As a new band starting out, you might immediately think that there are only a couple of ways to earn extra revenue.  Between that and the fact that people around you are telling you to give up the musical dream and get a real job, you might think that music will never be an actual job.  But I have good news for you: music IS a real job, and those people don’t get it.

Increase your revenue with a real job as a musician, unlike Batman

Earn more revenue than Batman

According to a study performed by the Seattle Office of Film and Music (SOFM), there are six primary categories in which musicians bring in income.  The numbers and stats in the study are based on the records from 3 Seattle-based musicians who are, in fact, living the music dream and making the equivalent of a middle class income.


6 Revenue Streams That Can Make You a Full-Time Musician

So what are these six awesome categories you ask?

1.) Licensing and Publishing – Businesses, TV, flim, and commercials are always looking for music to use for their next project.  In order to make the most of these deals, remember to keep your licensing management in-house.  It’s a good idea to designate which of your tracks you want to make available for licensing and then communicate that to interested parties or parties that you reach out to on a regular basis, such as via a monthly newsletter or on a targeted blog.

2.) Music Sales – Of course, one of the biggest revenue streams for any musician is the sale of CDs and digital downloads.  However, getting that first sale isn’t always a piece of cake.  So what do you do?  Give potential fans a taste for free by running promotions on social media and your mailing list.  Give away a free track and leave them wanting more.

3.) Merchandise Sales – T-shirts, mouse pads, temporary tattoos, posters, and other merchandise are all great things to sell at your shows.  But remember that by forming a relationship with your fans and having a physical presence at your merchandise table after the show can help boost revenue.

4.) Live Performances – Just showing up to put on a show is never enough.  Remember to go the extra mile to make the evening special for the fans and newbies who venture out to catch your show.  They made the trip to see you, now make it worth their while and make yourself some new friends and some new fans.

5.) Studio Work – Give a helping hand to other bands as a studio musician or help with musical projects for film, video or games.  Networking with people in the tech industry could lead to that next studio gig.

6.) Instruction – Teach others.  Adults and kids alike both gravitate towards music and need a mentor, just like you did when you were first starting out.  You could even consider doing group lessons with a paycheck to match.

Now you’re probably going to think that these sound pretty obvious.  You may also be doing these already but with little success.  Just remember that simply doing these six things isn’t going to necessarily be the golden ticket to living a stable life as a full-time musician.  It also depends on HOW you do these things that will help generate a stable revenue.

Execution is Everything

You: “But dude, I’m already making my stuff available for licensing, selling music online, selling a few shirts at each show, doing a ton of live shows, and offering my studio and teaching services.  I’m still broke!”

Me: “Stop.  Just being in those 6 categories isn’t enough.  Let me finish.”

As Former SOFM Director James Keblas says, “you need to have a business strategy for a majority of these revenue streams, if not all of them”.

You also need to keep up the hard work.  There will never be a quick and easy way to make a living in music, so now would be a good time to stop thinking that.  Never, ever, ever again.

Visualize It!

As my last nod to SOFM, their study concluded with the creation of an easy to read infographic that was made available on their website.  You can click on the image below to see the full graphic.


details of this article were inspired by the Seattle Office of Film and Music Blog

photo credit: Randy Son Of Robert via photopin cc