Making steady income from music production might seem improbable and reserved for a handful of artists that “get lucky,” but that can’t be further from the truth. In reality, it has never been easier to turn your passion for music into a full-time job; it’s just a matter of finding the right information to get you started.
In this article, I will show you how to make money from music production. Hopefully, by the end, you will realize the potential of today’s music market and be one step close to fulfilling your dreams of becoming a full-time music record producer. Let’s dive in!
Before we discuss some practical things you can do in today’s market, I think it’s helpful to explain many producers’ common misconceptions.
Common Music Producer Myths
Signing A Record Deal
The standard business model of the music industry is long gone. It might seem romantic to follow the career path of your favorite musicians who started their journey in the ’80s, but that doesn’t work anymore. The internet has changed the rules from the ground up.
With the streaming services taking over, record companies have lost most of their income streams and stopped taking chances with signing up-and-coming artists.
The only deals being signed nowadays are with people who already have a solid fanbase and are sure to be a safe investment.
You might feel down reading that, but record companies were never that nice towards their artists. Most of the money earned from selling your album would be split between the company executives and all the people in their business network, and you, the artist, would only get a small fraction. And even that isn’t all yours!
Out of that tiny percentage you get, you’d have to pay back the loan given as an advance to pay for the studio time, promotion, and tours. Plus, signing a record deal means that you basically lose ownership over your music. The record label would own everything and can do anything with it, without you having any control or say in that.
All in all, they were usually rip-off deals, and we shouldn’t romanticize about “the good old days” but instead focus on using this change of hands to our advantage.
Hoping You Get Discovered
Uploading your album to a streaming service and hoping for it to catch on is probably not a realistic thing to expect. Doing this without any further plan will probably result in your songs being drowned in the ocean of over 35 million songs. Yes, that’s a rough estimation of all the songs uploaded to the web so far, and more are added every single day!
I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of making it this way, but you shouldn’t put all of your hopes in such a long shot. It also puts you in the passive state of mind where you are waiting for things to play out in your favor, instead of you being pro-active about your music career.
Relying On Social Media To Sell Your Music
Social media can be beneficial, but I have seen a pattern in how most musicians use them, and that trick is not working anymore. Paying for Facebook and Instagram ads will probably have little to no impact on growing your music career if you try to sell your music through them.
When bombarded with ads all the time, people eventually become uninterested in checking out every single band that pops up on their feed. Unless there is something in for them, most people will ignore your Facebook ad campaign, and you can end up with hundreds of dollars spent on gaining a couple of likes and follows.
The alternative is to try and offer something valuable for your audience first and let your good content do all the hard work for you, but more on that in a second.
So with those few myths out of the way, let’s look at some more positive steps you can take.
How To Make Money From Music Production?
Now that we have established where not to focus your attention let’s take a look at all the benefits that today’s music industry offers us.
Making music and earning from it has been greatly democratized in the last couple of years. Studio Gear is more affordable and available than ever, and learning resources are all over the web. You can enjoy being in the position people 20 years ago could only dream of.
With the internet connecting people globally, you have the whole of Earth’s population as your potential target group. EDM not a thing in your country? No worries, you have a way of reaching EDM lovers worldwide and selling your music directly to them without a record company taking insane percentages of your sales.
Although music is notorious for its lack of producing substantial income, musicians (especially when coupled with production skills ) have so many options to earn well from their skills and art.
Let’s take a closer look at each possible income stream.
1. Build A Home Studio
This is going to be the single most important investment in your future career as a musician. It doesn’t have to be something fancy. The essential things like a fairly new computer, DAW, USB Audio Interface, and a pair of monitor speakers or headphones are all you need to get started.
This setup will allow you to work on most of the job suggestions in this article. Eventually, as your finances grow, you can start upgrading piece by piece and even invest in building a recording studio.
This will not only help you in your own productions, but you could also rent it out to other recording artists for a reasonable price. This is a great way to maximize your resources and have your studio setup work for you when you are not using it.
2. Promote Your Brand Through Social Media And E-mail Lists
I have already pointed out the flaws of using social media conventionally, but there is a way to use it more wisely and efficiently. Simply advertising your album or EP isn’t going to achieve great results.
What you could do instead is offer your potential fans something for free. You can only receive if you first give something, and people will appreciate that.
So now, you can advertise your free “gift” through social media in exchange for a subscription to your email newsletter. Try to offer something of real value. Give out a track you are most proud of or come up with a short tutorial on something.
When people realize there is something valuable they can use, they’ll be happy to sign up.
Once you get enough people on your email list, you can now directly sell your music or any other goods from your brand. It’s a good idea to try and interact with your audience in a genuine and friendly manner. Build connections and community around your fan base, and you will be well on your way to living as an independent artist.
This process is long and takes a lot of work, but think about the time it took you to become good at mixing or your instrument of choice. It doesn’t come overnight. In the long run, it will be well worth your effort.
3. Create A YouTube Channel
This one ties closely with a previous one. The key to building a successful music career is to build your “brand.” This will open up numerous possibilities in your future career, and YouTube can be a perfect springboard for that.
Since YouTube is arguably saturated with content creators, try to stand out in some way. Building your channel around a specialized niche can be a great way to attract the right people.
Once your channel becomes big enough, monetizing your content can be a great way to earn some money on the side. Wider exposure can also attract potential sponsors or help you in venturing into any other music-related project.
4. Use Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding has become one of the main sources of income for many artists. For you, it doesn’t have to be much at first. You can link it with your YouTube channel and offer you subscribers bonus content for a small monthly compensation. Over time it can add up quite a bit.
A good thing about platforms like Patreon is that you can customize how you want to interact with your fans. You could even offer everything for free and use your Patreon as a donation service.
If you offer people something valuable, many will appreciate that and return you a favor with a larger donation than usual. This has worked successfully for many artists and producers.
5. Sell Merchandise
Selling authorized merchandise is a great way for your fans to support your work and get something tangible and useful in return. There is a great demand for shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, or keychains since they are all needed in everyday life and often used as gifts.
You probably won’t earn a lot initially, but it can amount to a substantial percentage of your whole income with more exposure.
Also, try and invest some time and money into designing customized items as you want to add a sense of exclusivity to the products. Your audience will feel more inclined to buy the stuff they can’t find anywhere else.
Knowledge and experience are the most valuable things you have, and many people will be willing to learn from you. Teaching others your hard-earned skills can become a stable and lucrative option.
You can choose the one-on-one way, go online with it, or do both simultaneously. Since music production is such a broad subject to teach, having a couple of regular students can provide a steady income for months, even years. You don’t need to limit yourself to teaching production only – most producers are well-versed in playing many instruments and music theory.
If dealing with students seems like a big hassle to you, you can create online courses. You can sell those directly through your website or on platforms like Udemy or Coursera. A good thing about this approach is that you get to do all the hard work in one session and reap the benefits for the years to come. There is a strong demand for high-quality courses by aspiring producers. Music production is a very engaging process, and sharing your secrets with others can be a rewarding experience.
Try to research YouTube and see which information is missing and include that in your course. Although many great channels deal with music production, few are willing to share their trade secrets.
Expose your strongest aspects of production and create something that’s going to impact the skills of other producers positively. Not only will you pass your legacy to others, but you also make a source of passive income in the meantime.
Another way to go about earning money from teaching is to set up a blog where you can explore subjects about music production in the form of an article. By writing good articles, you can enrich your portfolio, promote your services, build connections and attract the right clients for future collaborations. You can even become a paid writer for other people’s music blogs if you feel like you are comfortable with that.
7. Live Performance
Most music producers are comfortable with playing at least one instrument really well. You can use this skill to either join a band or do club gigs by yourself as a DJ. If being on stage excites you, this will be your dream job. It’s not easy breaking through, but once you start expanding your circle of friends in the music business, you will start getting hired regularly.
Try reaching out to the local clubs and start small. Once the word spreads out, you can choose to stay in the club and festival scene or venture into the world of commercial gigs. They might not be as glamorous, but they pay well and are really enjoyable to do. You get to perform at social events like weddings and parties full of positive energy and welcoming people.
Sticking to the club scene can lead to more widespread fame and influence, but instability could be a downside. The path you take will depend on your lifestyle and the things you want to do with your art.
8. Produce For Other Artists
If you have a vivid musical imagination, expertise, and good ears, working on other people’s music can be a great way to earn. Many artists have a clear vision of how they want their music to sound but lack the means or knowledge about achieving that. That’s where you could help others for a reasonable price. You can assist with technical things like choosing the right microphone for a recording, arranging the songs, or help bring out the best performances from the artists.
If watching your work credited under somebody else’s name doesn’t bother you, you can also become a ghost producer. This means that you will compose, mix and master a whole song and hand all the rights to a different producer for monetary compensation. You usually receive a significant amount of money but will be excluded from royalties.
I’ve found that this solution works best if you ghost produces music which you like, but it’s not your main thing. That way, you can still enjoy the process and be okay with other people taking credit for your work.
9. Offer Mixing And Mastering Services
If you are specialized in making tracks sound as good as possible, this career path is for you. Making it as a mix engineer doesn’t mean getting to work with the top artists in the industry, as there is a growing middle class of producers working locally and earning quite well.
Since mixing is such a crucial part of developing a song or an album, getting really good at it means that you will get tons of work. No matter how well the musicians played, if the end product isn’t mixed well, it will always pale compared to a great mix. That’s why musicians are willing to pay huge amounts of money if you can deliver the sound they are after.
Since mixing and mastering take a different set of skills, it’s wise to focus on one thing and become really good at it, although it’s not uncommon for many engineers to do both. In that case, you can get a competitive edge, but you have to be careful not to fall short in one area and potentially risk your reputation.
After years of building a good name for yourself, you can enjoy working relatively short hours and having lots of free time to focus on your other projects.
10. Earn From Royalties
Earning from royalties is the ultimate way to earn money as a music producer. It enables you to have a steady income that can be quite substantial in the case of a frequently rotated song. If you are lucky enough to be involved with a hit song, you’ll likely receive a significant amount every single month. But that doesn’t happen too often, if ever; however, with the right amount of tracks, you can earn quite a bit even without them becoming national hits.
There are 2 kinds of royalties you can get – mechanical royalties and performance royalties.
Performance royalty is paid whenever a track you’ve been involved with is played in public. This means that whenever your song appears on the radio, TV, or music festival, you earn a percentage from the royalty agreed upon in the contract.
Mechanical royalty is paid for the right to reproduce your music. This means that out of every printed CD or (in the modern-day) every time someone streams or downloads your song, you get a cut of that, also pre-negotiated.
Although streaming platforms are notorious for sharing a tiny percentage of royalties with the artists, you can still get a decent cut from old-fashioned sources like TV and radio. This is especially the case with film composers who can sustain their whole career by scoring a single TV show that gets a lot of air time.
Getting to a place where you can comfortably live from royalties is not easy. It must be said that luck plays a big role in it, although with hard work you definitely increase your chances.
11. Compose Music On-Demand
There is an enormous demand for music that can be used for various purposes – these days, everyone from YouTube creators to film producers need new, original music for their projects. You can sell your music intended for such a purpose in various ways.
Compose for stock music library – This is one of the easiest ways to start your career as a media composer. Music needed is usually very simple and composed by a tried and tested pattern, so you do not need to second guess yourself too much. Also, you get instant access to a big market.
Approach companies that need music – This is arguably the toughest way to sell your music, but ultimately you can earn the most. Basically, you approach companies with a representative portfolio of your original music and negotiate a deal. It can be tough at first, but preserving can be well worth it.
Join a team of media composers – Many companies hire media composers. You’ll most probably have a “9 to 5” type of job where you are required to deliver a certain number of tracks per week. It’s useful to be well versed in many genres.
12. Create Beats And Sample Packs
A growing number of musicians and enthusiasts need beats either for commercial purposes or private use as a hobby. A good thing about making beats is that they are fairly easy and fun to make, and they can be a great addition to your income stream.
More experienced producers can benefit from curating their favorite sounds used in productions and create a sample library. Not many producers are willing to reveal the tricks of their trade, but you can be well compensated for that if you do. Creating sample packs and libraries can be quite profitable considering a growing trend among producers to use already produced sounds and approach music-making like building a jigsaw puzzle. Check out services like Loopmasters.
13. Start Freelancing
Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork offer you an abundance of music-related jobs. Besides being a great way to sharpen your skills and see which gig are in demand in the music market, a huge variety of jobs will always keep things fresh and interesting.
These platforms integrate all of the above-listed ways of earning money through music and much more. You can do MIDI programming, audio editing, fix and enhance recordings, compose jingles, do voiceovers or be a session musician.
It’s a great way to sustain your career with jobs that are usually well paid and close to your field of expertise. Organizing a working day according to your schedule can also a big bonus for some people.
So there you have it, thirteen great ways to make money from music production, either directly or indirectly. With the right information and a little bit of creativity; then, you can start making your way towards your goals. Hopefully, we’ve nailed the information part for you!
The key to success is not just in the music production itself but also in how you market yourself and your skills as a producer or engineer – it’s all about branding!
Ensure you have a good presence on social media and display any reviews/testimonials, which will help build credibility around what kind of person you are to work with. Try making connections at concerts & festivals, although this might be more difficult without being physically present.
Whether you intend this to be your main source of income or a nice little side-hustle, THE most important thing is to get started! So whatever you decide on, good luck!