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8.27.2014

Music Industry Insider: 50 Ways to Make Money as a Musician

English: Musician in Viru tunnel

50 Ways to Make Money as a Musician

Want to have a musical career but not sure how to make money as a musician in today's market? Well, first you need to redefine your goals as a musician and realize that like any job, being a musician involves a lot of work, perseverance, and talent. And in today's Digital Age, you need to be able to combine your skills to help you make a living as a musician. You will probably need to select at least a dozen forms of income and micro-incomes in order to make a full time living as a musician or choose a primary steady gig and add on other projects (what most musicians have done for centuries). 

Each method of making money has a $, $$, $$$ or S for work that will make you a little pocket money ($), possibly significant money - hundreds to thousands ($$), at least part time or possible full time work ($$$), or is steady work (S). Notice that none of these options involve making millions of dollars so you can drive around in a diamond-crusted limo wearing your favorite meat dress of the day. The amount you make also depends on your talent and skills. For example, someone that can do convincing voiceovers and jingles may be more marketable than a bassoonist.


These are practical ways to make money for the realistic musician. 

And yes, you can make millions, or even six figures, as a musician, but musicians in general hover around the lower end of the pay spectrum. So think more like your high school band director pay ($25-45K a year) and less Lady Gaga pay. And if the prospect of making only as much as your band director turns you off to music, then you probably are better off getting a business degree anyway. Just sayin'.

  1. Write music for companies as a freelancer using sites like Elance.com ($$)
  2. Write scores for indie filmmakers ($)
  3. Sell albums locally in coffee shops ($)
  4. Production crew for large stage productions ($$)
  5. Sell jingles to companies ($$)
  6. Teach chorus ($$$) S
  7. Teach band ($$$) S
  8. Teach elementary music ($$$) S
  9. Teach private lessons ($$)
  10. Write articles or ebooks about music ($$) 
  11. Work as a mastering engineer ($$$)
  12. Vlog about music ($)
  13. Do voice overs ($$$) - Yep, this is a BIG market if you have the sound skills
  14. Set up microgigs on Fiverr.com and similar sites ($)
  15. Spotify and streaming radio ($)
  16. Licensing music to big name films/TV/commercials ($$$)
  17. Licensing music to mega music publisher/library (ex. Rumblefish) ($)
  18. Licensing music with a publisher ($)
  19. Work as a recording artist ($$$)
  20. Work as a songwriter ($$)
  21. Wedding singer or band member ($$)
  22. Professional audio engineer ($$$)
  23. Church choir director ($$$)
  24. Part Time Choir director ($$)
  25. Cruise ship musician ($$$)
  26. Gigging with a band ($$)
  27. Street performer ($)
  28. Working for an arts non-profit ($$)
  29. Working as a freelance music teacher ($$$)
  30. Working for a museum as an arts instructor or docent ($$$)
  31. Sell band music arrangements or publish music ($$)
  32. Circus musician ($$$)
  33. Set up your own non-profit ($$)
  34. Work as an audio tech for a theme park ($$$)
  35. Work as an audio tech for a large business ($$$)
  36. Work as an audio tech (paid) for a large church ($$$)
  37. Military band member ($$$) S
  38. Acting/Modeling ($$)
  39. Commissions and Grants ($$)
  40. Artist-in-Residence Program ($$)
  41. Adjunct music professor ($$$)
  42. Full time music professor ($$$) S
  43. Freelance Work in Multimedia and Audiovisual Production ($$)
  44. Sell original albums ($)
  45. Create original ringtones and audio for big name companies ($$$)
  46. Sell music libraries ($$)
  47. Sell loops, beats, audio, sound fx, foley ($$)
  48. Foley Artist for large companies or film production ($$$)
  49. Professional orchestra/choral musician in small ensemble ($$)
  50. Professional orchestra/choral musician in large professional ensemble ($$$)
Of course, many of the smaller ways to make money can end up being your niche and ticket to musical and financial success. So expand your musical horizons and find new ways to earn money as a musician.

Have I missed anything? How do YOU make money as a musician? Share a link to your artist website and music services in the comments below! 

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Composer Sabrina Pena Young writes mind-numbing electronic experimental music, including her groundbreaking opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera, an animated sci-fi opera produced entirely online. Young will be speaking about Libertaria at the upcoming TedX Buffalo conference in New York.