The One Thing

13 ways to make money from music

Published about 2 months ago • 5 min read

“How do I make money from music?”

It’s a question I’ve gotten more times than I can count.

And as someone who has spent the better part of two decades in the music business, it’s a question I’m certainly qualified to answer.

Many independent artists focus on turning streaming into their sole source of income, but in my experience, the musicians who cultivate successful, multi-decade careers are those with many irons in the fire.

So because this newsletter is titled The One Thing, our focus this week is going to be on this single idea: monetizing your music.

We’re just going to look at 13 different ways to do that (some of which you might not have considered).


Let’s go ahead and get the obvious one out of the way.

Streaming can be a wonderful source of semi-passive income (nothing’s really passive, of course), but it takes work to get there.

It currently requires 1,000,000 million streams to earn roughly $3,000 in revenue from Spotify in the US alone.

This means you’re looking at a tall hill to climb to earn a living from this source, especially if you want to make it your biggest income stream.

Stock licensing

Making your music available to other creators is an effective way to turn your songs into assets.

Much in the same way a track becomes an asset when made available for streaming, so too can it become an asset (something that earns money while you sleep) when placed in a stock music library.

Websites like Pond 5 or Storyblocks are used by a slew of creators in need of high-quality assets for their work.

Why shouldn’t yours be included?

Sync licensing

Similar to stock licensing, sync is when your music is “synced” to video content in film or television.

The payouts are generally higher than stock licensing, but the frequency of use is usually lower.

The whole quality vs. quantity thing.

Some sync contracts require exclusivity, but until you run into that barrier, I’d try to make your music available for both.

Sell or license beats

There is an entire musical culture built around beats alone.

If you’re making beat-driven music, especially hip hop, licensing (or even selling) your beats is a no-brainer.

Just as with sync and stock licensing, you can turn your music into an asset to be used by others.

Release those beats to Spotify, etc. as well, and you’ve got four asset-driven use cases for every track you create.

Play shows

Time to get out of cyberspace and into the “meat” space.

Playing shows has a slew of benefits: marketing your music to new listeners, building relationships with existing fans and other bands, and making a bit of dough in the process.

I personally toured heavily for about a decade and made the bulk of my income from shows for a long time.

If you’ve got the bug to play live, don’t sleep on this—there’s nothing else like it.

Play music for hire

The majority of my touring time was spent playing music for hire.

This meant playing the drums for existing artists or bands and getting paid per show.

Hired gun work was a great way to earn a steady income as a musician while doing what I loved in the process.

If you can get a good gig, especially one that hits the trifecta—good music, good people, good pay—you can have a great time.

Produce for other artists

Helping others make their music is an excellent way to sharpen your skills while doing a solid for someone else at the same time.

Many artists lack the ability to record themselves and need a little extra help.

If you have the talent to aid in that department, you can earn a good living.

You’ll also have the opportunity to practice and learn while on the clock, thereby improving what you’re able to bring to your own music as well.

Play on sessions

Much like playing music for hire onstage, playing on records in the studio is an awesome way to earn a paycheck while cutting your teeth.

Plus, it’s a ton of fun.

I used to tour on the weekends and play on sessions during the week.

That was my life for a long time, and it was perfect.

If you can find this balance for yourself, while still carving out a bit of time to create your own work, there are very few setups that will feel like more of a win.

Sell merch

A t-shirt with your name on it is a walking billboard.

And it makes you money.

Win, win.

Selling merchandise is an awesome way to incentivize your superfans to support you.

And it doesn’t take much to start—a couple of shirts, maybe a hoodie, and some physical copies of your music and you’ve got a complete offering.

Sell samples

If you’re a producer crafting sounds from scratch (or at least heavily modifying them), you might have an accidental sample library on your hands.

Offering samples like one-shots or vocal packs is an ideal way to “sell your sawdust” so to speak.

You’re doing the work anyway, so you might as well break it down into elements you can turn into products that will work for you while you sleep.

Sell presets

Selling presets is similar to selling samples, but sometimes people don’t want the sounds—they want the settings.

If you’re using a popular DAW or plugin, there is a high likelihood that others could benefit from the presets you’re already using.

Export those out and offer them for sale.

This may feel overly simple, but you’d be surprised at how much of a leg up something you take for granted can provide for someone else.

Offer consultations

The most powerful tool at your disposal is your knowledge.

If you’ve ever solved a problem, especially a music-related one like mixing, mastering, producing, writing, branding, marketing—the list goes on and on—then you have something to offer.

Opening your calendar to allow others to pay you for your time and expertise is not only an effective way to earn a bit of money, but it’s also an awesome way to give back to your community.

Sell a course

Everyone has a course in them.

We all have knowledge and expertise that can help others at scale.

Think of a course as a consultation for an audience.

If you can organize and package your knowledge into a high-value digital product, you can change lives (yours included) all for the price of a bit of your time and a few monthly fees for software.

So there you have it—13 unique ways to make money from music.

I hope you’ll put some of this to good use.

And if you do, shoot me an email to let me know how it goes.

Whenever you're ready, there are four ways I can help you:

  1. Read the Newsletter: Read previous issues of The One Thing to learn at your own pace and upgrade your marketing knowledge for free.
  2. Book a Consultation: Schedule a one-on-one call with me to improve your marketing across paid advertising, social media, and more.
  3. The Spotify Traffic Accelerator: Join the hundreds of artists who have successfully learned to automate their growth on Spotify using paid ads on Instagram.
  4. Become a DuPree X Artist: Hire our team to manage your marketing across streaming platforms and social media so you can focus on what matters most—making music.

The One Thing

Tom DuPree III

One high-leverage idea to scale your audience (and your business). Delivered every Tuesday.

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