Musically Gifted? Here Are 13 Ways You Can Make Money With Your Talent
So you sing better than Taylor Swift or Nick Jonas, strum a guitar like Jimi Hendrix or Kelley Deal or play piano better than Tori Amos.
Or maybe, if writing music or lyrics is your thing, you can compare yourself to Morrissey or Jhene Aiko. Or perhaps you’re not as good as any of these music icons — but you’re good enough.
Suppose that’s the case but the record companies don’t know you exist, your product jingle submissions are rejected and you wash out on the first round of auditions for “The Voice.”
How do you translate your skills into something more? How do you make money with your music?
13 Ways to Make Money From Music
You can start by trying a few of these ways to earn money from your musical talents.
1. Teach in Person or Online
If you know how to play an instrument or you can sing, you can probably teach others. Websites like Wyzant.com make it easier than ever to find people to tutor without expensive advertising.
2. Create a Website
A website or blog is a great way to showcase and even sell your music. You can also advertise your availability for gigs.
No idea where to start? You can use a platform designed specifically for band websites, like Bandzoogle.com. Ithas a free 30-day trial and plans starting at less than $10 per month. Or to create your own site, follow our guide to how to start a blog.
3. Start a YouTube Channel
On YouTube, you can make money with your own music, and you can also make money giving free video lessons if you monetize those tutorials. This guitar lesson for beginners, for example, has more than 2 million views.
In addition to creating lessons, you can record yourself performing and put the videos on YouTube. This strategy has helped many successful musicians and pop stars, from Justin Bieber to Soulja Boy, get discovered.
4. Be a Band Stand-In
You know what you can do, but why not let a few active local bands know? Offer to be a stand-in for any sick or absent band members. Apart from making a little cash, it might lead to something bigger, like joining a rising band or even starting your own.
5. Be a DJ
DJ gigs are hard to come by during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that won’t always be true. The most common ways to make money as a DJ is to work at bars, clubs and private parties. You can make it a serious business by building a brand, putting on big shows, selling merchandise and doing endorsements.
Also, depending on the venues you work, you might be able to play some of your own tunes alongside the popular requests. You might soon have a following.
6. Book Gigs
Is your act ready for prime time — once live music cranks up again? Start setting your sights on booking paid gigs. Small bars and restaurants are some of the easier places to start, but events can pay better. Parties, small festivals, art fairs and corporate events are all possibilities.
7. Write Songs
Selling songs outright isn’t common, and that’s probably a good thing. Who wants to make just a few bucks on a song that might become a big hit?
Instead you typically get mechanical royalties or performance royalties. Mechanical royalties earn you a statutory rate of $0.0755 per song, per manufactured unit. So if the song you wrote is on 10,000 albums, you would make $755.
You’ll earn performance royalties whenever the song you wrote is performed. To collect those, you have to join one of these three performing rights organizations:
Consider unconventional markets for your music. For example, some musicians have found that one of the more lucrative markets for their music is in video games (yes, it’s a thing).
8. Enter Songwriting Contests
If, as a songwriter, you can’t break into the music industry in the usual ways, you can always look for contests to enter.
For example, the International Songwriting Competition (ISC) hands out cash, prizes and recognition to 71 winners. You can enter the contest in one or more of 23 different categories, including children’s music, electronic dance music (EDM), blues and jazz.
ASCAP maintains a list of songwriting competitions.
9. Enter Singing Competitions
Artists like One Direction, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson all got their start through singing competitions, so why not you? But it’s not all about “The Voice” and “American Idol.” Look for local competitions that will help you get noticed and let you network with other performers.
10. Sing in Church
It isn’t common knowledge, but some churches pay their singers.
Harris Sockel made extra money to pay the rent by singing at an Episcopalian church in New York City. He brought home $100 for singing on Sundays. For holidays like Easter and Christmas he got $200.
11. Try Fiverr
You’ll find many ways to make money on Fiverr.com, but can you do it with music? Turns out you can. Current users offer a range of services, including recording music, writing jingles, mixing music and creating music videos.
12. Put Your Music on Spotify
Spotify is a streaming music platform that lets people listen to music for free or upgrade to paid subscriptions. The company makes money through advertising and subscription fees.
A variety of factors determine how artists get paid, including whether they are independent or signed with a record label. Spotify looks at an individual artist’s stream share — that is, the total number of streams they have in a given month — and then determines that artist’s portion of all the streams on Spotify. That amount is the artist’s cut.
Spotify then takes its own cut, and a certain amount of money also goes to recording royalties and to the writers. You can also consider submitting your music to royalty-free music sites which will allow creators usage for their multimedia projects while paying you a royalty fee.
Payment structure can vary based on how individual contracts are set up, so, as Spotify emphasizes, read the fine print.
13. Raise Money on Patreon
On Patreon, you get “patrons” who offer to fund you regularly according to some criteria. For example, someone might pledge to give you $10 every time you produce a new song. You offer your patrons rewards like free downloads of your songs, the chance to hang out with you online or at least regular reports on the progress they’re helping to make possible.
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).
Editor Sushil Cheema contributed to this article.