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Many Eggs, Many Baskets: How to Make a Living as a Musician in 2014

Many Eggs, Many Baskets: How to Make a Living as a Musician in 2014

Newspaper articles reporting the death of the music industry are beginning to sound a little old. Tell us something we don’t know right? Over the last decade, one of the most thriving creative industries has taken a severe beating, with many of the traditional income streams for musicians either drying up completely or dwindling to a trickle. This is the same for most creative industries, however, and us musicians, like writers and actors, have to roll with the punches and find new ways to find right livelihood. Whilst the internet has effected a sea-change in traditional earning models, it’s also opened up a lot of opportunities. So if you’re a song smith struggling to pay for new guitar strings, our advice is you’re probably not thinking broadly enough. Hopefully, this article will point out some of the ways you can expand your ability to earn.


Most countries now have some sort of professional body in place to offer grants to working musicians. In America, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) gave away some 1.8 million in grants last year. ASCAP says the grants are ‘to reward writers whose works have a unique prestige value for which adequate compensation would not otherwise be received, and to compensate those writers whose works are performed substantially in media not surveyed by ASCAP.’ Grants can be absolutely golden for those with the acumen to apply for them!

Sell Recordings of your Performances

Assuming you’ve got a website with adequate bandwidth, consider adding a members area where fans can access either pay per view or subscription based special media. Get yourself a decent camera, mic up the space intelligently, and you’ve got a whole new income stream waiting to happen. You can even print discs and sell those at your next gigs. With anything like this, Pearl Jam is the model to follow. Perhaps no band has ever marketed their own product so thoughtfully, resulting in a fan club so loyal they’d probably go to war should Eddie Vedder require it. With 200,000 active fans, the Ten Club as it’s known is a great example of how a band can make fans feel part of a unique family and basically become a modern Grateful Dead in the Process.

Crowdfunding an Album

Crowdfunding has proved a phenomenal asset to the creative industries and ranks as one of the real success stories of the digital era. For musicians, there are either the well-known sites like  Kickstarter or more music specific one likes: PledgeMusic, IndieGoGo or RocketHub. These sites offer musicians a superb opportunity to tap into existing fan bases to find the capital for high quality studio time. Running one these campaigns is a serious business, however: expect it to take a year or more from the birth of your idea to a successful campaign completion. Having active social media, and a clear vision are absolute necessities: you need to plan this – as with all business strategies – with military precision. Creating a pitch-video which stands out is a must, as it to include a wide range of premiums. The power of platforms like KickStarter is in the numbers so you need to allow even people with only $5 or $10 to get pledge and get something from the band in return.

Production Music

Many professional photographers subsidise their income via the sometimes lucrative stock photography sites. For musicians, there is something similar: known as production music, library music, or stock music. These sites sell compositions, audio snippets and sound effects to the film, television and advertising industries and have been a huge part of the music business in their own right. Companies Like ImagemPM and DeWolfe are the biggest players here, working with a huge roster of composers to provide the inimitable music – generally devoid of vocal tracks – which add atmosphere to movies and television. Do your research if this is an avenue you want to go down: stock music has its own methods and requirements. Nevertheless, many musician have found excellent streams of income off selling their material to the production music libraries, whose powerful network might put your creations in places you never could.


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