1000 Ways To Make Money With Your Music (And Its Byproducts)
Music-making is not just a time-consuming hobby - it also likes to keep your wallet quite empty. And while there are musicians making divine pieces using just the bare minimum, once you feel the difference between FL Studio's built-in "FL Keys" and Native Instruments "Una Corda" (basically, both piano VSTs but one free and "OK" and one expensive but sounding absolutely divine), if you're not catching up), well, then there's just no going back.
If you're like me, your shopping list would probably make even the Santa and his reindeer sweat blood. Audio software and hardware aren't exactly a cheap treat, and even if you don't exactly dream of making music for a living, sooner or later, you'll probably find yourself thinking "how can I make some (or more) money with my art?"
Luckily for you, I've already done my fair share of thinking (and researching) and I want to share all those things with you to get you inspired and save you some time and energy you can spend creating your content instead. So, let's begin with the most obvious ones...
Get your music on streaming platforms and in digital music stores!
Well, I said I'm gonna start with the obvious, so some of you can probably skip this paragraph and continue with those more interesting options. But I feel obliged to mention it anyway for the sake of "completeness" of this blog post. Anyway - if, in any case, you're reading this and you don't have your music distributed to all those streaming platforms and digital music shops, then - WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
I hope you understand I won't include a full guide on how to do it right here as there has been already written enough shit on this topic (including some posts on my blog, too), but I think that this is by far the very first thing you should do as a musician seeking to earn some bucks - the sooner the better, as the more you wait, the more money you potentially lose. You know, having people all over the world streaming your music while you even don't know about it has one big advantage - after you get to a few playlists, it can already create a small, but kinda stable monthly income, which can then grow proportionally to how much energy you put into actively promoting yourself. (Unfortunately, it takes some time and effort until you get to the point when you can safely say that it earns you cash while you don't have to move your finger).
Sell your music on Bandcamp, too
Possibly the best option to sell your music (almost) directly to your fans without the need for an external distribution service is Bandcamp. It's very easy to set up and once your account up and running, it's even easier to start uploading your music. You have the option to name your price and Bandcamp itself takes only a small cut. When starting out, there won't be much buzz on your Bandcamp page tho', but once you build some fanbase, at least those most dedicated fans will be always happy to pay you a few bucks for your good shit.
It's no secret that gigs get musicians the biggest slice of the pie. Even though it's a bit silly, just compare that ridiculous $0.003 Spotify pays you per stream versus a fee that a fan would pay to get on your show. For those of us who can perform live, gigs are by far the best option to cash in a few bucks, not to mention all the other aspects of live gigging - building the relationship with your audience in the most authentic way possible, and of course, selling merchandise.
Offer your fans some merchandise to buy
We all need to wear some clothes (which is probably not gonna change for a while) and show me a person who wouldn't want to proudly wear a t-shirt from their favorite artist? And which artist wouldn't want to see people wearing their brand? While this is not making money directly with your music, it's still tightly related and should be definitely mentioned. But this requires some great effort outside your studio - unless you're a graphic designer with a printer machine in your basement you'll have to do some research, find the right people, get those designs made, get them printed and then finally, also manage to dispatch the orders afterward. It's a lot of work, but there's also a great deal of satisfaction in running your own merchandise line. By the way - don't limit yourself only to clothing. Make t-shirts, hoodies, snapbacks, but also other stuff your fans could appreciate - maybe add some branded lighters, rolling papers, stickers, sunglasses... you name it. The sky is the limit!
Sell presets for popular VSTs
Everybody knows Serum (or Massive) nowadays, and a lot of us use those synths on an almost daily basis. So why not cash on it a bit, too, to make the synth pay for itself maybe? All it takes is to save those nasty sounds you make and upload those preset files to a service like Gumroad or Sellfy, and then get the word out. Plus, this can be a nice thing to do when you're not feeling in the zone to write actual music - just playing around with synths instead of having a certain goal in your mind you need to reach can not only feel quite relaxing, but it can eventually lead you to some really interesting sounds you'll be able to use (and sell) later as well and even get you inspired enough to start a whole new song out of it.
Sell MIDI packs
There's a good amount of people who're comfortable paying just for various sets of chords, chord progressions and melodies to use them with their own VSTs. So if you're better at writing those than at designing your own sounds, you can just hook up the basic piano and start writing MIDI packs like a madman. Or you could just export all your MIDI sequences (or at least those interesting ones) after wrapping up each one of your projects, effectively recycling your previous work.
Sell sample packs
I'd say this takes a bit more effort than selling VST presets or MIDI packs, but then - it can be quite relative. Especially if you play an instrument, it can be a fast and easy way of making few extra bucks by recording some interesting chord progressions and melodies with some cool effects using your unique skills and wrapping those up in a sample pack. Just be sure that you're recording and exporting those samples in the best possible quality, 'coz even the best riffs won't have much success if they're poorly recorded.
Sell the whole DAW projects
If you're not that kind of guy who keeps all his projects top secret, here comes another opportunity. You never know (or you may already know if you did some research), but there could be people dying to learn more about your methods and techniques. Offering your project files as a paid download is a convenient way of making this possible for them while earning some pocket money with it. But of course, there are some limitations you have to keep in mind when preparing your projects to be opened by other people - for example, you'll probably have to bounce almost everything (as the other person will hardly have the same VST plugins as you) and of course, you'll have to provide the whole package with all the samples and stems used in the project.
Make paid video tutorials
Speaking of sharing your knowledge, there's also another way that may go better with those secret-keeping types. If you're not a fan of sharing your project files (but actually even if you are), you can still share some of your knowledge with other people by recording videos - possibly some free to tease people and show them the value your knowledge can provide them, and then, of course, some only accessible to people who will pay for it. However, I have to warn you that this is a very time-consuming process. Until you learn how to do it quickly, just the recording itself usually takes a lot of time before you get everything right without fuckups, plus you're required to have some video editing skills (and software) in order to process the raw recorded material into something that's actually watchable (and good quality). On the other hand, the pay-off can be really great.
Establish a monthly income with Patreon
Patreon is a very convenient way to establish some kind of recurring monthly revenue, as opposed to pretty much every other way of moneymaking in this article, all based on a one-time transactions. On Patreon, fans are subscribing to their beloved artists and paying monthly payments so that they can see the "VIP" content the artist is creating, content that's not otherwise publicly accessible. If you think you would be able to be constantly producing some interesting content on a regular basis, you could make a big money on Patreon, but there's also one particular downside that prevents me from going for this option, too. On Patreon, you're literally obliged to constantly make some new content to make those subscriptions worth for those fans - and this can get really frustrating sometimes.
Provide paid production lessons
If I had a penny for every time I wished there was an experienced producer sitting next to me and being able to keep me in the right direction, I wouldn't be probably writing this blog post but enjoying the sunshine on a beach on my private island. And let's be honest with ourselves, who actually didn't think of this at some point. But then, actually, all it takes is to save up a few bucks and pay someone who provides paid tuition over Skype? Now, look at it from the other side - if you have the skill, why not share it with others and help them with their struggles, while helping yourself at the same time? Also, if you're good with some instrument, you can start teaching other people how to play it.
Curate playlists (in a smart way)
Now you are probably thinking if I had lost my mind, as mixing playlist curation with money stinks with payola. And no, I certainly don't wanna encourage you to do payola (even though everybody's doing it anyway and Spotify doesn't give the smallest fuck), but there are actually ways of mixing it that can work without qualifying as payola. I don't have to go far for an example anyway - just check out how my submission app here on the website works.
Everyone as allowed to submit for free and I eventually get to review every single submission, but there is a limited queue and when it gets full, the submissions are stopped unless I review some and get them out of that queue. However, people can go and buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, which grants them premium credits, which basically means that they can submit even when the queue is full (and actually skip the queue altogether), plus they get a bunch of other bonuses, BUT - it still doesn't mean that I will automatically add their tracks ('coz then it would be indeed payola).
So as you can see - it's possible and I believe there can be even more ways of making money using your Spotify (and other) playlists. You just have to be creative ;)
Make beats for rappers
Have you ever noticed how simple some of those famous instrumental beats are? It would be almost a sin not to try to make some too, maybe as a little production/workflow exercise, or to get you out of your comfort zone, or just to try out how fast you can make a good beat... Even if it's different from your usual production style, it's definitely worth a thought (and a try) - especially when you get to know the prices you can sell those beats for. Starting at $30 for MP3 on Beatstarts, going up to numbers like $1000 for an exclusive license. I can already see the dollar signs in your eyes, guys.
Apart from Beatstars, which is probably the most popular "beat marketplace", I should also mention Traktrain and Airbit, but the best possible way of selling beats is actually via your own website, as you keep 100% of your earnings and have absolute control over your content.
Run ads on your website
If you have your own website, or maybe a blog about music production (wink wink) and people are visiting that website, another opportunity arises - paid ads, like Google Adsense for example. Especially when your web has a high volume of traffic, you can earn some nice money with ads. As with everything, there are some downsides tho. First, loading ads from external servers slows down the loading times of your website a bit, and second, a lot of people browse the internet with AdBlock and will never really see your ads at all. And some of those who do might get annoyed by them, too. So the golden rule of running ads on your website is "don't overdo it", as otherwise, it could do more harm than good.
Anyway, there is no reason to limit yourself to Google Adsense - if you do a little research, you will probably find out that some of your favorite brands run their own ad networks, and it's always better to advertise a product you already know and trust yourself. For me, one such brand is Loopmasters (and maybe you've already noticed their ads here on the website), but there will be certainly more of them. Which brings me to:
Make the most of affiliate links
Some companies don't run their own ad networks but rather prefer the system of simple affiliate links. If a person clicks this link on your website and then purchases the product/service it's pointing to, besides that the purchase usually comes with the affiliate discount, you get your reward as well and it tends to be way bigger than a cost per ad click. Personally I find affiliate links more useful than ads, because we're all more or less used to ignore them, whereas affiliate links are usually placed in some context (and also usually being specifically said to provide a discount in that context), which makes them way better susceptible to being clicked on. I'll spill a secret here for you: I found about this completely by chance by writing that "My Experience With Distrokid So Far" blog post, where I eventually included an affiliate link to Distrokid. I didn't have any goals or hopes for that article as I wrote it mostly just to have more content on my blog, but then I noticed it kinda blew off...and since then, it has already made me a few hundred of bucks. Crazy thing!
Give your fans an option to donate
Aside from literally selling your content, you can also set up a donation system to enable your fans to directly tip you. It makes the best sense in a scenario where you are creating some interesting and helpful content that's accessible to everybody for free, or generally just creating some great value for people that can eventually make them want to show their appreciation for your efforts.
Get your music to music content libraries
Not only rappers need some fire beats for their rhymes. There are also literally TONS of videomakers around the world who need a good soundtrack for their visuals and naturally, there are also whole music libraries where they can get it.. .for a price, of course. And most of them gladly pay that price, because from what I know from my videographer friend, finding free music that fits your video in the best possible way is just a tremendous pain in the ass. If you're interested, definitely check out services like Artlist, Audiojungle or Premiumbeat (and other similar ones) - if you make good music, there's a great chance those could help you add another few extra bucks to your bank.
Busking: Create your own gigs when you have none
When you have no gigs in your calendar, why not create some yourself? If it's not forbidden by your city's law, it can be nice to just find a nice place in the city center and have some fun performing for the passing crowd. Of course - if you're mostly producing in your DAW and don't really play live, this won't be the best way for you, but for those who do, this can be also a nice exercise on stepping out of your comfort zone.
Offer Mastering Services
If you trust your ears and studio equipment enough, you can try to help out your friends mixing and mastering their tracks for a little fee. Now, understand that doing a good job especially on mastering requires years of learning and also being on par with the actual industry standards, but then - every mastering engineer had to start somewhere. In fact, this would be probably an ideal side hustle for some studio intern, who not only has access to people who already mastered that craft, but also access to professional studio equipment.
Ghost Producing: The Pro Level
The last thing in this long list is also the most demanding one, applicable only for those who are already quite skilled in their production. Ghost producing means basically making music to be released under a different person's name (without ever mentioning yours) - that way, you get some good money for the track and they get the fame. And surprisingly there's a lot of people who don't really crave that recognition and who are perfectly comfortable just dwelling in their studios, making bangers for REALLY good money, without any need to be performing on big stages in front of huge crowds.
First time on my blog?
Welcome! My name is Pao and I'm the person behind this whole website. Besides making music myself whenever I can, I also write this blog and curate Spotify playlists. Feel free to explore it here a bit - I believe you will find some interesting stuff around ^^