10 Income Sources for Musicians

Multiple. Streams. Of. Income.

Ever hear those magical words? Musicians, artists and freelancers who diversify their income increase their sense of job security and freedom of choice. There are many sources of active and passive income in the music industry to choose from. Let’s start with 10.

1. Performing Live

This might include restaurants, bars, clubs, stadiums, music festivals, house concerts, retirement homes, libraries, parks, cruise ships, Disneyland/world, airports, coffee shops, subways or street corners. Your level of income will vary wildly depending on location, type of performance, time, market rate, leader or sideman, etc. The possibilities here are endless and this is an obvious source of income for musicians.

2. Studio Recording (Session Work)

My hometown of Dallas, TX was once a bustling scene for jingles and studio recording work and there is a fair amount happening today. Recording studios are still prevalent, but modern technology has globalized the ability to professionally record, mix and master from your bedroom. I’ve recorded on many albums from my home office using a simple microphone and interface setup over the years and you can too! A great example and potential opportunity to offer freelance recording services to anyone in the world is through Fiverr.

3. Music Teacher

You might be reading this between teaching lessons or classes. If so, thank you for sharing music with the next generation. I have taught at every level from elementary to college students and beyond. This can be a very fulfilling source of income. It can also be stressful at times in certain situations. If you are managing an entire private lesson business you must maintain adequate contracts and invoices, reevaluate students and determine which to keep in your studio each season, have excellent customer service and so much more. There are also music schools that handle all of the business aspects for you and take a percentage of the income.

Elementary, Middle School, High School and University positions are also available if you’re looking for stable income. Keep in mind it is easy to make teaching your largest (and sometimes only) source of income and if that is not your plan, then consider rebalancing with some of these other ideas!

4. Merchandise Sales

Put your face on a t-shirt and clothe the world! Merchandise is an old-school, but still incredibly relevant (and sometimes greatest) source of income for musicians. This might include hoodies, albums, stickers, hats, etc.

I’ve even seen Bar-b-que sauce, panties, soap and coloring books.

5. Grants

If you can master grant writing you can do anything. Foundations, arts groups, state and government programs will grant you the funds to follow through with your amazing creative project. Beware, many musicians apply for the same grant so if you don’t get it the first time around try again. Rinse and repeat. You might even consider hiring a grant writer to increase your chances. Definitely worth it.

6. Digital Performance Royalties

These specific royalties are paid when your music is played on internet radio, SiriusXM or Pandora. You must use SoundExchange to claim and receive royalties from these platforms. If you have never heard the term “royalties” it means when your copyrighted music (asset) is used in any way (someone else records your song, plays it on the radio, etc.) you are compensated for such usage. There are many types of royalties and you can learn more about them at the end of this blog post.

7. Synch Licenses

Television, movies, video games, and Youtube videos purchase music for their content. Licensing deals are everywhere you just have to know where to look. Sometimes the ad agency or movie producer will directly search for just the right song or a publisher, music library, or music supervisor will pitch your music (for a fee) to license your music. Build up a large enough library then license enough music over the years and you are looking at an endless stream of mailbox money!

8. Commissions

Orchestras commission composers for original works and you can get commissioned too. Dance companies, ensembles, quartets and more will pay for your compositions. The more you write and show your work to the world, the more offers you are likely to receive for your composing style. This goes for arranging work as well.

9. Producer

The hottest form of income for “musicians” since Instagram was founded. Seriously though, some musicians don’t want to plan the recording session or think about the big picture when it comes to your album or project. This is where a producer comes in and fills all of those gaps, manages session musicians, and advises artists whether that beat is truly fire or not. Producing is a cloudy and sometimes mysterious position, but it takes a great amount of skill and patience to produce great music.

10. Acting

“Acting? I didn’t go to acting school, I’m a musician!” TV, movies and commercials need musicians. Just show up with your horn and act cool. It’s pretty neat to see professional musicians in major films. I can’t stand when fake musicians play with the saxophone mouthpiece upside down or electric guitars plugged into nothing...


This is just the start, there are many ways to generate income with your art. Want to learn about 45 sources of revenue for musicians? The nonprofit organization Future of Music Coalition’s Artist Revenue Streams research project lists them here:

45 Revenue Streams for Musicians

What are your sources of income? Which ones are you working towards generating?

Please send me an email at [email protected] or share this blog post and tag me.


P.S. Want to increase your income?

If so, my 12 week financial coaching program for musicians is available at a 50% discount and filling up fast! Learn more and sign up at www.SpenserLiszt.com/p/Coaching

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