5 Alternative Ways to Make Money from Your Music

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By Nicholas Rubright

In today’s environment where music is consumed mostly from streaming and free sources, making money from music sales seems like a thing of the past. CD sales were replaced by downloads fees, which are now being replaced by royalties from music streaming, often worth less than the checks they’re written on.

While free music streaming can be great for marketing your music, it doesn’t typically result in a livable income stream for artists on its own. Musicians today have to find other ways to make a living from their music, and must find other ways for their recordings to generate a consistent income stream. Here are some ways you can make money from your music.

Get your music played in retail stores and restaurants

A lot of musicians don’t know that retail stores and restaurants actually pay royalties to play music in their establishments. Generally these companies pay for monthly or yearly subscriptions to music services, who in turn pay royalties to BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC (the performance rights organizations, or PROs who distribute royalties to songwriters and publishers), and/or SoundExchange (a PRO-like organization that handles digital royalties for recording artists and copyright owners), who then distribute royalties to songwriters based on their share of the plays.

The first step in earning an income from this is to sign up with one of the three PROs, as well as SoundExchange (if you’re in the US, or look up the PRO options in your country) so you get paid royalties. Check out this comparison of the PROs before becoming affiliated with one to ensure you make the right decision and that you sign up in a way that maximizes your revenue.

Once your music is set up with the PROs, it’s time to pitch your music to the background music providers. Before pitching, make sure your music is fit for a business setting, and that your recordings are high quality without any explicit lyrics.

Since there are a large number of background music services available, rather than listing them for you, here are some search strings you can try plugging into Google to find them:

  • Background music services
  • Background music providers
  • Restaurant background music services
  • In-store music services
  • Commercial music streaming
  • Music for business

Each of these will return different results. Make a list of the services you’d like to pitch your music to, and start reaching out via email to be added to some of their playlists.

AM/FM, internet, and satellite radio

Serious musicians should strongly consider radio promotion as a part of their overall marketing strategy. In addition to being a powerful way to reach a huge new audience, getting played on the radio can also earn you royalties through the PROs and SoundExchange.

Local and college radio stations are great marketing tools to explore in advance of a tour, helping to bring bigger audiences out to your live shows and drive ticket and merch sales.

Internet and satellite radio can help you reach an even broader audience, and because the number of genre-specific stations and channels are limitless, you’re more likely to reach an audience guaranteed to like your music. Both internet and satellite radio stations will pay royalties via the PROs and SoundExchange, making them great revenue generating channels.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “How to Get Your Music Played on SiriusXM (and Local Radio, Too)”

Sync licensing

Sync licensing is the process of getting your music placed in films, TV, video games, and other forms of media. When negotiated well, you can earn a steady, consistent stream of income from these sources.

Licensing your music in this way can also provide you with valuable exposure if you’re placed in a big-budget movie, for example. While it helps to have existing relationships with music supervisors at film studios, it’s more important that your music is a fit for the movie. There are also a number of agencies and DIY platforms who can help connect you with music supervisors, so be sure to check out your options.

If you’re interested in exploring film placement for your music as an income stream for your music, check out this guide on how to pitch music supervisors. The process of reaching out to music supervisors for video games and TV shows is similar to that of films.

Live performance royalties

By affiliating with one of the PROs, you can also earn money from your live performances in the form of public performance royalties.

Music venues pay the PROs for the right to have live performances of music within their establishment. When you play live in a venue, you receive your share of those fees in the form of public performance royalties. While these fees likely won’t make or break your music career, they can be a nice bonus on top of whatever you make from the door.

To earn royalties for your live performances, just submit your set lists to the PROs for royalty collection.


While you can make money from YouTube simply by choosing the option to “monetize” your video (by allowing YouTube to place ads before or during the video), another YouTube revenue stream that’s often overlooked is its ability to drive merchandise sales.

When uploading a video to YouTube, click to edit the video and add annotations or cards to your video to alert viewers to the merchandise you’ve got available. Even better, film a short call to action that you can add to the end of any of your videos before uploading, asking your fans to support your music by buying merch or donating via a crowdfunding platform.

Once properly set up, YouTube videos can offer a variety of revenue streams. Then it just becomes a process of properly promoting your music videos online to reach an audience of passionate music fans who are willing to pay for your merchandise.

Nick Rubright is the founder and CEO of Dozmia, a music streaming service currently available on iOS.  He has a passion for helping musicians understand various marketing concepts, and creating the perfect playlist.  Sign up for Dozmia’s mailing list to get music marketing hacks straight to your inbox.

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