How Do Today’s Musicians Make Money?

The music industry is host to some of our generation’s most successful moguls and superstars. It’s easy to believe that music is lucrative work to get into. The reality is that the massive amounts of money and wealth we see are only passing hands between a handful of labels, business owners, and artists. The rest of the industry is left to fortify the 1% of artists that actually achieve this kind of success.

This begs the question: how do today’s musicians make money? Streaming services have provided a unique opportunity for more independent artists to publish and distribute their music through music and music video distributors with direct-to-consumer business models. This offers a small income stream for artists but not enough for smaller and mid-level bands to make a living. Let’s explore some alternative options for musicians to make money in today’s industry.

Music Video Streams

Of course, one of the most talked about ways for musicians to make money and build a following is through streams. Where once there was only Spotify, there are now a handful of streaming platforms for musicians to upload music to, and most have a designated section for music videos. By using music video distributors, artists can upload their video content to exclusive marketplaces like Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music which are inaccessible without a distributor. Video streams alongside audio streams can create multiple streams of potential royalty income for musicians.

Live Shows

Another option for musicians slowly coming back into the fold after over a year of lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings is live events. Shows and performances are still one of the best ways musicians can make a buck doing what they love, but it takes some negotiating and knowledge of venue spaces to find gigs that pay well. Live performance opportunities can be notoriously varied regarding how much they pay. The amount will depend on individual musicians’ training, reputation, and skill level.

Recording Sessions

Getting hired for recording sessions is another great way for musicians to make money. There are always opportunities to work with developing artists who need additional instruments for their songs, and that’s where work-for-hire musicians come into play. If you’re interested in getting into the recording scene but not sure where to start, it’s always a good idea to go to shows and meet musicians. From there, you can start offering your services for free to gain a reputation and begin charging a session rate. In many cases, recording can be a much better and more sustainable way to make money over live shows. As we’ve already seen, the live music industry can easily slip out of our fingers. Recording can be done from home in the most extreme cases, and musicians can potentially draw more work for themselves in the long run.

Music Libraries

For songwriters and composers, taking advantage of music libraries can be a great way to increase their revenue stream. Music libraries are collections of music, compositions, and songs for the purpose of licensing for TV, movies, advertising, or other visual media, such as video games. Like most options for making money in music, getting onto music libraries and syncing your music with a pilot or movie takes a lot of hard work, creating, and hustling to get your songs noticed by industry professionals.

Teaching and Education

For musicians looking to find a way to make a stable income while still staying in the music world, teaching private lessons is a fantastic and flexible way to make money. Some may see this as a job outside of the music industry, but, in fact, a majority of working musicians use teaching as a way to supplement income. Not only is it a great way to make money, but it’s also a great way to network and meet a lot of local musicians. On top of these monetary and professional benefits, it creates an opportunity for musicians to practice the foundation of their skills daily.


Ultimately, making money in the music industry entirely depends on the musician’s goals. If their goal is to get their band’s music noticed, then focusing on music and music video distributors to get their music played is the best way to go. Still, those musicians will need ways to supplement their income streams from music, and music video distributors may not provide them immediately. This is when recording sessions, live gigs, teaching, and licensing libraries become viable options to help fortify a musician’s income while they promote their own music and build a fan base to support their original work.