ep. 04 making money from music

As with most creative industries for most people when starting out there is not a lot of money. Often artists and managers at the beginning have a full time or part time job and a focus that needs to be split across several projects and activities. It is feasible to make money from music in-between the beginning stages and being Beyoncé.


This episode will cover:

  • Suggestions for ways developing artists can make money from their music



  • As well as being a possible income stream there are additional benefits to live performance such as refining performance style, getting a band together, improving the band’s cohesiveness, networking and building a following

  • At the beginning of an artists career the early gigs may not come with a guaranteed fee but the bigger an audience can be built the better the opportunities for fan engagement at gigs

  • Another income source is to sell merchandise at gigs


Working with promoters

  • Promoters can be contacted for the most popular genres who put on live music shows across venues. This is done with varying degrees of success in terms of getting people to attend and curating a line up of artist genres that actually work together. If artists play alongside a band with an audience that is similar to an artist target audience then the gig offers an opportunity to increase a following

  •  You’ll find that you are mainly inviting your existing fan base at first, mainly family and friends but overtime with persistence this will expand

  • In terms of payment a popular method for emerging artist working with a promoter is a door split. This is where the artist and promoter split the money taken on the door. Usually there is a set fee that the promoter takes before any split to cover their basics costs and probably the sound engineer. This split is not always equal or in favour of the band so you will need to do your sums to check whether it is worth everyone’s time. You should also note that some promoters take a large share of the door split but expect bands and their teams to do the majority or all of the promotional activity which gets people through the door. This can take more time than might be initially anticipated.

  • When calculating how much the take home will be, be realistic about the number of people you can get through the door. Be creative about the way you engage mixing content that pushes sales and content that is entertaining and engaging

  • Also when calculating the cost and time do not forget to include travel, rehearsal time and sound-check, set-up and packing up after set.


Hiring venues and being your own promoter

  • You can also book venues with small or no deposits and a minimum bar spend which mean you will get 100% of the profit from ticket sales. Be mindful here that you will be wholly reliant on your own promotional efforts. Always be realistic about the numbers you will get in and what they might spend or you could find yourself covering the shortfall from the minimum bar spend. It's a good idea to do a few gigs first and build a following before putting an event like this.


  • Once an artist’s fan base is beyond just friends and family then options increase to being able to get set fees which means payment irrespective of those the numbers that turn up and usually at venues that have a great natural footfall and some prestige attached. This is also a great time to look at festivals and showcases for growing a fan base



  • Royalties describe the fee paid to artists when their music is used in some way

  •  There are four types mechanical, public performance, synchronization and print music



  •   Mechanical royalties are paid for the reproduction of a song in any form physical (copied to CD, cassette, vinyl), digital (streamed, downloaded or online music channels) or even when music is added to products (cards, toys)

  •  These royalties are administered, collected and paid by MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society), in the UK is the mechanical collections organisation for the UK, and they’ll be a country equivalent for other places

  •  The amount per album would be divided per track, paid monthly  (explained by statement) and split between songwriters and their respective publishers

  •  To collect you just need to register with the MCPS 



  •  In the UK PRS for music is the umbrella organisation for collection, administration and distribution of royalties made up of the MCPS and PRS (Performance Right Society)

  • You will need to register with both to collect both mechanical and performance royalties

  •  PRS for music covers several international territories (countries) so if your music is performed or played in these countries then your royalties will be collected on your behalf. For territories not covered you will need to contact the relevant collection agency for that country

  •  You can see which countries are covered by visiting the PRS for music website 

  •  Performance royalties are paid for performance of any copyrighted material, this covers live performance (DJ sets, concerts, tours, gigs, radio and any music played in a public place)

  •  How much you get as an artist is calculated depending on various factors such as, the type of performance, venue or station size and length of play

  •  Some details of rates available on the website but the information is limited so you my need to raise individual queries once you are registered


Print music

  • Royalties can be paid from music that is transcribed to sheet music and then distributed. The royalties come from the reproduction and sale of the sheet music



  • A synch licence grants use from the owner or owners to allow for music to be used against visual media (TV, video games and films) of any kind for a fee

  • Factors that influence the sync fee are territory, the amount of times the track will be played, length of the license, type of media and the profile of the artists. Emerging artists fees can be from 1k to 20k 


Stock music 

  • Some artists producers, composers and songwriters create stock music for music libraries which are exactly what they say in the title!

  •  Some of the libraries include Shutterstock / Premium Beat, The Music Case, Productiontrax and Audio Network

  •  These sites specialise in creating stock music that can be licensed for different uses. They all work in different ways including percentages or fees that are pre-agreed or that the artist sets and a royalty split every month 

  •  Remember that you will have no say in how your music is used]

  •  Sync fees can be range from small amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the prominence of the artist and the song 



  • A publishing deal mean that a publisher will work on your behalf of the artist to get all the royalties you owed

  • A good publisher will also proactively work to get more opportunities to exploit the own music and in exchange they get a cut of the income




Session musicians

  •  Session musicians are hired for live or recorded sessions

  •  Musicians do best when they’ve had live or studio experience and a flexible style

  • Find listing in industry magazines and websites



  • Musicians can be paid for collaborations, writing lyrics for a songs or produce songs for other artists for a fee

  •   Again this will involve building your network, promoting your services online and checking social media and industry publications


Cover gigs 

  • Bands are needed for weddings, corporate events and other occasions

  •  You can join agencies, set up your own website and advertise on artist platforms such as Reverbnation and Music Glue



  • If artists build their fan base they can support more than just their music

  •  With a good number of engaged followers and emails artists can get sponsorship, paid promotions / affiliate deals

  •  Artists can also montetise their Youtube channel specifically 



  •  There are a vast amount of opportunities for employment within the music industry: labels, venue programming, festivals, promoters, streaming services, industry publications

  •  As well as getting another income you get the additional benefit of building contacts and getting to understand another part of the industry

  •  Don’t forget about transferable skills and the advantages your experience can bring to the role



  • Crowd funding, arts council funding, organisations like PRS and Help for Musicians can provide investment for music related projects and act as an income supplement