There’s more music around today than ever before, with tens of thousands of tracks getting uploaded to streaming platforms every day. Thanks to this oversaturated market, ‘making it’ in the music business is becoming increasingly difficult – if you take that to mean earning a pile of money solely based on the tunes you write and release.
As well as going the traditional route of trying to become a rich and famous superstar, there are other ways you can make money from your musical talent. New content mediums and social media platforms have opened up alternative avenues for musicians to carve out a living, and all it requires is some lateral thinking and a little creativity. In this article we take a look at some music money-making strategies that you might not have considered before.
In genres like hip hop and rap, beats are the main currency. Artists are always looking for a sound that’s going to get them out of their seat, even if it’s just a 8 bar loop, which means there’s an enormous amount of beats being shared and licensed across the industry.
The accessibility of modern DAWs and sample libraries has well and truly opened the door to this world, for both beatmakers and artists themselves. Armed with just a decent laptop and beatmaking software like Loopcloud DRUM, you can produce pretty much whatever your production abilities will allow; add in a talented rapper with a microphone and you could potentially have the next number one hit.
Getting your beats in the hands of top artists presents the same problems that any musician faces in trying to get heard – mainly the need to connect to the right people. Another way of getting returns on your musical creations is to sell your beats directly to the wider public. Beat-selling marketplaces like Airbit and SoundClick give producers the opportunity to sell beats, collaborate with other producers and split revenue, and sell sound kits.
The advantage of these services is that they come with large user databases, but if you have any sort of following on social media you can promote and sell your beats yourself, and many producers do. As is the case with everything on social media, the key to getting an audience is to stand out, so think about promoting your page with engaging content that showcases your beat making abilities.
A lot of music production these days involves the use of samples from expansive sound libraries like Loopcloud, where you can select loops or one-shots from thousands of options. Sample packs are specially curated collections of sounds from the personal music archives of artists and producers and could be a potential route for you to make some extra money.
Making your own sample pack involves deciding on a theme, collecting or creating sounds to fit, and organizing them into a downloadable package. Think about what your strengths as a music producer or musician are, and build from there. For example, if you fancy yourself as a hard-hitting drum producer, a sample pack called ‘Bangin’ Beats’ that includes all your best drum loops and hits would make sense. On the other hand, if you’re a talented jazz guitar player, you could record some slinky guitar lines and put together a pack called ‘Jazz Guitar Runs’.
Once you’ve put together your sample pack, all you have to do is find a place to sell it and direct people there, whether it’s your own website or a sample pack label. As is the case with music releases, some good artwork for the sample pack will help to catch people’s eye when you’re promoting the pack on social media. Also, if you’ve built up an audience with your music already, make sure to include your name in the pack title so that people know they’re getting your unique sound.
If you’ve got an instrument at home that has a sound like no other, why not let others pay to use it too? Sampling an acoustic instrument can be a little complex and time-consuming, but there are plenty of producers and musicians out there who have turned the old piano in their front room into a virtual instrument and started selling downloads online.
To sample an acoustic instrument you’ll need a good quality microphone (or multiple mics to include mixing possibilities within the virtual instrument), a reliable audio interface or mixer, and a DAW. You can approach the process in a number of ways, but the key is good planning and attention to detail. A good place to start is with a simple percussion instrument, and you’ll find plenty of articles on the internet to guide you. Remember, there are thousands of virtual instruments out there, but none of them will sound like yours!
If you can write good songs, you might find that you’re very useful to people that can’t! Advertising your services as a songwriter on freelance websites like Fiverr or Upwork could net you some clients that are willing to pay for what you create. As a freelancer you can decide on the type of deal you’d like to offer your clients, whether it’s writing them a full song from scratch, collaborating with them on their original ideas, or lyric writing. If you have an uncanny knack for vocal melodies, you can even advertise your services as a ‘topliner’ – someone who writes lead vocal melodies over a pre-existing musical bed.
Over the last decade podcasting has exploded as a content medium, and nowadays there are literally millions of shows out there. You know what that means; plenty of potential places for your music!
Most podcasts follow a similar format, with intro and outro music bookending the episode. Using copyrighted tracks for a podcast would require a license fee, so the majority of podcasters use original music, which also has the benefit of giving the podcast a unique signature. If you happen to know anyone who’s thinking about starting a podcast, why not offer your services to them and start building up a portfolio of work? There’s a lot of money in podcasting, and the larger shows will have production budgets set aside to pay for exactly this kind of work.
A memorable slogan set to a short piece of original music in a radio or television advertisement is called a jingle, and getting the opportunity to write one for a business can net you cold hard cash. Jingles have been used as a marketing tool for years, so the big jobs are likely filled with experienced pros, but there are plenty of opportunities out there on freelance sites or with ad agencies. Sometimes companies open this process open to the public in the form of jingle competitions too, so keep your eye out!
Our final alternative money-making recommendation for musicians is simply to share your knowledge with others. Think back to when you first picked up an instrument or sat down in front of a DAW, and the educational journey that lay ahead. It takes years of trial and error to build up musical know-how, and if you’re experienced in a particular area you’re uniquely positioned to be able to help those at the start of their own journey.
These days, there are plenty of ways you can impart your skills to the world. If you’re a talented instrumentalist, consider advertising a course of lessons over Zoom, whereby you can reach anyone in the world with a decent internet connection. You can use online teaching communities like Music Teaching Online and Tutorful to promote your services and find students to tutor.
As well as this, you can tap into the gigantic audiences in the live streaming sphere by delivering tutorials on anything from music production to performance on Twitch, YouTube Live, Facebook Live – whichever platform you prefer. Once you build your audience you can earn money in a variety of ways. On Twitch, for instance, streamers can monetize their content through monthly subscriptions, Bits (donations), ads, and Amazon Associates (product referrals).
Finally, if you have a way with words, why not start a blog? When most people want to learn something, one of the first things they’ll do is head to Google and search for educational articles online. Provided you’re writing engaging articles, a blog can net you some solid income through affiliate links and ads. There are plenty of hosting providers like Wix and Squarespace out there that make the process of setting up a blog easy, and once you’ve done it you can also use it as a space to promote merchandise, gigs – anything you want!
The music industry is an entertainment arena, so anything you do will always require some element of promotion. For all its faults, social media has made it easier to market your music and grow your audience, and if you follow any of the alternate money-making strategies we’ve outlined above you should look to harness it for your own gain. YouTube, Instagram, and Tiktok are all excellent platforms for sharing engaging video content that showcases the music you’re making and establishes your brand. Think outside the box and try things like comedy skits, equipment reviews, or production breakdowns. Whatever grows your following will give you a better shot at achieving your main goal – making money from your music!