I am one of those people who truly believes you can actually make a lot of money as a soloist / freelance musician. I don’t think it is easy at all, and I don’t think every single person can do it, or even the majority can do it – it most certainly takes a very specific kind of person and an inhuman amount of passion and conviction. However, once you are really rolling, you can make money from a variety of sources, including album sales, song streams, sponsoring advertising on your YouTube channel and personal website, ticket sales, performance fees, royalties, merchandise, licensing your music, donations if you run a non-profit ensemble, prizes, grants, and other sources too.
When you are a soloist who performs either by himself (like a pianist or electronic musician) or a soloist who is backed up by a small band, you are able to find performances for yourself at nearly any venue.
Certainly, as a solo musician, you have the ability to play in chamber music halls, orchestral halls, and other venues that are designed specifically for music. However, when you are a solo musician, you are also offered the creative freedom to perform in non-traditional venues as well, which can boost revenue and exposure for the aspiring solo musician.
Taken from my own ebook, The Ultimate Secrets to Achieving Incredible Career Opportunities With Your Music Degree, you can perform at any of the following NON-TRADITIONAL venues as a soloist:
- Coffee Shops.
- Youtube (Include Advertisements In Videos.)
- Bars with a venue.
- Bars without a venue (clear an area for yourself).
- Subways (actually you can make a decent amount of money doing this in a place like NYC).
- High schools.
- Colleges and Universities.
- On-Air Radio Stations.
- Charities and Causes for others.
- Senior Centers.
- Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs.
- Dance Recitals.
- Weddings (As a solo musician you can charge more than $1,000 per gig. Be sure to know your standard wedding repertoire).
- Corporate Lounges.
- Dance Clubs and Jazz Clubs (I have seen a classical music group in Cambridge, Massachusetts called The Middle East, a popular nightclub in the area).
- On the street.
- At a Park.
- At a Music Store.
As far as what a solo musician’s typical salary is, I cannot offer to you any concrete numbers because the numbers are so widely varied. People like Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang make multi-millions, but I think they are in a group of the lucky few.
I would imagine that if you worked on your solo music career every single day, producing mp3s, merchandise, licensing your recordings, developing a large audience base through social media and the like, you could probably make a salary of at least $40,000 – $50,000 per year after many, many years of consistent hustling. Never be afraid to try and negotiate for money as a soloist, it is critical. If you absolutely can’t do it, hire an agent who would make commission.
It depends largely on your audience draw, popularity, how much monetary value your audience and sponsoring venue can give you, and how good you are implementing both traditional and non-traditional means of income, like sponsoring advertisements.
How Does One Become a Successful Soloist?
I encourage you to read the opening letter for my ebook The Ultimate Secrets to Achieving Incredible Career Opportunities With Your Music Degree and see if the objectives behind that book resonate with your musical goals. Please, only purchase my book if you believe it will help you obtain your greatest goals as a musician to make a career, whether it be as a soloist or otherwise.
In my experience, although technical ability and certainly musical talent and passion are all necessary requirements for a successful solo music career, I have found, time and time again, that your success as a solo musician frequently comes down to what people say about you, and not about your actual music. A lot of musicians have difficulty with this concept since their training is so focused on music, and some people may read that statement with bitterness that is infused by conditioning to be “anti-self-promotional” with your art. But truly, social science is not something we as musicians should avoid, but rather, embrace when trying to make great solo careers for ourselves.