What’s up, my friends!
I wanted to send you an update. It is the month of December, and in our Song Chasers group, this month we have been focusing on the topic of making money in music.
I know this is a hot topic.
Most of us don’t get into music because we want to make money, we get into music because we are passionate about it.
However, we’ve all got bills to pay, and at some point, you’ve got to start making money if you’re putting tons of time and energy into it.
Here’s the hard thing that I’ve learned over the years…
Chase the good music and the money will follow.
The opposite is not true.
Meaning if you chase the money, good music doesn’t necessarily follow. And I would also say that joy and satisfaction and personal creative fulfillment doesn’t follow either.
I think there are two groups of people out there:
1. The first is people who ultimately can and should be making a living doing music. Those are the people that literally cannot see themselves doing anything else.
These are people who would continue doing music even if they made $0 off of it, because it’s just who they are.
2. Now, the second group is people who are super passionate about music, but don’t necessarily have to make it their full time income.
Honestly, I’m sometimes jealous of this group, because I do depend on music for my livelihood and for my family’s livelihood which means, over the years, I’ve had to do quite a few projects that I wouldn’t necessarily have signed up for if I was just doing it for personal pleasure and creative satisfaction.
What I am, at times, envious of are the people who have their bills paid, make a comfortable living and are able to approach music as a fan. With no risk and no limitations. They can just make music however they want to make it.
Now, what I will say is, I’m definitely more at that place now than I have ever been before.
But it wasn’t always that way.
I’m able to pick and choose a lot of who I work with and who I write with now thanks to the years that I’ve put in, and the fact that I’ve been doing music full time since 2005.
But that’s 17 years now that it’s taken me to build up to the place where I am both making money at music AND I’m working on the types of things that I enjoy working on.
That’s ultimately where everyone wants to get to.
But what do you do if you’re not there yet, which is probably 99% of the people out there?
Well, I think it starts with goal setting and having adequate expectations.
I think it can be hard when someone quits their jobs and jumps into music full time if they come from another field with a secure job and income, where there’s a guaranteed paycheck, health insurance, and guaranteed benefits.
Oftentimes the expectations are not aligned with reality.
The fact is that if you’re working in music, yes, the top 1% of the top 1% of creators will do extremely well financially. But for most people out there the money isn’t going to be game changing.
So what I would say to those considering jumping off and making music their full time thing, just go in with eyes wide open.
>> Know what a hit song actually pays nowadays.
>> Know what a live show pays.
>> Know the different ways that you can and need to make money in the business.
Chances are, if you’re jumping into this thing for your income, you’re gonna have to wear a lot of hats and probably do a lot of gigs that all add up to pay the bills…
That’s just kind of the name of the game nowadays.
In regards to goal setting, I want you to know that it’s good to have big goals.
It’s good to have big dreams and to go after the GRAMMYs, number ones, the major label cuts, and sold out arenas, but those are really bad goals to set at the beginning.
Now, what can take some humility to accept for some people is that “the beginning” isn’t necessarily what you think it is.
You may feel like you’ve been doing music or trying at this music thing for like 10 years now. And because you’ve put that time in, that automatically makes you not at the beginning, but that isn’t necessarily the case in music.
It’s not until you have some things with some commercial success that the industry perceives you as having something going on, so just because you spend 10 years doing something doesn’t mean that you are an expert at it.
You have to treat yourself as a perpetual student with a very high level of humility, getting into the music business.
And if you’re still at a place where you haven’t seen commercial success – having songs on the radio, placing on major reporting radio charts, selling out small to midsize venues, having some things going viral on TikTok or YouTube, racking up millions of Spotify streams – unless you have that level of stuff going on, the industry is still going to look at you as someone paying their dues.
That’s just the reality. So I want you to set your expectations accordingly.
Now, you might ask…
Why is that the case?
Why is this how the music industry is?
Well, the truth is that it’s because music is a passion field. There are a LOT of people literally doing whatever it takes, and working as much as they need to, oftentimes for no money just because they’re passionate about making it happen.
So when you’re setting goals, I want you to really look at where you are NOT how long you’ve been doing it.
Are you making $100 a year doing music? And do you have the goal of making a million dollars doing music?
Well, you probably need to break your goals up into baby steps first.
Make $1,000 a year from your music first.
Once you’re making that THEN your goal can be to want to make $10,000 a year doing music.
A lot of people get disappointed because they set these super high unachievable goals before they’ve even hit the goals along the way to those bigger goals.
So maybe your goal should be as simple as making your first $100 in the next year.
That may not seem like a huge win, but once you get that win, it gives you momentum to shoot for $1,000 and then for $10,000 and then for $100,000 after that.
My point is…
Make sure your goals are incremental and realistic.
Whether you’re in the first or second category I described earlier, trying to make music for a living or just because you’re passionate about it, the same principle applies. Make sure your goals are achievable and realistic.
Now, how do you know if goals are realistic or not realistic?
Well, oftentimes, it is just a matter of educating yourself as to what is possible, and talking to experts who are where you want to be.
That’s a big reason why we have the Made It In Music Podcast.
I promise that if you take the time to go back and listen through a good chunk of the episodes, you’ll gain a lot of insight that will help you put your expectations in a realistic place.
And when you set your goals, set them for the next six months or 12 months. I’m not even talking about five years in the future. I like breaking goals down into yearly achievable bite size steps!
So to help you think through some of these goals, especially from a financial perspective, I wanted to give you a quick list of what I believe are some of the most valuable tasks in music you can ultimately make a lot of money from if you get good at them.
These are by no means all of the things that you can do.
But these are, in my opinion, the low hanging fruit.
These may not be your ultimate end goal, but they may be a great way to bring in some income in the music business while you’re working on the things that you want to work on!
1. Be in a cover band.
Join a really good cover band or start playing covers at bars, restaurants, coffee shops, or wherever people are having covered music play.
In Nashville, if you go down on Broadway, you’ll see some of the most talented people in the world playing cover music at bars for three or four hour sets.
Now that may not sound like a lot of fun to you, but I wish everyone had an experience like that, cutting your teeth and learning what it feels like to play a hit song, learning how to interact with an audience that may or may not really care that much that you’re up there and trying to win them over.
It can actually pay really well to get good at that and to become an entertainer in those settings.
Another option is to be a part of a corporate entertainment band. Our Song Chasers Community manager, Riley Taylor, (who we affectionately call our Song Chasers queen) actually gets to do this every weekend, working in a corporate entertainment band called Young Hearts that plays weddings, and all kinds of fun corporate events, playing covers.
If you’re a Song Chasers member, you can actually go back and listen HERE to a training she did on that!
Another version of this is if you are in the church world. You can start playing at churches. If you’re a really good musician, and you’re in a bigger city that has a market with large churches, there are a lot of churches that pay musicians to get up and play on a Sunday, especially if they have multiple services.
2. Become a content creator.
Content is probably the biggest need that an artist has, and is often something they don’t always want to do themselves.
This can look like video editing, photography, graphic design, etc. Content is put out by artists every day and is needed for every single release.
If you can become good at creating and editing content for these artists, you can make really good money doing that too while staying connected to the industry.
3. Sell your talents in production.
This could look like vocal editing, vocal tuning, track editing, programming, basic engineering, producing demos, mixing, etc.
A lot of people in Nashville also get started doing demos, and then they work their way up to actually doing full production for people.
Somewhat similarly, a lot of great artists and singers when they’re coming to town will sing demos for other artists or other songwriters who are looking to pitch their songs. So that’s definitely a great possibility as well!
4. Give lessons.
Lastly, if you’re great at an instrument or specific skills, you can teach guitar, piano, voice, production, songwriting, drums, etc!
Lots of people are still looking for good instructors. It can also help if you’re able to do house calls or work remotely via Zoom and have a reasonable price.
Those are just four categories of creative work that can bring in income as you are trying to build a full time music career!
Making money in music is hard, but it’s not impossible.
I hope you guys got a lot out of this and that it will help you to take your music careers to the next level!
Talk to you soon!