September 10, 2020

With concert venues closed, tours cancelled, and live music in general in an unprecedented slump due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s not a secret that live musicians are struggling. Especially if playing out is your main or only source of income, you’ll need an alternative, at least for a while, so we’ve gathered up a list of some of the best ways a musician can make money without going out.

  • Session Work – If you can play an instrument or sing and you have a decent recording setup, there are no shortage of opportunities to charge money directly for playing or signing on other people’s productions. Try sites like SoundBetter or AirGigs, or make connections with professionals in the music licensing industry by searching for sync licensing in Facebook groups.
  • Online concerts – Many musicians, especially solo acts, are finding success performing livestream concerts on platforms like Facebook, YouTube Live, Instagram, Periscope, or Twitch. Many of these platforms provide a way to accept tips or you can simply announce your PayPal address.
  • Remote music lessons - If you know your craft and can communicate well, you can make plenty teaching lessons to kids and adults alike, all from your home using Zoom or Google Meets.
  • Music licensing – If you’re an intrepid producer and can write a good tune, the world of music licensing has immense potential. Just remember that if you decide to shop your own stuff, you’ll be investing in yourself, so this is more of a long game – not something where you get paid today to work today.
  • Custom songwriting – Often overlooked, custom songwriting is one way some savvy writer/musicians make serious scratch. This could mean anything from writing your cousin a special wedding song to accepting custom birthday requests to delving into work-for-hire jingle writing.
  • CD Sales, Streaming, and Merch – We’re not going to pull punches. In today’s music industry, selling music directly to fans or relying on streaming income is the worst way to make money, so don’t rely on this area alone. But if you’ve got extra time due to not gigging, there’s no reason you can’t go ahead and beef up your presence on streaming platforms, offer on-demand CDs to fans, or use drop shipping to sell merch like t-shirts.
  • YouTube videos – If you’ve got a camera and some creativity, you can build up your YouTube channel with live performances, music videos, instructional material, and other content to create passive income. Some caveats though: YouTube requires 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time before you can monetize your videos and even then, rates per view are low. This means while there’s potential here, this is also a long game.
  • Subsidies and grants – If worse comes to worse, or to help you get started with some recording gear, there are still subsidies and grants out there for artists, beyond whatever COVID related help you’re able to get. Check out The Savvy Musician for a starting point.
  • Outside the box­ – If you’ve been a musician for a long time, you’re already familiar with the idea of supplementing your income with regular ol’ work, but you don’t necessarily need to leave your realm entirely. Some examples of work you can do remotely, using skills you’re likely to have as a musician:
    • Audio editing/mixing – podcasts, audiobooks, music, etc.
    • Voiceover work
    • Audio transcription
    • Freelance writing – blogs, instructional articles, etc.
It’s not necessarily an easy time to be a musician, especially if gigging is your bread and butter. But the music business has always been tough, so musicians are well situated to flex and make things work. Good luck, and we’ll see you back on stage when the time comes.



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