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How To Make Money With Music [5 Proven Rev Channels]

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

When it comes to the fundamental ways to make money with music, the music industry has changed completely

Traditionally, music was sold as a physical products and therefore was highly profitable. We can call that the golden days of the music industry when artists, managers, and record labels were bathing in pools of money.

It's a bit different today right?

It definitely is. However, there are still many ways to make money with music because we can leverage the invention of the Internet. The ability to sell products and quickly build a fan base online has never been easier in the history of the world. So although the revenue channels in the music industry are very different they can still be very profitable if you know which ones to go after.

So which revenue channels should you focus on?

It's a great question and we recommend that you focus on multiple revenue channels in order to diversify your revenue. It's not good to have all your eggs in one basket. We recommend this because each one revenue channel will likely not sustain you on it's own. However, multiple revenue channels can provide you with a decent living.

So, it is very important to focus on building multiple revenue channels to support yourself as a musician and to make money with music.

In the rest of this post we will talk about the five most popular monetization channels for your music and how you can sustain yourself as a career musician.

1. Streaming

You are no stranger to this one I'm sure. It's hard to talk about how minimal the stream payout is but it is a channel worth mentioning. It can be long-term passive revenue if you are continuing to build a fan base for your music.

Let's face it, if you don't have an audience or you don't have a fanbase then this channel is not great. You might even say useless. You might be lucky if you could even buy some fish and chips at the pub. Don't they look delicious though? Anyway, back to making money.

So, it is ESSENTIAL to have an audience to make this revenue channel work. If you're reading this and just starting to build your audience then this video might be worth your while in order to help you kick start your audience.

In January of 2019, according to SongTrust, Spotify reports that it pays out between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream to rights holders.

Let's say for simplicity purposes, we call it an even $0.0038

But like we said, good luck trying to afford your next meal if you only have a handful of Spotify listeners per month.

Where we can turn this whole thing around is in your ability to leverage your audience and turn them into monthly listeners.

Let's say you managed to get 250,000 monthly listeners.

So that's 250,000 x 0.0038 which equals $960.00

Were you expecting more?

I bet. But, is it that bad? Let's look at it from a different perspective.

Keep in mind, this streaming revenue channel will not be our only monetization channel to make money with our music. It will be one of many.

If you had four other channels making $960 a month, then that would be:

$960.00 x 5 = $4,800

With $4800 of cash flow per month, that is more than enough to sustain a decent living. Go ahead and buy three orders of fish and chips at the pub. Hehe.

But the key thing to remember is that as we diversify our revenue channels, each channel does not need to sustain itself on their own. Yes, of course, this Spotify streaming revenue would not be able to support you if it was your only revenue channel.

You might be thinking, but 250,000 monthly listeners! That's a lot of listeners!

Yes, it is. Especially if you're starting at zero. But it's not impossible or dare I say very difficult to achieve.

The ingredients to do this are to get on as many Spotify playlists as possible, finding reach through paid advertisements like Facebook and Instagram and then creating content that supports your brand.

This is the recipe to convert fans into listeners. It'a all about working with the marketing funnel to convert visitors into listeners. There are people out there who like your music, we guarantee it, you just need to reach a lot of people.

Sadly, just getting on Spotify playlists won't cut it. Even though, it's still great to get on Spotify playlists, especially Spotify editorial playlists, it's only one piece to the puzzle. For instance, someone listening to your music on a Spotify playlist is likely doing it passively. Not actively. They're cooking, cleaning, or working out.

However, think of a true fan that's listening to your music, they might actively listen to all your songs multiple times in a day. Save your songs and share your songs with their network.

It's important to always be converting listeners into fans. If not, then your monthly listeners number will drop immediately once you're taking off a playlist.

So to recap, streaming is an important revenue source for you to build throughout your music career. However, the only way to make this revenue source valuable is to convert your monthly listeners into active followers of your brand and active listeners. Did we say it would be easy? No. Unfortunately not. If it was, then everyone would be making millions.

2. Merchandise

Merchandise is the second revenue source that we suggest you start to passively build into your revenue portfolio. Merchandise can be anything from t-shirts or tote bags all the way from custom made key chains to temporary tattoos. Literally anything, and we'll explain how to do it easily.

We do not recommend that you purchase inventory and keep it in storage. This could potentially be a very bad investment for you if you don't sell the products. Then you're sitting on boxes upon boxes of t-shirts stored away in your closet.

A few decades ago if you wanted to sell a product you had to purchase that product at a wholesale cost and then hold it in your inventory storage until someone buys it.

Once someone purchases that product you would package it and ship it to them in return for a cost.

This type of business model has completely changed thanks to drop shipping.

What is drop shipping?

According to this drop shipping Wikipedia article drop shipping is:

a supply chain management method in which the retailer does not keep goods in stock but instead transfers its customers' orders and shipment details to either the manufacturer, another retailer, or a wholesaler, who then ships the goods directly to the customer.

So, in other words, you don't have to worry about purchasing any inventory so there's no cost or big investment on your end.

Not only that, this means you could literally have thousands of products available or listed to sell to your fans. Without having any of these products made yet.

So, how is this possible?

It's made possible through popular apps like Printify or Printful with their easy integration into e-commerce platforms. For example, Shopify.

These apps are usually free, since you likely will have to pay for the ecommerce platform that you choose to go with. However, the monthly cost for an e-commerce platform is reasonable. Especially if you're selling products each month.

Let's take a look at using Printful and Shopify.

Let's move past the obvious stuff like, you'll need to setup an account with both apps, etc.

The beautiful thing about third party printing drop shipping services like Printful is you don't need to necessarily know what you'd like to sell. The idea of drop shipping printing services is that they provide you with hundreds of products that you can sell. Fo example, t-shirts, mugs, stickers, socks, caps, sweaters. Let's just say, lots of products!

You'll have the opportunity to sell all of these products if you'd like or only choose a few. It's up to you. The one thing you do need to know is what are you going to print on your products? You'll need to decide the brand or design you would like to have printed.

Let's walk through a popular product example. T-shirts.

Everyone loves a fresh white t. Especially, if it's from their favourite band. It's no wonder why t-shirts are such a popular merchandise product for bands and artists.

Your design can be anything. Popular designs could be:

  1. Band or artist logo

  2. Name of the band or artist with a custom font

  3. Upcoming tour dates

  4. Album or single art

  5. Single name with a custom font

These examples are all straightforward to make if you have a photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or you have a friend who is a designer. Don't worry if you have neither of these, it's quite straightforward to do on your own with a small amount of time by using a free product called Canva.

Here are some band t-shirt and merch examples of an artist who used Printful for their upcoming single called Sorry.

These fonts were also found for free by going to Google fonts and searching for a font that fits your brand image. There's tons of cool free fonts on Google to choose from so we recommend using this service too.

Once you have your design made then you can upload it to any products that you'd like. Remember, there's no harm in adding more products than you think your audience would like. You never know!

Once a fan buys a product on your website, Printful will ship the product to your customer. You don't have to do anything but collect the profit. However, keep in mind that Printful will want a cut of the profits too since they're doing a lot of the work!

Profit margins tend to be smaller with drop shipping rather than doing everything yourself. There's always pros and cons. A standard t-shirt might wholesale at $8.00 with a drop shipping product. It can go up from there as well depending on the quality of the fabric or the design detail. You can choose the price and that will set your profit.

So, if you sell a t-shirt for $20.00 on your website:

Product Cost: $20.00

T-shirt wholesale cost: $8.00

Profit for you: $12.00

If you think $20.00 for a t-shirt is too steep then you can charge $10.00 instead. That's completely fine. However, your profit would then be $2.00. It's up to you.

3. Affilate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a tried, tested, and true way to make money that has been around for decades. It essentially means that you, the artist, refers someone to a product or service. If that person you referred signs up for that product or service then you get something in return. Usually money but sometimes it can be credit or discounts too.

Okay, let's look at a simple example:

Let's take the company Fender Guitars. Fender has an affiliate program that when you promote Fender Play (their guitar learning app), you will earn a commission for every new subscription you refer to them.

So let's say you have a large following on Instagram, Youtube, or an email database. You can promote Fender Play to you audience. If someone signs up from your promotion then you'll get some money.

Not bad right?

You might be asking yourself, well, how do they know for sure the customer came from me? Well, you'll be given a custom URL that is unique to you. If the person you referred signs up with your URL, then it's pay day.

There are all sorts of companies that offer affiliate marketing programs. Ideally, you'll find a program that is suitable to your audience.

Try to do some research or think about what your audience might be interested in and what could you refer to them that could earn a bit of side cash for you.

Here are five examples of affiliate marketing programs that could be useful for musicians looking to make money: