Nine Ways To Actually Make Money As A Musician

Categories: Lists

Once again reminding us the record industry resembles the band on the Titanic playing as it sinks, Rolling Stone reported "9 Ways Musicians Actually Make Money Today." To be blunt, it's pretty stupid.

Among other ineffectual examples, the article points out Bono is investing in Facebook, Green Day licensed their music in The Campaign and Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter was successful (big surprise.) How does this apply to you? It doesn't.

This article doesn't act as a guide unless you're already making bank. Yes, Justin Bieber is making more money than God by plastering his name on tampons and jock straps, but the same formula wouldn't work for underground or blossoming musicians. Can you imagine a Dan Deacon perfume? Of course you can't, because no one would buy it. Dan who-con?

Allow me to introduce a guide that'll actually get you somewhere if you're a struggling musician. (Note: All payoff estimates are guesses because I actually have a job, sucker!)

9. Busk on the Corner
This should be your number one go-to. You don't even need to worry about getting booked or having your tour bus break down. Plus, your audience is already built in, assuming you play on a busy street. The only downside is you probably won't have many fans, as evidenced by that famous violinist that nobody paid attention to.

Payoff: $30 a night. It doesn't seem like much, but I once played tambourine while my friend strummed his guitar at First Friday. We made just enough money to spend a week in Tijuana, living off nothing but tacos, Coronas, and cigarettes. In Mexico, we were fuckin' rich.

8. Wait Tables
Remember what The Dandy Warhols told us on "Bohemian Like You:" "So, whaddya do? Oh, yeah I wait tables, too. No, I haven't heard your band, 'cuz ya guys are pretty new..."
Most musicians have been there, so if you're still waiting to get signed, waiting tables is still a profitable way to pay rent, especially if you want to trot out that "working class hero" vibe. It's kind of cute.

Payoff: $100+ a night if you're not shitty at carrying things and can remember some simple food allergies.

7. Sell CDs on the Corner
Chances are, you've been approached by some gangsta-wannabe with a fistful of burned CD-R's asking you to "support local music" and buy his mixtape. I told the last idiot that tried this I worked for New Times, and could possibly hand off his music to a producer if it didn't suck. He scoffed at me and walked off. His loss, but it was probably blank anyway, like the last mixtape I bought off some kid on the corner.

Payoff: $16.42 and some cigarettes. You might be better off just collecting spare change from lint traps at the Laundromat.

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My Voice Nation Help

if you really want to make money at being a musician it isnt as hard as people make it out to be.  I have been making my living in the music industry for the past 12 years and not having to work a "day job"


You need to drop your ego, get organized, and then get out there and do it.  AZ is full of really talented bands that wont ever get known anywhere else because they have no business sense and wont pull the trigger and make it happen for themselves. 




I think the satire here is that if you're creative, and willing, you can make money as a musician. Well over 30, a year if you wanna market yourself and pay advertisement and friend gathering companies for your social networks. and you gotta stay on top of your distribution via Tunecore, CD Baby, 101 distribution (from AZ) etc. The point is, Good music sells itself. Specially if it's electric guitar oriented music.


You could also book bands into venues.  You already know what the venues pay and probably how good the other bands are.  Just be sure to have a back up band cause you don't want to be left flat-footed if one decides to return your favor by not showing up for the gig.


Thank you - FINALLY a useful article about the music scene by New Times.  Thank you Troy - The other writers there are such tools.

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