It’s every artist’s dream to get to a position where they can make a living from music. Whilst a lot of artists start out through a genuine passion for music, there’s only so long you can survive without being paid if you want to make a full time career out of it.
But one of the main struggles for a lot of up and coming artists is finding ways to actually make money out of their music. We’ve put together a list of 7 ways that you can make money from your music, with some actionable tips and insights along the way.
Sell it online
One of the most common ways to earn money from music is by selling it online. Digital platforms such as iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Music are three of the most popular stores, but third-party companies such as Distrokid allow you to distribute your music to hundreds of these online stores. A lot of these distribution companies will charge a small up front fee, but you get to keep a large proportion of the money earnt from your music after that.
If your music gets played a lot on the radio, at events, in cafes or anywhere else, then you’ll want to register your music on PRS for Music. This music licensing platform collects royalties earnt from whenever your music has been performed, broadcast, streamed, downloaded, reproduced, played in public or used in film and TV. It usually takes around 6 months from when your music was played for it to appear on PRS, so even more reason to get your’s set up soon!
If you don’t get a lot of airtime but still want to make the most of PRS then why not take some proactive steps yourself? Take the time to search for email addresses of radio stations & DJs across the UK, ideally selecting stations that play your genre. There’s no limit to emails, but for the best results try to get a list of 100 or more DJs; the more the merrier really. From here, put together an email pitching some of your most popular tracks to the DJs, asking if they could take the time to listen to it and potentially play it on air. Remember that most of these people will have a busy schedule so try to keep the email short, including only the most important information. You should also make sure that your tracks are appropriate for radio play – by this we mean cut out any bad language as a lot of radio stations will simply ignore your email without this step. To make the whole process easier you can use email marketing software such as Mailchimp to send the emails in bulk; you even get access to in-depth statistics such as being able to see exactly who has opened your email and clicked on any links.
Collaborate with brands
As you start to grow as an artist, you may be approached by different brands for endorsements or to feature in adverts. It varies from brand to brand but most will either offer you some form of free product, often with financial incentive too, in return for you promoting their brand. This could range from simply posting a picture on Instagram wearing an item of branded clothing to featuring in a TV advertisement for the brand. One other way that you could earn money through collaborating with brands is from affiliate links. This is where a brand provides you with a unique link to their website or landing page. Every time someone buys something from their site using your link, you receive commission on the sale. A lot of online influencers use this to make money through Instagram.
If you haven’t been approached by any brands yet, then again why not take some proactive steps? Do some research into brands that you like and see if they have a contact email on their website. You could even send them a message through social media. Mention that you’re a musician and you would love to collaborate with their brand, even if it’s just through an affiliate link. Send some links to your music and social media pages, emphasising how your influence would benefit their brand. Once again it could be important to bear in mind these people will be busy, so try to keep your message short.
There’s no doubt that the internet revolutionised music by bringing digital platforms like iTunes into play, but it also marked the start of illegally downloadable music. As online music sales slowly began to drop towards the end of the ‘00s, music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music entered the market. They offer users access to unlimited music for a small fee, or for free if you’re willing to put up with adverts. The money that artists earn from each play is tiny – somewhere between $0.006 and $0.0084, to be exact – but it all adds up. These platforms are becoming increasingly influential in the urban music scene; having your track featured on one of the top playlists can completely transform an artist’s career.
Take it back a decade or so and most artists sold their music on physical CDs or records. A lot has changed since then, but this can still be a great way to make some money from your music. You’ve probably bumped into someone trying to sell their CD in the city centre, and this is something you could do too. Or if you don’t have much free time, why not promote it on social media for any fans wanting a physical copy? And whilst getting your album stocked in HMV may be a long shot, you could even approach any local CD shops to see if they’ll stock it. Invest in some blank CDs and you can burn your album from a computer in minutes. Or if you want that premium quality there are plenty of bulk CD production services online.
Aside from sponsorship deals, performances are often where artists earn a large chunk of their money. Securing performances at local events can be a great place to start. But take this to the next level through similar email techniques to what we mentioned earlier and who knows what scale of event you could secure! Saying that, you shouldn’t be scared to start off with smaller events – everyone has to start from somewhere.
Aside from performing as part of a line up at events, you could even take this one step further. It’s every artists dream to host their own headline tour, following in the steps of artists like Mist and Skepta. But if this isn’t realistic, you could still invest in your own event with a full line-up. Why not get in touch with a local bar or club for a venue, or even put on an outdoor event in the summer? Get in contact with some of the other artists you’ve worked with, or that some of your connections may have worked with, and ask if they’d like to get involved. If you want extra publicity for your events you could even try getting a major artist to perform, but just bear in mind they will usually have a performance fee.
A lot of artists start out releasing their music through urban music platforms such as ourselves or Link Up TV. But after building up a reputation and fan base, a common move is to set up your own YouTube channel. Saying that, this doesn’t tend to pay as well as some of the other methods we have mentioned unless you have a channel the size of the likes of Stormzy or Bugzy Malone.
As you can see there are loads of different ways to make money from your music. Sit down and brainstorm some creative ideas, and who knows what other things you could come up with too!
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