How To Make Money With Music Online (6 Ideas To Get Started)

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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

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).

eBay

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!

Ghost producing

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.

Patreon model

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!

Do you need music production software for your studio? Check out our list of free VST plugins.

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About Author

Pierre Parenteau is a virtual instruments creator and content writer. He's been producing electronic music for more than 15 years.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article, Pierre! I feel I’m ready to get started on this soon. This is the baseline I needed!

  2. I’m an huge buyer of obscure releases on Bandcamp, none of these has got a physical release. I have thought I could print some 30/35 (not more in any way) professional – though unofficial- cd’s under the banner of a ghost label, would you recommend it? If you do, which way would you act?

  3. Nice article, but $5000 to $10.000 with music licensing… there is probably something I am doing wrong then :)
    Do you really know people who make so much only with licensing?

    $10.000 would be way way more than my current full time job…. that would be a dream!

  4. Bruno de Souza Lino

    on

    Tbbh, I’m not seeing how you’d even make 5-10k with music licensing considering how saturated the market is.

    • That’s because everyone, fellow artist, producers etc playing the game >>doesn’t know HOW to (manipulate) the social digital music platform spectrum. As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you do, but HOW you are doing it” feel me?

      IE, just because many are doing it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing it right, hitting that sweet spot that brings economical/social growth.

      And on the other hand you have those whom have “figured it out” either by trial & error, & or a social counterpart kind enough to bless them with the knowledge, & know how to proceed, & persist

      At the end of the day of course it’s all about putting in that >>hard “WORK” bottom line line! We can all make excuses all day as to why this didn’t, isn’t, or hasn’t worked for us. But clearly, & apparently the “Knowledge” is freely here/there to be exploited

      In essence. There are people GIVING you the “secrets”, or “Keys to the game” if you will of how to manipulate the game to your own personal unique favor IF you are ready & willing to do that aforementioned work.

      So that would just leave the work since we are giving ly being told HOW to make it work for us you feel me? IJS lol

      Those whom “Kut, & or break thru” are the one’s whom are doing the work period, end of story. And we know this because the same exact FREE “SOCIAL DIGITAL STRUCTURE” is just as freely accessible to everyone else in of society. It’s called the “Internet” aahah.

      Just face it bro lol. WE (those like myself & others) who have great Music to share & be profited from are just lazy lmao smh!

      Because we could be doing the same thing/thing’s (MAKING TONS OF $$$ ONLINE DIGITALLY etc) to make economic stability a reality in our own lives just as they have, and are doing daily you feel me.

      And although there IS an “Over saturated” digital market of (bottom feeder) artist per say mucking up the game for the “Authentically” talented (Can’t knock a Mans hustle tho if the are doing the work) there are 7.7 BILLION people alive on Earth which is an enormous amount of people. And I’m sure of that 7.7 billion people in the human population we have at least 2 or 3 billion people with access to modern technology/ IE the Internet with access to ALL social platforms including music of course naturally

      And MUSIC is one of the most important, >>profitable one’s because with as vast of CONSUMER base taste that creates a market for everyone’s personal like’s, and taste and need’s in terms of what Music is digital consumed & or paid for to be meet you feel me

      So as bad as it (looks) & appears to be on the outside, it’s really not that bad, IE “HARD”. At least as we presume it to be mentally. Because in true reality not everyone will like, purchase, be attracted to the same exact type’s of music which is the GOOD, & greater aspect of it all in retrospect of the situation, eg “Over saturated” digital music markets.

      Hence the “digital” world is no different than the “physical” world aesthetically speaking. You will never get around doing the “hard work” it takes to succeed if you plan on attaining monetarily wealth, & financial stabilities , eg being RICH!

      Little wisdom for you before I conclude lmao. >>It actually has nothing to do with (people) per say, or the digital domain in regards to earning a quantifiable living. But more with the “UNIVERSE” & your (understanding) of the people & or things that move within it. I.e once you truly understand the practical ethics of HOW things actually work that produces RESULTS is when you will began to achieve success.

      It’s our own LAZINESS, and humanistic self indulgence that keeps us from transforming into our better and more financially (successful) selves. That’s why in life, the world you have RICH & you have those of whom are POOR!

      What levels the play field is that hard work. Any Man/woman willing to work as hard to achieve a goal will indubitably achieve said success.

      What’s funny is the objective “goal” is not the most important factor, but it is the “EFFORT” given towards said goal that truly deserves credit for it for coming into fruition.

      Not saying your wrong bro, so hopefully I didn’t come off offensive? Just saying keep it real unto one’s self as for the putting in the WORK necessary to succeed, be successful, & stop with the excuses, and be more self accountable for your own personal (effort) to succeed & make it work because THINKING like <<THAT is what's going to get you want. So why consider thinking anything other than less JS?

      As well, don't allow the "Mental Smoke screen" of society's digitally congested landscapes detour you from trying merrily based on the fact that the market IS over saturated. SO WHAT!!

      PERSISTENCE, & CONSISTENCEY will always bring results bottom line. I don't care if it was the WORST music producer to ever make a beat. IF HE KEEPS CONSISTENTLY TRYING & applying pressure he WILL event ly earn a SALE for his garbage beat's I assure you of this lol.

      And we see this daily in our current music industries, artist etc. You don't have to be the BEST, or most TALENTED anymore. It's about who out works and tries harder to be seen, heard etc

      • sure you say right things about the importance of hard work.
        theres just one little addition to make:
        success can only be the result of hard work + luck/fortune.
        or turn it around logically:
        it would be very unfair to say that everybody who is not succesful is not putting enough effort in it.
        there are tons of examples in the world for people working really hard and never earn anything for it, this should not be forgotten. (not only talking about music, rather in general.)

  5. When the author talks about income from 5 to 10k for music licensing, he does not specify in what time that objective would be achieved, if in a month, in a year or in a decade. It would be nice if he could clarify.

  6. You’re right, I am realizing that maybe he was meaning “a year”, in which cases, yes, it is a reasonable and reachable goal :)

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