August 16, 2022

How Do Musicians Make Money?

Getting into the music industry is one of the hardest things anyone will ever do, but there’s hope that it’ll become easier and easier as time goes on. It may never get easy, but as time goes on and new technology trends pop up, there will be more avenues available to upcoming musicians. For those looking to start a music career or are just interested in how musicians make money, we break down the many ways musicians big and small can make a living.

Concert Tours

For the majority of artists big and small, concerts and concert tours are where they make the most of their money. The money they get paid by the venue or the revenue they get from ticket sales makes up the majority of an artist’s revenue. They bring in large amounts of money at once and serve as places where bands can sell merchandise and advertise future performances. A concert isn’t just a one-time payout but a place to build up a fanbase for the next event.


We mentioned selling merchandise at concerts, but it can be sold online as well. Merchandise, even if it’s just t-shirts, can generate a lot of profit for music artists. Most merchandise consists of things like clothes, stickers, or albums, which are cheap to produce in bulk, and can be marked up in price. For bigger artists, signing items instantly increases the selling price of a merchandise item.

Licensing Their Music

This is a tactic that only musicians who produce original music can use to make money. Cover bands can’t always license out their singles. Those who make original music or have the rights to license their covers out can partner with movies, video games, radio stations, and more.

Sometimes, this is how small bands get big. All it takes is for someone important to hear a band’s performance at a local venue or online and they want to use it. While music sales and streaming are important, releasing music on platforms like Spotify and YouTube doesn’t actually take away from music sales.

Music Sales

This is self-explanatory. Selling singles and albums make musicians money, but likely not as much as many people think. It’s actually incredibly hard to release and market a song so that its sales break onto any top 100 sales charts. The artists who make the most money off of sales are ones who are already big and likely didn’t build their music career off of music sales alone. The money they do get from sales comes from physical single and album releases, along with major music sellers like iTunes.

Music Streaming

Spotify has done a lot to revolutionize the music industry, but not a whole lot to revolutionize how musicians make money. It isn’t a very lucrative place to make money, but they make some money from it. What Spotify and other music streaming platforms do is provide a platform for artists to get their music out there. Spotify is great for recommending music and helping artists develop their brand awareness, which will lead to revenue in other places.

Brand Partnerships

Bigger artists with brands of their own can be asked to create music or be sponsors for a product. This will give them investment funds for tours as sponsors advertise at venues and possibly make ads with the band and their music.

There’s a variation of this for small artists as well. With the rise of content creation on YouTube, artists can build out consistent followings who listen to their music. This enables them to either get sponsors of their own to put on their YouTube channel or create Patreons.

Patreon is a crowd-funding site where individuals and businesses offer tiers of rewards for people who pay a monthly fee directly to the individuals they want to support. Many artists who build an audience on YouTube have Patreons that pay the bills and allow them to spend their time making music.

Help Local Musicians Make Money at the River Street Jazz Cafe

A lot of local musicians come to the River Street Jazz Cafe where they perform their singles and albums. We host musicians who perform solo and in a band, and those who perform their own songs and covers. It’s a hot spot for the local music community.

If you want to know more about who’s coming to perform on our stage check out our calendar. Our next performance will be on August 26th, with University Drive performing an album release show. Get your tickets now!