Of all the challenges faced by professional musicians, funding is one of the most critical. Even when you’re a successful touring or recording artist, you may often find yourself short of money; music can be a boom-or-bust job, and although you may receive advances or royalties, a regular salary may often be beyond your grasp. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn money when you’re playing music on a professional basis. Here are 9 ways you can raise funds as a pro musician.
1. Don’t play for free
This isn’t a funding method so much as a piece of advice, but it’s important nonetheless: never, ever play for free. If you play without being paid, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice by assuming your skills aren’t worth anything, but you’re also hurting the rest of the profession. Every musician deserves to be paid for their skills and their time, so if you want to ensure a steady income, the first thing you need to do is turn down those gigs for “exposure”.
2. Don’t be afraid to apply for loans
If you need short-term funding in order to travel to a faraway gig or get yourself a new piece of equipment, you shouldn’t be afraid to apply for a loan. Even if your credit rating isn’t good, don’t worry; there are lots of places out there that will offer bad credit personal loans that you can take advantage of. Try not to take loans out that you know you won’t be able to pay back, as this could make things worse, but for a quick injection of cash, a loan can be an excellent option for musicians.
3. Sell old gear
As a musician, you’ll almost certainly accrue lots of gear that you no longer have a use for. Don’t let that gear sit around because you “might need it”; instead, sell it off. This has myriad benefits; not only will you earn money that you might otherwise have missed out on, but you’ll also be benefiting other musicians who could need the gear you’re no longer using. There’s also the clutter factor – when you have a home studio, the last thing you want is clutter, so sell gear you’re no longer using!
4. Put music out on vinyl
Physical media is mostly dead in the world of music, but the vinyl market is still pretty lucrative. There’s a collectible aspect to vinyl that doesn’t exist when it comes to streaming or other digital music listening methods, so if you want to make money from your releases, you’ll need to put them out on vinyl. That’s not to say that streaming won’t make you any money at all, but there’s far more profit in putting together a collector’s edition of your record.
5. Make merchandise
If your band is popular enough that you have regular fans coming to your shows, then you should consider making merchandise. The profit margins on band merch are often fairly high, and if you’re not a stratospherically huge band, you won’t need to worry about scalpers, either. Shirts and clothing are the obvious way to go, but you could also be a little more leftfield and make mugs, stickers, or other kinds of off-beat merchandise. The more creative you are, the more rewarding it’ll be for fans!
6. Sell requests
For a super-creative spin on making money as a musician, try taking on requests from fans. Some may ask you to write songs about specific subjects or events in their lives, and if you ask for commissions, you’re essentially fulfilling the same role as an artist or a writer doing the same thing. You can think of this as a fun songwriting exercise, too; challenge yourself to write interesting songs about topics you may not otherwise have dabbled in!
7. Write songs for others
This might be a contentious subject depending on how much of your material you want to keep for yourself. Still, the fact remains that one potentially lucrative avenue for musicians is to write songs for other people. Of course, it helps to have a proven track record in this regard if you want to make money; nobody is going to buy your songs if you can’t prove they’ll be hits. Still, you might strike it lucky writing for someone and getting a hit, and if you do, this could be a side hustle for you.
8. Work a second job
This isn’t fun for any musician to hear, but one way many musicians make money is simply to keep up their day job while they gig or record during the evening. This can be very tiring and difficult, and is only the right option if you’re sure you can commit yourself to what are essentially two separate jobs. It’s not particularly glamorous, but if you truly believe in your music, then working a second job while you earn from gigs and recordings can be a good source of income.
9. Start up a YouTube channel
Many professional musicians now look to start up a YouTube channel to make some extra cash while they’re looking for gigs or working on their next big single. These channels could be instructional – “how to write songs”, “how to play guitar”, et cetera – or they could simply showcase you and your band’s personalities. Whatever the content of the channel focuses on, a YouTube channel isn’t quick cash, but it can definitely be a steady source of income if you manage to find an audience!