Virtually nothing else in history has shaped the music industry more dramatically than the internet. But as much as it’s played an integral role in countless musicians’ careers, the coronavirus crisis has now put us in a position where, for the first time ever, the internet is our only option to reach music fans.
The unfortunate reality we have to face is that it could be a quite a while before live performances, tours, and festivals will be back in full swing. If gigging has made up a good chunk of your income up until this point, it’s crucial that you start laying the groundwork now to make money from your music online.
The good news is that once we come out on the other side of this pandemic, all the effort you put in now to supplement your income will continue to pay off over time. So how can you make money with music online? Here are some of the best ways to get started.
1. Sell music through your website
If you don’t already have one, you should build a website for your music. It gives you a little slice of the internet that you own and control, and you can also sell music directly to your fans (commission-free through Bandzoogle).
But more than that, you will own the data and emails you collect through it. This is essential to have long-term success in your career, as you can use that data to let your fans know about new music, upcoming tours, crowdfunding campaigns, and more.
2. Make your music available through online music retailers
Fans don’t buy as many digital downloads as they used to, but they can still be a meaningful revenue source for DIY musicians.
Distributing your music to major online retailers like iTunes and Amazon helps you come across as a more legitimate artist, gives you access to detailed analytics, and gives your fans a convenient way to support you.
3. Make your music available for streaming
These days, the vast majority of listening is happening on major streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Amazon Music. This means that making your songs available on them is essential to reach your current fans, as well as potential new fans.
We have a long way to go before streaming revenue replaces the money that artists used to make selling physical albums, but the business is growing every year, and it’s income you don’t want to miss out on collecting.
Artist: Bandzoogle members Warbringer
4. Monetize your YouTube channel
How can a hardworking musician get their hands on some of that sweet, sweet YouTube money? The first and easiest step is to upload all your music to your channel. From there, you need to build up your subscribers and set up YouTube monetization on your account.
Anytime music you own is used in a YouTube video — whether on your own channel or someone else’s — you’re entitled to collect your fair share of the ad revenue generated by it. A digital distribution company such as CD Baby will help ensure that all the money you’re owed ends up in your bank account.
5. Finance your next project through crowdfunding
If you have a supportive fanbase, crowdfunding can be a great way to cover the costs of your project. The key to successful crowdfunding is to build excitement among your most engaged fans by showing them what’s behind the curtain and inviting them into your creative process. It takes a lot of planning and proper budgeting, though, so don’t think of it as a quick fix that’ll solve your immediate cash flow problems.
When you’re ready to launch your campaign, you can use Bandzoogle’s built-in crowdfunding tools to take album pre-orders, bundle digital music with CDs or vinyl, and anything else you’d like to offer. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, pledges from your fans are commission-free on Bandzoogle and go directly into your account with no delays.
Sell music, merch, and tickets, take direct donations, pledges for crowdfunding, and create monthly fan subscriptions from your website, all commission-free. Try Bandzoogle free for 30 days to build a website for your music.
6. Offer fan subscriptions
One of the hardest things about making a living as a musician is that most income streams are unpredictable. Fan subscriptions have emerged as one of the few reliable sources of recurring revenue, making it an especially attractive option for artists in such uncertain times.
Subscriptions (sometimes referred to as memberships) give your most loyal fans access to exclusive recordings, performances, videos, merch, and rewards in exchange for a small monthly contribution.
It takes a lot of effort and dedication to consistently churn out new content and creative ideas for rewards, but if you’re up for that sort of challenge, it’s an excellent way to form deeper relationships with your listeners.
Bandzoogle members have access to a built-in subscriptions feature that makes all of this super easy to set up. Best of all, the monthly income that you earn is commission-free, and gets paid directly to you.
7. Sell tickets to live stream shows
With venues shut down around the world, music fans are more willing than ever to support artists online right now. Selling access to exclusive live streams of your performances can help you make money without having to leave home.
Experiment with debuting new material, playing through a beloved album in its entirety, and even taking audience requests to get a better sense of what your fans want to hear.
8. Offer free live streaming concerts with a tip jar
If you don’t feel comfortable asking for payment up front for your live stream shows, hosting it for free and setting up a virtual tip jar is a great way to go.
On Facebook Live and Instagram Live, this can be as simple as sharing your PayPal.Me link, Venmo username, or website link with your viewers. Or you could opt for a platform like Twitch with built-in monetization features. Here’s a full breakdown of how to monetize each of the most popular live streaming platforms.
9. Monetize your Facebook and Instagram videos
A lot of musicians don’t realize that they can earn money when their music is used in videos on Facebook and Instagram, just like on YouTube. You can even get paid when people use your songs in their Instagram Stories.
Check with your digital distribution company to make sure they offer social video monetization.
10. Sell digital merch
There’s so much more you can include in your band merch store than the standard t-shirts, posters, and stickers. Challenge yourself to think beyond physical goods and explore possibilities like digital sheet music downloads, video lessons, or a nicely designed e-book of your lyrics.
You can build your very own merch store in minutes with Bandzoogle. It’ll be integrated right into your website, and as always, every sale you make is commission-free.
11. License your music
Getting your songs licensed for films, TV shows, and ads is easier said than done, but even one placement could be a game changer for your music career. Some musicians earn most or all of their income from licensing alone.
Hitting the right music supervisor with the right song at the right time certainly involves some luck, but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.
Don’t feel like you have to throw yourself into everything at once. Some of these ideas might be more doable for you than others, depending on the kind of musician you are, how far along you are in your career, and what your big-picture goals are.
Start by exploring just a couple of avenues that excite you the most right now, and double down on whatever seems to be working best for you in the upcoming weeks.
Learn more: 26 ways musicians can make money
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