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Top Revenue Streams for Musicians

Excerpted from our How To Make More Money With Music: 9 Free Revenue Streams for the Working (and Weekend) Musician guide, authors Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan provide nine ideas you can employ to boost revenue from your music. We’re outlining three of them here — get the guide to learn all nine!

It turns out the old saying “it takes money to make money” isn’t true when it comes to making money with music. There are many music revenue streams you could be tapping into that cost $0 up front and still lead to new ways to generate income. Since they don’t cost anything out-of-pocket, why not start tapping them right now and see if you can earn more income? You’ll start earning profit from the first dollar that comes in.

1. Collect non-interactive streaming royalties

You can make money every time your music is played on streaming services like Spotify Radio and Pandora or digital radio services such as Live365. If you’ve read our book, Making Money With Music, you already know the 12 registration steps you should take to make sure you earn all the royalties you can from your music.

Although you’ll incur fees to sign up with some of the services, SoundExchange has no associated costs. SoundExchange collects sound recording performance royalties for non-interactive streaming services, which is simply a fancy way of saying “streaming radio,” where the listener doesn’t control the feed. (Spotify and Apple Music are interactive and pay you through other organizations.) But SoundExchange can’t pay you unless they know who you are and where to send the checks. Considering it’s free to join, there’s no reason to wait, just sign up here.

2. Generate YouTube AdShare revenue

If anyone on YouTube is using your music in their videos, you should be collecting AdShare revenue. To tap this revenue stream, you’ll need to sign up for ContentID and, of course, be the copyright owner. You can apply directly through YouTube, but note that they’re particular about accepting direct applications. If YouTube doesn’t accept your registration and you want a no-cost, up-front option to get this revenue, you can sign up with Audiam or AdRev. While they don’t charge up front, both of these services charge a percentage fee for any royalties collected — and it may be a higher rate than other for-pay services. They may also hold funds until a minimum amount is earned and may have minimum qualifications to meet before taking you on as a member (e.g. number of daily views.)

Another potentially free option leverages your existing distribution partners. For example, CD Baby’s Social Video Monetization service is automatically included with both its standard and pro distribution packages. Plus, CD Baby’s service helps earn money from your music in videos on Facebook, Instagram Stories, and others. Check to see if any service you’re already paying for provides an option to collect ContentID at no additional cost.

As with anything you sign up for, make sure you read the terms and are comfortable with the fees and services.

3. Collect songwriter performance royalties

You’re entitled to royalties when your music is played on terrestrial radio, performed live, played on TV, and more. The money is split in two: 50 percent to the songwriter and 50 percent for the publisher. (If you’re not sure if you have a publisher, it’s probably you.) If you want more info about how this works, read the Licensing and Royalties chapter in Making Money With Music.

You have your choice of societies to join, but if you’d like to get started and don’t have a lot of funds, BMI allows you to sign up as a songwriter member for free, so you can start collecting the songwriter half of the royalties. And, once you have funds, you can use those funds to join as a publisher to collect the other half of the royalties (which you should do if you own your music recordings).

Royalty revenue streams like these are passive income, or “mailbox money,” and they stack perfectly on top of other income streams like music sales, live shows, and patronage, so it makes sense to spend a few minutes to register your music. Note: this won’t generate income unless your music is getting performed, streamed, and played consistently, so it’s up to you to promote your music. Done right, these campaigns generate more royalty income, grow your fanbase, and even create more followers who are excited to hear your latest release, so they are worth your time. Just make sure to sign up to get royalties first or you’ll be missing out on the income.

To learn more about earning affiliate sales, crowdfunding to raise money for your next project, making recurring monthly income through patronage, collecting cashless donations and tips, partnering with a charity, or renting out your gear or recording space, download our free How To Make More Money With Music: 9 Free Revenue Streams for the Working (and Weekend) Musician guide today.

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