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The dream is to make it in music, right?
You were just picking up momentum with your music career when a giant dump truck named COVID-19 came barreling in and rearranged not only your life, but everyone else’s too.
Many of us have had to look beyond our dreams of tours and fans and crowds for some different streams of income over the last year.
Fortunately, I’ve got some good news: You’re a musician!
You have a special and unique set of talents that most people only dream of having.
And more than that, you’re an innovator.
You possess the gift and the ability to create something special out of seemingly nothing.
You just have to lean into that spark and think outside the box a little.
Start by taking stock of your core competencies — things you know you do well.
See where you can apply those strengths to these potential revenue streams below, and be sure to check out these other resources in addition.
This obviously comes with the caveats that some regions are still more locked down than others, and you shouldn’t do things you aren’t comfortable with. (When it comes to your health and safety especially.)
Having said this, it is well worth mentioning that this sector of the music and performance industry has already started coming back in some regions.
If you’re ready to get back out there — or maybe, get out there for the first time — contact some venues in your area that host live music.
There are a whole host of bars, restaurants, and retail districts that are eager to bring back live entertainment, and will pay you to perform!
PRO TIP: Displaying your Venmo/PayPal/CashApp accounts while you play can be a very effective way to increase your tips, as it gives fans more ways to contribute than just cash.
2. Live Streaming
Twitch, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.
There are a myriad of platforms that can get you in front of your fans. You can even take requests in the comments!
Just as with in-person gigging, you can display your Venmo or Cashapp accounts to receive tips like you would at an in person gig. This is a great way to add an easy revenue stream from the comfort of your own home.
3. Becoming a Contract Musician
Here’s another avenue for monetization you might not have considered: church.
Whether you are already a member of a church, many churches simply need band members, and will pay players a per diem rate.
Many churches hire musicians on referral by other band members, and chances are if you’re not already in a network of contract musicians yourself, someone you know is.
If not, you could always post your availability on social media and see if anyone is hiring.
4. Sell Merch
Releasing a limited run of a piece of merch can be a great way to continue to build your brand while making some money.
Or you could go for a DIY touch and handcraft your own unique merchandise, adding yet another layer of personalization!
This is a great way to connect with your fans, and lets people support you both by buying merch, and by repping you out in the world to future fans.
Patreon is like an ongoing Kickstarter, where you set different reward levels at different prices.
Maybe for $5/month you send out unreleased demos to your Patrons.
Maybe at $25/month you include the demos, and any new piece of merch you release.
You can set your prices and rewards any way you like, and let your fans choose how they want to support you.
Similar to Patreon, Cameo can give your fans one-on-one access to your talent.
Fans can request to send virtual greeting cards or signed telegrams to loved ones.
Or a “Happy Birthday” to friends and family.
You can offer a specific list of options and let people choose exactly what they want. Then you just record, send, and watch the cash roll in.
Another great personalized way to make money is to offer your songwriting services online.
Help make someone’s special occasion unforgettable by providing custom written songs just for them.
You could write unique songs for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or anything else you can think of.
Interviewing your customer and learning their story is a great way to include them in the creative process.
You’ll create lasting memories that are sure to solidify them as lifelong fans.
And those are just the kind of fans you want!
8. Online Lessons
Teaching private lessons has been a sustainable living for tens of thousands of musicians throughout history.
With access to platforms like FaceTime and Zoom, it’s never been easier to reach potential students right from your own living room or studio.
Never before have musicians had so much access to the artists and musicians they admire.
Teaching lessons online is one of the great innovations of the age of technology in which we live.
Fiverr is great for home producers who want to get hired project work, or visual artists who want to help people by creating album artwork for their next release.
There are countless ways to offer your services on Fiverr, and you’re bound to find a project that brings in some extra cash.
10. Sell on Facebook Marketplace
If you’re like a lot of musicians, you’ve probably got some gear sitting around that you just don’t use anymore.
Maybe your creative process has changed, and you don’t use a loop pedal in your setup anymore.
Or you have an instrument that just doesn’t bring you the same spark it once did.
Every instrument or piece of gear will inspire each musician differently, so even if it isn’t something you’re using at the moment, that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t pay good money for it.
Try listing something you don’t need on Facebook Marketplace, and wait for the offers to come in.
11. Delivery Services
The delivery industry has come a long way since the days of the pizza delivery guy.
With services like UberEats or DoorDash, you set your own schedule, so you can decide exactly when you want to work, and take as many or as few deliveries as you want.
There are countless delivery platforms to choose from, ranging in services from personal shopping to delivery, and just about anything in between.
One of the best things about delivery-oriented services is that a majority of your working time is spent driving, so you can listen to your demos or music you’re working on while driving, or listen to podcasts for some inspiration.
Depending on your style, this can be a passive way to earn income while still working on music. We all have to triple test our 600th mix in our car speakers, right?!
Some of the ideas on this list might be well within your wheelhouse as a musician or performer. Others might not come as naturally, or might be a little more of a stretch.
In either case, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to engage and develop other parts of your creative personality while earning some extra income at the same time.
In addition to these ideas, be sure to check out these resources for musicians.