The Ultimate Guide To Make Money As A Music Producer

Make Money By Doing What You Love


Transforming from a musician that makes $0 dollar a year from their music, into a touring artist racking a 6-7 figure annual salary is an admirable accomplishment. It requires a type of ambition and hustle that most do not have, and the majority of successful musicians work twice the hours as the average American. For most of the people in the world, this is far from ideal. 

If you don’t work 60-80+ hours a week, and even the thought of that makes you want to crawl back into bed, then perhaps the entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t for you.

However, if grinding to no-end to prove to yourself that you’re capable of accomplishing what you feel you were born to do, and just the idea lights a fire in your soul, then perhaps you are the next great musician waiting to be showcased to the world.

Since the journey to fame and fortune is typically long, you’ll need a way to generate income for yourself while simultaneously growing your network in the music industry. So, everyone here Melody Nest decided to come up with an extensive guide of different strategies and jobs you can take that earns you money while progressing your career in the musical world. Here’s what we came up with:


1) Royalties

Normally, there are two kinds:

Performance Royalty

The idea is simple– if a certain restaurant, bar, store, mall, etc. wants to play your music to the public, they have to pay for that. Performance royalties are a great resource for artists because every time your song is played, you get paid. If you’re able to get your music on dozens of different business playlists, these numbers will add up.

Mechanical Royalty

Mechanical royalties consist of the income that generates from sales on CDs, vinyl records, cassette tapes, as well as streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, etc. In other words– when someone lands on your Spotify page and plays your latest song, you earn money. These payments even extend for your songs if they’re used as a ringtone, or played out at a karaoke bar.

Because it is extremely difficult for artists to track exactly when, where, and how many times a song has been played out in any specific location, Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) were established to help do just that. They manage where your music is being played, collect payments for you, and pay you out accordingly.

Here is a list of distributors and PROs that you may have heard before:

Distrokid: An online distributor that uploads your music to Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal, TikTok, and more. 

TunecoreAnother popular online distributor that uploads your music to Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, and more.

BMI: Responsible for collecting performance royalties for songs played in a public environment. Completely free to join, no fees or annual costs.

ASCAP: Responsible for collecting performance royalties for songs played in a public environment. Costs include a one-time payment $50, and no annual fees.

SESAC: Responsible for collecting performance royalties for songs played in a public environment. No cost to join.

SoundExchange: Responsible for collecting performance royalties for song used in digital public performance. Free Registration. 


2) Soundtrack Design

Instead of having a portfolio of songs you sell, or license out– movies, video games, and anything with moving picture regularly needs customized soundtracks to accompany its video. Whether you’re composing music or sound designing, your job is to accurately match the feeling and overall vibe, story, and emotion of the video. The best soundtrack composers create a sonic reflection of a story’s plot.

Sometimes the musical world confuses sound design and soundtrack composition, so let’s make these terms clear:

Sound design usually consists of creating sounds artificially– like a garage door opening, running sink water, a car’s horn, and even creative aspects like the sound wands make in Harry Potter. These sounds we hear are usually added in separately, and do not originate from the video. 

Composition consists of written music and organized melodic sound used alongside video. Traditionally, movie and TV directors would hire composers and entire orchestras to create soundtracks. But, because of the evolution of electronic music and technology as a whole, music producers can compose an entire film score on their laptop. Whether that is a good or bad thing though, is a topic for another day. 

Soundtrack design is a highly competitive field with no easy way to get your foot in the door. There aren’t really any websites or concrete ways to connect directors, video game creators, tv producers, etc. to composers and sound designers, so the best way to meet people that work in motion picture is to find an entry level job or internship in these relevant fields. Start shaking hands with others in the entertainment industry that you want to be a part of, and you’ll start paving your way.

NoteComposition and sound design for major motion picture is an advanced form of music production that takes years and even decades to accomplish. If you are new to making music, we do not recommend taking this avenue until you’re ready.


3) YouTube Tutorials (Vlogging)

Since the emergence of electronic dance music and the popularity of online videos, music production tutorials have become extremely popular. There are many artists ranging in popularity and skill offering their free tips to up-and-coming producers.

A great way to get started is to offer ad-free video content, and then to start monetizing from ads once you’re generating around 50,000-100,000+ views a month.

It will take a bit of an investment to get started, because you’ll need a decent webcam, lighting arrangement, microphone, etc. If you’re certain that you will put the time in to make it happen, then you should get started right away.

Here’s a great vlogging article that may be of help to you:

Vlogging For Musicians: The equipment you’ll need


4) Sell Your Beats 


Creating beats for other hip-hop artists and rappers has become a very popular way for music producers to generate income in the 21st century. Depending on the size of the fan base and overall popularity, musicians can earn thousands of dollars licensing out their beats to other artists. 

Here are the two most popular contractual agreements for selling beats:

Lease: Gives the buyer a set amount of uses that reflect the terms set in place by the seller. Once the buyer exceeds the download threshold, plays, or whatever restrictions the seller puts in place, buyers will have to repurchase a new lease.

Exclusive: Unlike a lease agreement, an exclusive agreement transfers all rights to the buyer, and the producer cannot resell the beat to another musician. Exclusive beats are sold for a much higher price, because the producer usually cannot monetize from any potential future success the song may have.

What’s great about selling beats is that it’s a type of passive income. Once you upload the music you’d like to sell on music marketplaces like:

Airbit
Soundclick
Beatstars

you’ll watch money slowly make its way in. Depending on your network and how much you spread the word, the better chances you’ll have of creating a revenue stream, without much effort past making the beats.

Note: If you’re reading this article and you already have an established career, you can even create your own website, and not deal with annual subscription fees or percentage splits from beat marketplaces.

5) Become a Freelance Musician

One of the most popular ways musicians can make money in 2020 is to become a freelance musician. I know many music producers, vocalists, audio engineers, and others that create a full time income and can support themselves by selling their musical services on music freelance websites.

If you have a studio set up and are able to play an instrument, mix/master, sing, tune vocals, etc. you can utilize these skill sets and sell your services to other musicians looking for help on certain songs. Typically, the more experience you have and examples of your work you can showcase, the more orders you’ll pull in. 

Here on Melody Nest, we connect music producers, audio engineers, vocalists, graphic designers to other musicians that are looking to build their music career. If you’re interested in selling your services, you can create a profile today by clicking here!


6) Recording Engineer

Do you have a recording space you can rent out, or do you have enough knowledge to navigate a professional studio and record other musicians? If so, you can charge per hour or per session to help artists create their music.

Working as an audio engineer can be a great way to network, practice your skill sets, and make money in the process. Instead of selling your services digitally on a music freelance platform, you instead help local musicians record their music for their next release.

Since most recording studios require in depth music production knowledge, many engineers have either graduated from music/audio engineering schools, or have studied sound recording for years. 

It’s fundamental to understand sound equipment, types of speakers, microphones, soundboards, signal flow, music programs, software, etc. before seeking professionally paid gigs. All of this can be overwhelming, which is why going to a music production school can be a good choice.

However, if you’re already strapped for cash, there is plenty you can learn by landing an internship at a music studio. Most do not pay, but you’ll learn a lot about what it takes to be an audio engineer, and perhaps land some paying gigs down the line. 


7) Ghost Produce


This is a similar concept to selling beats, but slightly different. 

Within the music industry, people talk about artists using ghost producers, or how someone might ghost produce for another artist. 

It’s a commonly misunderstood practice, but basically, ghost producing is creating music for someone else, forfeiting all your rights to the song you’ve created, and selling those rights to another artist. Unlike selling beats and engaging in a collaborative type effort (usually music producers selling beats to rappers), ghost producing entails selling a song to another artist so they’re able to say that they produced it themselves. Typically, this happens in electronic dance music. 

It can feel scary to ghost produce because of the inevitable “what happens if my song does really well?” thought. However, it normally doesn’t work this way, and if you’re able to move past the fear of you having zero legal connections to a song you’ve made, then you’re able to make quite a bit of money from ghost producing. Besides, if you write a hit, chances are the word will spread between producers that you’re the one that actually produced the record. 

If you have any songs gathering digital dust on your hard drive, or you want to create music for other people, websites like EDMGhostProducer can help you get started.

8) Sell Sample Packs


Creating custom instrument samples, vocal samples, MIDI files, and other types of organized audio files has become a very popular way for musicians of all types to generate an income. Because many artists spend upwards of thousands of dollars on hardware and software, it’s a great idea for them to fully utilize resources that they already own.

If you have software/hardware synths, royalty-free samples you’re able to create loops with, the ability to record vocals, ambient sounds, live instrumentation, etc. you can utilize sample marketplaces like:

Splice
ADSR
SamplePhonics

and more. Usually, sample packs have dozens and even hundreds of samples per package, so it’s a good idea to do some research to figure out how many you might want to include. 

Once you are all done mixing, mastering, track labeling, and setting up your sample pack, you’ll need cover art in order to sell it. Normally, the best selling sample packs have great album artwork, so it’s important not to dismiss your cover art. If you would rather delegate this responsibility to a professional, you can reach out to our handpicked album cover designers on melodynest.com

Note: Many sample marketplaces do not accept all of the sounds they receive, so it’s important to not become discouraged if they decide to pass on your work. If you are rejected and don’t feel discouraged, you can always set up your own website, and sell the sounds yourself.  

9) Sync-License Marketplaces

Instead of uploading your music to a distributor or PRO, sync-license marketplaces exist for music creators to land movie, internet video, and tv sync licenses. These marketplaces are more exclusive, niche, and highly selective, unlike most PRO’s that accept any music that comes their way. 

This can be a large source of income for you. Here are some of the most popular websites that can help you land sync deals:

Epidemic Sound
MusicBed
SoundStripe
Marmoset Music

In order to land a sync license with one of these companies, you’ll most likely have to be a pretty confidant musician. So, if you’re brand new, focus on your craft for a while, and then apply to these companies.

10) Play Shows

A fairly obvious one– sell tickets, play shows, get paid.

For many performing artists, domestic and international shows and tours are usually the best way to make money. Even if you’re a small musician and only charge a few hundred bucks per show, 2-3 shows per week can really start to add up. And for the popular touring artist, this ends up in the millions.

Familiarize yourself with the local bar and club scene, and start talking to people. Stay until closing, and see if you can find anyone lingering that might be a manager. Get to know them, and perhaps you’ll start getting booked.

If you’re having trouble booking any shows because you’re either new at music production, DJing, or don’t have an extensive network to utilize, you can always just grab your guitar, DJ equipment, or anything you can use to perform and play out live on a busy street corner. Not only will you earn a little money, you’ll better perfect your stage presence and ability to play live altogether.

11) Live Sound Engineer

You know when you go to a show, and the music sounds amazing? That’s mainly because of the sound engineers that are hanging out in their booth usually towards the back of the venue.

According to Career Explorer, a “live sound engineer is someone who blends and balances multiple sounds at a live event by using a mixing console, pre-recorded material, voices and instruments. The sounds are equalized, routed and amplified through loudspeakers.”

Usually, live performance venues hire candidates that have a proven track record, or because lots of professionals can vouch for them. So, if you’re interested in becoming a live sound engineer, the best way you can normally start is to ask for an internship. And if you can’t land an internship, start hanging out other venues and introducing yourself.

12) Become A Music Teacher


Whether you’re a verified teacher, or you spend most of your hours making music because you love it, teaching is a great way to practice your skill sets, while making money in the process. 

If you don’t have any type of degree, no problem. What’s important is that you’re great at what you do. So, print out a flyer with your services, and hang it around town. Or even post on Craigslist, social media, music forums, and tell everyone you know and ask them to spread the word. You’d be surprised how many clients you might land.

13) Radio DJ

Radio is still alive and surprisingly popular. The world, especially the United States, still has high demand for AM, FM, and XM radio, which means there are still many opportunities for radio DJs.

According to a recent statistic from Nielsen’s 2019 Audio Today Report, “272 million Americans listen to traditional radio every week, an increase of 7 million or about 2.5 percent, from 2016’s figures” 

Now is as good of a time as any to find the closest music radio station near you, knock on their door, and ask for a job or an internship. Not only will you meet people in the music industry and expand your network, you will be able to practice DJing… and hey, you might even be able to play your music over the airwaves! 

14) Sell Merchandise

Find a designer, either on your own or on Melody Nest, and start designing t-shirts, hats, flags, stickers, etc. and bring those everywhere you go. Not only do you increase your brand’s exposure, but you’ll make a few bucks in the process. 

Tone Deaf says– “nowadays, touring artists earn between 10-35% of their revenue through merch sales…the very biggest names bring in $300,000-$400,000 USD per year,” which seems to come in as a close second next to touring for annual income.

If you find yourself lucky enough to book shows all around the world, make sure you have gear to sell at each live event. If your music genuinely resonates with people, they are more than willing to purchase some clothing from you.

15) Sell Tutorial Videos


Alongside of music production tutorials on YouTube, artists also sell reserved music production videos for educational purposes. Artists like Mr. Bill, and Sam Matla, earn income by recording in-depth production videos to help others become better music producers.


You can create a website, start building a subscriber base, and charge for creating high quality production content to share. This can go hand in hand with mentoring, as many of these students might want direct one-on-one tutoring which can be a very lucrative source of income.

16) Build An Email List


When you release a single, album, EP, etc. try giving it out as a free DL, and only ask for their email in exchange for your work. From there, you can start building an email list, and whichever way you decide to go to try and earn more income, you’ll have more potential customers to reach when you send out newsletters or email blasts. 

Websites like Mailchimp make this very easy, and it’s free up to a certain amount of subscribers. You can create email lists on their platform, and reach a large number of your subscribers quickly and efficiently. This way, if you decide to sell t-shirts, go on tour, release more music, start giving music lessons, or anything else, you’ll have a better chance of generating more money.

17) Affiliate Marketing


To summarize in one sentence– “Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.” Wikipedia

In other words… think collaboration! If your Instagram, Twitter, website, etc. has a big fan base, or gathers a good amount of traffic, think about partnering up with a business that fits your brand’s message. If you’re an artist that talks about certain cars or clothing lines, perhaps reach out to these companies and see if you can conduct business together. Just endorsing a link or having a well placed picture on your website endorsing another business can earn some money for you.

18) Create A Blog

If you’ve got tons of experience being a music producer, and feel like you have value to give people either technically, creatively, spiritually, philosophically, etc. then music production blogging might be for you. 

You can research for questions people ask on the internet via answerthepublic.com, and begin writing your content/Q&A’s from there. If your articles give value, you can monetize and generate revenue from the website traffic through affiliate marketing, ads, and you’ll also simultaneously gain more exposure for your music project. 

The easiest way to get started is to just start writing, and create a blog using WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and even the simplest blogs can generate thousands of dollars.

Conclusion

The ability to create music to a high standard of quality is a valuable skill set. You may not be making the money you wish to make, not because the opportunity isn’t there, but because the roads are over-crowded. We wrote this article because we want to help you find new lanes leading towards more opportunities.

Here at Melody Nest, our goal is to help musicians make money. Starting a music project is no different than starting a business, and the main killer of small business is running out of money. That doesn’t have to be you. 

It’s understandable if you might not want to try new things, or if some of these options make you uncomfortable, but that’s just part of the journey. Be open to all opportunities that come your way, and you will grow more than you ever thought possible!

Together, we can break the starving musician stereotype

Quick Summary:
1) Royalties
2) Soundtrack Design
3) YouTube Tutorials (Vlogging)
4) Sell Your Beats 
5) Become a Freelance Musician
6) Recording Engineer
7) Ghost Produce
8) Sell Sample Packs
9) Sync-Licensing Marketplaces
10) Play Shows
11) Live Sound Engineer
12) Become A Music Teacher
13) Radio DJ
14) Sell Merchandise
15) Sell Tutorial Videos
16) Build An Email List
17) Affiliate Marketing
18) Create A Blo

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About me

My name is Nick Voorhees, and i’m an Icon Collective graduate, music producer, and owner of Melody Nest. I am in no way an expert in music production (or in any field), but I just wanted to share some insight on what helped me along the way. I hope this is at least a little helpful.  

 

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