There is a debate among experts (or at least, I like to think there is) that musicians don’t do nearly as well financially as they used to back in the golden days of performing.

I tend to disagree with this theory.

Today, the rise of modern technology has provided more opportunities for musicians to make money than ever before. The entire concept behind is to reveal these methods, both old and new, and publish them for musicians around the world to learn how they can make a living doing what they love to do.

Traditional Methods

Musicians learned how to make money well before the rise of modern technology.

One of the most lucrative ways was to find a sponsor. These could be found in the barons and rich families of Europe, and other countries that had a thriving society which supported the arts.

Let’s take an example from Mozart’s career.

In 1773, Amadeus Mozart was contracted by the ruler of Salzburg, Vienna, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. He was paid a handsome salary to be the court musician, and all he had to do was compose and perform music for the nobility.

Not a bad gig.

These days, such sponsorships are extremely rare, and usually are only on a hire-per-performance basis. You’ve seen it in the movies – there’s a gala fundraiser with hundreds of wealthy folks in a fancy hall, and a jazz band or string quintet playing in the background.

Those musicians were paid to be there, but only for that night. It wasn’t a full-time job!

Of course, musicians of lesser status than Mozart also learned how to make money. These included the gypsies, street musicians, and bar musicians of the common people. They, just like the play-for-donation musicians of today, earned a meager living just from playing music for others in their immediate environment.

Then there were the contracted orchestra performers and military musicians. Backed by wealthy donors and even the government, these musicians played concerts on a regular basis and were paid to both rehearse and put on concerts for the public.

Now, although these musicians didn’t have the ability to create their own musician website or advertise themselves to the world, they did fairly well for themselves considering the time period that they found themselves in.

That being said? We’re lucky to live in the time that we do.

Modern Methods

These days, we have the World Wide Web. It’s the most amazing and fundamental aspect of modern society around the world. In America, at least, it’s becoming almost impossible to get a job without applying online first.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, of course, but I figure they’re not too far behind on this trend.

Musicians make money these days in a number of different ways that their predecessors could have only dreamed of. The Internet has completely transformed the way we communicate and exchange information with each other on a global scale.

You’re no longer confined to your city or town – you can be famous in under a week around the world!

These days, musicians have social media to help them gain more exposure as independent artists and groups. Even composers-turned-producers release instrumental tracks that gain international fandom; no instrumental or vocal experience needed.

Here are some ways that musicians are making money in the 21st century:

Streaming Royalties: Musicians have been paid billions over the last two decades (almost) in streaming royalties from platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora Radio. There are dozens of popular platforms that aggregates such as DistroKid let you earn from, just by signing up for $19.99 a year (you can get an awesome discount on any plan with our affiliate partnership).

Advertising Royalties: If you’re able to get “YouTube famous”, you can run advertisements on your YouTube videos. Every time someone watches your video, they trigger what’s called an “impression” on that advertisement. If they click on the ad, you get even more revenue whether or not they purchase what’s being advertised. The advertiser is paying the cost of the advertisement, and you get advertising royalties.

Virtual Concerts: There are platforms out there – although they’re kind of rare – that let you watch concerts live for a “ticket” fee. If you’re tech savvy, maybe you can create the first world-famous virtual live concert hall? It’s definitely the way things are going these days.

Selling Music Online: Websites like Pond5 and AudioBlocks have mastered the art of selling royalty-free music online. You don’t have to limit yourself to full tracks, however – you can sell parts of songs, karaoke covers, or beats and samples for use by producers. If you learn how to sell beats online, you can potentially make thousands of dollars a month!

Multiple Streams of Income

No matter how you choose to make money as a musician, you should learn to diversify the ways that you make money.

Any financial expert will tell you that.

The key is to learn where you can make the most money, and which methods will guarantee where your time is best invested.

Take an inventory of your musical skills and imitate what other successful musicians like you are doing to earn a living. If you can get a record deal, great! For most of us, however, we have to get creative.

That shouldn’t be a problem for musicians like you, of course.

Making money as a musician has never been easy. With a little ingenuity, however, musicians throughout history have found ways to fund their creative endeavors to entertain the masses and support themselves through their art.

Paul Cassarly
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