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The 9 Best Jobs for Musicians: Side Jobs for Musicians in 2020

music business Feb 02, 2020

I’ve put together the list of the 9 best jobs for musicians, specifically focusing on side jobs for musicians - a.k.a. side hustles that are centered around music. These are perfect jobs for musicians, because they still offer lots of flexibility for building your music career while gigging and taking care of other commitments.

This list of how to make money for musicians isn’t going to focus on things like Uber or Door Dash. Instead, it will talk focus on side jobs related to music!

For example, how you could get paid through a music-focused YouTube channel or by licensing your music online. It also offers modern takes on more traditional music careers: like teaching lessons online, how to work as a studio musician from your home, and how to create and sell sample packs.

We’ve all got bills to pay, but for us musicians it can be especially hard to make ends meet since our work can be so devalued. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this list - if you can think of any friends that would benefit from pursuing a few of the best jobs for musicians, please share it with them!

Note: this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that I receive a commission for any purchases you make through them. This does not influence what I recommend.

The 9 Best Jobs for Musicians

We'll get into the actual jobs in more detail below, but here is a list so you can skip to any that may interest you.

  1. Teaching Students Online Music Lessons
  2. Make Money on YouTube as a Musician
  3. Make Money Streaming Live Performances
  4. Get a Virtual Studio Musician Job from Home
  5. Make Money Licensing Your Music Online
  6. Make Money on Patreon as a Musician
  7. Create and Sell Online Courses
  8. Sell Beats Online
  9. Sell Sample Packs & Patches

What is a side hustle?

Nick Loper, from Side Hustle Nation, defines a side hustle as “something you do to earn money outside a traditional job.”

Or what a musician would call a gig!

Most musicians earn their living by cobbling together lots of gigs to earn a full time income. Some times these gigs are, literally, gigs. Playing live concerts multiple times a week.

For others it’s teaching lessons. Working at a guitar store. Doing live sound. Maybe working in a studio.

This guide aims to give you 9 high tech 21st century, side jobs that will actually complement your music career. And because many of them can be done from home, you can save money & time on transportation, and spend your time working more efficiently and earning more.

Active Income Opportunities vs. Passive Income Opportunities

Active income opportunities are side hustles where you directly exchange dollars for hours. For example, teaching a student guitar. She gives you $30, you give her 30 minutes of your time.

To maximize your income, it’s also about combining active earning with passive income. With passive income, you invest time and effort upfront to earn money in the long term. There’s no direct guarantee that you’ll earn anything for your work, but you can also get paid while you sleep. Now there are a lot of passive income scams out there, but the passive income opportunities I recommend here are 100% legit.

For example, I’ve made over $10,000 licensing my songs online. I write and record songs and get paid nothing upfront.

But then I place them online, and if someone purchases them, I get a royalty payment. The more songs I upload, the more opportunities I have to earn. And these songs can be licensed dozens of times. Of course, some songs will never be licensed, either.

How to make extra money and stop being a starving artist

When it comes to putting these side hustles into action, the point isn’t to burn yourself out. It’s to make even more efficient use of your time. It’s about fitting in a few more, smarter gigs, and leveraging the power of the market to find your niches.

You want to build a portfolio of side hustles as a musician so that you are combining active opportunities and passive income opportunities to build a stable, reliable income. Done correctly, you’ll not only start earning more, you’ll also find yourself working on more interesting, inspiring gigs.

For example, instead of having to take that midnight slot on a Monday night, you might know that you’ve got enough Patreons who will support you for releasing a song demo. Or enough followers on Twitch who will donate to watch you perform (from home), at a reasonable hour!

Why these Musician Side Hustle Ideas?

After extensive research (and experience with many of these), I think these are the best side jobs for musicians in 2020. I like them because they actually move your music career forward, instead of distracting you with things like sitting in an office or driving people around town.

Not only can they help you build up a fan base, they can also help you hone your skills and talents, all while getting paid. Plus most of them are pretty fun!

The 9 Best Side Hustle Ideas for Musicians 

Ok, we’re finally here! While some of these ideas may seem like traditional side gigs for musicians, I’ve offered a modern twist on all of them. You can pursue just one of them, or you can stack them together to create a portfolio of great opportunities. I recommend the latter - don’t want to put all of your eggs in 1 basket!

Teaching Online Music Lessons

Everyone is familiar with the concept of being a music teacher. Hell, most of us probably learned to play our instrument from a music teacher at school or at a music store. And while those are still totally viable options, for those of use who might lack the chops, or the time to fully commit, or who might live in more rural areas, there are tons of ways to make money as a teacher that go beyond the traditional guitar teacher route.

How to make money as a musician teaching on Youtube

YouTube is a great platform for musicians looking to teach something. A lot of musicians teach specific lessons on how to get better at an instrument, or about music theory or even how to play a style of music.

Hell, you could talk about guitar pedals, review gear, or review other people’s music.

But the great thing about YouTube is that you can teach far more than just about an instrument.  For those of us who are only mediocre musicians, it still presents a massive opportunity to earn money from something musical we know about.

But the first thing you need to consider is whether you're using YouTube to directly make money (either through YouTube ads or sponsored posts), or whether your using it to promote something else, like one on one lessons, or an online course.

How Much Money Youtubers Earn

I run a YouTube channel focused on using a specific piece of recording software, Reason, and on music licensing. I’ve been running my channel for about 3 years and spend about 10 hours a month on it. I now have about 7,000 subscribers and earn $100/month in YouTube ad revenue. I also get lots of free software to review. I also make a couple hundred dollars here and there from affiliate links and sponsorships.

However, this is largely passive income. When I take the occasional month off of making videos, I don't see my income change too much.

But I also market my online courses through YouTube (more on that later), and the majority of the people that eventually find my courses originally found me through YouTube.

A lot of people wonder how many subscribers you need to make money on YouTube.

The fact is, the number of subscribers isn’t that relevant. You get paid on YouTube based on the number of views you get, not based on the number of subscribers.

Only about 16% of my views come from subscribers. So while growing my number of subscribers will grow my number of views, it’s not really directly related. Note: you won’t be able to monetize your channel with ads until you reach a thousand subscribers, so like many of the passive income opportunities, it will take a while before you start seeing any return on your investment.

Tips For Making Money on YouTube

There’s a couple of secrets to getting started on YouTube. The first is consistency. If you regularly post videos, you will start to see traction. At the beginning of each video, always want to be sure to ask your viewers to like, subscribe and comment on your videos.

I learned to master YouTube thanks to Phil Ebner’s course, which is available here: Explore possibilities. Learn new skills for as low as $11.99. It’s loaded with everything you need to know to ensure that your YouTube brand starts taking off from the get go.

I also absolutely recommend the free tool TubeBuddy, which will help you optimize your keywords so that your videos get found.

In addition to being able to monetize your channel through advertising YouTube is a huge platform that will let you build a fanbase. You can use this to promote your song releases, other projects/products/courses/merch you launch, and even upcoming shows! As your channel grows, you can also pursue sponsorship opportunities.  

What Do You Need to Get Started Earning Money on YouTube

It doesn’t take much to get started streaming on YouTube (assuming you have a computer or even a smartphone). Depending on what you have, you’ll need two basic pieces of equipment, which you might already have as a musician.

First, you need a decent microphone - it’s actually much more important for YouTube than a camera. The majority of the negative feedback I’ve ever received on my videos is related to bad audio quality. If you’ve got already got one, especially a condenser mic, then you’re good to go.

A good affordable first choice mic for YouTube is the MXL 990, which usually sells for under $70. If you don’t already have an audio interface, you’ll need to pick one of those up too (it’s really useful for a ton of other music side hustles). I recommend  Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2, which sounds great and is bundled with some really inspiring music creation software!

Or if you prefer something simpler, you can get a USB mic that will plug directly into your computer. The downside here is that there really isn’t much of an upgrade path.

If you just want to record yourself giving lectures or maybe playing guitar right in front of your computer, you can probably use your laptop’s built in camera to record video. You can also use your smartphone or iPad to record the video, especially with a tripod to hold it.

Finally, you’ll probably need software to edit your video. If you’re on a Mac, the free iMovie software is good enough to start out with. If you’re on a PC, you’ll need some software. I recommend TeleStream Screenflow. It provides the ability to edit your video (AND AUDIO) across multiple channels in a simple-to-learn interface. It’s also the best software out there for recording your screen if you want to teach people how to do music stuff on the computer.

Make Money with Twitch Streaming Live Performances

Twitch is a website that allows creators to live stream themselves while building up a group of followers, who can reward the creator with tips. While most Twitch streamers are gamers, there are plenty of artists and bands who’ve built up substantial followings. You also have the opportunity to make money through ads. You can also make money through subscribers. Plus you’re building your music brand, so you can promote your albums, merch, tour, etc. You can even drive viewers to your Spotify links to play the studio versions of your songs.

And it synergizes really well with YouTube! First, Twitch streaming doesn't require any additional equipment. Second, you syndicate all your Twitch live streams as uploads to YouTube to expand your audience and increase your earning power.

How do you succeed at making money with Twitch live streaming?

Like YouTube, consistency is key growing a following on Twitch. Having a weekly performance at the same time every week will help you grow and audience and build engagement.

On a live platform like Twitch, it’s more important to interact with your audience as the performance goes on. So responds to their questions and comments between songs. 

Ask them questions, like: where’s everyone from? What’s your favorite song? What do you want us to play? 

Not only will these questions engage the audience, they can help inform where you’re going on a tour or what your setlist should look like.

The best way to leverage Twitch is to add it on top of things you’re already doing.

So, you could live stream your band practice, and give your fans an inside view into what you’re doing. Or you could live stream a songwriting session. Or studio time. Twitch allows you to monetize things you’re already doing, but it also accelerates everything you’re doing by increasing your exposure and revenue.

What gear do you need to Make Money with Twitch Live Streaming?

The gear is pretty much the same as you’ll need for YouTube. If you’re playing with a full band, you’ll probably want to get a mixer and perhaps invest in some additional microphones.

Get a Virtual Studio Musician Job from Home

A studio musician is someone who is hired to perform a specific part on a recording. Traditionally, session musicians were the cream of the crop. Stone pros who could play better than anyone and learn new songs on the fly.

These days, with the democratization of recording, any decent musician can be a studio musician from the comfort of their home studio. Thanks to sites like Airgigs and Soundbetter, anyone can offer their services.

How Much Does a Studio Musician Make?

How much can you earn as a session musician? Well it depends on how busy you are, but it looks like the going rate for many musicians is $90, with some singers, songwriters, and players of specialized instruments charging up to $500 per recording.

Obviously, the websites take a cut of this (AirGigs takes about 10%), but considering that it probably takes a half hour of work to finish a session, you’re looking at a great music side gig.

How to be Successful at Your Studio Musician Job

When you first start, you’ll want to charge a low price in order to attract new clients. You’ll want to deliver excellent quality work promptly, and communicate smoothly. Once you get a few reviews under your belt, you can start to raise your rates.

It’s important to remember that you’re also in the customer service industry here, because you really will rely on those reviews to attract new clients. Similarly, you’ll want to do a good job, because many clients would prefer to work repeatedly with the same drummer or guitar player once they know that you’re reliable.

It’s also incredibly important to have quality demos of your work. For clients that have never heard you before, they’ll be basing their decision on what your demos sound like, mixed with the reviews. So put your best foot forward. A friendly and professional photo doesn’t hurt either.

What Equipment Do You Need to Be Successful at Your Studio Musician Job?

Doing the job of a studio musician well requires not only a decent level of talent at your instrument, but also decent instruments and recording equipment. Exactly what you’ll need will depend on your instrument - a singer’s requirements will be very different from a drummer’s - but you’ll probably want to have at least mid-level equipment no matter what your instrument.

You’ll need an audio interface and a digital audio workstation in order to record audio. 

Not only will this make your recordings sound better (getting you better reviews), it also will be something that you can market to potential clients. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve used a lot of Warm Audio products with great success. They strike a really nice balance between quality and affordability. For example, Warm Audio’s Tone Beast will make everything you plug in to, from bass to vocals, guitar to synths, sound warm and full. Warm Audio’s WA-14 is a beautiful, silky, versatile microphone for a ton of different applications.

Make Money Licensing Your Music Online

If you’ve got a modest home studio, you can make money licensing you music online. Even I was able to figure it out!

Over the past 3 years, I’ve made over $10,000 licensing my music online. I’ve worked about 10 hours a week writing, recording, and uploading songs. The most important key to make money licensing your music online is consistently growing your catalog of songs.

If you want to learn the ins and outs of how to make money licensing music online, I’ve got a free 5-day music licensing crash course that you can check out here. It will walk you through everything you need to know to start licensing your music, from the best site for music licensing to how to write licensable songs.

Music licensing is largely about creating a portfolio of songs that allow you to earn passive income while you pursue activities that interest you. Ultimately, music licensing is somewhat of a numbers game. So you need to be good at writing and recording efficiently. You also need to create templates in your recording software to rapidly speed up your workflow

At the same time, it also requires you to write songs appropriate for licensing, create a good mix, and upload the song with a keywords that will allow the search engine to display your songs.

Your songs are going to need a strong beginning, middle, and end. They also need to be full of captivating transitions. Learning how to write for stock music is a skill that can be easily taught, it just take a little time.

Tips to Make Money on Patreon as a Musician

If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s basically a service where fans can directly support artists. They can either support you directly by providing you a monthly donation, or they can support you for each project you create - for example each single you release.

There are two keys to success on Patreon - attracting fans to your page and then offering them attractive rewards to support you.

So the first thing you need to do is have an actual fan base to visit your Patreon page. This is where your experience on YouTube, Twitch or building an email list of your fans can really come in handy in getting people to visit your site in the first place. Patreon really works best if you have an audience already. So don’t put the cart before the horse!

Before you advertise your Patreon to your broader list though, you want to prime the pump. With Patreon, everyone can see how many supporters you have, so you want to be sure to ask your family/friends/die-hard fans to join directly. That will help encourage others to support you, as well - think of it just like the tip jar at a restaurant!

Once you have an audience, you can ask them to visit your Patreon page with a specific, exciting request. You don’t just want to ask them to support you. You want to build a community and offer them something special in return.

Patreon offers creators a ton of flexibility in crafting the rewards that they offer their patreons. For example, Amanda Palmer, who has 15,429 patreons, offers a 9 different membership tiers, with payment due each time she creates a thing (a new song, EP, a documentary, podcast, etc).

  • For $1, you get access to her Patreon feed, with special posts and some downloads. 
  • For $3, you can also download songs and get access to things like lyrics and other downloadable
  • For $5, you’ll also get emailed random fun surprises from candid photos to silly videos
  • For $10, you’ll also get access to live webcasts, which could include live performances or just chatting
  • For $25, you’ll get hand made art in the mail
  • For $75, you’ll also get signed hand made art in the mail and access to her guest list at shows
  • For $100 (limit 30), you’ll also get postcards and +1 access on the guest list
  • For $250, you’ll get access for +2 on the guest list, plus free signed Merch when it’s released
  • For $1,000, you’ll have dinner.

What can we learn from her successful use of tiers? Well, first of all they’re fun and give people what they want - art + access. Second, if you want to make money on Patreon, you want to avoid offering physical products as a reward (except in limited quantities at the higher tiers), because they don’t scale well, and they can cost a lot to ship abroad. Third, you want to have some very high dollar tiers. Somebody somewhere might be willing to pay that much, so who are you to stop them?

Create and Sell Online Courses

Selling online courses can be immensely profitable, if you commit to it. Much like YouTube, selling an online course allows you to teach a musical skill that you’re passionate about to a huge group of people. I’ve made thousands of dollar from my music licensing course.

It’s incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to help people achieve their dreams. Receiving positive feedback on your course is truly a gift in and of itself

But don’t just take my word for it! Look at sites like Become a Bassist, Piano in 21 Days, or Rick Beato who teaches courses on things like advanced harmonic concepts. There are tons of musicians out there making serious money with online courses - and you can too.

One of the reasons that an online course is one of the best jobs for musicians is that you do most of the work upfront (creating the course), and then reap the rewards later. The first step is to brainstorm your course idea. Maybe it’s how to create ambient drones on guitar! Or how to create your own samples. It’s only limited by your imagination.

I use Kajabi to run my online course and have found it to be incredibly powerful. It helps you easily create online courses and sell them with out having to learn coding or worry about whether plugins are compatible. Kajabi also lets you easily build up an email list, send automated follow ups, and actually saves money in the long run.

Plus Kajabi literally assigns you a coach that you can talk to for advice about building your business. Tech support is available via live chat and responds really quickly. If you're at all considering launch a course, Kajabi offers a free 28-Day Challenge. This challenge includes 28 days of free hosting, ecommerce, email, etc., it contains 28 days of lessons that walk you through every stage of creating an online course, taking you from beginner to expert. So even if you decide against using Kajabi, you'll still know exactly what you need to do!

Sell Beats Online

Selling beats online is a very different approach to earning side income as musician. While superficially it may seem similar to licensing stock music, it will be much, much different in practice.

What does selling beats online mean?

Well, basically you’re selling instrumental hip hop tracks that aspiring rappers can use to rap over. So unlike stock music, you’ll always be focused on a specific genre: instrumental hip hop. Additionally, you’ll want to keep the songs relatively simple. Just a hook and a verse, or maybe add a chorus in some songs. In contrast to stock music, you don’t want to laden your tracks with transitions and layers of melody.

You’re basically just trying to create hip hop beats like on the radio. So listen to those tracks, and follow their format. 

Where Can I Post Beats Online?

Much like selling stock music, there are a number of platforms, or marketplaces, where you can post beats online. Signing up with a marketplace is the best place for beginners to start, because these platforms will take care of everything like credit card processing, contracts, refunds, customer service, etc. That way you can just focus on making and selling beats online.

On top of that, these websites already have a built in clientele, so you don’t need to spend your timing hustling to find clients, building your own website, or running email campaigns.

The best sites to sell your beats on are Airbit and BeatStars. There’s a few other really reputable sites out there, like SoundClick and Rocbattle, but I recommend that you initially only focus on a couple while you get your feet wet learning how the industry works.

The downside to using these websites to sell beats is that there is a lot of competition, the prices can below, you don’t get to easily form a lasting relationship with the client, and fees can add up.

Still, if you’re a hip hop beat maker looking to start earning some cash on the side, selling beats online is one of the best side hustles form musicians like you.

How Much Do You Sell Beats For?

On BeatStars, the tracks average between $20-$40. However, BeatStars offers lots of upsells, like a high quality .Wav version of the file, the ability to get track stems, and unlimited usage licenses. This can quickly turn a $20 sale into a $200 sale.

Of course, BeatStars is going to take it’s 30% commission out of this (unless you’re in the premium program, which costs $19.99/month at press time).

Is Selling Beats Online Profitable?

As you can see, selling beats online can be quite profitable, because you can resell the same beat multiple times! Still, like anything, the more songs you upload, the better.

Additionally, per Appendix A of BeatStars license agreement, the producer (in the premium program) is eligible for 80% of backend royalties earned for the sale and streaming of the song. So if your song becomes a hit, you have a lot of upside potential.

Of course, I strongly doubt that your song is being accurately tracked and registered, so you will probably miss out on a lot of the performance and other royalties you’d otherwise be entitled to. Still, these are probably royalties you’d never have a chance to earn otherwise.

How to Sell Beats Online Like a Pro

Once you’ve got your beat selling business of the ground, you may want to consider building up your own website and selling beats directly to clients. There’s a lot more involved with this process, and you’ll probably want to wait until you have a pretty substantial catalog of beats (at least 100), but if you launch your own website and start to hustle, you can start to make serious money selling your beats.

Adam Ivy has a lot of great tips for selling beats on your own site.


 

As I've said, I use Kajabi to run my online course and have found it to be incredibly powerful. It helps you easily create online courses and sell them with out having to learn coding or worry about whether plugins are compatible. Kajabi also lets you easily build up an email list, send automated follow ups, and actually saves money in the long run.

Plus Kajabi literally assigns you a coach that you can talk to for advice about building your business. Tech support is available via live chat and responds really quickly. If you're at all considering launch a course, Kajabi offers a free 28-Day Challenge. This challenge includes 28 days of free hosting, ecommerce, email, etc., it contains 28 days of lessons that walk you through every stage of creating an online course, taking you from beginner to expert. So even if you decide against using Kajabi, you'll still know exactly what you need to do!

Then instead of being able to sell them just one beat, you can let them know when you release new beats, offer special sales, or just keep them updated on your music making and life.

The whole reason you build out your site is to start building long-term relationships with your clients, so you want to take the time to interact with them, respond to their questions, etc. You could even offer tips on hip hop business practices or recording techniques!

To help capture people’s email addresses, you can offer them 3 free beats. This is called a “lead magnate” - if you notice it’s the staple of any successful online business (including this one!)

Once you’ve got your lead magnate in place, you’ll need to setup a system for transacting all the additional purchases, managing your licensing, etc. I actually recommend using BeatStars premium and just embedding everything on your website. This way, you don’t have to worry about any of the backend technical issues, but you still get to form a powerful, long-term relationship with your clients, away from the hype and overcrowding of BeatStars.

Sell Sample Packs & Patches

If you're a studio guru with lots of great sounds running around, you should absolutely consider making your own sample packs, instrument patches, or midi patterns. The beauty of this idea is that these are probably things you've already made for yourself, and now you have an opportunity to sell them to earn extra money.

Just be sure that you don't use copyrighted samples as a starting point for your sounds. You need to use original source material.

What type of Sample Pack Make?

You should make the types of sample packs that match your skill set. If you're into hip hop, then hip hop drum samples, drum patterns, or synth presets are a great idea. If you're into EDM, then go for that.

Even if you play "real" instruments there's still a ton of room to make sample packs! You could record electric guitar licks, acoustic guitar strumming, or even just the sound of your city.

The possibilities are endless!

What to include in you Sample Pack?

Bigg Vic, an awesome producer, recommends that you come up with the concept for your sample pack before you start working on it.  Then he says it take a couple of weeks of work to finish up the pack.

While Jelie, another awesome producer, sometimes starts with a concept, other times she "curates from a large collection of samples I've made over a weeks time and then I separate them randomly or by similar qualities."  

The amount of samples/presets/patterns depends on the price you want to charge. But I'd say that a good rule of thumb would be to aim for 40-60 samples and charge $15-20. Also be sure to include a description of the rights you're granting to the buyer - for example, that they can use the samples royalty free, but they can't directly re-sell the samples.

How to Market a Sample Pack.

If you've already got a YouTube channel or a website, they serve as great marketing tools for your sample packs/instrument patches/midi patterns. For example, you could make a video on your YouTube channel showing off you making a song using just the samples from the sample pack.

Before you start creating the pack, though, it's helpful to think of a really cool, niche theme for it. For example, Trap Drum Patterns. Or Surf Guitar Licks. Or Lo-Fi Hip Hop Organ. Whatever it is, you're more likely to see success if your pack is unique. 

To go along with that, you'll want to be sure to prepare some captivating artwork to get the attention of buyers. As always, I recommend using Canva to create your layouts. It's a one stop free source for graphic design, and it has tons of great presets.

It can also be a good idea to send the packs to artists that you're friends with before you release it to the masses. Not only can they help you notice things like mislabeled samples, they can also provide you some feedback, and maybe even an endorsement!

How to Sell Your Sample Packs

I recommend marketing them through your website (I recommend Kajabi), capturing people's emails by giving away free samples, then selling your sample packs through a third-party website, like Sellfy

 

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