Despite what a lot of people think, this is the best time to be in the music industry.
There are endless ways to find and connect with your ideal audience of fans who love your music. No longer are you at the mercy of corporate gate-keepers. There is nothing standing between you and reaching the people who are waiting to fall in love with YOUR music.
When you get this right, your music can bring you financial freedom that allows you to keep making music!
With that being said, let's dive into the how you can make a living from your music...
The Starving Artist Myth
You've probably heard it before. If you want to be an artist, you'll probably starve.
Or, more realistically, you'll have get some menial, unskilled labor job to pay the bills while you struggle in vain to try and actually generate income from your art or music.
But the thing is...this is a myth.
Perhaps it used to be true, but...
Today, it's never been easier to make a living as music artist.
And yet, the starving artist myth is still widely held.
It is the advice we give a friend who dreams of painting for a living, what we tell a coworker who wants to write a novel, or even the cautionary tale we tell our children when they head out into the real world. Be careful, we say ominously. Don’t be too creative. You just might starve.
- Jeff Goins
There are plenty of independent musicians and artists making a living today from their music...
You've just never heard of them.
And you've never heard of them because the way to make a living as an artist today ISN'T to try and get famous...but to attract a small group of loyal fans who love you and your music.
In fact, you only need 1,000 true fans to earn a six figure income from your music.
1,000 fans x $100/year = $100,000/year
You're never going to hear about an artist with only 1,000 fans, but you can still make a living with only 1,000 true fans.
Being more realistic, you will probably need a larger pool of fans/followers before you can get to your 1,000 "true" or "superfans".
But even if you had, say 10,000 fans, that's still not enough to be famous or well know, but it's definitely enough of a pool to draw your 1,000 superfans from.
3 Steps To Earning 6-Figures A Year From Your Music
When you remove all the fluff, the process to building a 6-figure income from your music is actually pretty simple, and it involves just 3 steps
- 1Discover (Micro-Genre)
- 2Engage (Email List)
- 3Promote (More Than Music)
First, you have to find where your ideal fans are hanging out online, and the place to start with this is figuring out what your "micro-genre" is.
It's better to niche down and be a big fish in a small pond than vice versa.
By niching down, it becomes much easier to locate your ideal fans and have your music stand out to them.
I'll cover in more detail how to discover your fans later in this article.
Next, you have to then engage those fans. Get them to take action.
And the action you specifically want them to take is to sign up for your email list.
I know, you're probably skeptical, but trust me (and the successful indie artists out there) that this is what you want to do.
I'll explain later in this article why you want to build an email list.
The final step is to simply promote different products to your fans, and to promote MORE than just your music.
Sure, people still buy music, and vinyl and cassette tapes are even back in, but music is cheap. You have to sell a TON of music in order to make a living.
This is why you want to sell MORE than just music to your fans, and you want to do so in an effective and automated way (more on this later on).
By the way, I also wrote an article on the 7 different streams of income you can generate as a music artist that you can check out here if you want.
Alright, now let's dive deeper into how you can make a living from your music, starting with discovering your true fans.
1. Discover Your True Fans
Forget trying to become famous from your music. That's a long-shot, and the main reason for the "starving artist" myth.
You hear stories about "so-and-so" moving out to L.A. or New York, hoping to hit it big and get famous.
I'm not saying this can't happen to you, but the odds are against you.
Now, what if I told you that there is a PROVEN way for just about anyone to make a decent living from their music?
Wouldn't you jump at a strategy that is more predictable and sustainable?
At the end of the day, as music artists, don't we just want to be able to make more music and see it bring joy to people and impact their lives for the better?
If that's what you want, then the key lies in discovering who your TRUE fans are, and this starts with creating quality music.
This is probably pretty obvious, but it must be said. The first thing you need to start building a fanbase and making an income from your music is QUALITY MUSIC.
Again, captain obvious here, but if your music isn't good, nothing else will matter.
Giant record labels and artists can get their music played to death on the radio, TV, and in stores and restaurants so that people's brains get tricked into thinking they like the song...
But you and I don't have the budget to launch a massive international advertising campaign to make people think our music is good.
Our music has to actually BE good.
That's why a lot of the content on this site, Orpheus Audio Academy, is dedicated toward helping you create your own high quality music from home!
How Do You Know If Your Music Is Good Enough?
The problem with self-evaluation our music is that we are biased. So how can we objectively know our music is good?
Here are some ways you can test to see if your music is good enough to start promoting:
Everyone isn't going to like your music, in fact, you don't want that.
Instead, you wanted to be niched. Again, you only need 1,000 people to like your music, but not just like, but absolutely love!
This is where your micro-genre comes in.
Figure Out Your Micro-Genre
The second major step to discovering your superfans is choosing a micro-genre for your music.
You don't need to write massive hit pop songs in order to make a living from your music. You just have to write songs that are hits inside a particular micro-genre of music.
When you niche down, and pick a micro-genre to create your music inside of, then you suddenly become a big fish in a small pond...
Which is much better than trying to compete with giant artists who have a lot more resources than you.
With a "Micro-genre", you have to ask yourself....
What Is Your Twist?
Your "twist" is whatever it is that sets you apart.
Example: My top genre is Electronic, then Synthpop digs deeper, and then Synthwave digs even deeper. Then it's Futuristic Popwave. Interstellar Popwave is my micro-genre.
Once you know what your micro genre is, then it's just a matter if finding out where fans of that genre hang out online.
If you want help with this, I put together a free micro genre discovery guide that will walk you though this process of figuring out your micro genre.
You can download this for free by clicking below.
Discover Your Micro Genre
Just click the button below to download a free worksheet to help you discover your micro genre so you can start to find your very own SUPERFANS.
2. Engage Your Fans
Once you've found your fans, you now need to get your music in front of them and engage them to the point where they are taking action and joining your "tribe".
Build A CULT-ure Around Your Music
One of the best ways to get fans to engage with your music and your brand is to build a culture around your music and micro-genre.
If it helps, think of this like a CULT-ure. But you know, with a lot less drinking of Kool-aid and murder.
This can take some time and experimentation, but once you build a strong culture, you have the potential to really grow your income.
You build your culture by working on your brand and image, and by what you post on social media. Every piece of content and piece of communication contributes to your culture.
Branding is simply who you are and your music. It's what other people think and feel about you and your music.
You want your music, micro-genre, social media posts, album art, and so on, to all be congruent. T
his will help your audience know that everything comes from the same person or band.
Make sure there is a theme going on between everything that makes up the experience for your audience.
When you post on social media, make sure that it either entertains, inspires, or educates your audience.
It's the culture and brand surrounding your music that can turn listeners from fans into SUPERFANS!
Again, that superfan is someone who spends at least $100/year on you and your brand. Get 1,000 of these super fans, and you are making $100,000/year from your music!
Build An Email List
Building a culture is one thing, but the MAIN way you want to get your fans to engage is by joining your email list.
This is the essence of building a success music income. Grow an email list, build a relationship with the people on your list, and then invite them to buy your songs and other products.
Your email list should be the foundation of your music marketing.
Wait...Isn't Email Dead?
I know — you might be thinking something along the lines of...
Email is definitely NOT perfect, and each of those critiques have some merit.
But the reality is that email is still better than everything else out there, including social media.
Email is the most perfect method for spreading the word and inviting people to buy.
Email is not at all dead. Here are some quick stats that illustrate this fact.
90% of people over the age of 15 use email
People are more likely to SEE what you send them and BUY than on social media
People PREFER to receive promotion messages through email over social media
It's a fact. People use email to buy, and social media to be social.
This is why so many of our promotion efforts on social media just don't work.
You need an email list.
Why An Email List Is So Effective
Email marketing is how you can really start to build a relationship with your fans.
Social media is not something you own or control.
In fact, increasingly, social media platforms are making it so that you have to PAY to reach your fans. Plus, you can get your account shutdown for no good reason.
You don't want to lose all your fans overnight if that happens.
In the end, email is effective because it's the only way ALL of your fans (at least the ones subscribed), can see what you send them.
People just don't realize how effective email is.
In fact, for one of my other businesses, I had a student purchase a $2,000 course.
On a coaching call with that student, I was recommending she start an email list. She protested, and said that she didn't doesn't read every email herself, why would others open, read, and buy through her emails?
Well, the course this student bought, I had only promoted to our email list. So I asked the student, "Hey, how did you find out about our course that you purchased?"
Sheepishly, she had to admit, "Well, I saw your email and clicked on the link to buy."
I don't say this to make that student look silly, quite the contrary. The fact that she wasn't aware of the effectiveness of email illustrates just how NORMAL email and buying through email is.
We don't even think about it.
When you have an email list, you have an asset that is worth real money!
Your email list is something you DO own and control, and it's the best way to get a message to your fans.
Plus, you even even upload your email contacts to Facebook and show ads to those people!
How To Start Building Your Email List
Now, to grow your email list, you're going to need professional email marketing software.
You can't just send mass emails from your gmail as that violates anti-spam laws.
The best email marketing tool for Music Artists is ConvertKit, and it's what I use.
ConvertKit is THE BEST email autoresponder tool for musicians for several reasons:
Once you have your email list software, you can start offering a free song in exchange for an email address to begin building your list!
You can also watch my video below for how to start your email list.
Having an email list is one thing, but now you need to GROW that email list.
Free Traffic Strategies
In order to grow your email list and your following, you need what is known in the internet marketing world as "traffic".
A.K.A., people visiting your site and hearing your music.
You need to be able to get your music in front of the right people.
And if you don't have the budget for advertising, then you need to work at building an audience through free strategies.
Free strategies take longer to grow your audience, but hey, if it's all you can afford, then go for it!
There are many different ways you can promote your music online, but the best 3 strategies I've found are social media, Spotify, and YouTube.
First up is social media. You know what this is, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and so on.
The key here is to find out what works on these platforms, and then employing those strategies to grow your following.
But you don't want to attract just anyone. Again, you want those people who are the most likely to like and buy your music.
So find out where your ideal fans are hanging out on these platforms. Who are they following, and what kinds of content do they create?
Then, create the same kinds of content while putting your own spin on it.
The key here is to focus on only one, maybe two, platforms at a time so that you can make a lot of progress.
But trying to grow on several platforms at once, you delay your progress, and slow your results.
By focusing, you can grow a lot faster, and tap into the unique algorithm on that particular platform.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of social media myself since I don't really use it on a regular basis (I know, I'm weird), and it also involves endlessly posting, and isn't very leverage-able.
In other words, you can't really create passive promotion and income like you can with the two other strategies.
Spotify is a tremendous discovery platform, and I've had a lot of my fans find me through Spotify recommendations.
Plus, you grow your streams enough, and you can actually get paid from Spotify!
There are really two things you need to do to grow on Spotify
More music means more streams, so you want to release frequently. Every 4-6 weeks is great.
Also, by releasing more frequently, you incentive your listeners to actually hit the follow button because they don't want to miss any of your future releases.
Again, you want to get your listeners on your email list, though, so be sure to include in your bio where your fans can go to sign up for exclusive free music (which they then have to give you their email address to get).
Getting on Playlists
You'll also want to work to get your music on Spotify playlists, as this can rapidly increase your streams, and even ignite the Spotify algorithm so that Spotify itself starts recommending your music to more people with similar taste in music.
If you want to learn how you can get your songs on more Spotify playlists, then check out my free Playlist Placement Formula guide below.
The final top strategy for growing your music following is YouTube.
YouTube is a search engine, so it's fantastic for growing your music following.
The keys to YouTube are:
There are so many benefits of posting constantly. Your fans will like it, the YouTube algorithm likes it, and you can start to grow faster and more predictably.
So if you are committing to YouTube, then try posting at least once a week, if not twice.
Mix Up Your Content
You don't JUST want to post your own original music, though.
That's a great start, but it will hard to build an audience this way as people who don't know you won't be searching for your music.
Consider posting other types of videos that can help attract a new audience to you, such as:
There is a ton more you could post. Check out my article here for 32 different YouTube video ideas for music artists.
Finally, consider collaborating with other artists in your micro genre or at least similar to you.
This way, you can quickly get your music in front of their entire audience, an audience of people who are likely to enjoy your music as well.
Paid Traffic Strategies
Paid traffic, specifically Facebook Ads, is how you can really explode your fanbase.
Since you've already done the heavy lifting of figuring out your micro-genre, culture, and you've started to build your email list...it becomes pretty easy to locate pockets of people on Facebook whom you KNOW would love your music!
Then it's just a matter of creating an effective ad that attracts them to you and your brand. This is the first piece of creating an automatic "machine" that sells your music for you on autopilot. You need to get traffic, meaning, people seeing your offer.
Once you've mastered the steps above, you can start building a giant list of engaged superfans for just a few dollars a day.
And eventually, you can even start to use Facebook's advanced "Retargeting" tools. It's like when you're looking at an item on Amazon, and then you see the same item show up on your Facebook feed.
You can post a video for your fans on Facebook, and Facebook will automatically track who watches more than 3 seconds of the video. You can then show a different ad to that audience of video viewers which allows them the further engage with, or even buy, your music.
3. Promote To Your Fans
Once you've built an audience of fans on your email list, now you can actually start to promote your music, and other offers, to those fans.
Email makes this really easy, as you can set up automatic email sequences that promote your music, merch, fan club, or whatever else you have to offer, automatically to anyone who joins your email list.
You can also easily write up a one-off email (called a "broadcast email) letting your fans know about something you have for sale.
Of course, you don't want to promote all of the time. About 80% of your emails should be strictly "value" emails, where you are showing them behind-the-scenes, works-in-progress, and updating them on your life and music.
This way, you build a relationship with your fans first, so that when you do offer something for them to buy, they are much more willing to actually purchase.
In order to monetize your audience, you're going to want to get into "Ecommerce", which is simply selling products online.
The best way to get started is with "drop shipping".
Drop shipping allows you to sell products without having to handle the creation and shipping of that product yourself.
For example, you can put an online store on your site and list different products in that store.
You might have a T-shirt that's related to one of your songs.
A fan can then buy that T-shirt, but you don't have to handle printing or shipping that T-shirt to the customer. A third party company does this.
The downside is you'll have to charge a little bit more in order to turn a profit, but the huge upside is not having to handle the fulfillment yourself.
At this point, fans are finding you as you're attracting them with your high quality music, enticing culture, and engaging social media posts.
You've started to grow your email list by giving away a free song, and now it's time to LAUNCH.
An online launch enables you rapidly grow your sales over a short period of time, like an album or single release.
Most indie artists rely on "hope" marketing, where they simply upload their music to the internet hoping people will find them. I've been guilty of this.
But real marketing is predictable, repeatable, and scalable.
So you want to put an automated system in place that allows you sell your music or other products in a way that is predictable, repeatable, and scalable. In the marketing world, this called building a "sales funnel".
It's where you take someone who doesn't know you, and you have them receive content which eventually turns them into a buyer.
This probably sounds a little overwhelming and confusing right now, but I'll be putting out more content on OrpheusAudioAcademy.com that goes into how to do this.
The final step to promoting to your fans is to master copywriting. Copywriting is the art and science of using the written word to motivate people to take an action.
It's the headline you use in your press release, the text in an ad, or any of the words you post in a social media post. It's everywhere!
This is a skill that most people don't know how to do. Copywriting is a skill that can be learned and developed though.
You are going to learn how to communicate best with your fans and your audience in a way that increases engagement and develop superfans.
This was a lot, but don't feel overwhelmed!
Growing your music business is a marathon, not a sprint, and this post just laid out for you everything that you'll need to encounter along that journey.
But the you're not going to need to run every mile of that marathon at the same time!
Rather, you take things one mile, one step, at a time.
So the first thing to do is to take your first step and figure out what your micro genre is.
Be sure to download my free micro genre worksheet below to help you get started figuring this out.
Discover Your Micro Genre
Just click the button below to download a free worksheet to help you discover your micro genre so you can start to find your very own SUPERFANS.
I hope you got value from this post on how to make a living from your music!
If so, feel free to share, and let me know in the comments below...