5 Not-So-Obvious Revenue Tips For Musicians (UPDATED)

by | Jan 28, 2015 | Music Licensing

You’ve probably seen many lists outlining revenue opportunities. Here’s a little twist on not just learning what they are, but also how to utilize them. We present: 5 Not-So-Obvious Revenue Tips For Musicians


By far, this should be the most important part of your music business plan now. In other words, this is where the real money is.

Without boring you (again) with music publishing and rights laws, here’s a basic breakdown.

If you wrote and paid to record your own music, you are the songwriter, publisher, AND label. This gives you an advantage over most majors, as they have separate labels and publishers to grant licenses for the Master and Sync rights, respectfully. You can negotiate a deal granting the Master (recording) and the Sync (underlying song) rights, all by yourself.

This is called “one-stop” or “pre-cleared” deal.

Every entertainment medium needs music: commercials, TV shows, movies, local news, web campaigns, and games. Try to start local first; find a local restaurant, car dealership, even a local filmmaker. Understand their messaging, then a pair a track with it for your pitch.


I’m writing a whole eBook on this, but here are some basics.

Set up your YouTube channel to allow monetization, choose ads that are less than 30 seconds (unless trailers). Entertainment 15 second ads pay best (no skip).

Every song you have ever recorded should have at least an album cover video and a lyric video. Uploading these gets your music into the YouTube Content ID system and you will earn a percentage of the revenue share with Google on the ads.

But, the key here is to have your music available for other content creators (like your bother’s sister-in-law in her basement making fashion videos) to use simply and in a way it makes you money.

That’s right. If a complete stranger needs to use music for their video on YouTube and your music is available, it’s free for them to use, but you get paid. You must administer those rights on the platform and be a partner (which you are not). So, use Audiam or Rumblefish  (they charge a 25% admin rate off of the top). This is a little known secret, you CANNOT do this on your own, and you WILL NOT get paid if it is not administered properly.

Think outside the box here. You could use your own songs to do a tutorial lesson on bass, guitar, or vocals. You could breakdown one of your song’s structures and BOOM – another video. Add an audio track to one of your songs, explaining the life moment behind its writing.


Probably the most important facet of lost musician revenue is the lack of a clean instrumental track. To effectively license music, and make sure you have as many chances as possible for uses, make sure that you have an instrumental version (no vocals) and a “TV-up version” (just background vocals – “oohs” and “ahhs”), as well as a separated vocals only track, in addition to the final master mix of the song.

So, you have 4 “songs” now: a Full Mix (regular song), Instrumental, TV Up, and Separated Vocals (a cappella).

There are countless times when a song cannot be used because of a lyric here or there, or the vocal just doesn’t hit the right emotion. Sometimes, you can get the same money for 30 seconds of the bridge without vocals as you could for the whole song. This is imperative.


Shazam might be one of the most important drivers of the future of music. Industry insiders are watching these charts very closely, trust me.

Once your music is on iTunes: email [email protected] with the subject line: “Shazam new artist” along with the iTunes link and this: Track artist – track title (track sub-title, if applicable) 

Do not inundate them with songs that are not available on iTunes.

UPDATE: The good folks at Shazam were kind enough to send us updated info that, actually. Be sure to use the information found on the following page instead: https://support.shazam.com/hc/en-us/articles/202604156-Submitting-songs-or-albums-to-the-Shazam-database

Now, once you’re in Shazam’s ecosystem, tag your own song and save it.

Then plan a “Shazam Party” by asking all of your fans to download Shazam (free), then play that song on their computer or stereo at a time (like Tuesday night at 7pm EST) and all of them Shazam it at once. You will hit the top of local charts and possibly larger ones. It will get you noticed and might lead to a larger licensing deal.


You know of PROs that collect for performance royalties. But they only do that for songwriting, publishing, and composition. SE administers the statutory license for satellite radio and webcasters. They collect for the recording owner and featured artist. Think about this way, Aretha Franklin did not write “Respect,” nor did she own the publishing or the master recording. But she IS that song, plain and simple. So why shouldn’t she be paid every time that song is played? Well, that’s what SoundExchange does – only for satellite and web radio (non-interactive, like Pandora). No terrestrial (yet).

-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.