5 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR INCOME ONLINE AS AN INDEPENDENT MUSICIAN
“Artists don’t care about the money”. Said no one ever with the slightest respect or understanding for artistic work. Those words are especially irritating in the mouth of a promoter or venue owner. Or anyone in the business trying to “work” with you. In any battle like in any career, money can make all the difference.
Working in promotions and for different labels, I have seen several indie musicians plunge or simply quit for good despite their talent because they were in so deep financially that the only thing that still mattered in the end was the money, and not the art.
Living in a van when you’re 23 in sunny California sounds like fun. On the road again and all that. But that’s a cool social media post and nothing more. Especially for those living in colder states or northern Europe. Gear costs money, so does your rehearsal space. In many places (hello Nashville) your musicians ain’t cheap either and the list goes on (aw damn, your Facebook post reached 3 people including yourself…how about a boost?).
So you need to make money. And ideally, with your craft. Because every (paid) gig and every stream is also a way to network and get exposure.
Here are a few ways to let a little cash flow into your PayPal account and improve your online* income as a hard working independent musician.
1- RELEASE A CHRISTMAS SONG OR EP
Hate Christmas? Well that’s too bad. Cool Xmas tunes are badly wanted by specialised blogs (yes, there are blogs focusing solely on seasonal music that doesn’t suck, and it’s not saturated yet, like these guys), regular blog and playlist makers.
The competition for best Christmas tune is harsh. But indie Christmas has become a huge deal over the past few years with alternative and independent artists bringing something fresh to that old stinky Xmas table. And listeners want more. So do Spotify playlists curators (the people who could add your tune to a +400K followers playlist).
Making it onto a cool Xmas playlist means direct payments from streaming platforms. But it also means lots of people hearing your sweet voice in a hipster cafe, on their way to their in-laws or preparing their trees. And they could start following you.
Not a Christian? Who cares! Christmas started off pagan and simply belongs to anyone who wants it. You could use that as a starting point. I don’t think there’s a White Saturnalia EP out yet. Feel free to grab the idea or simply work on wintery themes.
2 – HUSTLE ON YOUTUBE
Youtube earnings are awful low, this is a well known fact. But it’s still worth it to hustle on Youtube for a couple of reasons:
It’s the perfect place to play and share covers that won’t pollute your actual branded catalogue and get new people to find you as they search for an acoustic version of their favourite tune.
It’s free rehearsal time to hone your craft and get feedback (yes, some of the comments can be actual feedback and the rest are practice-that-thick-skin-for-when-an-actual-reviewer-ends-up-hating-your-song-material).
You can and should of course monetize your videos and even if it isn’t much, you can set a rule for yourself to keep a balanced online budget. Repeat after me: “I will only spend on Facebook what I have earned on Youtube“.
3 – RAISE MONEY ONLINE – TIPPING THE BAND IN A DIGITAL JAR
Know that big plastic jar they place by the edge of the stage because the venue can’t afford to pay you? Well, a lot of people will be cool enough to leave a dollar or two in there. How about reproducing that online? It’s more difficult, yes, because one of the reasons why people tip the band is because other people see them.
So there is less social pressure for someone to tip the band online. But there are ways to thank your fans (and their egos) online too: shout outs, free downloads, thank you banners you can make on canva that look really cool and make people want to be tagged on.
Be creative, every dollar counts and every fan counts double.
To raise money online, Patreon, IndieGogo and the likes are really great. But you can also simply use your own channels and approach your fanbase without a middle man. Both strategies are worth a test.
4 – STAY ON TOP OF YOUR PAPERWORK
The chances for one of your songs to suddenly be used on TV are small. But it happened to bands we worked with. More than once. Without an agreement and without a publisher. WTF? I hear you say. That’s where you want to be damn sure that your songs are registered with your PRO (Performing Rights Organization) so you can actually investigate what happened and make sure you get paid your due. All of this can often be done online quite easily.
See, when you’re a smaller artist, your PRO isn’t necessarily on top of what is going on with your music. It’s a shocker but they are indeed very busy with major artists and a lot of money owed to the smaller guys never actually land in the right pockets. And that’s not illegal either, it’s the system. That’s why, as you’ll grow, you’ll need to have a good team around you.
This is also why you need to monitor your music the best you can to ensure the statements you get from your PRO are somewhat aligned with reality.
5 – PLAY AIR SESSIONS
Not yet a featured Airgigs or Soundbetter member? Then get onto it because you are missing out on real money. These platforms allow you to get paid for your work by other musicians. It’s the new session and it works pretty well if you deliver. The key is to build yourself a professional looking profile with pro pictures, good samples and ideally press snippets to convince fellow artists to spend their hard earned money on you.
And don’t just look pro on your picture. Act like one too and deliver high quality results while respecting deadlines. You’ll soon rank as a trusted session player (or singer) and could earn consistent, real money from these gigs.
You will also be able to score more credits as a player and that’s basically your CV. So make it good. And if you’re lucky, you’ll form long lasting relationships with collaborators you can be proud to work with.