In my never-ending quest to make money with music, I tested and found different down-to-earth methods that are efficient. Depending on your skills, these methods could generate a nice side income and could even be your main job! Read on to learn the hows and whys.
Music licensing websites are everywhere, but like any industry, what was once relevant isn’t anymore. The new business model for micro-stock is leaning toward a subscription-based model instead of pay-per-track pricing. Because of this, you’ll want to upload your music to only the relevant websites that offer subscriptions.
These are Epidemic Sound, Motion Array, and Artlist. There’s also Pond5 that offers a mix of both. If your music production is good and you make music in popular genres, you can expect income ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Note that all these websites don’t ask for exclusive distribution rights.
For micro-stock, never offer an exclusive deal to a website. It’s not worth it. Exclusive deals are only worthwhile if you work with a company that actively promotes and places your work (bigger agencies).
From my experience, I made the most money licensing my minimal ambient tracks. These kinds of tracks are easier to mix in the background of a movie or documentary, and they usually have one emotional tone making them easier to find by creators who need specific music.
Freelancing (music production services)
Freelancing is becoming an increasingly lucrative industry. Basically, you offer your service on a website that connects businesses with music workers like you. Upwork and Fiverr are the most well-known, but there are also specialized websites for audio services like SoundBetter, Melody Nest, and AirGigs.
SoundBetter is the most popular of the three, but competition is fierce. You’ll need advanced music production skills and a professional presentation. If you have the funds, a professional photo or, even better, a pro video presentation will make a big difference.! Ironically, in the audio world, the look is as important as the sound!
You can offer services like music mastering, mixing, audio restoration, beat making, live instrument recordings, and complete music production. If you’re particularly good at something, make it your primary focus.
Businesses are always looking for the best they can get for their money, and it’s easier to be the best or among the best in a sub-category than in the main category (i.e., be the best R’n’b singer instead of just singer).
It might sound strange, but eBay can be an excellent place to sell physical goods that you created. Maybe you create handmade instruments, and selling them on eBay can be surprisingly lucrative.
You can also sell modified devices. I bought a few handmade electronic devices on eBay, which weren’t cheap. Many people sell old-school sample libraries on CD-ROMs. You won’t sell thousands of them, but you’d be surprised to see how many sell in a month!
A look at the sold listings for sample libraries on discs shows that they still sell. If you release your music in physical format with special artistic packaging, you can always list them on eBay and Discogs.
At the time of this writing, you can’t sell digital products on eBay, but some sellers are doing it anyway, and they sell. Like any niches, to find out what sells, research is vital. Even if you make $20 per month, it’s still more than what most musicians make on Spotify!
Music production and music commercialization are two different things. Producing for another artist without getting credits is more common than you think. Being an expert in both music production and commercialization is hard, let alone doing both works simultaneously!
When an artist develops an audience and a successful brand, he creates something that is extremely difficult to accomplish. Hiring a ghost producer to make the main product or build upon it help relieve the burden of maintaining the fan base’s attention.
If it’s something you’d be willing to do, you can offer your ghost production service on freelancing websites or contact artists that would benefit from your service. Ghost production is also used by playlist makers who earn money from it on YouTube (through ads) and Spotify.
Bandcamp merchandises targeting collectors
You might feel that the aforementioned money-making methods don’t respect your artistic integrity and vision. Lucky for you, Bandcamp is the most artist-friendly website where to sell your music and merchandise.
To have some level of success on Bandcamp, you’ll need to produce a genre that is already popular on the website, like vaporwave, synthwave, lofi beats, etc. Or grow an audience on social media.
Limited edition cassettes are a thing for certain genres of music, and you can now offer vinyl without any upfront cost. Suppose you have established a good reputation in a particular genre of music. In that case, you’ll make most of your money on Bandcamp, especially if there’s already a culture of collecting in your music genre.
For instance, vinyl is popular in the synthwave genre. T-shirts and vinyl are popular in heavy metal, and its sub-genres and cassette collecting is a thing in the vaporwave genre. Different genres, different cultures, and different types of collectors.
Sample packs and STEMS
Selling your music as construction kits and STEMs can be a good way to quickly heard an income. Many sample pack labels are looking for producers to create sample packs for them. You can either sell the rights for an upfront cost or make a deal to get a percentage of each sale.
It’s essential to always read the license of your Kontakt libraries to make sure you can use them to create loop packs. Some companies like Spitfire Audio allows it while other don’t. From my experience, I’ve found that providing wet/dry versions of the loops is better, and including the MIDI files increases sales.
If you created all the sounds you use, you could also provide one-shots, which is always appreciated by customers. Construction kits are bought by all kinds of clients, but most of them will be sample-based artists, DJs, video producers, and indie video game developers.
For DJs, STEMS are useful because they can easily be loaded into their DJ software (most likely Traktor). The genre you’re targeting will determine the best way to format your sample pack. For example, MPC Expansions with drum kits and one-shots are necessary for hip hop, while STEMS and loops will be more important for techno genres.
This must be one of the least known ways to make money with unusual music. For example, if you make ambient music, the Patreon model must be one of the best to generate an income, if not the best!
With Patreon, you have two different models: you can either get donations per creation or get monthly donations with different tiers with their own incentives. You don’t have to be particularly famous to start generating an income with Patreon. The Guild of Ambience gets $310 (USD) per creation and is a fairly obscure project.
Obviously, you’ll make much more if you already have an audience. Jogging House creates “optimistic ambient music” and earns $1,128 per month by offering exclusive tracks and Skype discussions with his fan base.
It’s essential to keep in mind that each way to make money with your music has its own quirks and particularities. You also have to consider your skills and be honest about them.
I once thought I was good enough to program piano performances until I tried it and realized that it’s not a skill I have. Being humble in assessing your skills and taking the step necessary to become a professional is key. Good luck!