One of the most popular methods for generating seed capital (cash for starting your ventures) for musicians is an online crowdfunding platform.
You are likely familiar with this; basically, you raise money by asking your friends, family, contacts, and anyone interested in what you are doing to pitch into a central platform online.
There are some different ones that have key distinctions, so I will go over four of the most popular ones briefly here.
Perhaps the first online crowdfunding platform that really caught widespread online popularity, musicians on this platform consistently raise money to fund albums, ensembles, and tours. One musician has raised over $1,000,000 on it. When it first caught popularity, I even successfully used it with a couple friends back in college.
On Kickstarter, a project manager sets an allotted amount of money, then must raise the entire amount of capital asked for in order to have the project funded. Should the project not receive all of its funding, the project itself will not receive a penny of the pledged funds.
Certainly, a twist of drama is part of the attraction behind Kickstarter.
Very similar to Kickstarter, the major difference between Indiegogo and Kickstarter is that even if you don’t raise all of the money you asked for in your original Indiegogo campaign, you can keep the amount of money that you do end up raising. A couple of my friends recently raised over $15,000 on it.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo both have time limits for the funding; usually less than 90 total days of an actual round of funding is permitted.
On GoFundMe, you can have as much time as you need to reach your maximum goal. Good for those who are not on a tight deadline to have their project funded.
Perhaps the most intriguing of online crowdfunding platforms, Patreon allows an artist’s patron/supporter to pledge a certain amount of money on a recurring basis. Sometimes this recurring basis can be monthly, or it can be for a specific action the artist takes.
Here’s a 21st century off-the-beaten-path poet who uses Patreon; everytime he makes a video highlighting his work, he is paid a specific amount by Patreon from the several people who support him.
The potential for this can be huge – imagine if you had 2,000 people give you one dollar every time you released a song, wrote a post on your website, or released a video? Patreon could be an interesting development for the future of musicians.
A common method for raising money, it is especially prevalent at clubs and live venues. Essentially, an artist solicits an audience either in person or online for donations to go towards their music creation. Donations are a flexible way to make income, as you can ask for donations in nearly any musical performance setting.
Obtaining employment as a performer in an orchestra, military band, professional opera chorus, chamber orchestra, or established big band or rock group can be a lucrative way of making a living in your career.
Although these vocations are wonderful for those that truly want them, I have frequently stressed on this site that getting a job in an ensemble is, most certainly, not the only way to make a great living as a musician.
Fan Club / Membership Site
A more obscure way to make money as a musician, a revenue generating fan club usually consists of an artist who releases premium and exclusive material to users who pay a monthly subscription fee to access said material.
There aren’t a whole ton of these out there, but some do exist.
Check out musician Matthew Ebel; using a digital platform called Ziibra, Matthew sells subscriptions for various levels of membership in the “Officer’s Club” section of his website. Apparently, he has enough subscribers here to pay his rent.
Once you have generated interest in your work and have connected yourself thoroughly on a Facebook page, Twitter page, and an email list, getting subscribers for your membership page may not be as difficult as you may think.
Grants and Awards
Are grants, awards, competitions, etc. a waste of your time?
Perhaps sometimes, especially when the requirements are too burdensome for your time, or if you have to pay a substantial fee to submit an application.
That said, there is merit in winning awards and grants; they do look good on your resume, they can offer you a cash prize that you may desperately need for an upcoming project, and they can provide opportunities you may not have had before.
Although I do not think a musician should focus on winning grants and prizes as a primary form of monetary sustenance, they can be of benefit to some.
Lessons – Conventional
One of the most common ways musicians earn income is by giving performance lessons. With so many years of learning how to perform in private lessons and also in college, it seems to make sense that teaching young people how to play music has become a cornerstone behind the livelihoods of many musicians.
As a teacher, you can either provide lessons out of an independent studio or through employment at a music school (not a music college). There are some digital platforms, such as TakeLessons, that act as middlemen, helping music teachers find students.
Lessons – Unconventional
With the advent of digital technology, musicians can now provide lessons online utilizing creative approaches.
Some musicians simply extend their active student body by providing live online lessons to more students all over the globe via Skype.
Other musicians prerecord lessons, then market their courses online for a fee to people who want to learn that instrument.
Check out virtuoso clarinetist Ricardo Morales’ profile on Artist Works; Ricardo Morales has dozens of videos available online of etudes, lessons, technique instruction, etc. Students who are enrolled in Morales’ clarinet program not only have the opportunity to watch all of these videos in their paid lessons portal, they also can upload their own playing in the system to Morales, who will provide personal feedback to the students at his convenience.
Pretty cool era we live in.