How to Make Money with Music Online

Sadly, making great music isn’t enough. We still need to get paid.

Before the internet, the way to make money as a musician was via album sales, ticket sales, tv shows (if you were lucky) and a few merch sales (t-shirts, etc.)

These days, forget about all that. The music industry has moved on, with streaming services taking up 79% of all music sales.

There are some great ways to make money via the internet, and in this article, we share the best of the bunch. These are tactics you can do in addition or instead of what you already do, it’s up to you. 

Start Building an Email List

Let’s start with digital marketing 101, build an email list. Why? Because however much people like you, they’ll forget about you unless you have their email so can contact them whenever you have anything of interest to share (upcoming concerts, new releases, pre orders, etc)

Get people to sign up via an opt-in box on your website. Email marketing can be really powerful if you have a strong fan base.

Put on Online Concerts

Putting on online concerts is a great way to make some coin doing what comes naturally to most of us, playing gigs.

Sites like StageIt let you put on your own show from the comfort of your own home. Artists sell tickets just like they would do a physical show, only the concert is viewed online. Fans are able to tip the performer during the show and encouraged to interact with the musicians, request songs, etc.

The platform is free to use, and they take a percentage of your earnings. They work with their own currency called ‘notes’.

Earning 250 notes, for example, is equivalent to $25. The way the percentages work is based on the more notes you make, the smaller the percentage they take.

So if you take under 5000 notes, you only take 63% of the earnings. But if you start hitting over 500,000 notes you take 83%.

The percentages may seem like a lot, but you have to factor in their cost to run the platform (bandwidth, servers, transaction fees, support, etc).

On the PRO package, they include a blanket license so you can legally play “Billie Jean” or any cover song you want, without getting into licensing hot water.

You also need to offset the cost of getting to and from gigs, the percentage a gig venue would take, and any other costs that easily clock up when you put on shows.

Add a Tip Jar to Your Website

Musicians are often too proud to ask for money. Wise up! We all need to get paid.

A tip jar is a less needy way of asking for cash: people can freely look about your website (assuming you have one), check out your music, and donate if they see fit. An easy way is to add a paypal button.

If you’re starting out, it’s worth checking to see if the URL (ideally a ‘.com’ or a ‘.net’) is available for your chosen band name. If it’s already taken, you’ll have to stick the word ‘band’ (or something similar) in front of it or choose a local TLD such as .co.uk (if you’re in the UK). It’s better to get a ‘.com’ though, if you can.

Sign up to Patreon

Another potential revenue source is Patreon. Since its launch in 2013, this crowdfunding platform has grown massively in popularity.

Patreon uses a patronage model where fans of creators pay small amounts each month for exclusive content, behind-the-scenes band footage, etc.

Like StageIt (see above), it’s free to use, and Patreon takes a percentage of your earnings – from 5% to 12%, depending on the membership tier you opt for.

It sounds scarily a bit like a reality TV show, but musicians and fans both rave about it.

The musician gets a regular, predictable income, so they don’t have to worry about their next paycheque and can focus on doing what they do best (i.e. making music).

Fans, in turn, get an up-close and personal relationship with their favorite musician, and are taken ‘along on the creative journey’.

A good example of this is Jazz guitarist Martin Taylor who uses Patreon to get success.

 

Music Video Distribution

An obvious one you might not be doing is making money from your music videos.

The granddaddy of them all is obviously YouTube, but there are other platforms (read on). With Youtube, royalties are divvied out this way:

  • A royalty to the sound recording owner
  • A performance royalty for the public broadcast of the song
  • A mechanical royalty for the interactive stream of the song

Many musicians don’t know this and are leaving money on the table. Use a collection company such as TuneCore or CDBaby Pro that automates your YouTube revenue collection.

Here’s a great source of YouTube ideas for musicians

As I mentioned, while YouTube is the predominant force when it comes to video, there are other options too. Distributors such as HIP Video Promo and Rive Video have relationships with network music programmers and can help you get your music video in front of the maximum amount of fans and viewers possible, from popular music video shows, retail / DJ pools, to blogs.

Use Social Media (Especially Facebook Ads)

Social media can pay too.

The idea is this: you build up a fan base of raving fans using Facebook Ads. Every digital marketer knows that Facebook Ads are by far the best advertising network around. Think about it, everyone is on Facebook.

You can use its clever algorithms to target people who like certain types of music.

Let’s say you’re an old skool hip hop act. You can target fans of, say, the People Under The Stairs and have your video pop up in those people’s Facebook feed.

Encourage them to ‘like’ your video, and ‘BAM!’, you’re well on your way to building an audience. With that audience, you can do all the usual social media stuff to keep them engaged, but you can also do stuff like run album launches and give away exclusive giveaways.

Many musicians are killing it with this tactic, and the people to check out are Indepreneur who run a ton of training on it and have a super-engaged community of fellow musicians all working through the process and sharing their successes and challenges (being part of the entrepreneurial musician’s community is worth the signup cost alone).

Here’s Indrepreneur’s founder talking about FB Ads:

Get Your Music on Streaming Outlets

Sadly, pressing your own vinyl LP or EP isn’t an affordable option, but there’s plenty of affordable streaming services.

According to the RIAA’s 2019 Year-End report, recorded music revenue makes up a whopping 79%. It’s no surprise really when you think how popular Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play, Pandora, Deezer, and YouTube are.

To get you started, here’s a good resource on how to get your music on Spotify playlists.

Summary

There are countless more ways in the music industry to earn money online, such as offering music lessons, but we wanted to focus on the less common tactics.

Finding creative ways of selling and promoting your music is part of a modern music career, and as you can see, it doesn’t need to be dull.

Good luck!

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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