Despite the doom and gloom coming out of the old music industry, now is actually the GOLDEN AGE for musicians. 

In this day and age, you can literally put your music in front of anyone you'd like because of the internet and social media. 

You don't even have to tour or gig to make a great living as a musician or producer.

If you've built a fanbase, it's time to monetize using the 7 key streams online of income...

The top 7 streams of income for music artists in the new music industry are digital music & downloads, physical merchandise, streaming & publishing, your knowledge, crowdfunding, and fan clubs.

 

How to make money as a musician in 2021 & beyond

With the advent of the internet, everything has changed in the music industry. Gone are the "gate keepers" of the record labels, preventing artists from breaking out.

Today, it is more possible than ever for you, as a music artist, to make a living from your art than ever before...

But it's going to take some thinking outside of the box. 

In order to make an income today in the new music industry as an independent artist is to simply build your own sub-culture around your music, and then monetize your audience by using the seven different income streams I'll outline in this article.

In other words, you can't just think of yourself as a music artist, but you must also think like an entrepreneur.

Or, a "musicpreneur" if you will. 

The key is simply to build an audience/fanbase with your music and then offer that audience products they would also enjoy. 

This might be your music, but it will likely be many other things. 

Many people today expect their music to be free, and rather than trying to guilt our fans into paying for something they can get for free, I think we should listen to the market, and instead offer even more value. 

This doesn't mean there aren't some fans who want to own music; I'm just saying we need to get creative, and think about how we can provide even more value to our fans...

More on that in a little later...

But the first step is really to understand who are your ideal fans?

Discover Your Micro-Genre

Besides having good music, the key to creating 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.

This all starts with figuring out your primary genre, and then working your way down until you get very specific.

For example, when it comes to my music, my Primary Genre is "Electronic", and then my Secondary Genre is "Synth Pop", followed by my Niche Genre, which is Synthwave. 

Finally, I arrive at my Micro Genre, which I have termed "Interstellar Popwave".  

With a "Micro-genre", you have to ask yourself....

"What is my twist?"

Your "twist" is whatever it is that sets you apart.

For me, my music draws heavily from outer space, futurism, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy, thus the Interstellar label. 

My music is also a lot more "Pop" sounding than typical Synthwave, hence, the "Popwave" genre listing.

Now, I'm pretty sure that "Interstellar" isn't an actual music genre. It's just something that describes my unique twist, since my music has to do with other worlds, and includes both Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements. 

But "Popwave" is a real micro-genre, and it's term that my superfans can recognize, know is for them. 

So you'll want to do a deep dive on your music, and figure out what your micro-genre and "twist" are. It can help looking at what music has influenced you in your life to get a starting point. 

grow music fanbase

Get More Fans Fast!

Click below to download my free Fan-Building Formula, which will give you the 7 steps you need to master in order to create "Superfans" and make a living from your music.

Now that you know what you're micro-genre is, you're ready to start growing your fanbase!

Obviously, before you can start making money from your music, you need to build a fanbase first, so if you don't have a fanbase yet, then you don't need to worry about creating products or monetization yet. 

There are a lot of moving parts to building a full-time Indie artist career, and I don't want to distract you with strategies and tactics you're not ready for yet. 

As with anything, take things one step at a time. 

That said, if you do have an audience, and you're ready to start making some income from your music, then definitely keep reading!

Below, I'll cover each of the 7 major streams of income you can generate as a music artist, and I'll include action steps for each of the 7 streams so you'll know how and where to start. 

Alright, let's dive into how you can monetize each of these key streams of income. 

1. Digital Music & Downloads

Digital music and download sales come when your fans buy digital downloads of your music, but it can also be much more. This is where thinking outside of the box comes in. 

Are there other digital products you can create that would supplement your music that your fans would also like to purchase?

This could be:

  • Music & Instrumentals
  • Artwork
  • Ebooks (Fiction and/or non-fiction)
  • Audiobooks
  • Lyric/Poetry book
  • Wallpapers
  • Comics
  • Apps
  • Games

Your imagination and what your fanbase is interested in is really the limit. The take away is, once you have a loyal, die-hard fanbase, you can sell almost anything. 

More you can overlap these things with your music, the more fun this gets. Here are some ideas:

Artwork

This could include digital paintings, posters, and more. 

Maybe these works of art can directly correlate to your songs. Is there a particular location, emotion, or experience one of your songs is about? Can you create, or hire someone to create, a piece of artwork that represents that? 

Or, is there a particular lyric that your fans resinate with that can be translated into art? 

Pro Tip

Never create a product just to have a product to sell. Always survey your fans first, and see what THEY would like from you. Or look at the feedback they've already given you. 

Ebooks/Audiobooks 

Ebooks are huge right now. Audiobooks are even bigger. Could you make an ebook to go with your album that includes lyrics, photos, and behind-the-scenes content? 

You could even write a fiction book to accompany your music, and have it turned into an audio book. 

In fact, this is exactly what my wife and I are doing with our music project Andromeda Coast. We're writing Science Fiction book series that fits with the same culture/aesthetic as our music. 

Again, the limit is really only your imagination and what your fans would enjoy. 

Comics, Games, Apps, and more!

You could also create a comic book/series to go with your music, or even create a board game or card game that your fans would enjoy. 

This is another thing that my wife and I are planning on incorporating into our music brand. 

Game creator tools like TheGameCrafter.com make this process very easy. 

How To Start Making Money With Digital Music & Downloads:

You're about to begin seeing reoccurring theme in this post. I'm going to tell you to focus on ONE thing at a time, not try to do all of at once. 

I know, it's all pretty cool sounding (at least I think so), and it would be really fun to build a deep and immersive culture around your music with your product offering, but you just have to start with one thing at a time, get good at it, and then you can move on to something else. 

Another repeating pattern, always ask your fans first to see what they want. 

With that out of the way, here are my action steps for getting started with making money from digital music & downloads:

  1. 1
    Create a simple shop on your artist/band website
  2. 2
    Offer your music for sale as digital downloads
  3. 3
    *Brainstorm 1 other small/simple product you can offer for digital download that could sweeten the deal and give more value

*For item number 3, this could be a product in addition to your music, or it could come as a bonus for buying your digital music. This could be an exclusive behind-the-scenes video, demo-tracks, or something else that you think your fans would enjoy. 

Then, once you got this set up, it's just a matter of growing your fanbase, building that relationship with your fans, and then offering them the opportunity to go and buy from you. 

The best way to achieve this is by using email marketing, and the free email autoresponder tool ConvertKit.

By the way, I am an affiliate for ConvertKit, which means if you sign-up through my link I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

As a thank-you for using my link, feel free to email me with any questions you have in regards to how to use the tool, and I'll send you my email templates that you can use and adapt for your own emails.

2. Physical Merchandise

Physical Merchandise also includes a giant realm of possibilities for what you could sell. 

First off, you can take many of the items from the list of digital products above and turn them into physical products, but that's just scratching the surface. 

You can also sell just about anything else that false under the umbrella of "merchandise". 

Of course, you have your T-shirts, hats, and hoodies, but there is SO MUCH more you could potentially sell. 

The best part is that you can use a platform like Printful, which will enable to "dropship" your products. 

This means you don't have to handle the actual creation, production, or shipping of the products your fans order. All you have to do is create a design, add it to your shop, and then when one of your fans orders, the company (Prinful, for example) handles the creation of the product and ships it to your customer for you! 

I really love Printful, and have used it on numerous occasions.

If you decide to use them yourself, I'd love it if you went through my affiliate link, as this helps support Orpheus Audio Academy, and allows me to keep creating free content for you.

https://www.orpheusaudioacademy.com/Printful

When you use my link, I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Want to Join Printful?

Speaking of Printful, below you can see a couple of screenshots of all the different types of merch you can sell through them, but this is still just a snapshot of everything that you could offer.  

So figure out what your fans would enjoy through a survey, and then start offering them products!

This can be done completely for free by using a store tool called Woocommerce on your site. 

I'll be posting more tutorials on this site soon on how to create your own band website and store, so be sure to subscribe to my email list so you don't miss when these tutorials come out!

Want To Be Notified When I Publish A New Article or tutorial?

Click the button below to join my "Orpheus Insider Community" to receive tips and special offers related to making better music and growing your fanbase online!

How To Start Making Money With Physical Merchandise:

If you've started with digital products and selling digital music, then you should already have a simple store set up on your website. 

Here are the next steps you want to take for getting started with selling physical merchandise

  1. 1
    Survey your fans
  2. 2
    Pick 3-5 items to create
  3. 3
    Create or get 1-2 designs to add to those merch items
  4. 4
    Use a company like Printful to handle fulfillment
  5. 5
    Add those items to your shop and promote

It's best to start small, and only add a couple things at once, and then go from there.

As always, ask your fans first. In fact, you may not want to actually go through the effort of creating merch until you fans actually start asking for it. 

Once your fans actually start asking for merch, follow the steps above, you are all but guaranteed sales. 

3. Streaming

Now we have arrived at the third major stream of income for music artists, and that is Streaming. 

There are a ton of streaming platforms out there, but the big one that we all know, and where most of the listeners are, is Spotify. 

I know, streaming is the bane of many music artists, but there are actually many Indie artists who can make a good side income from streaming.

I know some Indie artists, whom you've probably never heard of, who make a good $16,000+/year from Spotify alone.

Sure, that's not enough to pay all of the bills, but it's a piece to the puzzle, and that's what all of these seven streams of income are about. It's about creating a complete puzzle, and a solid business around your music. 

Spotify is also just great for discovery, and gaining fans that you otherwise might not have, and they go from just listening to you on Spotify to checking you out on social media and your website, which can lead to email list subscribers.

And of course, there are even some Indie artists who make a full-time income from Spotify. 

I'll also be breaking down how to get more streams on Spotify, and even how to make a full-time income from Spotify, in future articles and tutorials, so be sure to subscribe to my email list to not miss out. 

That said, there are essentially 2 keys to increasing your streams on Spotify. 

  • Finding User-Created Playlists With Similar Music
  • Asking these playlist owners to add your song to their playlist

This works because not only can user-created Spotify playlists get you a lot of streams, but merely by landing your music on many different playlists can trigger the Spotify algorithm so that your music starts getting added to their algorithmically-generated playlists, and even editorial playlists. 

In other words, getting your music on user-created playlists is what get's the snowball rolling. 

If none of that made sense to you, or you're confused and still have questions about how to get your music on Spotify playlists, then I highly recommend you grab my free guide below. 

This will walk you through (with screenshots) exactly what you need to do in order to get your music on Spotify playlists, for free. 


How To Start Making Money With Streaming:

  1. 1
    Get your music on Spotify with a Distributor like DistroKid
  2. 2
    Evaluate your songs
  3. 3
    Find user-created playlists
  4. 4
    Contact the playlist owners

Like I said above, if you need more help implementing these steps, then be sure to grab my free Spotify Playlist Placement formula guide above.

4. Publishing

Now we have arrived at publishing, which includes income you can make from cover songs, Synch Licensing, and performance rights.

I know, it sounds like a bad legal parody of  The Wizard of Oz, but I promise to clear up what each of these are, and how they can make you money as a music artist. 

Cover Songs

Hey, did you know you can actually make money selling cover songs?

Profiting from cover songs used to be tricky because of all the legal barriers in the way, but today, it's easier than ever to put out cover songs and actually profit from them. 

This is great because releasing cover songs is one of THE BEST ways to grow your following. 

All you have to do is discover what other bands your ideal Superfans enjoy, and then cover their songs. Fans that are searching for those particular songs now stand a chance of finding your cover, and becoming a fan of yours as well. 

But how do you profit from a cover song?

All you have to do in order to actually generate an income from a cover song is acquire the proper licenses to use that work. In this case, you need what is called a "mechanical license". 

I'll create a much more in-depth tutorial on this in the future, but in a nutshell, here are two easy ways to get the proper licenses. 

Option #1: Use Harry Fox Agency's Songfile Service

You can go to Songfile.com and search for the song you'd like to cover, and then sign up and pay the small royalty and licensing fees in order to acquire the rights to reproduce and earn off of your cover. 

The costs for using Songfile break down as so:

Songfile isn't your only option, though. 

Option #2: Use DistroKid's Built In Service

If you're using DistroKid as your digital distributor, they can actually handle all of the legal stuff for you when it comes to releasing cover songs. 

DistroKid charges a flat $12/year fee to handle:

  • Obtaining license(s)
  • Paying the original songwriter(s) every month
  • Keep up-to-date on copyright laws impacting your music
  • Do the things described here and here

If you do decide to go with DistroKid, be sure to sign up through my link by clicking the button below so you can get 7% off your membership. 

Get 7% Off Your DistroKid Membership

Synch Licensing

A music synchronization license is, "a music license granted by the owner or composer of a particular piece of work. The license allows the licensee or purchaser, the right to use the music in a visual piece, such as a movie, video game, or commercial." - The Balance Careers

In other words, you are deserved a royalties when your music is used in another visual work, like a TV show, movie, video game, or commercial. 

Obviously, not only would the money be nice, but getting your music in other works is a great way to increase your exposure and grow your fanbase. 

This is something I want to explore how to do more myself, but in the mean time, here is an article you can check out.

Performance Rights

Performance rights are what they sound like. The right to perform music in public. If people perform your music in public, then you are owed royalties. 

So if your music is played in any public place, like a concert, restaurants, businesses, radio, etc., you are owed royalties. 

But how are you supposed to keep track of all the different places your music could be played and make sure you are getting what you are owed?

No worries, because there are already companies that do this for you, and you can sign up for. 

These companies are called "Performance Rights Organizations" or "PROs", and the two big ones here in the United States are ASCAP and BMI, but there are many others. 

These PROs will find if your music has been performed in public, and then collect you the royalties you are owed. 

I personally use ASCAP, but my understanding is that there isn't much difference between BMI and ASCAP. I just decided to pick ASCAP because it's actually owned and run by songwriters, composers, and music publishers. 

I have no complaints with ASCAP, and I've actually even been paid by them, so I guess it works! 

How To Start Making Money With Publishing:

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5. Your Knowledge

They say those who don't know, teach. This is a myth. 

Now, this certainly might have been the case in the old, out-dated public-education system and higher-education we have here in the United States, but things are MUCH different now. 

We're still so new to the internet age that the old system still hasn't caught on that the internet has irrevocably changed almost all aspects of society, much like electricity did when it was first invented. 

Yet, the old education system is still trying to run on kerosene lamps. 

But that's neither here nor there.

The point is, there are countless people now turning their expertise into a profitable business simply by teaching others how to do what they do. 

Every day, more and more people are turning to the internet where you can learn how to do just about anything. 

This is a very lucrative and legitimate way to monetize your music brand. Give back by sharing your knowledge with others. 

There's nothing better than knowledge, not even a brand new Lamborghini.

"But I'm Not An Expert; I Can't Teach!"

Maybe you're thinking to yourself right now that there is nothing you could teach on because you're telling yourself that...

  • I'm not certified.
  • I don't have a degree. I haven't been to school for this.
  • There are people who know way more than I do on [X subject] so how could I teach on it?

This is a very common objection, and I can definitely relate.  In fact, this fear is so common, that it's been given a name, "Imposter Syndrome". 

Imposter Syndrome is...

A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".

Sound familiar? 

But what if I told you the Imposter Syndrome is actually an irrational fear, and shouldn't hold you back from teaching and monetizing your knowledge?

I think Imposter Syndrome stems from a major pit-fall of thinking...

The Curse Of Knowledge.

"The Curse Of Knowledge" is...

A cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.

In other words, you probably know more than you realize, but what you know now seems obvious, and like it must be common knowledge when it's not.

Once you know something, you can't UN-know it, and it becomes very difficult to remember what it was like to never know that thing. 

As a result, you probably know lot more than you think. 

In the end, in order to help someone, you just need to be a couple steps ahead of the person you are trying to help. 

You don't have to be a guru or an expert to teach someone something, and this is obvious in daily life. 

I'm sure someone has probably come to you before and asked you to teach them something, and you probably did!

It wouldn't have made any sense if you had not taught that person and instead said, "well, I'm not an expert." 

So if you are a music artist growing their music career, then there are probably a lot of things you could teach on. 

Ideas for things you could teach

So, what are some things you could teach? Here are a few ideas:

  • Vocals/Voice lessons
  • Specific Instrument 
  • Sight-Read Music
  • Lyrics & Poetry
  • Songwriting (Genre-Specific)
  • Music Software (How to use Logic Pro X)
  • Home Studio Production
  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Anything else you know how to do that isn't related to music
  • No Limit!

How To Start Making Money From Your Knowledge

People turn to teachers and trainings generally because they are wanting to know how to do something faster or easier. So if you can help someone with that, then that is a great potential topic to teach on. 

To find what is you could teach, start thinking...

  • What do you have experience in that relates to your music
  • What are you good at related to music
  • What do people ask you for help with?
  • What skills have you acquired that makes you unique?

Once you have your chosen topic, here are some steps to get started making an income:

  1. 1
    Reach out to your fans and let them know you are offering X lessons to X number of people for the next X weeks
  2. 2
    Create a way for people to sign up and pay you (PayPal for example)
  3. 3
    Begin teaching your students (either 1-on-1 or as a group) via video call 

6. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is when your fans help you raise the funds you need to complete a particular project, but it crowdfunding campaigns can also be a great way to promote your new release as well. 

In exchange for donating to your project, you'll typically give your supports special or exclusive items or bonuses. 

Why Crowdfunding is great

  • Helps you raise the funds to produce an album (which is expensive)
  • It can fund the merchandise you need to purchase 
  • Great way to involve your fans and make them feel part of the process
  • Great way to market a new album
  • Part of the pre-sales launch as album pre-orders count toward chart rankings (How To Get On A Billboard Chart)

In a nutshell, crowdfunding is a great way to bring in a lot of cash quickly, but these are a huge undertaking. 

How to know if you're ready to launch a crowdfunding campaign

Do NOT start a campaign if you're starting from ground zero. 

Most artists are not ready for crowdfunding, as there are quite a few things you need in place first before you run a successful campaign. 

1. You Need A Large/Engaged Audience

Crowdfunding is a lot of work, and they require a lot of time and even monetary investment, so you want to make sure have a large enough/engaged enough fanbase first before launching one. 

A good sign that you do have the right audience is if they are openly asking you if you are going to do a campaign. Once they're asking, it's a good sign it's time. 

You can also survey your audience to gauge interest. Ask them what they'd be excited about receiving for being part of the launch. 

2. You Need A Project

This is where crowdfunding different from stream number 7 in this article (fan clubs). When doing a crowdfunding campaign, it has to be for achieving a specific end, and it must have a start and end date. 

3. You Need A Budget

There are a lot of costs involved with a crowdfunding campaign, including the costs to print and ship merch. 

Share your budget with your fans so they understand where it's going. You don't have to give them all the details, but enough so they understand how expensive it can be to create music. 

4. Finally, You Need A Plan

You need to decide what the rewards will be for your supporters, what platform you'll use, when the launch date will be, how long it will run, and how you will promote it. 

Again, this is an involved process. It's almost like it's own album launch, so make a detailed plan. 

How to Start Making Money With crowdfunding

  1. 1
    Survey your fans. Make sure your audience is large enough and there is enough interest
  2. 2
    Decide what project you want to crowdfund
  3. 3
    Create a plan

7. Fan Clubs

At last! We have arrived at the final key stream music artists can use to grow their online income, and this one is a good one. Fan clubs. 

This one is kind of like crowdfunding, only instead of your fans paying you for a one time project, they pay you on an ongoing basis, either monthly, or per-piece-of-content you publish. 

In exchange for being a member of your club, fans get special bonuses and/or insider content. 

Some different platforms you can use to set up and run your own fan club are Patreon, Bandcamp, Gumroad, or building one from scratch with WordPress.

I especially like Patreon for this. 

What Makes A Fan Club Great

A fan club is great because you can now have predictable monthly income, which I really think is the holy grail when it comes to making a living as an artist. 

You can also set things up so it doesn't take a lot of time or effort to fulfill your membership benefits, and so it can really come close to passive income. 

You can even make a great full-time, six-figure income just with a fan club. A great example of this is Peter Hollens.

Peter Hollens Patreon

Ideas for what to offer Your Patrons In Your Fan Club/Patreon

The key to a great fan club is creating a special online experience. Really invite your fans into your world and give them more access to you.

Here are some ideas for content you could offer in your fan club/Patreon membership.

  • Making of documentary
  • Behind the scenes look via video
  • Exclusive photos
  • Facebook live streaming updates
  • Exclusive footage
  • Offer whole music catalog
  • Vote for video locations and props
  • Private lesson
  • Write an original song and dedicate it to monthly winner
  • Snail Mail
  • Google Hangouts
  • 1-on-1 Skype Q&A
  • Exclusive T-shirts, posters, merch
  • Survey fans

How to know if you're ready to launch a Fan Club

Fan clubs are also a more advanced strategy for artists with larger and more engaged followings.

When you've narrowed down your niche, micro-niche, your target audience, and you've gotten to know their likes and interests, what brings you all together, and you've developed a culture that your music fits into, you're ready for a digital fan club.

I made the mistake of launching my Fan Club too soon, and only ended up with one member...but then again, that's still better than nothing!

So it's up to you on when you want to launch.

How To Start Making Money With A Fan Club

  1. 1
    Survey your fans to see if they are engaged, and what bonuses they would like
  2. 2
    Create your fan club on a platform like Patreon
  3. 3
    Run a grand opening launch with special bonuses only for founding members

How To Start Making Money Online As A Musician: Action Steps

Wow, this was a lot, and I'm really only scratching the surface with this article. Now is really the golden age of indie artists and creators!

But with all of this in mind, where should you start if you're wanting to make money online?

Well, you should go after the lowest hanging fruit first, which I believe is digital products, since they are easiest and cheapest to create, and can yield quick and great results.

Of course, you won't make anything if you aren't first building a fan base. 

And not just any old casual fans, but SUPERfans. The kinds of fans who want to buy everything you release, including merch. There are fans who will literally spend thousands of dollars a year on their favorite artists. Those are the people we're looking for. 

After all, you only need 1,000 of these Superfans spending $100 a year on your music, digital products, merchandise, fan club, etc. to make $100,000 a year. 

So, how do you get Super fans? I'm glad you asked!

I've actually put together a free guide on the 7 steps you need to master to create Superfans, and you can download it by clicking below. 

grow music fanbase

Get More Fans Fast!

Click below to download my free Fan-Building Formula, which will give you the 7 steps you need to master in order to create "Superfans" and make a living from your music.

So in summary, your actions steps to take after reading this article are as follows:

  • Start creating Superfans
  • Monetize by going after the lowest hanging fruit first (digital products & music)

I hope you found this post on how to make money online as a musician helpful! Feel free to share if it was, and let me know in the comments below...

How are you monetizing your audience? How are you creating superfans?

About the author

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.

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