• Mark Mathews

The best ways to make money from music

For the independent artist the hustle has never been so real, in 2017. For a long time now, CD and download sales are not to be relied on for an income.

Well, I think U2 might be alright, but who knows.

Instead, you need to be making income from a variety of different sources, all generating cash at different times to keep you afloat and moving. It's taken me a while to really get to grips with the fact that my music career is in fact my business. I am effectively the CEO of Mark Mathews Music and I need to treat it like that. This has been tricky to come to terms with, owing to the fact that I am a creative type and like writing and performing songs, not filling in spreadsheets and managing business accounts.

But I've realised that it's not that, really. It's about being creative with how you make this thing work. What I've been creating over the past few years is something that works for me and the music industry in 2017. I am still the artist, but I am also the label owner, the booker and the manager. I understand that in order for me to keep on recording and creating music, I need to make money to pay for it all. With music sales not reliable enough, this is where the 'business' side of things comes into play and multiple streams of income are set up.

Now I am not yet an expert at this, and there is a lot of fumbling and fooling around that I have done and probably will continue to do for a little while yet, in order to get the results I want. But I do have things in place that results in steady flows of income from a variety of different sources.

Live Shows

For starters, I have my live shows. I rarely play for free anymore, simply because I am providing a service and like any business you should be recuperated for that service. You wouldn't get a plumber coming round your house to fix your toilet, by telling him that it'll be "great exposure" for him because you'll tell all your friends about his work and, hey, you'll also throw in two free cups of tea! He'd laugh at you or possibly hit you! Most of these venues or promoters are taking the piss by not paying you. There are exceptions to the rule, but it is worth keeping in mind that as you are providing a service you should be paid for it.

Corporate Shows

Corporate Shows are something I started doing about 4 or 5 years ago and they have been hugely supportive for me, financially. Big companies often run events and parties and they need live musicians to keep their guests happy. At these events I am expected to play a variety of covers but I still mix these amongst my own songs too. I've found these events to really take care of you: feeding you, giving you a good rate of pay and generally looking after the artists whilst they are on site. You can contact companies direct, look on sites such as Gumtree for any listings or there are agencies that take musicians onto their rosters.


Busking is a really quick way of getting a cash injection. It takes no time to set up and start performing and people are, overall, pretty generous if you are any good. I love busking for the sheer fun of it and the characters I get to meet, but the income is not to be sniffed at at all, especially as it is so instant and direct.

Performance Royalty's

In order to cover myself slightly for any free shows I do end up doing, I am a member of PRS. This is the UK's performance royalty agency and they collect monies I am owed for anytime I perform my music or my music is played on TV and Radio. They pay quarterly and so this is something that can be relied on every three months.

Music Sync

Music Sync is the big topic that every musician should know about, as really this is the best way of making money from your music.I have had my music placed in a variety of commercials and this brings in, not only a fee for using it, but also the PRS royalties too. By far the best revenue stream for independent artists, hence why it can be a tricky one to get into and as the competition is fierce.

CD and Download sales

Sure, this way of generating income is the most in decline and it is sometimes the hardest one to pull off....but it still does pay. I sell CD's at gigs and whilst busking, I have my music available to download across the internet and then I collect royalties (all be it teeny, tiny ones) from streaming sites and youtube. The cheques are small in comparison to some of the other ideas above, but it is still another revenue stream that can be re-invested into my music - whether that be recording, promotion, artwork or all the other things we need to be getting on with.

So, there are a few ideas of how to generate some income to help keep you a float. It can be hard work and I am always trying to find new and exciting ways to generate income and keep this life going...but I guess in some ways, that is part of the fun!

What ways do you use to make money from your music? Let me know in the comments below!

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