Can you make a living as a music artist today?

You absolutely can make a living as musician. In fact, now is THE BEST time to be a music artist because the internet allows you to effectively attract people to your music who are the MOST LIKELY to become loyal fans. The key is to create great music and learn online marketing.


How Hard is It To Make Money As A Musician?

It is certainly hard to make a living as a musician, but most artists make it harder than it needs to be. 

A friend of mine (who just so happens to be a full-time indie author) who used to live in Nashville, Tennessee, said singer/songwriters are so prevalent there that the joke is:


What do you say to a singer/songwriter in Nashville? 

I'd like fries with that.

Ouch, yet, it's true because so many musicians are waiting tables or working at a fast-food joints just to scrape by while chasing their dreams. 

The problem is that they, and maybe you, are going about building a music career the wrong way. 

To increase your odds of "making it" as a music artist, you have to throw out everything you THINK you know about growing a music career. 

When you ditch the "Legacy" route, and inside embrace the "new music industry", everything becomes much easier, and perhaps more importantly...

You are put in the driver seat, meaning, you are directly in control of your results. 

You aren't at the mercy of "luck" or "hoping" to be "discovered" by a label or A&R rep. 

The Legacy Music Industry

Today, there are basically two pieces to the music market. There is "Pop" music, which makes up roughly 50% of the pie, and then you have everyone else making up the other 50%.

In order to get into the "Pop" market, you have to go the traditional or "Legacy Music Industry" route. 

This means getting signed by a big label, touring, the whole nine yards. 

Record labels are the "gatekeepers" to the market, blocking you from success until you can get signed. 

This is extremely hard to do, and even if you do get signed, success is not a guarantee, as labels are doing less than ever before to help new artists. 

A perfect example of this is drummer and YouTuber, Tom DuPree III. 

Soon after he moved to Nashville, he joined a band that was signed by Universal Republic. They even had their singles mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, who is basically the mixing engineer of choice for rock & roll royalty (Foo Fighters, Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, Bon Jovi, and on and on).  

Sounds like he "made it", right? Not quite...

The label never even released their singles, or really did anything for his band after they got signed. 

He ended up having to get a job waiting tables again and became just another one of those struggling musicians in Nashville. 

I have a record deal and I'm still [waiting tables], why am I here? Getting a record deal is like getting into college; the hard work just begins...and it doesn't even mean you'll get a diploma.

It wasn't until he embraced the indie route that he actually went on to build a full-time income in the new music industry. 

The New Music Industry

Then you have the new music industry, where artists communicate directly with their fans, and build an audience on their own, rather than relying on the gatekeepers of the Legacy Music Industry. 

The key here is to narrow in on a specific market of music fans whom you know are the most likely to be interested in your music, and then putting your music in front of them.

Social media, search engines, and digital advertising makes this all very easy to do, although it will take you time to learn the skills needed to succeed. 

Is a career in music realistic?

Yes, a career in music is extremely realistic, but you have to go about things differently, and embrace the mindset of an entrepreneur. 

In order to build a career in music, you need three ingredients:

  1. 1
    Good Music
  2. 2
    Marketing Skills
  3. 3
    Multiple Streams of Income

The best part is you can master each of these three steps in a relatively short period of time. 

Depending on how determined you are, and how much consistent effort and investment you put into growing your music career, it's entirely possible to build a full-time income in just 3-4 years, or less. 

In other words, if you commit to building a music career like you would commit to getting a college degree, your odds of "making it" are very high. 

So yes, a career in music is very realistic. 

The Starving Artist Myth

The truth is, the concept of the "starving artist" is now a myth. You no longer have to "starve" if you want to be a successful music artist (or writer, or painter, etc. for that matter). 

You also no longer have to become famous to make a living as a music artist. 

In fact, you really only need 1,000 true fans to make a 6-figure income from your music. 

A true fan is simply someone who is willing to spend $100 a year on your music and your brand. 

So the key to making a great income from your music is simply to create more "true" or "superfans", and then having enough things for them to buy where they could spend $100 a year on your brand. 

1,000 fans x $100/year = $100,000/year

Indie Music Artists Who Are Making 6-Figures

There are many indie artists now days who are making a living from their music, but you've probably never heard of them. 

Some of the bigger indie artists who are making a killing from their music are Peter Hollens, and Leah McHenry

Peter Hollens

Peter Hollens grew on YouTube by releasing a capella covers of popular songs. 

According to, he has a net worth of $2 million.

How He Grew:

Peter niched down with not only cover songs, but also by utilizing the a capella genre.

Then, he went all in on YouTube, and created a consistent content schedule of publishing 2 music videos a month, and often collaborated with other artists.

Thus, took advantage of three growth multipliers:

  1. 1
    Cover Songs
  2. 2
  3. 3
    Search Engine Optimization

By releasing cover songs, this allowed him to attract fans to him because people are already actively looking for covers of their favorite songs.

Plus, YouTube can also potentially suggest a cover song if someone listens to a particular song on YouTube. 

By collaborating with other artists, he was able to rapidly expose his music to thousands of new potential fans.

Finally, by consistently posting on YouTube, he took advantage of a search engine, which acted like a discovery engine for him, showing his music to new potential fans for him. 

Income Streams:

By growing a large following and loyal fanbase, he's been able to monetize his brand several different ways. 

  • Patreon
  • YouTube ad revenue
  • Album sales
  • Monthly subscription service
  • Hollens Creator Academy

On Patreon alone, Graphtreon lists his patron count at 3,425. 

And his lowest tier is $4/month. 

Let's round down, and say he only has 3,000 patreons, and they are all in his lowest tier (which obviously not the case), then he would be making $12,000 a month, or $144,000 a year, from patreon alone. 

3,000 patrons x $4/month = $144,000/year

Of course, Patreon takes a cut too, but given the conservative approach we've already taken, it about balances out at the very least. 

But this also doesn't take into account the income he makes from all the other income streams mentioned above. 

Long story short, you can make a very good income from your music if you build an audience that is definitely large, but probably a lot smaller than most people would suspect. 

How To Emulate Peter's Success

  • "Niche down" and choose a "micro-genre" to release music in
  • Release new content (music) consistently, and focus on ONE platform
  • Focus on a platform that is designed for discovery (YouTube)
  • Collaborate with other artists
  • Build an Email List
  • Monetize your fanbase by creating multiple streams of income
Free Worksheet

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.

Leah McHenry

Leah McHenry is a homeschooling mom of 5 who makes multiple 6-figures for her music, which is in the Celtic Symphonic Metal niche. 

Wait, Celtic...what?

What, didn't even know that that was niche? Neither did I. 

How She Grew:

Leah mainly grew through the use of Facebook, Email marketing, and Facebook ads. 

She created a "culture" around her music by posting on her Facebook page images of castles, dragons, and all things related to the British isles and the fantasy fiction genre. 

She then offered a free song(s) in exchange for an email address, and ran ads to those free songs, targeting people who liked music similar to hers. 

Once she built a large email list, she then monetized her fanbase in many different ways. 

Income Streams:

  • Digital music
  • Physical albums
  • Merchandise
  • Annual subscription to a fanclub
  • Savvy Musician Academy
  • Candles

Like Peter, Leah created multiple streams of income. 

While she has had album launches bring in more than $100,000 on their own, she actually makes even more from two side-businesses she has launched stemming from her music success. 

Again, also like Peter Hollens, she now teaches other artists how to grow a music career, and she created what she calls a "Sister Brand" with her "Mythologie Candle" company, which is now generates at least a million dollars a year on its own. 

How To Emulate Leah's Success

  • "Niche down" and choose a "micro-genre" to release music in
  • Release new content (music) consistently, and focus on ONE platform
  • Master traffic generation with ads
  • Build an email list
  • Monetize your fanbase by creating multiple streams of income

The WRONG Ways To Try And Make A Living

What you might have noticed from these two case studies are some noticeably absent growth strategies. 

Wrong way #1: Upload & Hope

Neither Peter nor Leah just uploaded music and hoped for the best. Rather, they each had detailed strategies they followed, and saw great success. 

Wrong way #2: Sign A Record Deal

Neither Peter nor Leah are signed to a label, in fact, both have spoken about the futility and uselessness of record deals, as you can actually do much better and have much more control by staying independent. 

Wrong way #3: Social Media

Both use social media, but neither achieved success merely through growing a social media following. 

Leah certainly got her start by growing for free on Facebook, but Facebook has changed so much that it's not really possible to grow a following the same way Leah did when she got her start. 

If you use Facebook, you have to master their advertising platform to grow. 

How To Make A Living In The Music Industry

So what can we take away from Peter and Leah? What is the "formula" for success in the new music industry? 

Well, I think one take away is that there is no ONE way to succeed, but there is definitely some overlap that we can take into consideration. 

So, the way I see here, here are the "rules" for making a living from your music as an indie artist:

3 Steps To Making Money With Your Music

Full-Time Musician Formula


("Niche Down" With Your Music)



(Grow A Following On ONE Platform & Get Fans To Join Your Email List)



(Create multiple streams of income and Sell MORE Than Just Your Music)


$ Making A Living From Music $

If you want more help learning how to achieve each of the steps in this formula, then be sure to check out my other article on how to grow a full-time income and make a living from your music here.

A shortcut to generating income from music

What I've outlined for you so far is the big picture process you'll want to go through in order to make a living from your own music. 

However, you can actually get started with making money with music right away. 

You can use a tool like Jooble to start looking for job available for musicians right now. 

This way, you can start bringing in some income now while you work to build your fanbase. 

How To Get Started With Making Money From Your Music

If you look at the formula, then you'll see that making a living from your music all starts with niching down and figuring out what your "micro-genre" is. 

Knowing your micro-genre will help you know:

  • Where your ideal fans are, and
  • What you can do to attract them to you

If you want help figuring out your micro-genre, I've put together a free "Micro-Genre Discovery Worksheet" that you can download by clicking below...

Free Worksheet

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.

If you got value from this post on can you make a living as a musician, then feel free to share (especially with those people tell you that you can't do it!)

Also, let me know in the comments below...

What questions do you have about growing an indie music career?

Reagan Ramm

Hi! I'm Reagan, and I've been writing, recording, and mixing music since 2011, and got a degree in audio engineering in 2019 from Unity Gain Recording Institute. I also work full-time in Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and am striving to help fellow musicians and producers improve their art and make a living doing the work they love.

- Reagan Ramm


case study, formula, full-time

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