Different ways to make money as a musician

Although it may start out as a hobby, there will be a point where the hard work you have put into learning your instrument could pay off financially. I have been a full time musician for a few years now and my paycheck comes from at least 6 different income streams.

Here are some obvious and less obvious ways that your passion can bring you profit.


Playing in a band is probably the first thing people think of here. Get a band together, put on a show and charge people to come see you play – simples!

Being in a show band can be great work – theatre productions of all sizes, from local dramatics, through cruise ships to the West end… many have a ‘pit’ band who are being paid for their skills.

Providing ambient music for restaurants, bars etc can be lucrative work – as long as you don’t mind people talking over your playing and not being the centre of attention!

Online performances have recently become a real way to make money. If you are good enough at playing and engaging, you can make a fair living off YouTube revenue.

Competitions, both online and live can sometimes carry hefty prizes. Win the right contest and you could get a healthy reward.


Releasing original music is the dream for many artists, and if you hit it big the finances can be life-changing. Typically to make a lot of money off original music, there is a whole marketing process that goes with it, often managed by a label.

Being a session musician is the ideal job for many instrumentalists – working for a studio or record label and being called on to play parts when required. Be aware that the number of these jobs that actually exist these days is minimal and the competition for these is huge, thanks to the advances in technology and the huge number of music graduates appearing every year!

Online sessions where you promote your skills and take on recording jobs can be a good way to make a living as a digital session musician. Have a look on Fiverr and you will see lots of guitarists making money this way!

Creating backing tracks for others to use can be a good way to generate money if you have a bit of recording and DAW knowhow. Some websites will buy your tracks, or you can put them on YouTube and build revenue that way.

Sample licensing is where you create sounds and loops for other artist and producers to use, there are many platforms where you can sell your samples.

Producing, Engineering and Mastering are all hugely important jobs that live inside the recording industry, although not so focused on playing skills.


Teaching in a school can be a simple way to supplement your income. Usually the standard isn’t very high and you’ll need to be patient.

Private lessons provide solid work for many musicians – teaching one-to-one instrumental lessons to students for an hourly rate.

Workshops can be more lucrative than individual lessons because you can charge multiple students for the same time window.

Online tuition is a massive area of the industry these days, with hundreds of videos, courses and learning packages available. If you can present your knowledge in an attractive and interesting way, there is plenty of money to be made here.


Songwriting for other artists is a huge industry. If you have the skills to write a great song, you might find a performer who wants to buy it off you. Write the top line (vocal melody) for a smash hit and you could be in the big bucks!

Composing music is not all about classical scores – there is many a musician making a good living writing music for all sorts of projects. Corporate businesses often will have something written rather than pay royalties on well known music, music for films, television and games is huge. Advertising is also a massive market – write a successful jingle and you could be quids in!

Other jobs

Arranging is when someone employs you to re-write some existing music into a different format. This could be expanding a song to incorporate a string or horn section, or changing the whole style of to suit a particular artist.

Transcribing is a service a lot of people pay good money for. If you have great aural skills and can write down music that you hear, you will be in demand!

Getting an endorsement from an equipment company can happen if you are a skilled player with a decent audience. Makers will send you equipment or money so that you are seen playing their products. This is basically being a musical influence.

Promoter – passionate about putting on live gigs? A promoter books venues, find artists to play and takes a cut of the profit.

Management – there are different ways that musicians can be managed. Bands and artists often have management companies that take care of the boring stuff they don’t want to do. I manage a couple of wedding bands, meaning we provide them with promo material, web presence and organise their bookings in return for a percentage of gig fees.

I hope this has given you something to think about and opened your eyes to some different ways that your music skills can make you money. Let me know if you think there is anything I have missed!

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