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?

Whether online, offline, traditional, or novel, there are a multitude of creative ways artists can financially leverage their music.

Whether online, offline, traditional, or novel, there are a multitude of creative ways artists can financially leverage their music.

In this blog post, we've collected some of these money-making possibilities into our top recommendations. See our list as a guiding framework to kickstart your financial journey. We don't cover every possibility, so find what fits your goals, lifestyle, and preferences best. 

Let’s dive in! 

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

The meaning of the phrase 'making a living' depends on your unique needs and expectations. What quality of life are you striving for? What is the cost of sustaining this quality of life? Do you need a nice apartment or are you happy saving with cheaper rent?  

The underlying assumption is that 'making a living' implies no necessity for a secondary job to cover living expenses. This means that making music will cover all your financial needs. This, of course, varies per individual lifestyle.  

Two artists can earn the same amount but depending on the cost of their lifestyle they may need to have a second job to support themselves. Depending on your lifestyle expectations and needs, it may be easier or harder to make a living as an artist. 

What if I want to leave my job to pursue music full-time? 

If you currently hold a position unrelated to your musical endeavors, we wouldn't recommend leaving right away. A gradual transition to full-time artist (with some savings in the bank) is often the wiser and safer path.  

You wouldn't want to be left stranded and jobless while pursuing your life-long dream. Be smart and patient. To achieve financial stability through music, you must first be aware of the resources available to artists. Then, after careful consideration, you can take action towards achieving your financial success. 

Now, let's start off by exploring digital ways of earning money. 

How to make money as an artist online? 

In today's digital age, earning money online is easier than ever. And with the multitude of resources available for artists, you can quickly start earning with just a few clicks. 

  1. Streaming and Royalties 

When you distribute your music on streaming platforms such as Spotify, these tracks generate copyright and master rights royalties. Royalties basically mean the earnings your track generates. As a track contributor, you rightfully earn royalties depending on your role. 

Copyright royalties are the rights of authors, composers, songwriters, and music publishers. In simple terms, these are the individuals in charge of creating a track. If eligible, you can collect copyright 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

Master rights involve the recording of a musical composition and the performers and producers of a track. Typically, your record label contract outlines the distribution of your master rights. The same goes if you are working with a digital distributor. 

The actual amount you receive in royalties can vary significantly from person to person. The general business model of streaming platforms closely resembles that of Spotify.  In this model, the streaming platform retains 30% of its revenues. Approximately 12-15% of these revenues are allocated to the CMO, IME, or PRO, which redistributes them to its member artists.   

The remaining portion of revenues goes to the distributors and record labels. The percentage of listeners in specific territories determines this division. For example, the record labels whose artists generate more listens will receive a greater portion of these revenues.  

The distributors and labels then divide revenues to their respective artists, following the terms outlined in their contractual agreements. This is why it is important to carefully consider the contractual terms you agree to before signing.  

  1. Audience Donations

You can explore the option of seeking financial support from your audience. While it might feel daunting to ask your audience for money, it can be surprisingly effective. 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 to earn via audience donations:     

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

  • 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.  

  • Crowdfunding: For more temporary funding needs, you can launch a crowdfunding campaign on platforms such as Kickstarter 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. Additionally, make sure your funding goal is specific and necessary.  

Above all, don't forget the importance your audience plays for your success as an artist. Avoid taking advantage of your following by providing real value in exchange for their financial support. Your long-term music career will thank you. 

  1. Direct-to-consumer (D2C)  

Similarly, another option, the Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) approach, fosters more direct interaction between artists and their fans. In this method, artists sell their products directly to their audience without any intermediary interference.  

With all D2C strategies it is important to remember the following: 

  • Demonstrate that you are committed to delivering valuable content 

  • Maintain a close connection with your audience 

  • Genuinely value their presence 

Fostering a good relationship with your fans serves as a foundation upon which you can build all your music endeavors. It also showcases your potential for growth to industry professionals.  

One way you can sell directly to your audience is by creating a profile on a platform like Bandcamp. There, 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.  

Similarly, the platform Music Glue allows you to set up a personalized online store. Here, you can showcase your projects and sell your products directly to your audience. We'd recommend linking to these online stores on your social media to increase the reach your stores receive. 

  1. Online sample libraries 

Sharing your tracks on online sample libraries can also be a lucrative endeavor. Online sample libraries are databases of tracks for other artists to 'sample' in their own songs.  

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.   

  1. Sync-licensing 

Another promising avenue for generating income is synchronization licensing. To put it simply: this involves placing your music in audiovisual media via licensing agreements. Audiovisual media includes streaming, TV series, feature and short films, commercials, video games, and more.  

Your publishing company or platforms like TuneCore Sync and Jamendo Licensing can help you start earning with sync licensing.

Sync licensing is widely regarded as one of the most effective methods for monetizing your music. It also is a great way to gain exposure for your music. Learn more about this financial opportunity with our partner Jamendo Licensing

  1. Socials

You may be wondering, how do you earn money on social media? You see it all the time with influencers and brand endorsements, but are those opportunities available for independent artists? The answer is: yes, it's possible! The first step to monetize your social media is to understand your artist brand and presence online. Start by taking a look at your current social presence: 

  • Which platforms are you present on? Which platforms do you consistently post on? 

  • How engaged is your audience and following?  Do you receive lots of interaction?

  • What is your unique artist brand or style?

  • How do you demonstrate this on your socials?

Once you've assessed how you currently conduct your social media, you can match your unique profile to available opportunities.  For example, maybe you have a strong artist brand that aligns with certain companies. Reach out to see if you can become an influencer-- promoting their services or products. Maybe you prefer an indirect method of earning money, for which affiliate marketing might be a better fit.

How to make money with your music offline? 

Now, let's leave behind the digital and discuss how to earn money offline.

  1. Concerts

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. On stage, you can connect with your listeners in a unique, personal way. 

Coordinating a concert can seem a bit overwhelming... where do you even start? 

First, you need to secure a venue for your performance. To do so, it is advisable to collaborate with a booker who can help 'book' a venue for you. A booker serves as the final link in the chain of your music promotion. Having a publisher or label in your professional network can help you secure a booker's help. 

In return, the show's producer receives payment from ticket sales or through a contract negotiated with festivals, if applicable. Typically, producers take a percentage of the sales revenue, ranging from 10-15% for emerging artists. 

  1. 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.   

  1. Grants 

Grants are intended to relieve the financial burden of your artistic projects rather than to serve as direct remuneration. Therefore, the grant application process primarily involves showing that you self-finance your music creation.  

Above all, it is important to find grants that are a right fit for you. Apply for them in a clear and compelling way, making sure to research ahead of time to ensure a suitable match. Many organizations and foundations have grants available for artists, though some are specific for record labels.  

Some of these organizations include: 

  1. Creative Europe - Biggest funding program for the creative sector in the EU 

  2. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) - U.S. federal agency providing grants to support artistic projects and programming 

  3. The PRS Foundation - UK based foundation supporting new music and talent development 

Other options you can try include music foundations or corporate sponsorships.  

  1. 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

So, the conclusion? Making a living as an artist is completely feasible to achieve. Being aware of the financial opportunities available is the first step to start your financial journey. Remember: 

  1. How you define your lifestyle impacts whether or not you can support yourself 100% with music.

  2. You can earn money online via streaming and royalty collection, through a platform such as Bridger.

  3. Audience donations can be a great way to tap into your fanbase and build your connection with listeners. Check out Winamp for Creators to create your unique Fanzone today.

  4. Utilize your social platforms to foster an engaged following, consistent artist branding, and partnership opportunities with companies.

  5. Try out sync licensing with Jamendo Licensing to monetize your music & gain exposure.

  6. Use concerts, musical springboards, grants, and private events to earn money offline. 

Keep in mind 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. 

Are you interested in learning more about the music industry to take your music career to the next level? Curious to dive into topics on all things music contracts, distribution, or production tips? Check out the rest of our blog posts here

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artist on stage
artist on stage
artist on stage


5 minutes

14 June 2024

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