Building a long lasting career takes planning, time, and determination. BUT, everyone needs to make money in the meantime. Once you figure out how to make money from music, you’ll be set on a path to making music into a realistic career for yourself, and not just a hobby.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my personal top 6 favorite ways to start making money from music. These are ways that I’ve discovered through either personal experience, or watching someone else around me. Whether you’re a music producer, artist, songwriter, a combination, or you do something else, you’ll be able to utilize at least one of the concepts mentioned in this list.
Keep in mind that if you are at the beginning of your music career, it’s easiest to start working with the people around you. Do you know anyone else who makes music? Friends, family, coworkers… and their friends, family, and coworkers are great people to start working with. Let these people know that you make music. They’ll be happy to tell you about the other people they know who also make music.
Another place to look for these people is online. So much happens over the internet now, so you can, and should, use this to your advantage. There are tons of places where creative minds gather to network, learn from each other, and work together.
1. Sing or Play an instrument on other people's music
If you sing or play an instrument, you should seriously consider this as a way to make money from music.
There are always music makers looking to get other singers, rappers, or musicians on their projects. That’s where you can provide your expertise.
How to start: Meet people in your area who also make music. See if they’d like the instrument that you play (voice included) to be on their current project. You can offer your service for free at first, while letting them know that normally you charge. If they like what you did, they may want to hire you for future projects. Repeating this will help you build a positive reputation that precedes you, so that you will be able to charge someone the first time you work with them.
Message producers and beatmakers on sites like Beatstars, Airbit, and Soundee. These are sites that let producers sell their beats. Collaboration is highly encouraged on these sites, so it’s easy to network with other music makers.
Another GREAT resource is SoundBetter. You can make an account there and offer your services for almost anything music-related. Singers, rappers, musicians, producers, audio engineers… the list goes on!
2. Sell sample packs and/or preset packs
This is similar to the first method on this list. If you’re looking for a way to make money with less collaboration, this may be for you. This is a personal favorite method of mine to make money from music.
You may be reading this thinking “I’m not a company and I don’t have an advertising budget or even a significant following yet. How would I do this?”
I’ll let you in on a little secret, and something I’ve utilized for a long time. If you make any kind of music at all, and you’re able to record yourself, have someone else record you, or program it into your computer… you can sell audio samples and loops to all kinds of music makers exclusively.
What I mean by “exclusively” is this: once you sell that sample pack to them, you can’t sell it to anyone else. If the person buying the pack knows that they’re the only one who can use it, they’ll often consider it more valuable.
How to start: When I first started making music, I would record myself playing electric guitar directly into my DAW (digital audio workstation: Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton Live, FL STudio, etc.), and then sell sample packs to other producers and artists. Many times, music makers just want something to spark an idea. This can be a simple guitar loop or piano melody. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Show others your skills and let them know that you’re willing to make them a pack of samples with your playing or singing.
3. Mix and master for other people
Alright, I know this one requires some skill. However, everyone starts somewhere. With all the information available, you can learn to mix and master through videos, courses, forums, and practicing on your own music.
Mixing and mastering is a great way to make money from music. Artists and producers are always looking to get better sonic quality. If you don’t feel comfortable mixing and mastering for someone’s final product, you can mix and master demos! In the current age, even demos need a certain amount of sonic quality to compete when being pitched.
4. Audio editing
This is another skill that can be learned, but this one is MUCH easier than mixing and mastering. Therefore, it can be a quick way to make money from music.
Say a singer or rapper has vocals they’ve recorded, and they have tons of takes to go through. It’s often difficult for an artist to decide which takes of theirs are the best. There’s also removing dead space between phrases, timing, and even tuning. You can learn to do these things, and if you make music with a DAW, chances are you already have all the tools you need.
You can also approach audio engineers who are mixing for other people, and negotiate a piece of what they’re being paid in order to do their editing for them. This way they can get straight into mixing without having to clean up all the audio in their session.
5. Record for other people
Nowadays, you can record professional vocals from home for cheaper than ever before. If you aren’t a recording engineer with years of experience, no problem! There are tons of resources available to learn how to record vocals, instruments, and any other audio source. This can also be a quick way to make money from music.
With this skill, you can charge people to come record their songs, demos, podcasts, or even audio books.
How to start: First, learn how to record properly in the software you use. The industry standard for recording is Pro Tools, but other software like Logic and Ableton Live will do the trick as well. I suggest looking up “gain structure” for recording vocals.
Then, offer your new services on social media, and talk to people around you. Say that you have a home recording studio and you’re able to record people. As mentioned before, telling people you make music is a great way to meet others who do as well. You want to find this community of people and get involved.
You can charge by the hour or per project. If you’re strictly recording, I suggest charging by the hour.
6. Teach what you know
Not only can teaching be highly fulfilling, it can also be highly lucrative. In the Information Age, we have an incredible amount of access to information, which also brings the opportunity to provide others with information!
From one-on-one lessons, to workshops and courses online, I’ve witnessed people make serious money from teaching others. All the while, they’re still making music and doing what they love.
If you think you’re not good enough or smart enough to teach someone something, you’re probably wrong.
Chances are, you know your way around your software, or certain elements that make a music genre more authentic, or where to find great sounds to work with. Any of these subjects are worth sharing with others. Those three subjects came to my head in about two seconds. I guarantee that you do or know something that someone else doesn’t.
So share what you know! The beauty about teaching is that you can do it while you’re actually doing whatever it is that you’re teaching.
How to start: Make a list of the things you do in order to make music. Really think on this one. Try not to overlook details that you feel are self-explanatory. Often times, these are the subjects that we know so well, we can share them with someone who doesn’t.
Examples of this would be how to export a track in your favorite software, which plugins are your favorite to use, or even ways you get and stay inspired to make music. Think, SIMPLE.
Then, talk to people. Again, find out who around you does music and figure out what they know and what they don’t know. Offer your knowledge for free, and then if they seem interested, let them know you’d be willing to give them some lessons. You’d be surprised how many people are looking for guidance, and will gladly compensate for it.
Disclaimer here: I’m not suggesting talking to people for the sole purpose of extracting information and finding their weak points. Having conversations can however open up opportunities for everyone involved.
It has been said many times that pursuing a career in music is risky. I’ll share with you something that I was told a long time ago, and has stuck with me ever since: you’ll have to work hard to do well in whatever it is that you want to do, so you might as well do that for what you love.
I believe this sentiment. What I also believe is that us creatives don’t have to leave our music careers and lives completely up to chance. In fact, we shouldn’t. It’s up to us to forge a path for ourselves. The reality is, making income is a part of forging that path. The great news is that we live in a time when doing so is easier than EVER.
If you haven’t noticed, the common thread in this list is to help others. I can’t stress how important this is. By offering your skills, even if you’re fairly new at making music, you could be helping someone over a huge hurtle in their journey. Therefore, you’re providing a service and creating value, which is exactly how you begin a successful career.