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How To Make Your Music Career Highly Profitable And Sustainable

If you hold the belief that it is ‘wrong’ to try to make money with your musical talents, do not read any further…simply close this page now.

For those of you who have decided to continue reading….welcome. Fact is, the majority of musicians want to have a career in music. However, these musicians also doubt their abilities to make good money in music, and fear that they will not be able to support themselves. Unfortunately, these people end up pursuing non-music jobs where they work full time and despise every time they go to clock in. This is all done out of the idea that a ‘normal job’ is safe and secure, while a music related career is highly risky with little security. This is one of the very most common misconceptions that I see ALL THE TIME while training musicians to succeed in their careers!

In truth, achieving great financial success while working on your music career is not as difficult as you might think. In addition, you don’t need to be a big time rock star to make good money in the music business. However, in order to become financially free in your music career, you will need to take a very different approach than the one that is taken by most musicians. You will need to approach your music career as both a “musical artist” AND as a businessman (or woman). You must run your career as a business, where your primary goal is to add as much value as possible to your fans, other bands, music company officials, and other people in the business of music.

Most musicians do not know how to treat their music career in a professional, business-like manner. This is why so many of these people struggle to make a lot of money in the music business.

To quickly test out your current understanding of what it takes to become successful in the music business, use this musician’s assessment tool about pursuing a successful music career.

Besides not being prepared to achieve success in the business side of music, many musicians fail to make a decent income in their careers because they make the following mistakes:

Not Taking The Time To Identify Your Market

Once you have become familiar with the value you have to give to the music industry, you will you need to find and identify the people who you will give value to. For example, imagine that you were about to release your newest record. Who are the people (fans) that would be waiting to buy your new music? Do you have a way to quickly and easily contact these people? If not, what action are you taking right now to build a list of your potential customers? Now imagine that you were a session musician. Do you have an organized list of all your potential customers/business partners such as musicians, recording studios, or bands? What are you going to do today to get in touch with these people and show them how you can help them with your skills and talents?

One of the most common mistakes made by musicians is that they spend the time to create an album, increase their musical skills, or work in another area of the music industry, but when it comes time to receive the payoff for their hard work, they have great difficulty making any money. This happens because they have not taken the time to build a database of customers who are ready and willing to pay for the value that the musician is offering. Since this is such a common issue, I have made this one of my main areas of focus while mentoring the musicians in my Music Careers Mentoring Program.

Additionally, musicians will make the mistake of assuming that once they are signed with a music company that the company will take all the responsibility to further their career. This is not true. The fact is, YOU are the one who will need to take initiative in your music career in order to promote yourself and make a better living. Work on building your own list of customers and fans so that you are the one in control of this aspect of your career. This can be used as a great tool to improve negotiations with future music business partners to make more money for you (AND for EVERYONE else involved).

Not Having Solid Goals And Ways To Reach Them

To earn a good living in the music industry, you MUST develop a specific plan for how you will reach your goals. If you merely fantasize about making a lot of money, this is not enough to make this goal a reality. Rather than fantasizing, start working toward what you want to achieve by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What is your desired yearly income from your music career?
  2. What are the sources of musical income that will make the amount in question 1 possible?
  3. What action must you take to set up these sources of income? (Read this article on music industry career development to find out more on this subject.)
  4. How many ways can you ADD VALUE to your interactions with people in the music business? (Think of every possibility!)
  5. How many ways can you eliminate risk for other people in the music business?

After you have figured out your answers for each question above, you must focus on making every action you take in your music career go toward achieving the exact goals you have made for yourself.

Most musicians looking to become successful in the music business are not sure what they must do to reach their desired goals. If you are experiencing this as well, the best solution to this problem is to seek out training from a professional who has shown other musicians how to earn a lot of money in their careers. This way, you can avoid making mistakes that will cost you significant time and effort to fix.

Thinking That Popularity = Making A Lot Of Money In The Music Industry

Fact is, the majority of musicians who are ‘making it’ in the music industry are NOT rock stars. Being part of a popular band does not mean that you will be earning a great living. The truth is that some musicians (who are very popular) still work side jobs just to get by. By understanding this, you will be able to push ‘fame’ aside in order to focus on the most effective ways to work toward your goal of making a good living in music. Of course it is possible to both be famous AND make a lot of money in the music industry, however it is most important at this point to focus your efforts on the appropriate aspects of your goal.

Not Taking The Time To Set Up Various Music Related Sources Of Income

It is common for musicians to treat their music career in the same manner that they have treated any other job that they have had. They expect a single paycheck at the end of an established period of time from doing a “single” activity. Unfortunately, this approach will NOT help you to achieve financial success in the music business. In order to make a good living in your music career, you must stop thinking from the mindset of obtaining a single sum of money as your main goal. Instead, you must work to build many different sources of musical income that go into your bank account on an ongoing, residual basis. By taking this approach, it becomes much easier to make a lot of money from music. In fact, musicians who use this method with save themselves time as well (because they do not have to continually work to get a paycheck). This enables them to have more freedom to pursue things such as writing music, touring and performing, or recording in the studio. In the end, it is important to have income coming in from both your active efforts and your past efforts that you already took the time to set up (that continue to make you money). Additionally, by approaching your music career in this manner, you will feel much more stable since you will not be dependent on any single source of income to pay your bills.

Not Consistently Providing Additional Value To Other People In The Music Industry

To gain a solid understanding of what “value” means when it applies to the idea of making a living in the music business, you must pay close attention to the next sentence. Regardless of what you do in the music industry, whether it be touring in a band, creating music in the studio, giving music instruction or working as a record producer, the people in the music industry (including bands you play for, record labels, music students, etc.) must decide on working together with you versus thousands of musicians competing for the same opportunity. If you don’t want to blend in with the crowd and go unnoticed, you will need to gain the upper hand on your music competition by creating value that far exceeds that of what most musicians are able to offer. This does NOT simply mean working on developing your music skills! Developing truly high value in your music career deals with many different aspects of your personal mindset, emotional stability under stress, and ability to work very hard on a consistent basis.

If you want to make a lot of money in your music career, you will need to make it 110% clear that you are the number one choice when someone in the music industry must choose between you and your competitors. In fact, this must be TOTALLY clear before anyone has even listened to one second of your music!

This may seem like a simple concept as you are reading it right now. However, as simple as it may be, almost all musicians DO NOT build their music careers by acting on this basic principle. To find out how prepared you are to use this idea in your won music career, fill out this assessment on creating value as a musician.

By increasing your potential to create value (for all people involved) during any music related activity, you will be able to quickly earn a lot of money in the music business. This is one of the main ideas I focus on while training musicians to build highly successful music careers.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of musicians who think that making good money from their musical talents is “wrong” or “deceptive” in some way. These people think that it is only important to continue improving their musical skills. Although improving as a musician is clearly important, if you’d like to have the freedom to make music for a living, you will also need to invest your time into improving upon the business side of your music career. This way you won’t need to work a dead end ‘day job’ just to make ends meet.

There is no precise method for predicting every decision you will need to make in your music career to make more money. However, by simply avoiding the mistakes discussed in this article, you will be well on your way to making a great living in the music business. Once you have gained more time due to the financial freedom you will obtain, you will be able to focus more intensely on creating the music you love.

If you have not yet checked out the music business assessments mentioned on this page about creating value as a musician and pursuing a successful music career, I suggest that you do this now.

Reader Comments (9)

Great article! Very helpful. I think the hardest thing to do for any aspiring musician is to CHOOSE to pursue a music career at full throttle. Many are stuck in the in-between zone of wanting to become a full-time musician and staying on the safe side by having a day job. You obviously need money to make ends meet, but at some point you need to fully commit yourself to music otherwise your chances of success will be greatly diminished.

September 17 | Unregistered CommenterGabby Covay

I learned from a successful music agent that having your house in order allows the peaceful sustainability required to focus and create one's best work possible. A strong foundation (some degree of security) will help facilitate this. I find that having a job is a good thing, as long as you can muster the energy to keep going.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterJ

"Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
I dare disagree with you. Maybe I´m too idealistic or too conservative, because I think that music
isn´t business (it´s something like a dogma somewhere deep inside me).
Well, on the one hand, I say that music is to be done "at full throttle", otherwise you can pack it in.
And on the other hand, there is the question how to dedicate one´s whole life to music, if everyone of us needs money for living (the best scenario is to be rich enough not to need it:).
It´s really difficult to find the solution.
The perils of making music profitable are: turning the whole thing into some kind of a business machine and losing the ability to distinguish songs with some lasting value from disposable ones.
But maybe your idea needs only more consideration. Maybe the happy medium could be found and a wholly new concept of music business would be introduced.
Starting with a business plan, market research, online marketing (for example, you could do this to start with something) and so on.
But is there enough place for the minor genres, too? Or is it just an another dogma?

September 19 | Unregistered CommenterJamieS

This article is really generic. How about delving into the SPECIFIC revenue streams that most musicians rely on. I'll help:

Touring / Performing - How to make a tour work for you. How to get the MOST from a booking. Contact management! What are people making (or losing) out there?!! Again- the devil is in the details.

Merch- How to manage inventory. How to tour with merch. How to not lose your shirt, selling shirts. How about some numbers?

Songwriting / Licensing- PRO's (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), Harry Fox. Examples of indie artists and their royalty revenues!

Internet radio / video- Who has made it work, and how much $ are they making from it. Indies first.

That's just a start. There are so many musicians who have no clue as to the ACTUAL NUMBERS. If you're going to write an article on making money with music, then by golly you should know and provide examples! Otherwise, it's just a generic pep talk that anyone can give for any business.


October 8 | Unregistered CommenterHappy

This is a great article. I try to tell artists all the time there is money in the music industry you just have to handle your business and do it right!

Thanks for the post!

Very Interesting article, I am actually writing a ebook at the moment about how to earn enough money from music to replace the day job and give you more time to focus on your original musical goals.

May 23 | Unregistered Commenterdonny

I read your article few minutes ago. I found it really interesting and I would like to have contact with you cause I really want to succed in music industry..

July 10 | Unregistered CommenterΖenia

Songwriters should be aware of current trends in regard to streaming music sales vs MP3 downloads which is currently replacing thousands of dollars reduced to hundreds for the same product. Major label record companies have become co-owners w/ Spotify, and other streaming sites which make an outrageous amount of income from memberships even as they pay out only a fraction of a penny to artists who spend hours crafting their songs. The same non-musical ceo's are constantly making money off of independent musicians. My time on the road with live shows is now the main compensation that pays the bills because of an 80% loss of income on nationally released albums. That loss is directly linked to 'free music' streaming sites. At this point I'm neither pro or con concerning streaming sites. Rather to inform musicians that these changes have significantly affected income from album sales and have again made live shows the main bread winner.

August 7 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Lee

I am songwriter and recording artist who is trying to promote his own music. Please could you give me your time to check these pieces and share!!
Thank you and take care!

November 29 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Diamond

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