Top 7 Revenue Streams for Recording Artists
Ways To Make Money as a Rapper

Even though we begin dreaming of success the very moment we realize our destiny, monetary benefits don’t always come as quickly as we would like. 

In fact, many musicians got their big breaks later in life.

Sheryl Crow was a schoolteacher before she became the music legend and 9-time Grammy winner she is today.

And Bill Withers was in the U.S. Navy for 9 years before he even began to pursue a musical career! He was 34 when he released his debut album, Just As I Am, which boasts the iconic and powerful song “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

Revenue streams might seem non-existent when you’re waiting for that big paycheck. But there are many different ways you can earn money as a musician.

Keep reading to find out 7 of the best revenue streams for recording artists.

1. Sync Licensing

Sync licensing (synchronization licensing) refers to making money by making your music available for use in video games, TV, commercials, and film. 

When a song is licensed, the individual who owns the rights to the original recording and the individual who is the songwriter/composer, both get paid. If you play both of those roles, you will get paid accordingly.

2. Offer Music Lessons

Don’t scoff. Teaching music is an easy way for a musician to earn a living. It can be difficult to start, but once you get your first student, it’s easy to grow your customer base.

Music is an essential part of a child’s learning process. Finding a spot to host and teach group lessons for parents and tots can also be a great way to grow your fanbase and earn some cash.

Are you a rapper? Rappers are some of the best writers out there. You could always teach a writing or creative poetry class as well.

3. Merchandise Your Stuff

Selling merchandise is one of the best ways you can both represent and make money through your music, your brand, your label, and yourself.

The most important thing you have as a musical artist is your fanbase. Your fans are exactly what will perpetuate those income streams into the future. So why not provide them with ways to represent you in their everyday lives?

It isn’t that expensive to make some hats or t-shirts. Do you have a dope logo or tag? What are your best lyrical lines? If you can tap into what makes your brand stand out from the rest, you’re already one step ahead. Your friends and family will be happy to reach into their pockets to support your dream and get something out of it in turn.

Plus, you have free walking advertisement every single time anyone wears or uses your merchandise.

4. Think About YouTube Monetization

YouTube is a beast of its own. It has become one of the most popular ways for artists to generate a revenue stream and become overnight sensations.

YouTube has over a billion users which accounts for 1/3 of all internet users across the world. Furthermore, YouTube has a production space that is free to use if you have over 10,000 followers. So if you live in Los Angeles, you’re in luck!

“Gangnam Style” actually broke their view counter, so it had to be upgraded.

That being said, the more followers you have on YouTube, the more money you can make via advertising and other means.

While you’re at it, you could start a music blog, which can be another way to make money via advertising and collaborations.

5. Perform as Much as You Can

Live performance fees, touring, and shows constitute for almost a third of the average musician’s income. If you’re fairly new to the game, you can start small by signing up for a battle or performing at a dive bar. 

Live music never gets old. And when people are out and enveloped in the energy of good music and the excitement of a crowd, they are more inclined to buy your merchandise. Get a good hype lady or man so that you can make more money while you’re already making money from your show.

6. Songwriting and Composing

Do you have a lot to say from the perspective of individuals other than yourself? Do you have pages and pages of written lyrics that you know are just the right amount of catchy or thought-provoking?

Do you make beats that Kanye and Pharrell would be impressed by? Both artists were known for their composing, producing, and writing chops before they released their own music. Many artists start off my writing or making beats for the stars and it’s a great way to make money as a musical artist.

7. Earn While You Learn

It might seem like the world isn’t ready for you as a solo artist or as a band. But you could always make money as an employee of another successful artist or group. If you have the talent to play an integral role in a symphony, band, or another type of ensemble, by all means, go for it!

You’ll learn about all sorts of aspects of the biz while doing so and should make enough to keep working on your own talent at the same time.

Revenue Streams Honorable Mentions

Aside from the 7 ways we listed above, there are many other ways to make money as a musical artist, such as:

  • Meet and greets
  • Live show after parties
  • Session work
  • Fan clubs
  • Sponsorship and endorsements
  • Production work
  • Sheet music
  • Donations via tip jars or even a campaign like Kickstarter
  • Photographs
  • Mixtapes

Start Hustling

As with any artistic endeavor, the bigger the hustle, the heavier the revenue streams. You have to create your own destiny. And while that can be a daunting thought, it’s also an exciting one, because the possibilities are endless.

There are many talented musicians who had to wait for their big break. But with YouTube sensations and the age of the internet, there are a lot of options for promoting your sound.

Are you just starting out and looking for more advice? Check out our career advice blog for some inspiration or contact us if you have any questions.


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