Making creative stuff gets expensive, any artist can tell you that. This past winter, my music conference addiction (a pricey and debilitating habit, I tell you!) left me strapped for cash, and I took matters into my own hands in order to find ways to make some extra money while continuing to work full-time with my private clients and build my course in any spare time I could scrounge up.
So without further ado, let me present to you ten money-making strategies to finance your music career (with pros and cons to each).
Note: I’m speaking from personal experience – both firsthand and from asking other musicians what they’ve done. Individual results may vary – but you’re smart, you already know that
Strategy #1 Work the door/merch booth at your friends’ shows **TESTED FIRST HAND**.
Pros: You’re visible on your local music scene. The flexible nature of this schedule means you could go out any night you want. You will be a most enthusiastic merch salesperson. You get know the venue owners and can potentially book more gigs for yourself.
Cons: Your evenings need to be free, as that’s when most gigs take place. You must be old enough to get into the venues.
Pay Range: It depends on the band. I’ve worked the door at the same club and gotten paid anywhere from $30-$70 a night, depending on the local bands.
Strategy #2 Work a 9-5.
Pros: A steady source of income you can rely on. Your evening will be free to gig. Probably will pay well enough to buy fancier gear.
Cons: Takes 40+ hours weekly out of your music career. It’s easy to get so caught up / stressed out about work that you creatives projects get put on the back burner. It’s hard to find a boss who’s understanding needing certain times off to tour, or that your goal in life is to be a musician, not a regional manager.
Pay Range: Depends on your past experience, the field and your particular job.
Strategy #3 Work a flexible shift job **TESTED FIRST HAND**.
Pros: There’s a reason so many aspiring stars wait tables. Because the shifts are easy to switch around with colleagues, it comes in handy when there’s a last minute audition callback, a show, or you’re going on tour.
Cons: Most of these shift jobs are in the service industry – restaurants, retail, coffeeshops. This means you’re likely to be on your standing feet the entire shift, and possibly dealing with rude/entitled customers. Just keep your head down, paint on your most hospitable smile, and ignore any “starving artist” comments from family members who don’t believe in you.
Pay Range: Minimum wage, and/or tips.
Strategy #4 Max out your credit cards **TESTED FIRST HAND**.
Pros: Quick access to money.
Cons: It’s not your money. You’ll have to pay to back, and then some. Yeah, I wasn’t smart about this one.
Pay Range: Short term – your credit limit. In the long term, you will need to pay it all back, plus at least 20% interest.
Strategy #5 Go to a loan shark.
Pros: No questions asked. Very appealing to those who can’t get bank loans or credit card approval.
Cons: Crazy high interest rates. Their business model is built specifically to force people to take out a new loan to pay off the old one, creating a hellish cycle that adds more anxiety than the lack of money in the first place.
Pay Range: Short term – whatever you choose to borrow. In the long term, you will need to pay it all back, plus your firstborn child, probably.
Strategy #6 Sell old/used stuff online **TESTED FIRST HAND**.
Pros: It doesn’t take much time out of your life to go through your back closet and snap some phone pictures of old electronics, shoes that pinch your toes, or jewellery from an ex. With the rise of local internet groups and Facebook Marketplace, you don’t even need to go through the hassle of post office lines.
Cons: In Facebook buy and sell groups, you’ll have to deal with typical cheapskates, choosing beggars, and people who cancel at the last minute. I recommend always meeting in a public place with an ATM close by, so they can’t pull the “oh, I only have this significantly smaller amount on me” in a last minute attempt to underpay – if they do that, point them to the ATM and offer to walk over with them and right on queue, they’ll suddenly “find” that missing amount.
Pay Range: Depends on what you’re selling. Jewellery, old electronics, and brand name accessories usually do pretty well from my experience. Clothes and furniture not so much.
Strategy #7 Flip collectibles **TESTED FIRST HAND**.
Pros: If you have in-depth knowledge about a niche collectible item (vinyl records, action figures, vintage dish ware, designer fashion, etc…), this may be a great avenue for you. You have flexible hours. Go find out which days your local thrift shops put out new stock and arrive in the mornings. Drive around the suburbs on weekends and stop at every yard sale. Find items being so there for far less than anyone else there realizes they’re worth. Buy them and list them at true market value at online auctions (such as eBay), turning a profit.
Cons: Takes time and patience.
Pay Range: Varies widely.
Strategy #8 Help your neighbours **TESTED FIRST HAND**.
Pros: If you don’t need any of the long term steadiness that comes with working for a company, have you considered old-school odd jobs? If you live in a neighbourhood with lawns, go knock on your neighbours’ doors and offer to rake or mow them. If it snows, offer to go out in the mornings and shovel their driveways/brush over their cars to ease their stress of getting the kids ready for school in the morning. Offer to help your elderly neighbour by going grocery shopping for her. Water plants, pet sit, collect mail while the couple next door goes on vacation. Paint kitchens. Walk the dogs. Babysit. You can think of something.
Cons: Requires a bit of social skills and humility. Offers to help out tend to go over better in close knit communities with a sense of trust, and if you give off a clean-cut and honest impression – some people unfortunately judge by appearances.
Pay Range: Above hourly minimum wage.
Strategy #9 Join an MLM.
Pros: Flexible hours. Make sales from your phone.
Cons: You know that annoying musician acquaintance who only shows up in your inbox when they want money from you (gig invite, crowdfunding campaign, CD release)? Imagine being that person on social media, but trying to sell someone none of your musician friends/fans want or care about (such as weight loss pills, anti-ageing creams, or overpriced lipgloss). It’s hard enough to get attention on social media, don’t scare everyone away in an effort to make a few bucks (which you won’t).
Pay Range: In the negatives. According to the FTC, 92% of people who join an MLM lose money.
Strategy #10 Teach music lessons **TESTED FIRST HAND**
Pros: You’ve already got the skills and field experience – why not teach the next generation of musicians in town or online?
Cons: Most lesson times would be in the late afternoon or evenings, as that’s when your students get off work/school. This might cut into your gigging or band practice availability.
Pay Range: Varies – the going rate for a guitar lesson around here is $40 an hour, more or less depending on the teacher, home lessons or at a music school, and the students’ skill level.
Hope this article provided some ideas to get you back on the financial track. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have plane tickets to a music conference to book…