One of the biggest obstacles part-time musicians face is...time.
We can all relate to that, right?
How do you make money from music when you don’t have enough hours in the day?
Well, it can really help to automate your music income.
Automated income (AKA “passive income”) means you do the work upfront, then get paid a potentially unlimited amount for that work.
There’s no max to what one song can make.
Because what ends up happening is, your music makes you money while you sleep.
Don’t get me wrong ‒ this takes work. But instead of trading your time for money, you’re getting paid for your value as a musician and producer. You’re harnessing the power of technology to make certain things happen automatically. That way, you don’t have to manually do them.
So here are four ways to automate your music income...
Use an email funnel
When a fan signs up for your email list, they usually get a confirmation email saying “thanks” and “welcome.”
And that’s a good start, but you actually need more.
You need an email funnel.
What’s an email funnel?
It’s a series of emails that adds value to the subscriber and, eventually, asks them to buy something.
And once you set up a funnel, this runs 24/7. You’re not manually sending out emails to new subscribers. Your chosen email service does it automatically in the background.
Picture an actual funnel that you would pour a liquid through. Wide at the top, narrow at the bottom.
This is how an email funnel works. The top of the funnel is where subscribers sign up. The bottom is where they become financial supporters ‒ it’s more narrow because most subscribers won’t end up buying anything.
This image from ConvertKit makes it clear:
How to get more email subscribers
Let’s start at the top of the funnel. How do you get more people on your list?
The two proven ways to get more subscribers are lead magnets and newsletters.
Offering a regular newsletter can get more signups, but it can take a lot of time to write and send. So, although that can be a great way to connect with your audience, it’s not a good example of automated income.
So let’s look at lead magnets. This is when you offer something for free in exchange for a person’s email address.
As a musician, you could give new subscribers:
- An unreleased song
- A digital booklet about how you wrote your songs
- Some behind-the-scenes footage from the studio
- A thank-you voice memo
Get creative. Use whatever lead magnets work for your personality and brand.
How to write an email funnel (FREE TEMPLATE)
Usually, the emails need to be one day a part and consist of 3-7 emails.
Here’s a general email funnel template you can use:
- Welcome/confirmation email: say thanks for signing up and include a link to whatever lead magnet you promised them on the signup form.
- About you: tell your story and encourage the reader to reply to the email with any questions (and then answer those emails).
- Extra gift: give the subscriber something extra they weren’t expecting, like a discount on your merch or another unreleased song.
- More ways to support you: give subscribers three clear ways they can support you, from free options (ex. “listen on Spotify”) to paid options (ex. “donate the amount of a coffee”). Casually mention in the PS your “Big Sell” (see below).
- Big sell: this is where you get very clear about how and why readers can support you. This is the one thing you want people to do, like buy your merch, support you on Patreon, or donate. Choose just one action the reader can take.
Once you set this up, this runs in the background and you don’t even have to think about it.
Sell print-on-demand merch
Print-on-demand merchandise is exactly what it sounds like. The printing company makes your piece of merch once a person orders it.
And it’s the best way to offer merch online.
Here’s how it works: a fan orders your T-shirt. The printing company gets notified of this and they print and ship the shirt directly to the fan.
The whole process is automated. And print-on-demand merch costs you $0 upfront.
You can literally start selling right now.
Here are the best print-on-demand companies:
Sign up for Patreon
Patreon is a platform that allows super fans to support artists on a regular basis, either monthly or per “creation.”
On my Patreon page, fans can choose from two tiers of support: $3 and $10.
And 2-3 tiers of support is the best way to go.
Honestly, the biggest benefit of Patreon is the connection you get with your fans.
But it’s also a great way for fans to get involved with your music while also getting exclusive stuff from you, like unreleased music and a say in future projects.
Plus, the funds are automatically deposited into your account each month.
Get into sync licensing
Sync licensing is my main source of income. And with my song being on NBC and in hundreds of indie film projects, licensing has brought me the most exposure.
And the best thing about it is the automation.
This is how it works: you...
- Write and produce a track
- Submit it to a sync library, licensing company, and/or music supervisor
- Indie filmmakers, creators, small businesses, and sometimes big networks pay to use your song
- You get paid (after the middleman’s cut)
Once you submit a track and it gets accepted, the library/company/supervisor does the rest.
They have the platform where clients find your song. They deliver your track to the client. And they automatically deposit the profits into your PayPal or bank account.
Where can you start licensing your music?
As an artist, you obviously want to get paid fairly.
So let me recommend a few places that are conscious of fair artist payouts:
- Pond5: stock music library (they paid me $300 for one hour of work)
- Crucial Music: licensing company that works with big-time music supervisors (they licensed my song to NBC)
- Music Vine: music production library geared toward indie filmmakers
If you’re serious about automating your income, you’ve got to explore sync licensing.
The first step is to create a music licensing strategy. Learn how to do that here.
If you’re strapped for time but you want to start earning money from music, automated income is the way forward.
And these four ideas I shared aren’t even all of the passive income streams you can get.
But for now, start with these.
The point is, if you automate your income, you can grow a sustainable music career on the side.
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter/producer whose music has been on NBC, NPR, and in hundreds of indie creator projects. He runs Musician With A Day Job, a site that helps part-time musicians succeed.
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