Licensing (Master Use Synch)

A synchronization license is basically when someone wants to take a track you own the rights to and use it for their own visual media. An example would be if a production company wanted to use your music for a television commercial they are producing – they would pay you a licensing fee to use your music.

Mailing List

There is a reason many musicians as well as entrepreneurs and marketers in essentially every single niche and field put so much work into building their mailing lists.

When you have thousands of subscribers on your mailing list, all of the sudden selling yourself becomes so much easier because you have a list of people who are interested in your work.

Imagine having a mailing list of, say, 15,000 subscribers who personally signed up to be on your mailing list – when you launch a CD, you can probably convert at least 2% of your mailing list subscribers into paying customers. At $10 per CD with 300 (2%) of your audience buying, a weekend CD launch through your mailing list alone would be $3,000.

Also, filling out an audience at your show can become a much easier task when you have a mailing list – simply write your fans about your show, and if you have many subscribers, your audience will get filled up faster than you may think.

One of the best ways to get subscribers is to offer something for free in exchange for their email address – an Mp3, a free downloadable CD, an email newsletter, etc.


A mechanical license is a license that permits the usage of either someone else’s original sheet music or musical recording for re-recording, improving, studying, etc.

The owner of the original material gets paid a fixed amount when the license is issued. Most mechanicals in the US are obtained through the Harry Fox Agency.


Tote bags, t-shirts, hats, coats, mugs, you name it – put your band/ensemble name on a piece of clothing or accessory and sell it at your shows and on your site. Then, whenever other people wear your clothing or use your accessory, they will be promoting your brand to potentially thousands of other people daily.

Performance Fee

When you perform at a corporate reception, recital, wedding, cocktail party, or essentially at any other gig, you are entitled to a performance fee for you and the musicians you are playing with. This fee can vary greatly based on the prestige of the gig, who is hosting it, and your reputation/desirability in the field.

Publisher/Performance Royalty

As a composer, whenever a piece of yours is performed in public outside of an academic setting, you are entitled to receive a royalty from said performance. Simply register with one of the two major performing rights organizations, BMI or ASCAP, submit evidence of your performance (such as program notes), and you will be mailed a check for having your music performed.

Additionally, you can also be paid by a PRO (performing rights organisation) for plays of your music on satellite radio, fm and am radio, internet radio, network television, and more. Here’s a good article on CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog about royalties.

Session Work

One of my best pieces of advice I can disclose to aspiring young performers is get to know recording studio operators.

Why is this?

Well, many music studios frequently have paying artists who need back up musicians in their tracks, but may not have access to or personally know many classical/jazz/other genre musicians.

So, when studio operators need backup musicians, they get their book of contacts out and hire people they know, that they like, that they socialize themselves with.

In any case, recording studio session work can pay very well on an hourly rate. Seasoned session players can make great livings on session work alone.

Sheet Music Sales

Sell your sheet music through your website or through a platform like musicaneo. Although having a reputable publisher can help in the marketing end of things, self-publishing has become the trendier way to sell today, mostly because you get to keep all of the revenue for yourself.

Speaker/Presenting Fees

Many in-demand composers and performers are asked to speak about their careers and successes with audiences in conferences, residencies, and academic settings.

Also, some musicians get asked to speak about specific things in their discipline outside of their own music making. Find something about your instrument or field that you are passionate about, and find ways to vocalize those thoughts – you may end up being asked to speak and present about it.

Sponsorship Advertising

I was at the Eastman School of Music’s pre-conference presentation at Chamber Music America in mid-January and there was an interesting strategy for making money employed by two jazz musicians.

These jazz musicians and smart businessmen, Mark Iacona and John Nugent, realized that by marketing a jazz festival of theirs to tens of thousands of people, they had the opportunity to create “advertising impressions” for another company that may want to pay for such impressions.

What I simply mean by impressions is number of times seen in the advertising phase (not in the actual concert). So, if you are promoting a concert of yours and you can confidently say 100,000 people will see the name of your concert in all sorts of places (online, social media, flyers, etc.), see if you can get an interested company to have their name seen 100,000 times while promoting your concert, festival, event, etc.

That’s what Mark and John did – they found a sponsoring advertiser in Xerox, the faxing company, and named their festival the “Xerox International Jazz Festival.” Hundreds of thousands of people now associate the name Xerox with a cool, hip, trendy music festival, and the festival creators found a way to profit from it.

Everyone wins.