“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius.
When you choose to make a living as a musician, you’re dedicating your career to your passion. You’re taking what may have started out as a hobby and transforming it into a profession.
Getting out of bed everyday and working on something that you truly love is incredibly fulfilling – there’s no argument there.
However, knowing how to generate a sustainable income is the tricky part.
Sure, artists that have ‘made it’ are worth a lot of money, in fact the world’s top three richest musicians have a net worth of:
- Jay – Z – $1.4 billion (£1.07 billion)
- Paul McCartney – $1.28 billion (£980 million)
- Andrew Lloyd Webber – $1.2 billion (£918 million)
But the chances of getting that rich are pretty slim. Even if you do beat the odds and rocket to success, you’ll need to figure out how to sustain yourself on your way to fame.
In a ‘mythbusting’ study by ARS (Artist Revenue Streams), they surveyed 5,371 musicians working in rock, hip hop, classical, jazz, country and dozens more genres. They found that 42% of musicians get all of their income from music, meaning that 58% have other ways of making money. They also found that 40% of musicians spend 36 hours or more ‘doing music’, meaning that only 2 in 5 work on their music full time.
So how else are these musicians making their money?
Whether you’re looking to break into the music industry and want to plan ahead, or you’re already a professional musician looking to pull in the extra cash – we’ve created a guide for ways to diversify your income and make money within the music industry.
8 ways to make a living from music
“It’s very important for anyone wanting to have a full time career as a professional musician to understand that diversifying is key.” Says David, the Founder and drumming teacher at RockAcad.
“Most musicians I know (including myself) have spent many years balancing different roles to sustain a successful career without getting a so-called ‘proper job’. Keeping your mind open to trying out different roles within the music industry and thinking long term will serve you well.”
Let’s take a look at some of these options, shall we?
While music sales have rapidly declined, streaming is at an all time high.
It’s well known that Spotify doesn’t pay much per stream. Although the streaming platform hasn’t publicly announced the amount paid per stream, Business Insider reports that the rate is around $.0033-$.0054 per stream, which is equivalent to £.0025-£.0041.
In other words, a song would have to be streamed at least 400 times to earn £1.
However, some artists are able to make a decent wage from the platform. According to Spotify’s own Loud and Clear website in 2020:
- 184,500 artists made over $1,000 (£766)
- 67,200 artists made over $5,000 (£3,829)
- 42,100 artists made over $10,000 (£7,658)
- 13,400 artists made over $50,000 (£38,288)
- 7,800 artists made over $100,000 (£76,576)
- 1,820 artists made over $500,000 (£382,878)
- 870 artists made over $1,000,000 (£765,755)
The site also mentions how streaming enables artists to go from ‘zero to career’ faster than ever. By putting yourself on these platforms, you can get your name out there and start to build your global fan base. In fact, over 10% of artists who made over $10,000 on Spotify in 2021 had released their debut song within the last 2 years.
Who knows where you could be two years from now?
In a study by the Northwestern University School of Law, they found that most musicians make their money from performing.
If you’re just getting started, you could try to attend a few open mic nights. Then, having got some experience under your belt, you could approach live music venues to perform gigs.
As you build confidence and word spreads, you could start to perform at weddings, parties and other occasions – people love live performances!
Since the pandemic, lots of artists have taken to virtually performing through live streaming. There are several platforms that let you do this, including: Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. Some enable people to donate right on the platform, or you could direct your fans to a service like Patreon.
Touring with big names is an incredible way to get yourself in front of huge crowds. Many of the teachers at RockAcad have recorded or performed with artists including: Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Sam Fender, James Arthur, Boy George and so many more.
You won’t just fall into these amazing opportunities, of course. You’ll have to build a reputation for yourself as a performer and freelance musician by putting yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to network, you never know who you might get introduced to!
Teaching is a really rewarding way to earn additional income. Not only are you still getting to do what you love the most, but you’re getting to spread your love of music to others.
Once you have the skills, knowledge and experience to become a qualified music teacher, you can start teaching one-on-one lessons or even host group classes. You can promote yourself as a teacher online through a website or social media, or hand out flyers wherever possible.
Who knows, one day you could be teaching online music lessons at RockAcad!
Producers are behind a lot of the great tracks that we hear today. Once you learn how to produce good music, not only will artists be after your services, but you’ll have businesses seeking you out to create jingles and other types of custom music.
Did you know that we teach music production at RockAcad? In our lessons, you’ll learn how to develop your skills in mixing, sound design, mastering, MIDI, sequencing, music technology and more.
Don’t worry, you can take our music production lessons whether you’re a complete beginner or looking to polish up your producing skills!
If you’d prefer to have a stable source of income, then a side job might be right for you. If possible, try to secure a job that’s within the music industry. This way, you’ll still be networking and learning even if you’re not always playing music.
While we’ve called this section ‘side job’, it could always be your full time job – with your musician-related work more on the side. Figure out whatever works best for you, then aim to strike that balance!
Here are some ideas for potential jobs that will keep you within the music industry:
- Sound technician
- Recording studio assistant
- Manager at a gig venue
- Promotions assistant
- Music journalist
- Music shop
- Performer at a holiday park or cruise ship
Internships are a great way to earn a bit of pocket money while learning from industry experts. You could score an internship at a music management firm or a record label to really get your foot in the door of the music scene. Not only will you be earning an income, you’ll be meeting people who could seriously change your careers.
If you prove yourself to be a hardworking, likeable person, they could even consider taking you on board as talent. If not, they’ll probably have hundreds of contacts who could help further your career as a musician.
This last one may not be a direct source of income, but it sure is important when you’re looking to grow your earnings as a musician.
Patience is key. Your career won’t happen overnight, just like learning your craft. You wouldn’t expect to become the best drummer, guitarist, vocalist, pianist, or producer etc. within just a few weeks, so you shouldn’t expect your career to come as quickly either!
It takes hard work, dedication and perseverance.
As our Founder David said, “Many highly successful musicians started out this way… Just remember it’s a marathon not a sprint!”
Get started on your journey as a professional musician
We hope that you’ve found some inspiration for helping to build your career as a musician. As well as the online music lessons that we offer for learning the drums, guitar, piano, vocals, music theory, production and music engineering, RockAcad can help to guide you on this professional journey.
We offer consultations on how to develop a successful career in music, to help you take those first steps turning your passion into your job.
RockAcad provides you with the opportunity to learn from those who are actually living it. Our teachers are all professional musicians who also love to teach.
Book into a free trial lesson or consultation today!