There are a bajillion articles, courses, and books on making money in the music industry. Heck, even my mastermind course MX4 covers this broad topic simply because we have to talk about it.
All of the different ways to make money- from house concerts to monetization to Spotify playlists to merch – can be overwhelming. I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough, not tackling enough areas, not following the current trends. It’s information-overload in the scariest form- fear of missing out on an opportunity that can change the course of your music career.
The truth is, there may be a different perspective to take around making money in music. The most successful independent musicians I know are ones that are wearing multiple hats with different sources of income. Each hat is something that inspires and motivates them, gets them excited to get out of bed in the morning, and something that fulfills them. When what you are doing is fulfilling, the money becomes a secondary conversation.
It just often feels so hard to get there.
It’s taken me over a decade to be able to say I feel that I have a fulfilling and diverse music career. [Read: A Day In The Live Of A Musician] I took a look at what the income source balance is for me. I’ve discovered three different pairs of income characteristics that require a delicate balance for that sweet spot of fulfillment and ability to pay the bills!
- Passive and Active Income: This is about time. Passive income is money you make while sleeping. Royalties from radio or tv placements, digital sales and streams, selling of online products like a teaching video or merch. Active income is what you make when you put your time into something: playing a live gig, composing a film score, teaching guitar lessons. A lot of passive income comes after putting in significant time up front creating a product (a CD, course, merchandise product) but gives you longer term freedom than an upfront sale for you time.
- Predictable and Inconsistent Income: This is about consistency. Early on, I had the realization that my FAVORITE ways of making money from music were ALL inconsistent: Writing music for commercials (super competitive with low chances of airing/being paid). Playing a sold-out show (not something I could do every day). Scoring a film (which takes months to do for one-time fee). This lead to some really great months, followed by barely-paying-rent months. Saving was hard and I was always stressed. Teaching piano lessons, on the other hand, is fairly predictable. I only sell packages of 5 or 10 lessons up front, and have a strict cancelation policy, so even if someone doesn’t show, I still make money. Balancing predictable and inconsistent income sources has been the key to finding peace of mind, and peace of bank account (not a thing but you know what I mean).
- High and Low Paying Opportunities: This is about volume. When I’m selling CD’s for $10 at a show, I make sure I announce that I have them for sale, where they are, and how you can buy them. I do this because I know that when I’m selling something for only $10, the impact will be in the volume. The more I sell, the more it makes sense to sell them. When I’m writing demos for commercials, ONE sold track can make the difference. So it’s a great way to plan how I will spend my time. When you are crowd funding, you can focus on getting 1000 people to contribute $10 or 10 people to contribute $1000 for the same outcome. But the strategy for each will be VERY different. If you know what you’re going for, you can really optimize your time.
Having six different ways of making money with music may seem like a lot. But if you are a master of your schedule and really good at making powerful requests, you will be able to turn the work you do into results. (Pro tip: instead of making to-do lists, when you think of something to do, add it as a calendar event in your schedule! Double pro tip, download my free Pitching Checklist to get going on mastering that powerful request thing!)
Any other ideas on what you have to balance to make the finances work in your music career?
(This article was originally posted on the DIY Musician blog in August, 2017.)