Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Hey guys, this is a post to dive deep into the post I made on Instagram about how artists can make money in 2020.
The reality is, I have more than 12 ways you can start making money.
These though are 12 ways I commonly see artists making money and how you can take part in the action. (If you aren’t already)
Even if you already make music full time, these are a great way to increase your income. Unless of course, you’re already taking advantage of all of them.
If you want to download this post as a free guide with all these tips & a small bonus,
So let me get started...
1) The Touring Artist
A touring artist doesn’t have to tour non-stop or even technically tour at all. But some artists do tour the better part of the year or even years at a time.
What I’m referring to here though are artists that make their money primarily off performing their own songs.
This is a really common way for artists to make money and the “traditional“ method to generate income, along with album sales.
It’s pretty straight forward in this traditional sense also.
You build a fan base, get booked at a venue, sell tickets to your fans and their friends, then get out there and perform.
Nothing super fancy. 🍸
How to book a show, or even further, how to book a tour is where the confusion generally starts.
It’s not super hard though. Assuming you’ve built at least a small fan base in a specific area, you’re ready to get started.
I played my first real show in 7th grade.
We got booked at a venue that was an old Marines dive training pool. A church group had bought the place and put a stage on one end of the pool. The venue was sick.
We got booked by a group of people that rented the place on the first Friday of every month and threw clean punk rock shows. We ended up playing that venue quite a few times before they eventually stopped putting on shows.
The way we got booked there in the first place though is probably what you want to know.
It wasn‘t anything special, we simply went to shows there (& every other local venue) and, once we had a set together, asked around the audience for someone who knew the guys booking the event. Someone introduced us, they recognized we were frequently supporting them and they offered to give us a shot. We made sure we didn’t blow it. Improved our setlist with originals and cover songs then invited everyone we knew. (Mostly using AIM & MySpace 😂)
Since we did well and brought a little crowd, they kept inviting us back.
In short, the show came together and was possible for us through consistent networking and support of our local music community.
This is exactly what you should do if you want to start playing shows.
Everyone wants to hit the mainstage and headline their first show. Unless you've done a lot of online campaigning and are certain you can sell tickets, this isn't a reasonable approach for most people.
Instead, I suggest you start local.
Even start in your friends' basements if you have to. Basement shows were cool when I was a kid & I think they're coming back. (Grab some mattresses & block the windows so you don't get noise complaints, also if you're cool with the neighbors let em' know)
Who To Know, What They Do & How To Meet Them:
Booking agents are responsible for booking the artists that perform at an event. They will work closely with the company putting on the show and may even be the ones to put on the show themselves.
To meet them, you should attend events that they throw or work on and make yourself a known face. Alternatively, if you have a pretty big local or internet presence you could send over an introduction email with an EPK & Website. I only recommend this though if you are working so hard that you don't have time to go out at all or you live in a different state and are booking your own tour in an area where you know you've established some fans.
Artist Managers are people that manage other artists' careers. 🤯 Not only are they good to know for your networking purposes but also they might even manage your own career as you gain some traction.
To meet them, you should look at more established artists' websites and social media accounts. You can pretty easily find the manager of most artists. Once you know who it is just shooting them over a friendly introduction that doesn't waste their time is a great start. Let them know that you have similar music, link them up and offer to open any shows in your area that might come up. As a real plus let them know [& be serious] that you're willing to perform any last-minute dropout slots and give them your phone number. If you do this though, when they call, show up.
Restaurant, Bar & Club Owners:
What these guys do is pretty straight forward, they own the place you want to perform. This doesn't really apply to music venues in my experience though, they almost always have staff hired out to handle this stuff. Even with restaurants & bars, it could fall under the managers' responsibilities. Since I'm guessing you don't want to be that "Let Me Talk To The Manager" kinda person, it's easier and more professional to handle things like this even still.
To meet them, either work your network of people you know [AKA ask around]. Talk to the bartenders and have them introduce you at a good time once you become a friendly face. Or, send a professional email reaching out. This works great if you already know that they have performers on a certain night that fits your style. Example: A bar might have cover bands that mix in originals on Friday Nights that play a 2- 4-hour set of party rock/pop music. If your band or performance fits that description, reach out to them and offer to perform. Send a link to hear your music and ideally a link to watch a video of your live performance. Again sending over an EPK can be good but also, since they might not be as actively involved in the industry, spell out key information. What songs are on your typical setlist, how many people do you expect to draw [be honest], how long can you perform for, etc.
Tour managers are similar to artist managers except they manage the ins and outs of a tour for an artist. Load-in times, stage plots, sound checks, booking hotels, getting the equipment & artist to each date, etc. A tour manager can have a lot on their plate, depending on the size of the artist. They work closely with the artist, their management team & everyone involved in the tour and can get you on the opening bill of a show if the timings right. It is not usually their job to book any of the acts though. So reaching out and annoying them is only going to make things worse for you. However, since they do oversee and talk to everything and everyone involved if you're on good terms and they think you're a good fit they could plug you. Especially if someone drops out last minute or a promoter is struggling to create the "perfect" bill.
To meet them is pretty much the same as the others, networking. You can again though make a cold introduction through email if you feel it's the right thing to do.
This one should be the easiest to understand, other artists do what you do, write songs and perform. It's best to network with artists that have a similar style and sound to you. This way, hopefully, you can cross-promote to each others fan base and have positive results.
To meet them you should support them. Whether that's through social media, going to shows or both. Hang out after the show and talk, maybe even offer to grab some food.
Referencing back to the story I told earlier about my first show, we were obviously very underage so we couldn't offer to grab drinks with the headliners or anything. So what we did was after we had played with a group we really enjoyed, we were always front row for the groups that played after us, we hung out and let them talk to fans. Once they were clearing up we offered to help with load-out and getting their gear back in the trailer. As we did this we talked to them about how we enjoyed their music, even bought a couple of CDs and stickers. [Notice how we're one band but still bought a couple of CDs, we could've burned copies but that's not cool] After that we simply just asked them if they would be down to hit up the Wendy's across the street before they got back on the road, they said yes and that was my first successful attempt networking with a headlining artist. We grabbed food talked about writing songs, tips for building fans, the local scene, etc and then went our ways.
You can see from this story though we went above & beyond to help them out and show them we respected them as the established artist and that we were ready to learn from em'. It worked out great for us.
2) The Sync Artist
This type of artist is getting a lot of hype lately. It's straight forward but still can be one of the harder parts of the industry to navigate. Essentially though all you need to know is that this type of artist will write music true to themselves and pitch it to relevant forms of media. When someone wants to use the song in their TV show, Movie, Video Game, YouTube Channel, Podcast, Mobile App or any other type of visual medium they are legally required to obtain a synchronization license from the artist. The artist is then responsible for negotiating a price that both parties deem fair. These deals can range from $25 - Hundreds of Thousands depending on a lot of factors. I won't get into pricing on this post though.
If you're interested in doing this for yourself you need to consider the themes of the songs you write, the vibe, mood, and tone that they give off, whether the song needs to be explicit or not, the arrangement and the overall performance/ instrumentation of the song.
To start, take notes of all the music you hear as you casually watch and consume media throughout your day. You'll start to pick up on the sounds and styles the channels you already interact with are using.
Once you've done that and have a good idea of what is working out there, you're ready to do some research & start making connections. You want to be sure you research this stuff thoroughly before sending out any emails. The information I'm about to give you could make or break your career in this stuff. If you reach out in the wrong way, too early, with a bad attitude, etc you could ruin the relationship. That being said, if you follow this procedure, remain humble, genuine, hardworking, consistent and positive, I'm sure you're not far from success.
Keep in mind though, it starts and ends here with the song & the relationships you have.
Who To Know, What They Do & How To Meet Them:
Music Supervisors: Arguably the most important people to know in this industry are the music supervisors. They work incredibly hard to bring the picture to life through recorded music. They are responsible for the music cues and pitch the songs directly to the director of the film or show.
To meet them you need to start with research. Use IMDBpro to research the movies and films that are currently in production. Use the filter cast feature to find out who the music supervisor on a particular project is. Once you find this information you should research other projects that the supervisor has worked on. Hopefully, you can find some stuff you've seen before and that has music similar to yours. Create a spreadsheet and keep track of all this info. You can watch their social media, don't be creepy though 🧟♂️, and when the time is right you can reach out through a cold email. You'll find the email of supervisors that are ok with being contacted either on their website, social media or IMDBpro page. They cannot take unsolicited submissions legally so you're best off just making an introduction at first, or sending a link to a playlist that fits their needs to your best abilities. You should host your music through DISCO, Songspace or a similar service. [DISCO is industry standard at this point] This topic is huge alone so I'll have a more in-depth post soon but for now, that is a solid starting point for you.
Directors: Directors are in charge of bringing a written script to life. They work with everyone on the set and production crew. They are very good to know but in reality, the job falls on the music supervisor on a majority of projects, and unless you already know a director really well, you're probably blowing the opportunity by jumping straight to pitching to them. The only exception to this is on Indie Films and low budget projects. These projects may not spend the extra money in the budget to hire a separate supervisor.
The best way to get in with this crowd is to just go to indie film festivals and networking events. Be prepared with a business card or at least a high-quality social media page to quickly and easily send them to.
Ad Agencies: You're looking to meet the music director in the agency in most cases. Their role in the company is the same as a music supervisor. They find the perfect song or songs to bring a campaign to life. The good news is, with shrinking ad budgets for music, up & coming acts are getting used more often than ever. To meet these people you should network, attend industry events and cold pitch if the timing is right. All the same things you'd do to meet a music supervisor pretty much.
Influencers: These are just normal people who have built huge social media followings, they might be a professional athlete, model, photographer, marketer or really have any skill you could think of. Influencers exist even on a small scale the reach just isn't as far and you'll have to negotiate your deal accordingly.
Depending on the size of the influencer, they may or may not be hard to reach. Most influencers have a business email somewhere on either their social media or website though. This email is where you'll want to reach out and make a pitch. Just like in every other case though, you want to be sure your music is up to par with what they already use.
Podcasters: Very similar to influencers except their main gig is running a podcast. This is a lucrative market for intros, outros and even underlying music. You'll have to listen to the persons' podcast you wish to pitch to and find out what exactly you have in your catalog that would benefit them. Every business play is about creating win-wins and this is no different. The podcaster may not even use music yet but if you pitch them the right song(s) with the right price they may be interested. I recommend pitching without an initial price and getting a feel for what their budget might be before asking them to pay. You can create a fee specific for that person which will increase the odds of success. All you'll need to do this is the name of the podcast host and their email.
Visual Artist: This could be anyone doing an installation, art gallery or even creating a mobile app. Depending on the scope of the project, as always, adjust your price accordingly. To meet people that are in the market you'll need to network in the appropriate place. Whether it be attending art galleries, attending local art shows or chatting with developers online. The market for sync right now is lucrative, which is one of the reasons you'll be hearing more and more talk about this if you aren't already hearing a lot.
3) The Library Artist
This is very similar to a sync artist but with some key differences. To start, they don't have to pitch their music to music supes or any of the people a sync artist would unless they choose to take advantage of both. Also, in general, they don't write songs that would also be suitable for radio whereas sync artists should. Often the styles here are more "stock" sounding for lack of better words. The income still comes from sync licensing though.
If you want to generate a full-time income from this, your goal should be to get your song into publishing libraries or to create your own. A great place to start with this is a site called Audio Jungle. They also have a straight forward approval process so you'll know if your music is up to par and stands a chance at getting used. Once you have mastered the smaller libraries you should try to approach some of the bigger ones. If you've read this whole post so far, you'll know the best way to approach them will be to do your research and reach out when the time is right. [Refer back to music supervisors]
You could also make these connections at relevant industry events through traditional networking.
4) The Lifestyle Artist
This is becoming a big one for modern artists. Essentially they grow a large fan base through the same methods as influencers. This could also be a combination of acting, modeling, and vocal/ instrument performance. The majority of these artists are making their money with sponsored posts, affiliate marketing on YouTube, a blog or vlog, running ads on their channels, and potentially even guest blogging or staring. Depending on their skills they may also make money through acting, background acting, modeling, and song royalties. If done right, it's easy to see why this is becoming popular. When combined with the other revenue streams on this post, it is really a strong avenue to generate income.
Who To Know, What They Do & How To Meet Them:
Getting to know your fans and supporters should be the number one goal for these artists because it will help them gain more which will lead to higher-paying gigs and potential to tap into that audience.
Knowing other influencers is great for getting your name out there and cross-promotion. They may even have so much on their plate that they'll be able to pass you overflow gigs.
It's also good to know website and blog owners so you can make guest posts. These won't always be paid but with more writing experience and a solid niche approach, you'll start seeing paid offers.