With venues shut and crowds dispersed, the pandemic has been disastrous for musicians worldwide. Despite this, many are learning to adapt, and, by tapping into the online space, it’s now possible to earn a living without ever stepping foot on stage. If you’re trying to earn through your music but can’t play in person, these suggestions go out to you.
Live streaming is the process of performing to audiences in real-time over the internet. This is the closest thing in the digital space to a gig and even provides a few benefits over playing live (more control over audio, lighting, etc.) It’s even possible to monetize these performances by controlling their availability so that only patrons can view or access them or by using them to encourage donations via services like BoxCast.
If you’re performing on a streaming channel like Youtube, your videos may be monetized via ads. These ads play before and sometimes during your videos and, every time they do, you’re owed some of the money. Each platform (Twitch, Facebook Live, and more) handles this differently and it’s worth learning about the differences. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of streaming, the pay from ad revenue can be quite minimal but if you’re able to pull in large numbers of viewers you can earn a good living just by uploading content – the average Youtube channel stands at $18 per 1,000 ad views.
It’s easy to conflate royalties with ad revenue but these are two separate means to earn. Music royalties are payments owed to the rights holders (songwriters, composers, recording artists, etc.) in exchange for licensed use of their music. This means that if someone uses your track for any earning purposes, you should be owed a chunk of that revenue. Trying to track down royalties is understandably difficult but there are now a host of agencies and platforms to help independent artists do just that.
If you make beats, instrumentals, or even if you’re a vocalist, collaboration with others is a key way to earn in the digital space. You can record sounds and sell them as a commodity or you can reach out to individuals working within the industry and offer to collaborate for a price. This isn’t just a good way to earn, it’s also an excellent way to network and get to know people who are already in a developed position.
Many musicians feel that the middle man is taking too large a cut and there is more earning potential by going it alone. Selling your music, performances, or merchandise directly to the consumer will require more time and energy than if you work through one of the platforms but you’re also more likely to command a higher profit margin. If you’re forming your own company, consider a sole proprietorship business entity – this will allow you to deduct business losses on your personal tax return and tax rates for this business structure tend to be the lowest.
If you’re selling directly to your fans, it helps to get a few of the branding basics down – this includes hosting your own website and designing a logo. Fortunately, much of this groundwork can be done independently without the help of professionals. Hosting sites like Wix or SquareSpace allow you to build and manage your own personal domain. Whereas there are plenty of online tools that allow you to bring your logo design to life for free and export this to social channels or print it onto physical merchandise.
The musical world has changed irreversibly and with power shifting towards independent artists, there are more opportunities than ever. The question of how far you can go now depends on how much work you’re willing to put into promotion as it does on the quality of your music.