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  • Writer's pictureSteve Summers

A Musician's Hustle.

It can be dog-eat-dog in a musicians world. Especially in today's industry, with so much competition, and there's no longer the hovering agent, looking for his next talent to sign. The industry is now very dependant on the independent. Artists and Producers have to be entrepreneurs. They have treat themselves as a business and as a brand. Yes, nowadays, we have unlimited access to a flourishing online world, but if you, the musicians/composer/producer, are not taking full advantage of the new and somewhat "improved" industry, you will just be another dingleberry on the music industry's arse.

If you are a musician, composer, or producer, you probably have a basic sense of the ways you can make money. Some revenue streams are simple to understand, like playing shows, or selling merchandise. But there are many, many more ways that musicians can earn money from their compositions, performances, sound recordings, brand, or knowledge of the craft.

Here are some ways you can make it work. Though please note, you need to put in what you want to get out, and in this day and age, there's rarely the industry agent waiting to drop a deal in your lap.

Revenue Streams for Songwriters and Composers

  1. Mechanical Royalties - Royalties generated through the licensed reproduction of recordings of your songs — either physical or digital. Paid to songwriter/composer by publisher, label, or digital aggregator like CD Baby or TuneCore.

  2. Commissions - Typically a request from an ensemble, presenter, orchestra or other entity for a composer to create an original work for them.

  3. Advances - Bulk payment to songwriter/composer as part of a publishing deal. Paid to songwriter/composer by publishing company.

  4. Public Performance Royalties - Royalties generated when your songs are played on radio, TV, in clubs and restaurants. Paid to songwriter/composer/publisher by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC or in Australia, APRA AMCOS.

  5. Streaming Royalties - Royalties generated when your songs are streamed on on-demand services (Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, iTunes).

  6. Broadcasting Compositions - Typically a commercial request to compose an original jingle, soundtrack, score, or other musical work for a film, TV or cable show, or an ad agency. Paid to songwriter/composer by agency requesting the work.

  7. Licensing and Syncopation - Typically involves licensing an existing work for use in a movie, documentary, TV, video games, internet, or a commercial. Paid to songwriters/composers either via publisher or record label, or via a direct licensing deal with the licensee (movie studio, ad agency, etc) if you are self-published.

Revenue Streams for Performers and Recording Artists

  1. Record Label Advances and Support - Paid to recording artists as part of signing a deal, and/or fronted money from label for recording or tour support.

  2. Retail Sales and Merchandise - Revenue generated from selling physical recordings and merchandise in retail stores or via mail order. Paid to recording artist/performer by your label, or services like CD Baby or BandCamp that help musicians sell their physical products. This includes selling said products at live shows and performances as well.

  3. Digital Sales - Revenue generated from selling recordings digitally/online as permanent downloads. Paid to recording artist/performer by your label, or digital aggregators like CD Baby or TuneCore, or directly from fans via services like BandCamp.

  4. Digital Performance Royalties - Revenue generated when your sound recordings are played on internet radio, Sirius XM, Pandora.

  5. Master Use Licensing - Licensing an existing sound recording for use in a movie, documentary, TV, video games, internet, or a commercial. License fee paid to record label and/or recording artist via a direct licensing deal with the licensee (movie studio, ad agency, etc).

  6. APRA Royalties - Collected performance and streaming royalties, foreign private copying levies, and foreign record rental royalties. Accumulated by APRA AMCOS. Including Neighbouring Rights Royalties, for the foreign performances or your recordings.

  7. Performance Fees - Revenue generated from gigging, often paid by venue or events manager.

Revenue Streams for Session Musicians

  1. Salary as a Member of an Orchestra or Ensemble - Income earned as a salaried member of an orchestra, band or ensemble. Pretty self-explanatory.

  2. Performer Fees - Revenue generated from playing in a live setting (for non-salaried players). Paid by concert promoter, presenter or venue to performer.

  3. Studio Work (Sideman Session Musician Fees) - Payments to studio musicians/freelancers/sideman for work in recording studio. Paid by label, producer or artist, depending on situation.

  4. Live Work (Sideman Session Musician Fees) - Payments to studio musicians/freelancers/sideman for work in a live setting/on tour. Paid by label, producer or artist, depending on situation.

Revenue Streams for Teaching and Producing (Knowledge of the Craft)

  1. Music Tuition - Revenue generated for teaching your musical craft.

  2. Music Production - Payment for producing another artists’ work in the studio or in a live setting. Paid by labels, featured artists, studios, presenters, or foundations, depending on situation.

Revenue Streams for Bands

  1. Merchandise - Revenue generated from merchandise sales.

  2. YouTube (Partnership) - Shared advertising revenue, paid to partners by YouTube.

  3. Ad Revenue and Social Media Marketing - Miscellaneous income generated by your website properties, via adverts, social media marketing and promotions.

  4. Persona Licensing - Payments from a brand that is licensing your name or likeness (video games, comic books, etc).

  5. Product and Brand Endorsements - Payments or free goods from a brand for you endorsing or using their product.

  6. A few others...

  7. Crowd Funding - Money directly from fans to support or pre-sell an upcoming recording project or tour (Kickstarter, Pledge Music, IndieGogo).

  8. Sponsorships - Corporate support for a tour, or for your band/ensemble.

  9. Grants - Foundation or public arts grants to support your work/project from foundations, state or federal agencies.

There are many options for the independent, so don't fret the new age of the music industry, take it all on board and hit the ground running. I myself have utilised many different outlets for my own musical goals, though many of these revenue streams take time to develop, like you the artist will as well. So my advice would be:

  • Find your niche first - Whether you're in a band, producing music, or composing, there are millions of people out there, just like you, doing the same thing, and trying to achieve the same thing. Find out what you love the most and run with it, make it interesting and make it original. Blend your ideas and fill the gaps. Everyone has similar skills, but the ideas come from within. Find your niche.

  • Use social marketing as a tool - If you have branded yourself, keep you online image professional, as this is your "packaging". You should take full advantage of the social market, as it can ultimately make or break your persona as a professional, so use it wisely. Don't be a troll, don't spam forums or Facebook pages, and don't talk shit. These sites are a cheap and easy way to market yourself directly to your already established audiences. Your followers are watching your every move, so keep it pro and keep it tasteful, in a way that it will help your music, and brand, take steps forward.

  • and sign up with APRA AMCOS - This should be a requirement for all musicians. If you want to collect your streaming royalties, sign up with APRA. If you want to get paid for your performances, sign up with APRA. If you want to get paid, period, sign up with APRA. They have your back. Plus heaps more incentives if you're planning your next tour run. If you haven't signed up already, you're missing out on a lot of revenue opportunities.

Here are some links I have found helpful through my career:

Stay Tuned.


Works Cited:

42 Revenue Streams | Artist Revenue Streams. (2018). Retrieved from



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