interested in a certain cause, such as your specific genre of music or message;
  • Peer-to-peer lending: loans obtained from peers with lower interest rates than institutions;
  • Record labels: independent or major companies that sign musicians and fund their careers in some capacity.

Be wary of taking out large loans without a specific plan to pay them back. While success as a musician involves lots of hard work, it also isn’t always guaranteed. Stick to your values when sourcing funding.

Look Into Other Revenue Streams

If you have the time and bandwidth, it’s wise to diversify your income. As a musician, you can find opportunities to make money while still utilizing your talents. One great option is to soundproof your garage and turn it into a full-blown recording studio. Consider teaching online or in-person courses, tutoring school-age musicians, writing music for others, or engineering, mixing, and mastering in your home studio. If you have an established fanbase, you can also create merch to sell at your shows and online.

Lean on Your Network

Music industry networking is a crucial skill to acquire. You’ll need strong ties to local and other music industry professionals to gain access to venue spots and secure higher-paying gigs. Nurture your relationships with other musicians, venue owners, promoters, and other like-minded individuals to grow your fanbase as well as your connections.

The gig economy thrives on collaboration. Asking for help in your career is commendable, and you can forge connections that lead to opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have. Making money requires at least two parties, and the more help you can get from others, the more likely you are to bring in greater income. Plus, a collaborative environment can lead to shared success, expanding your fanbase based on your connections. Just make sure to lead with authenticity and good intentions of forging true relationships with others in the industry. They can even give you constructive feedback that ups your chances of getting bookings.

Up Your Marketing Game

Getting strategic about your marketing can help you book more shows and garner more attendees. It’s commonplace for musicians to have a strong online presence, so work on leveraging social media platforms and creating a professional website that showcases your music. You can collaborate and cross-promote with artists, influencers, and businesses this way, as well. You may receive free music accessories or engage with a brand that shares you with their established audience. 

Above all, it’s important to cultivate your marketing materials to reflect who you are as a musician. Incorporate behind-the-scenes moments and live-stream some of your performances to give viewers a taste of what they can expect at one of your gigs. This not only boosts engagement with your fans, but it provides credibility to your pages and enhances visibility to potential booking agents.

Adapt to the Evolving Live Music Scene

With advancements in tech and evolving trends in music, you have to keep up to keep earning. Remaining adaptable can be your secret weapon to getting ahead in the music gig economy. 

Try to look for diverse venues that offer cutting-edge tech or unique settings. Brush up on the latest tech so you can stream to an engaged audience or play virtual gigs. Whatever you do, put the fans first. Showing your passion for music and understanding of what your audience loves about your performances will garner you the most positive attention, fan connections, industry opportunities, and earning potential.

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