21 Ways To Make Money In The Music Industry

21 Ways I’ve Made Money in the Music Industry

Written by David Andrew Wiebe from Music Entrepreneur HQ.

Who says you can’t make money in music?

Since the very beginning stages of my working life, about three-quarters of my income has come from work I’ve done within the music industry, and these days I make a very decent living too (to be fair, it wasn’t always that way).

I don’t share this to brag; rather, I share this in hopes that it will open your mind to the possibilities (let’s get pumped up!). There are a lot of different ways to make money in music, and they aren’t all as obvious as you might think. You just never know when the skills you’ve learned in other disciplines could come in handy (and that’s a key lesson here).

Here are 21 ways I’ve made money in the music industry.

1. Sound Engineering (in the Studio)

I started getting into recording shortly after I started playing guitar. I purchased a used digital eight-track recorder as well as a rack-mount digital effects unit second-hand, and though I never got terribly good at using either, it was my first exposure to recorded sound, and was an important stepping stone to learning software-based recording.

I still get asked to do some recording work from time to time, and I’m generally more than happy to oblige. These days, my skills are kept sharp thanks to the composition and podcasting work that I do. Composition work has yet to pay out for me – it did get me an IMDb credit though.

2. Sound Engineering (Live)

Not everyone that deals with recorded sound is a competent live sound engineer. I like to think that I am reasonably good at both, but you’d have to ask my clients.

I started honing my skills when I first started performing as a solo artist. Those were very humble beginnings, since I was typically in charge of running my own sound whenever I performed in a café or a lounge. I often shared the bill with another singer/songwriter, which meant that I wasn’t totally on my own, but the production was entirely up to us. Today, I am the go-to sound guy for at least one band I know.

3. CD Sales

In 2006, I released my first solo album entitled Shipwrecked… My Sentiments. Some of my other works have appeared on compilation albums, and I’ve also done some production and session work with other artists, but Shipwrecked is basically the only official David Andrew Wiebe release in existence.

And what do you know? I still sell physical copies of that CD nine years later. It’s not a cash cow or anything, but it’s cool to see that it still earns a bit of money passively. If you’re wondering whether or not the album is any good, it’s the best I was capable of creating at the time, but I do think I could do better if I were to put out something new today.

4. Merchandise Sales

I used to play in a band called Angels Breaking Silence, and we sold buttons and posters at our shows. People wanted CDs, but unfortunately the band didn’t stick together long enough to put out an album. We had a few demos up on MySpace (that should give you an idea of the timeframe), and we also contributed a track to a compilation, but that was it.

These days, merchandise is a largely unexplored area for me, but one in which I’m seeing some potential. Would anyone want a Music Entrepreneur branded 365 day desk calendar with awesome quotes (from my podcast guests and blog posts) and a to-do list section on it? If so, let me know in the comments below.

5. Digital Sales & Streaming

In this day in age, if you’re getting CD sales, you’re probably getting digital sales too. Considering I’ve only ever received one cheque from CD Baby (I should see another after I get a few more sales), you can probably guess that I haven’t made a lot of money this way.

For most independent artists, this is not a major source of income. If you sell a lot of music on sites like iTunes or Bandcamp, you will get some decent returns, but you definitely can’t count on streaming sites to bring the bread home. As for the future of digital sales and streaming, it’s hard to say whether or not the income potential will get better or worse. We’ll have to see what happens with Apple Music.

6. Music Instruction

Music instruction has been a steady source of income for me since day one of my working life. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 17, and I started teaching a mere two and a half years later out of college (I graduated with a Certification in Discipleship). I quickly found out that teaching wasn’t easy, but I am very glad that I got into it.

Although I have taken extended breaks from music instruction (you’d be surprised at how much energy it requires of you), I still teach today. It definitely doesn’t account for all of my income, but it is a very significant part, as it becomes more and more lucrative over time.

7. Session Playing

I think I’m pretty good on the guitar. I may not be the fastest or most technical (I can get going when I need to), but I am one of the most versatile players on a local level (at least according to Jonathan Ferguson). I now have 14 years of experience behind me, and I’m still getting better as a player.

Session playing opportunities usually come from people I already know, as well as from referrals. My calendar certainly isn’t booked solid with session playing – live or in the studio – but I’m always honored to be a part of other people’s projects. I’ve done a lot of different live work, and I’ve played on a couple of albums too.

8. Live Performance

When you first start playing out, it’s a cool feeling just to get handed a little bit of money for your work. I did my fair share of free shows early on, but these days I don’t really perform unless I know I’m getting paid.

It’s gotten to the point now where playing out a couple of times per month can net me several hundred dollars. You would think that performing more often would make you more money, but overplaying on a local level can actually diminish your earning potential. It’s better to play when the right terms are in place.

9. Festivals

In 2011, my band was a part of the Calgary Fringe Festival. We weren’t merely performing every night; there was also a spoken component to the show. The show was called Back on Solid Ground, and in it I retold my life story from about 2008 up to that point. It was interesting enough that someone in the audience asked if it was a true story or not.

So, while I could lump this in with live performance, I think it’s a different beast altogether. With something like the Fringe Festival, most performers are putting on theatrical performances. If you want to connect with a Fringe audience, your marketing and branding has to be adjusted accordingly. We did okay, but we certainly could have done a lot better if we had our marketing figured out.

10. Busking, Tips & Honorariums

Some people do really well at street performing. I’ve never made a killing with it, but it can be a lot of fun to do, and it’s also a good way to brush up on your set list if you need to. After all, people aren’t always listening that closely when you’re busking.

Tips and honorariums have come from a variety of different places for me. During the 2011 Calgary Fringe Festival, Anna and I performed in a café for tips (when we weren’t putting on the Back on Solid Ground production at night). I’ve had honorariums come from networking events and other miscellaneous performances too.

11. Rehearsal Space Rental

In 2003, I bought a home, and I lived in it until 2012. My roommate and I carefully picked out a home where we could not only live, but also set up an office and a home studio. Our home studio evolved over time, as we went from a hardware setup to a software-driven recording environment.

We tried a few different things to make money. The most obvious one is sound engineering. However, we also decided to rent out the studio as a rehearsal space for other bands. I think we basically broke even on advertising costs, so we only did it for a short time, but it was worth a try.

12. Freelance Blogging

I’ve been blogging and making websites for a long time, but it was in 2012 that I started doing it professionally. I’ll be talking more about the contract I landed later (see 14. Online Marketing), but suffice to say blogging was one of my ongoing duties in that working arrangement.

I’ve been blogging pretty steadily ever since, and over time more opportunities have come across my desk. My writing work has been recognized by different blog and site owners, and I’ll sometimes get asked to write for them, either as a ghost writer or contributor. This is fulfilling and pretty fun for me.

Since 2015, I’ve also been a staff writer at Music Industry How To.

13. Freelance Video Editing

I don’t have a long track record of producing video for bands and artists, but more and more I’m finding that the demand is out there.

I recently put together a promotional video for a band (kind of like a commercial), that will likely be used and reused in their marketing in the coming months and years.

14. Online Marketing

For about a year and a half, I was a contractor with a company called TuneCity. I called myself an online marketer, because I was handling a lot of different things. Social media, blogging, analytics, email campaigns, copywriting, podcasting, and more.

I used that opportunity to learn as much as I possibly could about marketing online. It was a very valuable learning experience, and it gave me the foundation I needed to work on other similar ventures.

15. Website Development

I’ve helped a few different artists and bands develop their website. Today, there are many great solutions available, but sometimes artists like you want something specific, and I’m always willing to help.

16. Landing Page Development

These days, I can get a site up and running in a manner of minutes. It doesn’t necessarily take me a lot of time to put together a decent-looking site, either. Friends will sometimes ask me about web design and though I certainly don’t advertise the fact that I do it, it’s something I’ve gotten pretty good at.

In case you don’t know what a landing page is, you could take a look at the page I’ve set up for my eBook. These pages are frequently used to collect email addresses or to sell products, and are very much in-demand on the web right now.

17. Email Campaign Management

When you’ve got a landing page, you also need to set up an email series. That’s essentially how this gig came about; a client with a landing page needed email campaigns done up. Once you have a bit of a reputation with online marketing, you just never know when these opportunities might come your way.

Let’s face it; whether it’s using WordPress or an email campaign tool like MailChimp, the technical aspects of software tools and applications just aren’t some people’s cup of tea. Those with enough desire and determination will learn anyway, but it is a pain in the butt when you’re first getting started. I’m the go-to guy in situations like that.

18. Digital Product Sales

I’ve created a variety of resources for musicians and those in the music business, and they continue to perform well. You can learn more about my products here.

19. Physical Product Sales

The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age was first made available as an eBook. I’ve since used CreateSpace to launch physical copies (especially since so many of you were asking about them at the book launch party).

20. Consulting

I can’t reveal my working relationship with clients I coach or consult with, but this has been a valuable income source for me.

21. Affiliate Marketing

Did you know that you can sell other people’s products and earn a commission on every unit sold? The world is an amazing place because some people make incredible money with affiliate marketing alone. As with many other items on this list, I have yet to earn a steady income from affiliate marketing, but it has brought in some money, which tells me it can be scaled.

Final Thoughts on Making Money in the Music Industry

Have your eyes opened to the possibilities yet? I know we would all love to make a ton of money from our recorded music alone (or at least enough to support our lifestyles), but I think it’s good to remain flexible. The more skills you have, the more valuable you can bring to the world, right?

If you have skills in areas other than music, realize that they could translate into income within the music industry too. They certainly have for me, and I’m no one special.

6 Things To Know In Protecting Your Music As An Indie Artist

This article was written by entertainment attorney and indie artist Christiane Cargill Kinney

This article was written by entertainment attorney and indie artist Christiane Cargill Kinney

Q:  We’re about to go into the studio to record, and I want to make sure we’re being smart and protecting ourselves here.  What advice do you have for us before we record our new CD?

A:  My biggest piece of general advice to all of you is to do something you are already doing: educating yourself.  Protecting yourself and your musical creations before anyone pushes the “record” button is one of the most important things you can do for your music careers.

From a legal standpoint, there are six steps that I always share with clients – a checklist of sorts before they go into the recording studio – that I hope will be as helpful to you as being able to speak Klingon at the Comic-Con convention.

Step One:  File your Form PA (for published or unpublished works of the performing arts) with the Copyright Office.

I’m often asked whether this step is even necessary, and if so, why?  Here’s the deal: it’s true that copyright exists the moment something is created and fixed in a tangible form of expression.  However, registering your work entitles you to certain important rights.  It’s easy to do, and with the additional tip I’ll share here, it’s very inexpensive:  if you know all of the songs you’re going to record in advance (which tends to be the more cost-effective approach to recording in my experience), you can submit a single Form PA for the entire collection of songs, and it will only cost you one filing fee (currently $35.00 for electronic filings).

So, what important rights do you get for registering your work?  First, you have to register your works with the Copyright Office in order to gain access to the Federal courts to enforce a claim for copyright infringement.  Second, if you register your works in advance, you may be eligible for “statutory damages” (you know the F.B.I. warnings that threaten big monetary damages before every movie?), as well as the recovery of attorneys’ fees.  Third, if registration occurs within five years of publication of the work, your burden of proof at trial is made easier by the Courts.

At this point, you may think that none of that really matters.  However, if someone used your material down the line and made a lot of money off of it without your permission or the proper licenses in place, you would probably feel as hopeless as a one-armed man in an applause contest.  Think of it this way: registering your works is kind of like buying car insurance.  You never need it until you do, and then, the more the better.  You are also much more likely to find an attorney willing to take a case on contingency, or even pro bono, if they can seek to recover their attorneys’ fees from someone else at the end of the day.

Step Two:  Talk to your songwriting partner(s) and/or bandmates and work out whatever you guys need to work out so everyone is on the same page going into the studio.

Does everyone get equal copyright ownership and control over the songs and the sound recording?  Did one person write all of the songs, and if so, do any of the other band members expect any copyright ownership over the material?  Are you going to treat copyright ownership of the sound recording differently from ownership of the songs themselves?  Is one person going to be in charge of licensing decisions and be allowed to sign for the band, or does everyone get a say?  Did your drummer really just implode and vanish into thin air?

I have a laundry list of questions that I ask my clients to discuss with their songwriting partners or bandmates before they head into the studio, so everyone is on the same page.  These are questions that people hardly ever talk about before the money starts rolling in.  However, they are all important things that every artist or band should consider when working as a collective (including the drummer’s history of imploding on stage).  A written songwriting agreement or band partnership agreement can salvage friendships, and act as a roadmap for everyone.  If you don’t have a roadmap, how do you know where you’re going?

Step Three:  Figure out who is going to be involved in the recording process.  If you don’t want to risk them possibly owning a part of the copyright in your song or sound recording, you should have a work for hire agreement in place with them. 

Are you hiring a sound engineer or producer to work on the album?  Is your sound engineer suddenly calling himself a producer, when you thought you were producing the album?  Did you hire a string quartet, or other instruments not normally in your group, just to enhance the recording?  Who is mastering the project?

Each of these people contributes some creative element, however large or small, to your music in the recording studio; and depending on the nature of that contribution, they could argue down the line that they are a joint owner of the work.

Although the general rule is that a person who creates a work is the author of that work, U.S. copyright law creates an exception for “works made for hire,” in which the employer or person commissioning certain works for use is considered the author of that work.

Sometimes things get a little sticky in the studio; egos take over.  An instrumentalist creates a riff that becomes an integral part of the song; a sound engineer starts taking on more of a producer role; maybe your cowbell player thinks his stellar bell placement entitles him to 50% of the royalties.  A work for hire agreement makes ownership of the copyright clear from the outset.  If someone isn’t okay with it, at least you’ll know that up front, and you can make an empowered decision whether to use that person, or whether to go with another person who is willing to sign a work for hire agreement.

Keep in mind that consideration is required for a contract to be valid.  This is a legal concept meaning something of value that is given in exchange for a performance or promise to perform.  In some states, credit may suffice as adequate compensation.  In other states, there may be a minimum amount of monetary compensation required.

Step Four:  When the final recording is complete, it’s time to file a separate Form SR to protect your interests in the sound recording itself.

As I have said before, there is a separate copyright for the song and the recording of that song.  Even though you filed your Form PA before recording, you will also want to file a separate Form SR to protect the sound recording of that song.  This will become particularly important when a producer or music supervisor suddenly becomes interested in obtaining a master use and synchronization license from you for their new hit TV show.

Step Five:  If you plan on filming any behind-the-scenes footage or videos, get permission first.

The recording process is a fun, creative environment, and with the advent of new technology, fans like to be a part of it.  As artists, most of us can’t live 15 minutes without uploading photos and video footage to our social media channels to justify our existence by posting to the web; after all, we all know if you don’t post it to the web, it never really happened (kind of like the sound of that one-armed man clapping in the forest).

It’s great to utilize technology as a way to keep fans in the loop.  However, in most states, did you know that you can be sued for using someone else’s name, voice, image, or likeness without their permission for an exploitative purpose?

If you are going to be filming any music videos or behind-the-scenes footage, or shooting photographs featuring people outside of your band, make sure to get permission first.  Get a talent release from them before you start filming if possible.  Otherwise, you may spend a ton of money in post blurring out faces, only to have your awesome new music video look like an episode of COPS.

Step Six:  Get the proper licenses if you are recording any cover songs.

If you’re recording any cover songs, at a minimum, you’ll need a mechanical license.  Be sure to read my previous DIY Musician blog, “Posting Cover Songs on YouTube: Music Licensing Explained” to get a better understanding of the licenses you’re going to need to record the cover song on a sound recording for commercial use, to print lyrics for the song, or to do a music video.

So, here’s a quick recap of the six steps I recommend you look at closely before going into the studio:

1.  File your Form PA for the collection of songs that will be on your upcoming album;

2.  Talk to your songwriting partners and/or bandmates to figure out what everyone’s expectations are with regard to copyright splits and ownership/control ahead of time.  If possible, get a songwriting or band partnership agreement put together so it’s all clear and in writing;

3. Get your work for hire agreements in place for anyone who will be working on the album but who you don’t want to possibly end up owning a piece of your music (More cowbell please!);

4. File your Form SR when the recording is completed;

5. Get permission / talent releases in order if you are going to use someone else’s name, voice, image or likeness for an exploitative purpose; and

6. If you record any cover songs, get a mechanical license for the sound recording, and realize that you may need other licenses as well, for example, if you plan to print lyrics on the liner notes, shoot a music video, etc.

Now it’s time to put those 3D glasses on and read the fine print.

(© 2012 Christiane Cargill Kinney)

5 Things Your Band Should Do In 2017

This article is comprised of two artists and authors including Dave Kusek, founder of the New Artist Model, Mark Robinson, of Storyboard Studios.

This article is comprised of two artists and authors including Dave Kusek, founder of the New Artist Model, Mark Robinson, of Storyboard Studios.

1. Gig Gard, Gig Smart

Playing live often is, for obvious reasons, a vital component of being visible and building a fanbase. The bands I was in that have generated the most consistent buzz were gigging on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in the beginning. In general, a bi-weekly gigging schedule is a good goal. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should take every single gig that comes your way. It’s important to be smart about where you're appearing and when.

It can be dangerous to play too often in one place. Doing so will tire out your audience in that area and makes your appearance much less special. So gig often, but spread them out geographically. If you live in a large metropolitan area, make it so you’re only playing the same part of town once every six weeks or so at most. In smaller towns, reach out to venues in adjacent towns and make the trip. Yes, this could involve a lot of travel, but it will pay off in the end, as you are reaching new fans consistently while keeping the interest of your current ones. But here's the reality, if you live in a town of 400,000 - 800,000 - or 1,000,000 people, my assumption would be that if you played a venue a few times a month, you will always gain a fan no matter where you play. But still, spread it out and gig often.

2. Get Radio Play

Yes, this means that you need to have radio quality music that you need to have available to be played. (If you don't, make sure to hire a good local studio that can do this for you!) But with this being said, make sure to go through the checklist to make sure your music is radio ready. There are a handful of stations that will play locals only, college radio stations that will play upcoming band's music and even internet radio stations that will play most. Don't be discouraged that the popular stations featuring top 40 artists aren't playing your music. (Unless you have the advertising and radio budget of the top 40 artists, you won't be played there). Rely on the other stations to help you by bringing your music to a market that you might not be yet. Remember, just one more fan created may be the difference in creating a tipping point of making your band known. 

3. Move From Band To Business (Think Out Of The Box)

Now, I don't mean sell out. But this is the year to take your band from the slowly growing, garage band practicing, goofing off group - to a successful, money making business. 

Most feel that they can write a few songs, play a few shows, maybe wait for a handout and become the next big thing. The reality is, however, there are no handouts in the industry. It takes a bit more than a few good songs and a few shows to become known. There are two main things that come into play when it comes to the industry. First, is who you know. This will never change. Utilize and lean on all contacts you have in the industry that can get you the next contact, the next gig and even be heard by just one more person. Who you know in the industry will get you one step further - therefore, if you don't know anyone (or don't know enough people), get out and meet more people. Attend the shows, attend the conferences, set up meetings with people in your town; network, network, network. If you know people but aren't willing to contact them or use them, then how serious are you about this group? Bill Gates once said that the success of Microsoft never came from the money spent in the business but the time spent ON the business. So spend time making it happen.

The second is then what you know. Take the time to look at businesses that have succeeded and apply them to your band. If your band ran like a new entrepreneurial venture, what would you stop doing, and what would you start doing? Get the right people involved and kick the wrong people out. Start running your social media in a way that builds a brand rather than making you look cooler than you actually are. Speaking of social media; stop pretending like your famous (I mean if you are, then you've probably already done all this). Respond to fans! If Taylor Swift and Queen can take a second out of their day to wrap Christmas presents for fans or throw a CD release in 5 different cities and anonymously invite fans for a listening party and personally bake them cookies ... I'm sure there's more you can do. Think out of the box. No business became successful by being like all the others. Businesses and bands become successful because they are original and came up with their own ideas. Seek out successful ideas and apply it to their brand.

4. Close The Gaps

Everyone has been guilty of it at one time or another. Some of us continue to do it. You end a song and turn your back to the audience, while tuning your guitar - you don't say a word, or even giving the stink eye to a musician that missed a note even when you're the only person that noticed. Whatever it is, you’re creating dead air. On stage, 5 seconds of dead air is an eternity. Time to close the gaps. Give people a show so good that even if they have the record, they want to come to the show for the entertainment.

It’s essential to understand that the flow of your set is just as important as the quality of your songs. Take some time outside of your show to work out the details of how your song list will flow. Then, rehearse it. Most bands get together; play a bunch, write some songs and often goof around. Don't forget the moments of treating your band like a business and schedule literal meeting time to close the gaps.

Fact is, major recording artists place specific attention on the flow and continuity of their live show. This is why they spend months rehearsing it before going out on tour. They’re doing it…why wouldn’t you?

5. Set Expectations & Divide Tasks

This is probably the most important point. As a band, you all need to settle on common goals and expectations for your career. Decide what sound and image you’re going for and how long you see yourself pushing your music career. The last thing you want is your singer or drummer to bail after a few years because he feels like he needs to move forward from a group that is only a hobby to him.

An important expectation to set is how much time you can all realistically dedicate to the band. Some member may still want to hold down part-time jobs as a stable income while others may feel the best option is to go full force into music to “make it” faster. In the end, you may end up feeling like some members aren’t pulling their weight and that leads to tension in the band. But if you can set expectations and divide tasks on who books shows, who maintains social media, who builds networking contacts, who helps gain PR, who balances the budget all while writing and creating new and good music - you'll continue to take the necessary steps to move your band forward.