13 Clever Ideas: How to Make Money With Your Music

If you have been wondering how to make money with your music, you are definitely not alone. There are so many talented musicians out there who really deserve to make a solid income. 

The fact that you have ended up here, tells me that you are already on the right track to earn some money from your passion. 

However, be careful listening to the overly rosy prognosis from a lot of people online. Because most monetizing methods are not easy to succeed with right away.

Still, by having a look at these ideas, I hope you will get inspired to try them out, and maybe multiple of them as you progress forward.

Because there is definitely hope to make a decent income from these 13 clever ideas to make money with your music:

  1. Sell Stock Music
  2. Start a YouTube Channel
  3. Launch a Crowdfunding
  4. Release an Album on iTunes
  5. Create an informational ebook
  6. Play at Weddings
  7. Create a Music Website
  8. Compose Music For Media (Film, Video Games, Documentaries)
  9. Do Live Performances
  10. Sell Your Music Licenses Privately
  11. Join Freelancing Sites
  12. Create an Online Course
  13. Teach an Instrument

The key takeaway I hope you will get from this post is to not think of just one of them as the solution. Try to implement several of these ideas, step by step as you go on your way to earn income from your passion.

1. Sell Stock Music

Yup, I bet this is not new to you, is it? In case it is, stock music is simply pre-made music that is sold at a dedicated website and bought by private persons or companies, so they can use the music in their commercials, films and other media.

You might think this is too difficult to actually make a living of. It is difficult, by all means, but all in all, it depends on your own ability and discipline. 

How it is monetized: Most commonly, stock sites pay you a commission of your sales quarterly – often something like 40-60 percent deal (in which you get the 40 percent).

However, some stock music sites also pay you good money for creating music for them to begin with.

Timeframe: Since you should have a decent library of songs to enhance your possibility of earning enough money to live on this, you would need to produce a great deal of tracks. In addition, building your popularity is also important. If you are one of the most popular artists, you rank higher at the stock music front page, resulting in more sales as well.

Difficulty: Well, this is not easy, but it is absolutely possible! There are musicians who earn thousands a year on this. The best thing is, after spending your time creating this, it is all passive income! So yeah, I think it’s definitely something to try out.

Recommended stock music sites:

Epidemic Sound.

Why?

  1. They pay you a fixed rate upfront for the ownership of the music. Some stock music sites out there claim ownership to your songs the minute you upload them, without paying you anything.
  2. In addition to getting paid to create, you will get 50% of the streaming earnings.

Through the filmmaking channel Andyax, I have met with them a couple of times, and they are awesome, honest people.

Pros
Stock music can be a really great source of passive income. You compose the music today and get to reap the rewards later on – again and again.

Cons
It is not guaranteed that you’ll ever make a penny from this. In addition, watch out for stock music sites that actually transfer the copyright of your music to themselves, without at least offering you a sum of money to do it. Read everything on their terms and services!

Yes, I speak from experience.

2. Start a YouTube Channel

YouTube is by far the most powerful marketing platform that exists at the moment. If you are big on YouTube, well-known brands and big companies will drool when they think of the exposure you can give them. In addition, earnings from Google Adsense will also add to your cake.

YouTube is the place everyone goes to for learning a new skill, or to be entertained. You can do both of those things on your music channel.

How it is monetized: Youtube is directly monetized with ads, but there are several ways to profit from your music on this platform. Also, you can get local (or national) companies to sponsor your videos, either with their product or money. 

Here are some ideas for how you can leverage YouTube to earn income from your music:

  • Sponsorships 
  • Selling Merch
  • Selling courses
  • YouTube Ad revenue

Timeframe: This is not done overnight. But it can definitely be done in a shorter timeframe than some of the other ideas on this list. 

In order for you to monetize with ads, your videos need to be watched for 4000 hours during a 12-month period.

However, it is definitely worth the time investment, because the income from ads can be quite ok, but Youtube is also a very powerful source of traffic to your other services, which you will discover in this post.

Click here to get a great tutorial on how to set up a YouTube channel for artists.

3. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding could be a really great way to finally make a living as a musician.

How it is monetized: There are different kinds of crowdfunding platforms out there. If you are looking to create a one-time project like getting the money to release your first album, crowdfunding websites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter might prove to be great choices. 

If you are looking to build an audience and make a steady income from crowdfunding, you can use websites like Patreon. 

On Patreon you can choose to get paid either per video or per month, which actually can turn you and your music into a subscription service.

Timeframe: crowdfunding in general, will definitely work the best when you already have some followers. This may take a little while, but your best shot is by being active on Youtube, consistently uploading videos to build your name/brand.

Difficulty: This is not easy at all to do if you don’t have an audience to reach out to. Because you will need to do other things to build trust in your brand (you) first, it can be tricky to do this right away.

Also, it is important to remember that you will need to provide more value and be active in the community you are building in order to maintain the income. 

But then again, if the caveat is to make a full living on this, I think you will manage.

4. Release an Album on iTunes

If you have a dream of releasing an album, it might be a good idea to skip the EP and only go digital to avoid a potential high production cost. 

How it is monetized: With iTunes being an online store, you get paid for every sold song. Remember though, that iTunes takes a solid percentage (around 30 percent) of the sales, and there are also other factors out there that probably will let you keep around half of your earnings after everything is accounted for. 

Timeframe: It depends mostly on yourself. Be sure to have an audience you can get to pre-order your tracks before launching on iTunes! 

Why? 

If you are successful in marketing your album beforehand, when the time of launch comes, you will have created the necessary buzz to get momentum.

Difficulty: One thing is to actually sell a sufficient amount of your album on iTunes. Another thing is to get to do this in the first place.

Where to start? Unless you have created 20 albums already, I recommend that you find a distributor to help you with the whole iTunes thing. Distributors like CDBaby have partnered up with big players like iTunes, Deezer, Spotify, and YouTube. 

Often the distributors either charge you in one or multiple ways:

  • They take a percentage per sold song (often around the 10 percent mark)
  • They charge you a flat fee annually
  • A combination of both

If you want to pursue this, I recommend that you read this helpful guide.

5. Write an Informational eBook

If you like to write as well as creating music, you should combine both and write an ebook and sell it on places like Amazon or Payship.

There are definitely some things you have above-average knowledge of, and that you can write about. Maybe you have some secret tricks learning to play an instrument in a short timeframe? Or do you know a lot about music theory and can sell infographic guides to beginners?  

How it is monetized: Get paid by selling downloadable ebooks. It is very similar to iTunes, only with books.

Like iTunes, the publisher takes a cut. Maybe Amazon has the biggest audience, but they will also grab a bigger piece of your earnings. That is why I recommend that you check out multiple publishers. 

Besides Amazon, here are a few other publishers you can check out:

  • Payship.com
  • Blurb
  • Lulu
  • Google Play

Timeframe: Well, how long do you need to write a book? Preferably, it should be at least 30.000 words. Depending on English being your first language, how well you research the topic you write about, or how fast you write in general, will affect how long this might take you. 

Difficulty: There are examples of people who have come out of nowhere to make great successes with their ebooks, but it definitely demands a lot of hard work. Also, with all the words you need to write, it takes a lot of discipline from your side as well.

An ebook is, either way, a great alternative to the old school paperback publishing (even though you can do that as well if you have a little more to invest). 

Okay, let’s get back to playing music.

6. Play at Weddings

If you are pretty adept at learning songs by other artists quickly, playing at weddings might be a profitable side hustle for you! 

How it is monetized: You get paid by the bride and groom (or their family) for performing their favorite songs at the wedding. There is actually a possibility of earning very good money on wedding gigs. Some people are even making a complete living of it.

Timeframe: You can pretty much get your first gig within a week if you are actively approaching people, letting them know about your intentions to play at weddings.

Difficulty: This is definitely a networking practice. I suggest you start by asking your friends and family if they know anyone that might be interested in having live music at their wedding. In the beginning, you can offer your musical services for free just to be able to build up a portfolio to show to future husbands and wives. 

Create a simple website and market your service in Facebook groups, newspapers and let your network know on your private Facebook wall, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on.

7. Create a Music Website

Speaking of websites – you should definitely create one.

Why, you ask?

Because you can share your work, knowledge, and skills to the whole web, and earn some income as well on a platform you fully control.

You could, for example, create a professional-looking website, using WordPress or Wix (and lots more, but those are the ones I have used myself and feel comfortable to recommend).

Timeframe: Do NOT spend months on the design. Just get a simple theme that will do the trick. It is much more important that you create excellent music that you can upload to the website than tweaking fonts all day.

How it is monetized: Ads, affiliates, paying customers.

This can both be a direct and an indirect way of earning some income.

The direct way: If you get the traffic you can put Google Adsense or another Ad network on your site. You can offer private coaching like I do (you can check it out here), and if you write about a product you love, you could recommend the product via affiliates like Amazon or Shareasale.

The indirect way of earning money on your music website is: you can create a nice online portfolio with your music and showcase your best work on there, making it an easy task for potential clients to hire you.

Hire me? For what?

Which brings me to the next idea.

8. Compose Music For Media (Film, Video Games, Documentaries)

I originally wanted to become a singer-songwriter when I was younger. But I quickly realized that the competition was huge.

That was one of the reasons I switched to film scoring. The other being my love of film music and movies, which made it a natural change for me.

However, from my experience, there is much more you can get paid to score than just feature films though. Documentaries, video games, commercials, infomercials, corporate videos, and YouTube videos are all areas you can earn quite a lot of money.

How is it monetized: You get paid to do the work, as well as royalties for the foreseeable future.

PS! Unless you do a project for fun; do NOT blindly accept promises of future percentages as your only way of payment.

Unless you are working on the new Avengers movie, those kinds of deals rarely turn out to be profitable. And…if you actually were working on Avengers, you would get paid upfront as well as getting the percentages.

Timeframe: Just like a lot of the ideas on this list, this is basically up to you. Start by contacting people in the film industry that is on their way up. Join filmmaking groups on Facebook, and contact directors at LinkedIn (which, in fact, is how I got the score my debut feature film).

Difficulty: Hard (depends on the country you live in as well), but profitable. Definitely worth pursuing.

9. Do Live Performances

How could you earn money on live performances? Well check this out.

How is it monetized: If you have an album, you can sell tickets (which is undoubtedly the most common way), merch, and sell physical copies of it to the audience after the show.

You can also get paid to play cover songs (much like weddings), which actually can be a great way for you to build up capital to afford the costs your own live shows. Other ways to earn money playing live could be:

  • Busking
  • Festivals
  • House Concerts

Timeframe: Some of these types of live performances you could start today, if you really wanted to.

Difficulty: While it might not be that hard getting a cover concert deal (which also tends to pay well), it might take a lot of hard work to establish your own music, and to get people to pay for the tickets.

So if you are going to pursue the latter, you must also be very adept at making a brand out of yourself. Use YouTube and a website to show off your skills and to build an audience!

10. Sell Your Music Licenses Privately

This is maybe the most creative idea on my list, in my humble opinion. If you have the connections or are actively looking for people to collaborate with, selling your music licenses privately could be a gold mine.

I remember selling a single music license for around $1200 not long ago. And the funny thing about it was that I really did not care for the music track myself! I had just made it and sent it to a friend, who then recommended this track to a filmmaking friend of his.

How is it monetized: The way I would do this is much like the way you get paid if you are composing music to a project. You can often earn more money if you can provide the stems for the tracks as well. (separated bass, drum, strings, etc)

Are you really smart, you opt for a future fee in addition. This fee should be a ‘renewal of the license’ fee, which requires the buyer to pay for it once again to renew his or her rights to use it in the project. That way, you will get paid again sometime in the future.

Timeframe: Could vary a lot. Sometimes you get multiple offers within a week. Sometimes, you won’t hear form anyone in a single month.

Difficulty: If you’ve already created some music tracks that you are not sure what to do with, you could already be on the way to sell them. Be aware though, that not all music genres are just as popular in this market.

My advice for you:

  • Observe what is hot at the moment by analyzing the top-selling music lists at different stock music sites
  • Identify recurring music genres in commercials/documentaries
  • Contact people! Focus on building your network.

11. Join Freelancing Sites

Places like Upwork or Fiverr could be great arenas to earn some money with your music.

Yes, you will need to apply for a bunch of jobs to get just a handful of them. But it can definitely be worth your time, in my opinion. New job openings show up all the time, and you can get to apply for jobs like:

  • Jingle writing
  • Music editor
  • Writing the opening theme for a podcast
  • Writing about music (about equipment and other informational articles)
  • Editing audio files

…and so on

How it is monetized: On places like Upwork, clients publish a job opening, which you can search and apply for. If you get the job you will get paid

Timeframe: You could start this today and even get your first job today as well.

Difficulty: You must expect high competition from fellow musicians. But the more jobs you apply for, the greater your chances. You should read this guide on how to make it at Upwork if you are considering pursuing this.

12. Create an Online Course

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that if you have a certain level of expertise in a field, you could write an ebook on the topic. But if you are not a writer, you could create an online course instead.

Places like Udemy is a great place to start.

How is it monetized: you get paid every time someone buy your course.

Timeframe: To put together quality, well-produced videos with great sound and content takes time. In addition, you should also market your course, so you get momentum when you release it. This naturally takes some time. But how much is up to you.

Difficulty: Hard.

13. Teach an Instrument

If you play the guitar, piano or any other musical instrument you can earn money by offering to teach people to play.

I have done this several times myself, and can actually be a decent amount of money in this. This financed much of my expenses when I was a student, and it was a really fun side hustle too!

How is it monetized: You get paid to teach someone to play a musical instrument.

Timeframe: You could absolutely start this today. Ask your friends and family if they – or someone they know would like to learn how to play the guitar/piano/drums etc., and you will probably get one or two students within a very short time.

Difficulty: It depends, to be honest. In my experience it is not too hard finding people that would like to play. But finding the people who wants to play AND have the means to pay for lessons, is harder.

Like so many other ideas in this list: to succeed you need to spread the word across social media, local newspapers and on your website.

Also, in order to do this well, you need to be pretty adept at the instrument you teach, but also a good teacher. If you like to teach people things, this will definitely be something you will thrive in.

Key takeaway

You have probably been thinking this as you have read through the list:

It is very much up to your own effort. You need to connect with people and build your network.

Also, none of the steps are exclusive, so try to implement multiple of the ideas into a plan.

The plan could look something like this:

  1. Create a YouTube channel and publish songs there.
  2. Play at weddings/other live gigs and share your YouTube channel with the audience
  3. Publish more songs on Youtube, and maybe even a live performance video from a wedding.
  4. Embed the wedding performances on your music website as a portfolio for future clients to look at.
  5. Let the youtube audience know about your Patreon page
  6. …and so on

As you can see, most of these actions would require you to jump back and forth in order to maximize the results.

I hope you got inspired to take on some of these ideas yourself, and maybe even thought of brand new ideas that can help you earn money with your music.

Do you have any other ideas to earn money with music? Comment below!

Suggested Further Reading

Thomas Leypoldt

Hey there! My name is Thomas and I have been a film composer for over 10 years, delivering music to feature films, documentaries, video games, and commercials. I share everything I have learned on this website, to hopefully be of help to your own development as a musician.

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