Income streams for artists can be numerous. Some ways are better than others. Here is a list of what I thought are the best, and what artists should focus on first. Depending on the artists, how long they have been around or where they are in the world, the priority of some income streams over others might change. Use this image as an additional resource to building your musical legacy and take from it what you will.
Income streams for artists 1: Public Performance Royalties (SAMRO)
Whenever your music is played live, on tv, or just anywhere in public really, you get royalties. All you need to do is register – easy money.
Income streams for artists 2: Mechanical royalty (CAPASSO)
Every time a copy of your song (physical or digital) is made, you must be given cash. You also need to register. There is a tiny annual fee.
Income streams for artists 3: Needletime (SAMPRA)
After nearly 15 years of struggle, needletime royalties are coming to performers (including producers and sessions musicians) involved in recording a song. Registration is free, so there is no reason not to do it.
Income streams for artists 4: CCLI
For those of you who create Christian/gospel music, you may want to consider joining CCLI. CCLI license your material to churches (and others) who want to use it. They also license your lyrics separately, which is pretty cool.
Income streams for artists 5: Live shows
Seems obvious, but it is the bread and butter for many musicians. Get money via door deals, through online ticketing platforms (they will take a cut) or more established artists can insist on money up front. Alternative love gigs = online gigs, house shows, and busking.
Income streams for artists 6: Digital downloads
Use an aggregator (CD Baby, Tunecore, etc.) and get your music online. Aggregators will put your music everywhere, for a small cut obviously, and you will make money every time your song/album is downloaded.
Income streams for artists 7: Streaming
Streaming is the new bully on the block. It is the fastest-growing revenue source worldwide. Aggregators will get your music on popular streaming sites such as Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music or Google Play etc.
Income streams for artists 8: Album sales
Simple, sell your physical albums and make money!
Income streams for artists 9: Merchandise
Fans like to support artists by purchasing memorabilia. Clothing with band logos, online artwork, lyric books etc. Merchandise can be physical or digital. Be creative!
Income streams for artists 10: Crowdfunding
Many bands have paved the way for crowdfunding. Engage with your supporters and get them to pre-order your music or to help fund a tour etc. You will likely only get paid if your target is met. It’s all or nothing.
Income streams for artists 11: Subscription (Patreon)
Patreon is a rad concept that is so simple. Supporters (patreons) pay an amount of their choice every month to you, and in exchange, you give them exclusive access to new material before the plebs (non-patrons). It is not the only subscription-based platform, but one of the best.
Income streams for artists 12: Sync licenses
Anyone who wants to put your music with their video/commercial/video game/app etc will have to pay you for it, and we could be talking top dollar. Just make sure the contract is good before signing it – otherwise, you could be giving away more than you know.
Income streams for artists 13: Session work musician
Why not offer your services as a professional recording or performing musician? You will be paid a once-off session fee. Many musicians live off this income.
Income streams for artists 14: Session work producer
If you have a good ear, other artists might hire you to produce them. You offer your objective input both creatively and from a mixing/recording perspective.
Income streams for artists 15: Lessons
They say those that can’t do, teach! Only kidding… Teaching is the best way to make money whilst maintaining your skills as a musician.
Income streams for artists 16: Sponsorships
Very seldom do artists get hard cash from sponsors. Sponsors may help pay certain expenses (eg. marketing costs), or give you discounts on their products (hello Fender). But getting things for free is still awesome. Check out sponsoredtweets.com – it’s self-explanatory and pretty cool.
Income streams for artists 17: Youtube
Now calm down. You stand to make very little, but YouTube is massive, so why not try? You must become a YouTube partner, monetize each video and enable AdSense. Only then will YouTube pay (once you’ve hit a $100 threshold).
Income streams for artists 18: Vinyl
Some artists and fans prefer going the old school route of music recording. Vinyl are expensive to manufacture and generally don’t sell as well as albums/downloads – but heck, it’s cool to have your music on vinyl.
Income streams for artists 19: Songwriting
Did you know you can actually just sit behind a computer and write music for others? Some people are lazy, or can’t write as good as you, so they prefer to buy music (many pop stars do this). You could even write ‘library music’ i.e. music you upload on library/sampling sites in the hope that someone will listen, like, and license.
Income streams for artists 20: Represent others
What is cooler than being a Rockstar? Being the manager of course. If you are ‘connected’, why not help aspiring artists break the scene … for a fee. You don’t only have to manage, you can be the publisher, agent or label etc.
Income streams for artists 21: Digital royalties (SoundExchange)
Very few musicians know of this. In the US, there is a very specific online streaming royalty that can be collected when music is streamed on non-interactive streaming sites (online radio). It’s unlikely to buy you a beer anytime soon, but it’s something.
Income streams for artists 22: Artist royalties
If someone else owns your album (cough record labels), and sell it, then you could get a tiny percentage of each sale. Not ideal.
The explainer image below summarises these income streams for artists in the music industry. It includes indicators of how fast each option can generate income and where legal rights are applicable.