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15 Ways Struggling Musicians Can Earn More Without Working Like a Cow

Who says you’re meant to be broke and insecure because you’re pursuing music? Well…almost everybody. That’s why you have to prove them wrong. There are hacks on how you can earn a good income while you’re still making it in music. Here are some of the tried and tested ways you can add more digits to your income:

  • First, keep a no-brainer day job. This is technically not included in the list because it’s not really making use of your talent as a musician but I put this at the top of the list because it’s almost impossible to try the ones below if you do not have the security of a steady income (unless you’re born with a silver spoon in which case, why are you reading this?). Keep your day job until the other income streams below give you more money and require more of your time.
  • Merch sales. Print really creative t-shirts, pins, buttons, postcards, posters, mugs, bags, and item that could possible tickle the fancy of your supporters. Post your items online and bring them wherever you go. When done right, this might even be enough to cover your gas for one whole month.
  • Earn from your blog. Learn about SEO and how to optimize your website. More traffic to your website does not only mean you’ll get more exposure and good promotion, it also means you’ll get money from ads.
  • Earn from your Youtube views. Many people earn hundreds of thousands and even millions a year from Youtube videos. Maybe it’s time you start earning too by posting your music videos, tutorials, and other crazy, funny, informative videos. Here are the steps to take.
  • CD sales. This is rather obvious but there are some musicians who prefer to skip the CD. They think that selling music online is the best and only way to go. However, here are some valid reasons why you should still make CDs.
  • Gigs. Well, this is quite obvious. But let me just add that some gigs won’t give you decent profit so you better make sure you’re not burning yourself out. Choose only the gigs that you can benefit from- a.) gigs that don’t pay much but will give you maximum exposure or b.) gigs that don’t give much exposure but gives good money.
  • Wedding and event gigs. You might cringe just thinking about it but if you’re friends with a good events organizer, there’s no harm in trying. Gigs like this can create a steady income stream and it could even help you quit your boring 9-5.
  • Teach music at a nearby music school. This will not only bring in more dough, it will also give you more followers because students are loyal creatures. Aside from that, it just feels so good to teach and hone new talents, doesn’t it? The prestige and honor is priceless.
  • Teach music online. There are plenty of websites that let you teach music online so there’s absolutely no need for you to leave home.
  • Music scoring for film and TV. Composing music for a film, TV show, Audio Visual Presentation, ad, or what have you is an excellent way to earn big bucks. Start by creating a few compositions which you can slowly build into a collection. After that, approach your film and media friends who might need your services. If they want you to come up with a tune from scratch, that’s big bucks.
  • Sell an e-book. If you’re good at writing or if you’re able to pay a writer, and more importantly—if you are confident that other musicians are willing to buy your e-book, go ahead write one. It could be as simple as a “How To” manual with resources and tools which you can sell at $20 or even less. To find out if you’re ready to sell, you have to know if you’ve established yourself as an authority in the topic you’d be writing about. If not, don’t bother. You’d be losing money.
  • Sell your personal stuff to fans. If you’re well-loved (aka popular enough), you can sell any item to your fans like your own guitar picks or favorite hat. If you’re emerging (not too known), you may sell items with higher value like your instruments.
  • Sponsored Tweet. If you have thousands of followers, you’ll be approached by brands to tweet. Go grab those opportunities to earn a few bucks as long as it still aligns to your branding.
  • Sponsored Facebook post. Same goes with Facebook. These brands could pay $300 or more for just a single mention from you. They are likely to give you free products and sponsorships so you can post about them more authentically.
  • Offer living room gigs to fans. Earn a few bucks and get more intimate with your fans by playing in their living rooms! This is one great way to market yourself because the guests would surely be talking about you (well, at least let’s hope). Come to think of it, it’s like getting paid to market yourself. Plus, you get good food and earn new friends.


James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.

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