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« 49 Female Music Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice (Part 2) | Main | MusicThinkTank.com Weekly Recap: How To Promote Your Music - The Ultimate Guide »
Monday
Dec022013

How To Make Money With Music Part 1: Gigging

How to make money from music gigsHello all, and welcome to Part 1 of what I hope will be a ongoing series on how to better make money in your music career. Whether you want to earn a full time income from your music or you simply want to make enough to cover recording or equipment costs, this series should go a way in helping you achieve that.

Today I’m going to look particularly at how you can make money from gigging. I often see musicians leaving money on the table from their gigging efforts, either through shyness, or simply because they didn’t know how best to monetize their performances. With that in mind, here are some of the main ways you should be making money from each gig.

If you are yet to get many gigs, you may want to check this guide on getting gigs first. If you already know how to get gigs and you have some under your belt, then let’s move on. As always, if you find this guide useful please share it round with your follow musicians.

1. Collecting Royalties From Your Live Performance

Make money from music royaltiesSo this is the one that a fair few musicians either don’t know about, or think is to complex to do. In reality, collecting royalties from your gigs isn’t difficult at all.

Whenever your music is performed in public places, you earn money. That said, if you don’t sign up to a royalty collection company and have them chase up that money for you, then you simply don’t get it.

The amount of royalties you earn from each performance will depend on a few things. One of the main factors is how big the venue is, and their venue capacity. The more people you’re potentially playing to, the more royalties you should essentially get.

All licensed venues need to pay money for playing music in their premises, so be sure to get your share from anywhere you perform. Even if you play small venues which don’t pay out much money per performance, it’ll still add up when combined with the other strategies below.

If you aren’t yet signed up with a royalty collection company, the first thing you need to do is find out who collects royalties in your country. You can usually find this out by doing a search on the internet. In the UK PRS collects royalties, while in the US BMI deal with royalty collection. That said, there are a few different companies around, so have a look at which is most suitable for you.

Be sure to sign up with a collection company asap; not doing so is a mistake, especially if you’re regularly gigging. A good thing about royalty collection companies is they can usually backdate your earnings. So if you’ve played any gigs in the last year or so, you may have a extra pay day just waiting for you.

2. Actively Selling CDs At Specific Types Of Live Shows (This Is A Big One)

Sell CDs at GigsThis is probably my favorite way to monetize gigs, probably because it can instantly add a worthwhile amount of money to your gigging income. The idea is simple; during and after your performances you mention that you have CDs (or other merchandise) to sell for anybody that’s interested. You then let them know you’ll be coming around in the break, or they can come up to you directly at any time.

Yes, it really is as simple as that. Yet I’m still amazed at how few musicians I see doing this!

Now here’s the thing; a lot of people won’t come to you directly after your show. Some will, but most won’t. So by doing the leg work and going into the crowd, you will make more money then you would by standing around and waiting for people to take that first step. This is where your marketing skills come into play.

You’ll want to do this leg work during a break if there are other acts also performing. This is both out of respect for other musicians, and because you’ll appear a nuisance to people if you interrupt their music viewing with a sales pitch. That said, once there’s no other acts on stage, people are often intrigued by a decent musician coming up to them personally and talking to them.

Don’t jump in right away with the sale; ask them how they think the night’s going, or anything else you find relevant to them at the time. Soon after, remind them that you’re selling your CDs (or whatever else you have on you), and ask them if they’d like to buy a copy. Some will, others won’t. If they don’t, genuinely thank them anyway, and wish them a good night. Then move on to the next person.

It’s important you do this genuinely and appear friendly, as it’s harder to say ‘no’ to someone who seems like a nice person. That said, it’s just as important to keep each interaction to no more than around 45 seconds if there’s not going to be a sale. Some will go on a bit longer, but as a general rule you need to move around the room relatively quickly. This is because you’ll want to offer your merch to as many people as possible before people start performing again, or everyone leaves the venue if all the acts are done.

The good thing about this tactic is while you’re talking to and smiling at one person (which generally gets them to smile back at you), others in the room will start noticing this, and be more open to you approaching them next. You’ll appear intriguing.

Big Tip Alert:

Now one last point about this tactic; depending on what type of gig you’re doing, you’ll have different types of conversion rates (the ratio of how many people you approach to how many sales you make). I’ve found that showcase events with paying audiences (even if it’s a small fee) tend to convert very well. This is because the audience are paying to see new acts they haven’t heard of before, so you’ll get a lot of genuine music lovers who are willing to spend on acts they take a liking to. They also expect to pick up something to remember their night by, so they often pack extra change which they’ll be willing to spend on you.

Raves and nightclubs on the other hand don’t convert as well. Normally people are there to drink, and you’re just a side act. So it’ll be a uphill struggle getting them to part with their drinking money.

Like I mentioned, this is one of the things you can instantly put into practice to increase the money you make from each gig. Furthermore, if you use the tactic I mention here (links to a MP3 file taken from my Full Time Musician course, ‘right click’ then ‘save as’ to save to your computer or device), you could literally triple your CD sales at some events.

Be sure to use this strategy as it works, and works well.

3. Getting Paid Directly From Gigs

Get paid upfront for gigsLastly, the obvious way you can make money from gigs: Getting paid upfront! I put this point last because a) you already know it’s possible, and b) the other two are easier to do for up and coming musicians.

While it’s my view you should always aim to get paid an upfront fee for gigging (you are providing a service to a venue after all, so you should get paid for that), after talking to literally thousands of musicians in my career, I’m aware that this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. While it may be easier to get paid for a gig in America for example, if you live somewhere like Nigeria where there’s less venues willing to pay for a musician to perform, this option isn’t as readily available.

Similarly, the genre of music you play will have an impact on how easy it is for you to get paid gigs. For example, if you live in Russia and you play a certain genre of niche music, the number of venues you have to perform at (let alone ones that will pay you) goes down dramatically.

So let me put it like this: Once you have a few performances under your belt and you know you can entertain a venue’s customers well, you should always aim to get paid upfront for your service. Because that’s what you’re providing; a business to business service.

That said, if this is proving difficult due to one of the things I mentioned above so something else, you should at least aim to have your costs covered and a percentage of the door money (if it’s a paid event). If it’s not a paid event, it’ll be down to you to arrange another form of payment that will work for both you and the event organizer.

As you build up more of a name and can draw a bigger crowd, it should get easier to get paid directly from gigging. You will have more bargaining power, and be able to charge higher prices for the service you provide. So if you’re struggling to get the kind of upfront fee you feel you deserve, do some more work on building up your profile and you will edge ever closer to those desired numbers.

Other Ways Musicians Can Make Money

So there are three ways in which you can make money from gigging. If you’re not putting all of these in to practice, you’re leaving money on the table.

As I mentioned, this is just part one of a series I plan to do on the subject of making money from music. That said, if you want more information now and advanced strategies which won’t be in the series, you may want to check out this training on making a full time income from music. This is a course I put together with a full time musician, and contains a lot of practical information which you can implement to increase the amount of money you make from your music. No fluff or ‘get rich quick’ tactics, just good business advice that works.

Be sure to sign up to my newsletter to find out when the next part of this series is released, and let us know of how you like to make money from gigs.

How To Make Money With Music Part 1: Gigging

Reader Comments (3)

Was intrigued by the post title, but it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. Would love to hear your thoughts on going from playing at local venues to making money touring. Maybe I'm jumping the gun since this was the first post...

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterDan Polaske

I think it is great that you want to help people but your advice re collecting money for your gigs from performing rights agencies is misleading. Yes venues pay PRS, ASCAP, etc, but it all goes into a pool and artists share pennies.

December 3 | Unregistered CommenterBob Tulipan

life goes on...

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