How do you make a living as an artist?

How do you make a living as an artist?

How do you make a living as an artist?

Individuals embarking on an artistic career often perceive their financial prospects in one of two polarizing stereotypes.

Individuals embarking on an artistic career often perceive their financial prospects in one of two polarizing stereotypes.

Fortunately, a spectrum of intermediate scenarios exists between these two extremes, providing opportunities for artists to sustain themselves through their music. Our journey begins with exploring what it truly means to earn a living in this context, followed by an enumeration of diverse avenues that facilitate this achievement, encompassing both the digital realm and the physical world. 

What does it mean to "make a living as an artist"? 

Everything hinges on an individual's unique needs and expectations. Each person has their comfort zone, but the underlying assumption is that 'making a living' implies not requiring a secondary job, aside from pursuing music, to cover living expenses. If you currently hold a position unrelated to your musical endeavors, exercise caution before swiftly departing; a gradual transition with some savings accumulated is often the wiser path. 

One certainty remains: achieving financial stability through your music necessitates a keen awareness of available resources. We aim to enlighten you about the diverse avenues through which you can financially leverage your music. While this list isn't exhaustive, it's intended to be a guiding framework to align your career with your aspirations. 

Furthermore, remember that each income-generating avenue should be part of a thoroughly considered and contemplated overall strategy. Avoid financial risks and engage in paid opportunities only when the need is significant. 

What are the online ways to make money with your music? 

Streaming and royalties 

When you choose to distribute your music on streaming platforms such as Spotify or Deezer through your record label or digital distributor, your streamed tracks generate two types of copyright royalties. As a songwriter, you can receive these royalties through entities like an Independent Management Entity such as Bridger, a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) like BMI, or a Collective Management Organization (CMO) like Sacem. Additionally, you can collect master rights royalties as a performer and producer, typically based on the terms outlined in your contract with your record label or as specified by your distributor's subscription terms. 

The actual amount you receive in royalties can vary significantly from person to person. However, the general business model of streaming platforms closely resembles that of Spotify. In this model, the platform retains 30% of its revenues. Approximately 12-15% of these revenues are then allocated to the Collective Management Organization, Independent Management Entity, or Performing Rights Organization, which redistributes them to its members. The remaining portion goes to the distributors and record labels, determined by the percentage of listeners that artists they represent accumulate in specific territories. These distributors and labels then distribute the revenues to their respective artists, following the terms outlined in their contractual agreements.  

Donations from the audience 

You can also explore the option of seeking financial support from your audience, who appreciate your music. While this might feel daunting for those uncomfortable asking for money, it can be remarkably effective. It allows you to build a dedicated fan base and fosters a strong connection with your audience, promoting a free exchange of ideas that can fuel your creativity. Importantly, this approach is not unusual; it's entirely normal to ask those who enjoy your work to support you financially. If they appreciate what you do, they will gladly contribute.   

There are various ways and tools to facilitate this process:   

  • Winamp for Creators: Winamp for Creators is a newcomer to the scene, designed specifically for musicians. It allows artists to earn monthly incomes from their supporters in return for exclusive content. What sets it apart from Patreon is its music-focused platform, drawing from the Winamp player's substantial user base. Additionally, creators can access services like music distribution, copyright management, NFTs, and more, all under one unique fee.  

  •  Twitch: Consider setting up and running a Twitch account, a social network where you can live-stream videos. The Twitch Affiliate program enables viewers to make recurring donations while engaging with your live content. If this piques your interest, there's an article on this topic for further exploration.   

  • Crowdfunding: For more temporary funding needs, like financing a specific project, you can launch a crowdfunding campaign on platforms such as Kickstarter, KissKissBankBank, or Ulule. However, remember that a successful campaign demands substantial effort and availability. Before embarking on a crowdfunding endeavor, it's advisable to already have a significant online community, ideally with around 2,000 followers on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. 

Direct-to-consumer (D2C)  

Similarly, the Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) approach fosters more direct interaction between artists and their fans. In this model, artists sell their products directly to their audience without intermediaries. Regardless of your specific tool, cultivating and nurturing a devoted community that provides financial support requires time, finesse, and unwavering dedication. 

The underlying principle is consistent across all D2C strategies: you must demonstrate to potential micro-backers that you're committed to delivering content they appreciate, maintain a close connection with them, and genuinely value their presence. While it may not be sufficient to sustain a livelihood, it serves as a foundation upon which you can construct and promote all your music endeavors. It also showcases your potential for growth to industry professionals. 

For instance, you can establish a profile on platforms like Bandcamp, where you can upload your tracks and offer them for sale as digital files or physical records. Additionally, you can provide merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, or any other items you desire. The advantage of Bandcamp lies in its dedicated focus on music, allowing you to nurture a long-term relationship with your subscribers by updating your offerings at your convenience. A similar approach can be adopted on platforms like Music Glue, which is tailored for Direct-to-Consumer interactions, enabling you to set up a store to showcase your project and sell your products directly to your audience.

Online sample libraries 

Sharing your tracks on online sample libraries can be a lucrative endeavor. Platforms like Splice offer opportunities for musicians to earn money by making their work available to other artists. The process involves uploading your tracks to the website, where other musicians can use them. In return, you receive compensation according to the contract terms you've agreed upon. 

Another promising avenue for generating income is synchronization licensing. This involves placing your music in audiovisual products, which can be facilitated through your publishing company or platforms like TuneCore Sync and Jamendo Licensing. Sync licensing is widely regarded as one of the most effective methods for monetizing your music.


The concept revolves around negotiating licensing agreements to have your music featured in various forms of audiovisual media, including streaming or TV series, feature and short films, commercials, video games, and more. The returns you earn from sync licensing depend on factors such as the price of the license you or your publishing company sells, the sound and creative quality of your track, the type of production that purchases it, the territories it's used in, the communication channels involved, and the duration of the licensing agreement. 

How to make money with your music offline? 


Live concerts represent one of the most lucrative avenues for artists to sustain themselves offline. Beyond their financial rewards, concerts are pivotal in cultivating audience loyalty. The stage serves as the pinnacle of your artistic expression, where you establish a tangible connection with your audience and unveil new facets of your personality. In essence, live performances are invigorating. 

To secure bookings at venues, it's advisable to collaborate with a booker. This role serves as the final link in the chain of your music promotion, and having a publisher or label within your professional network can enhance your chances of convincing them. 

Any live performance should be compensated, with fees often increasing following your publishing or label contract.   

In return, the show's producer receives payment from ticket sales if they finance the event or through a contract negotiated with festivals, if applicable. Typically, they take a percentage of the sales revenue, ranging from 10-15% for emerging artists (with the rest going to the artist) and more substantial rates for well-established acts. 

Musical springboards 

For emerging artists, various musical springboards provide valuable support. These platforms offer professional assistance in legal structuring, promotion, stage experience, and artistic identity development. They may provide opportunities to secure grants for artistic residencies or finance your upcoming releases. 


Regarding grants, numerous options are available for musicians, although some are tailored for labels. Therefore, establish your structure before pursuing grants to streamline the application process. While the grant application process may appear daunting, it primarily involves formalizing that you are already self-financing your music creation. Grants are intended to relieve the financial burden of your artistic projects rather than serving as direct remuneration. 

Private events 

Private events, spanning corporate functions, weddings, birthdays, and showcases, present various opportunities for live performances. To access such events, consider contacting friends and establishing connections with event agencies. 

Little Summary:

  • Making a living from your music as an artist means earning your income from your music and not having to rely on a second job to support yourself.

  • Online ways to make money from your music include streaming platforms, donations, D2C, sample libraries, and sync-licensing.

  • There are also several offline options, such as concerts, springboards, grants, and private events.


5 minutes

18 September 2023

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