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How Much Money Should You Aim To Make From Music? And How Much CAN You Make?

Ever wondered what kind of income levels are achievable as a musician? Well read on, as that’s exactly what we’re going to be looking at today.

Below is one of the chapters taken from my new book ‘The Independent Musician’s Survival Guide’. I know there’s a lot of misconceptions about how much money can actually be made from your music career, so I thought it’d be valuable to share this chapter and help you gain a more realistic view of what is achievable. There’s no hype or half truths here, this is as realistic a evaluation as you’ll likely get.

If you find this information useful, please share it on your favorite social networking sites and link to it from your site. Thank you.

How Much Money Should You Aim To Make From Music? And How Much CAN You Make?

Ok, so on to the big question of money. How much can you expect to make from your music career?

This is a subject that everyone seems to have an opinion on. If you ask a relatively new musician that hasn’t already tried their hand marketing in the music business, they will tell you that they aim to become rich from their music. That it’s possible to make a bucket load of cash, and that they’re going to achieve that. If on the other hand you ask someone who’s tried to make a professional career out of their music for years, some of them will tell you it’s impossible to make money from music and that it should only be done as a hobby.

Ask a big musician signed to a record label, and they’ll tell you that you can make a lot of money if you put the work in. Ask a ‘successful’ but not mainstream musician, and they could tell you the exact same thing.

But the truth?

It IS possible to make a full time living from your music career!

Now I’m not saying that everyone will achieve this or that it’s as easy as simply wanting it so it will happen. A lot of work will need to be put in, and you will need to be doing the right things. You will need a load of talent; a good portion of luck wouldn’t go a miss either. That said, it is possible to sometimes ‘make’ luck.

Let me break things down for you a bit more. When it comes to making money from music, there are five levels you can reach. These levels are:

  1. Losing Money.
    When you first start out taking your music career seriously, you will need to do a few things. You will need to get your songs made, get your promotional materials made, invest in your musical education, buy any required equipment, and the like. All of these things cost money, but are essential if you want to progress and get where you eventually want to be.
    This is the same in all types of business. If you want to get into buying and selling property, you first need to invest in buying a house. If you want to create your own shop, you first need to put the money in to rent the store front and buy your stock.
    As a musician, once you know you want to make a career out of your talent, this is generally the first stage you will go through. You need to invest in your music career if you want it to take off, and you need to invest wisely. We’ll look more at this later on.

  2. Break Even.
    After the investing stage, you will want to start doing thing to make back that money you invested in the first place. It will take a lot of work, but once you have made back the money you initially invested, you will be at the break even stage.
    You new equipment and knowledge will give you the tools needed to start making your money back, now you just need to go out there and do it.
    When you start to make money from your music career, this is one of the best feelings ever. It’s good to know your hard work is starting to pay off, and you have enough talent to earn from your music. The first time someone pays you for your talent, you will know you’re on the right track. From here it’s a case of rinse and repeat on a wider scale.

  3. Part Time.
    If after you break even you continue to do the things that are working for you, you will get to this stage. You will be earning more money then you are investing (You should still carry on investing where it’s needed), and you will be earning a more regular income from your music. It may not be enough to focus on music full time, but it helps with your living costs and gives you money to put back into making your career move forward even faster.
    This part time living wage is the level I truly believe ALL talented independent musicians can reach IF they put the work in. There are more ways to make money from your music then just selling CDs, so as long as you are willing to learn those ways and play to your strengths, it’s possible to make more money then you spend on your music career.

  4. Full Time Wage Lower End.
    A full time living. I’m sure most musician’s would be happy with earning enough money from their music to not have to work as anything else on the side. After all, being a musician is part of a lifestyle choice. Not having to wake up one morning and work for someone else, being able to focus on your passion as a full time job.
    While you won’t be rich at this stage, not having to work as anything else will seriously benefit your lifestyle. This level is harder to achieve then earning a part time living, but is still possible as an independent musician.

  5. Full Time Wage Higher End.
    At this level you have ‘made it’. You are earning more then a comfortable living, and a year’s music work will help you survive for years after that. You can afford more expensive things in life, and money isn’t an issue for the short term future as long as you use it wisely. This level is only usually achievable if you get a good record deal and it works out well for you.

So, which of these wages should you aim for? And which are you most likely to reach? I know that if you’re honest with yourself, you’re going to want to reach stage 5, the full time higher end wage. We as human all want to earn more money, no matter what we want to spend it on. We may not NEED this extra money and may be able to live a very happy life without it, but if someone was to give you a few million dollars without you having to do anything in return (No catch), I’m sure there would be very few people who would turn that offer down.

Unfortunately though, earning a higher end full time wage from our music isn’t what you should be aiming for. I’m not saying it’s not achievable, just look at Jay Z or any of the other people that have made millions from their music. That said though, the majority of musicians won’t reach that level.

While you can still dream of getting there if you want (Who knows, ‘it could be you’), you should take a more realistic and strategic approach to earning money with your music. This will help you see where you are, and help you stay motivated about what you can achieve in your music career. With that said, here is what you should INITIALLY be aiming for in your music career:

To Break Even.

Hmmm, not what you was expecting right? Before you get demotivated, let me explain why this should be your first step. Later we can go on to aiming to make more money, but things should be taken one step at a time.

Like I mentioned before, you will of course need to invest in your music career. For example, you invested in this book to learn about how to get started as an independent musician (Good choice by the way). If you play an instrument, you will need to spend money to buy that instrument. If you want to make a rap song, you will need to invest in getting studio time. The list of expenses go on.

Before your music career starts taking off and before people will want to buy your music, you will need to put your money into creating some kind of product that people will want to buy. Therefore, you will essentially be starting your music career at a loss. But that’s ok, as we’re now going to work on recovering those costs and breaking even.

Once you start promoting your music and getting yourself known, you will notice that more opportunities start coming your way (Providing you have the talent and are doing the right things of course). A trickle of income will also start coming in. Maybe not much at first, a CD sale or two, or even a small amount of royalties. As you start doing more shows and getting your name known more though, things will start to pick up.

The important thing you’ll be learning at this stage is how to make money from your music. When you have made your first CD sale, digital download sale or got your first paid gig, this is a big step in the right direction. You can see it can work, and you now know it’s a case of refining the process and scaling things up.

Once you have done this enough to break even, make one more sale and you’ll be at the stage where you are making more money then you are spending in your music career. Once you reach this stage and have made back your initial investment on equipment etc, you are automatically from then on earning a part time living. You are after all earning more then you’re spending.

From here, you can change your financial aims. You can aim to earn a bigger part time living as you already have a good base to work with, and eventually work on creating a full time living as things move forward. You are making money from your passion, and you have proved to yourself it can work.

You may want to invest more money into achieving this goal, but that’s only if it is necessary. We will look more at some of the things you can invest in in the ‘When To Be Cheap, And When Not To Be’ section later on, and at other times throughout this book.

There’s no point aiming for the top right away as it’s often better to take things in stages. As you hit each stage, you should adjust your goals to aim for the next stage up. Hitting each stage will encourage you to do better, and help you see what is really achievable for yourself.

It is not unrealistic to make a part time living from your music. If you have talent, marketing knowledge and are willing to put the necessary work in, this is definitely achievable. You will also need a small budget to get things started, though using the tips I will give later in this book, this budget can be kept to a minimum. This will make it easier to reach the break even stage, and then go on to earn a part time then hopefully full time living from your music.

Aiming for the top and not getting there as fast as you wanted (Or not hitting it at all) can be demotivating. In fact, it’s one of the reason why many musicians stop making music in the first place, or why they feel that it’s impossible to make money from music. In reality though, there are many reasons why these people who preach that “you can’t make money from music” may have failed…

*Book Chapter End*

You can get the full version of the The Independent Musician’s Survival Guide on,, or by searching ‘The Independent Musician’s Survival Guide’ in your local Amazon.

This guide want brought to you by Shaun of Music Industry How To, a website dedicated to helping musicians achieve more. Once again, if you found this guide useful, please share it via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the like. Thank you.

Reader Comments (12)

For once I was actually intrigued and interested in buying this book. Can it really be they only have a kindle edition? No e-book for download?

September 27 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

As usual, the only person making money here is probably the author of the book. Do you really believe that major artists read books on how to become succeful? There's no "instruction manual" for succes people. And if there was one, nobody would talk about it...

September 27 | Unregistered Commentermarty

I tend to agree with marty. There is no formula. The article was interesting until it said the only way to "make it" is to get a record deal. This author just has to be from a "major label". They don't like it when people are successful away from them.

September 27 | Unregistered CommenterSol

@ Jessica:

Hi Jessica. Currently there is only the Kindle edition, but you can read it even if you don't have a Kindle. Simply use the following free Kindle book reading software from Amazon:

Read Kindle books on a PC:

Read Kindle books on a Mac:

@ Marty:

Hi Marty. I have to respectfully disagree with your comment, and I'll tell you why.

What you said is like saying "There's no instruction manual to be a good doctor" or "There's no instruction manual to becoming a landlord and making money selling property". Do you think the people at the top of their game in these and other professions didn't read any books? That they just gained the knowledge out of thin air?

As humans we learn things through the guidance of others. Why do you think we go to school, college and university? It's the process of gaining knowledge you haven't already got.

You don't automatically know how to market your music and do the things that will give you better results in the music industry, like with anything else you have to learn them. You can either do that through trial and error (Which for some people takes year and even then they don't end up doing thing in the most effective ways possible), or you can learn it from someone else who already has the knowledge.

If everyone adopted your attitude, there would be no schools or other places of education in the world. Please don't try and knock what I'm offering when I've already helped thousands and thousands of musicians (Many of them through the hundreds of pages of free information on my site) do more in their music career. Thank you.

September 28 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

The editor, or, the author, wipes comments that don't agree with him. He works for a record company and thinks that's the only way to "make it".

September 28 | Unregistered CommenterSol

Hi Sol. If you go back and read the article, I think you'll find I never once said the only way to make it is via having a record deal. In fact, I've never once given that advice in the hundreds of guides I've written or any time I've consulted a musician.

Most of the people I work with are independent musicians, and I encourage them to take things into their own hands rather then chasing down a record deal.

So no, I'm not part of a record label.

Regarding comments, Music Think Tank (Who I've got no control over) manually approve comments if you're not a logged in member, which is why it probably took a while for your initial comment to show up. No one is trying to silence anyone.

Please also read my reply to marty, I hope that clears up some of the concerns you've had.

September 28 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

I've seen a lot of musicians suffer until they make it big by signing a record deal with a major company. Before that happens they only earn from performances at live shows and they have to work hard to make themselves known. That involves money and the funds usually come back out of their earnings.

To be really successful financially as a musician you have to make it big and have a record company promote you. Then they push money into you because they see it as an investment. Until that happens you have to do the groundwork yourself. I

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterHal@musiciansfriend

Shaun, Well written article, as well as your responses to the naysayers. It's unfortunate that many people question motives, make unfounded accusations, then instantly dismiss good advice like yours, while not offering anything of substance or value as an alternative or counterpoint. At Spotlight Global, we have been conducting trend analysis on many successful artists, and a few key patterns are emerging for most of them. The results are very telling, and it is clearly not "lucky breaks", connections, or the usual reasons artists assume. I will share this valuable information on this site as a contributor in the near future, since we believe that emulating the success of others is a process superior to theory or winging it.

December 4 | Unregistered CommenterJason Gilbert

Thanks Jason.

Your study sounds good, have you posted the results yet?

December 28 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

Very insightful blog, thanks! I have definitely noticed of all the problems that stem from being a "budding musician" the constant strain on my wallet seems to be the most draining... check out my original instrumentals:

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Faigen

Thanks Shaun
I agree with your comments that we need a guide and a process for doing this stuff. I have been a musician for years and made a living from playing for established artists. But when it came to setting out on my own, I realised that being a good musician doesn't necessarily equip you to be a good music business person. I'm grateful for your common sense down to earth advice which is helping me on my first steps towards earning a living from my music.
Dave Brons

July 3 | Unregistered CommenterDave Brons

I find this blog VERY beneficial. I appreciate you guy for taking time out to inform up and coming artist #Seriously

Thanks guys

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon Farris

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