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Making ends meet as an independent musician has always been a grind. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and you have no choice but to get creative about earning money online however you can. It’s a lot of effort, especially if you’re used to paying the bills with live performances. But the work you put in now to supplement your income will continue to pay off over time, long after the pandemic ends.
If you don’t already have a website, it’s worth the small investment to have a little slice of the internet that you own and control. You’ll be able to sell your music directly to your fans and collect email addresses in the process, which you can put to good use in the future.
Digital downloads have waned in popularity over the last few years, but they can still be a meaningful revenue source for musicians. Distributing your music to online retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp helps you come across as a more legitimate artist and gives your fans a convenient way to support you.▼ Article continues below ▼
Selling physical goods like T-shirts, posters, vinyl, hats, and stickers are usually safe bets for an online merch store. But digital offerings like video lessons, sheet music downloads, or an e-book of your lyrics could also be fun (and lower cost) possibilities to explore.
These days, the vast majority of music listening is happening on platforms like Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music. Although streaming revenue isn’t comparable to what artists used to make selling physical albums, it’s a legitimate source of income you don’t want to miss out on.
Anytime your music is used in a YouTube video — whether on your channel or someone else’s — you’re entitled to your fair share of the ad revenue it generated. A digital distribution company like CD Baby can help collect all the money you’re owed.
Many artists don’t realize they can earn money when their music is used in videos on Facebook and Instagram, just like on YouTube. Check with your digital distribution company to make sure they offer social video monetization.
With no real sense of when the live music scene will be back in full swing, fans are more willing than ever to tune into live streams. Don’t be afraid to ask for tips if you’re streaming on a free platform like Facebook Live or Instagram Live. You can even experiment with selling fixed-price or “pay what you can” tickets for exclusive, intimate performances.
Music fans are much more likely to financially support their favorite artists if they’re given a quick and easy way to do so. Bandzoogle members have already earned over $500,000 since mid-May through a new Tip Jar feature. If you don’t have a website with Bandzoogle, you can set up your own version of a virtual tip jar by sharing a PayPal.Me link, Venmo username, or other link with your fans.
A successful crowdfunding campaign takes a lot of planning, so don’t think of it as a quick fix that’ll solve your immediate cash flow problems. But if you have a big project on the horizon, crowdfunding can help cover the costs and engage your most supportive fans along the way. The key is to invite them into your creative process and build excitement by showing them what’s behind the curtain.
Most income streams for musicians are unpredictable. But if you’re up for the challenge of consistently churning out creative content, fan subscriptions could be your most reliable source of recurring revenue. Subscriptions, or memberships, give your most loyal supporters access to exclusive recordings, performances, videos, merch, and rewards, in exchange for a monthly contribution.
Getting your songs licensed for films, TV shows, and ads is easier said than done, but even one placement could be a game changer for your music career. Some musicians earn most or all of their income from licensing alone.
Offering online lessons for your instrument, music theory, or songwriting can be a fun and reliable way to supplement your income. You can teach through an established platform like TakeLessons or Lessonface, or go the DIY route and teach over Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts.
Partnering with a brand might sound out of reach as an independent artist, but it’s totally doable if you have an engaged online following. Reach out to music companies or local businesses you love and see if they’re open to sponsoring a social media post.
Dave Cool (yes, that’s his real name) is the VP of Business Development at Bandzoogle. Built for musicians, by musicians, the all-in-one website platform offers powerful design options, a commission-free music and merch store, mailing list management, detailed fan analytics, integrations with social networks, and more.