How To Make Money From Music

Here are some great ideas for how to make money from music. The music business is one of the most lucrative and exciting industries to work in. It supports all kinds of people doing what they love, from singers, musicians and technicians through to people like CD sellers, music teachers and mobile DJs.

Music Related Business Opportunities

1. Become A Mobile DJ

Spinning tunes for weddings and corporate bashes is a great business for anyone who likes to give others a good time. As a mobile DJ you will need a pair of record decks kitted out with a microphone and mixer, along with a powerful amplifier and set of speakers. Carry a sign featuring your name so that people will remember you. The key to your success to make money from music will be your ability to tailor your records to the mood of the party. To cater for all tastes it is generally best to stick to crowd pleasers - 60s, 70s, 80s and current pop hits. It is a good idea to study other DJs - the music they play and how they interact with the crowd. Avoid the major error of playing the music you like - it is a total party wrecker.

You will soon develop your own style and as you discover how to get the crowds going, you can cater for larger events and charge even more. To market yourself, get business cards printed and leave them in shop windows, on notice boards in record shops, offices and so on, and advertise in the local paper and other entertainment related publications. It may be worth signing up with an entertainment agency. They'll take a cut from each booking, but they may be able to put a lot of work your way. Although it is a business where you work while others play, the best DJs become very well known and are never short of bookings.

2. Music Tuition

It is a sure-fire bet that any area of music you are skilled in, from playing a musical instrument through to home recording or DJ techniques, can be turned into profits. You could offer one-to-one classes in people's homes, or hire out a local community hall or even a recording studio to give classes for ten or more people at a time. Get bookings by handing out flyers, putting up posters, and by contacting organizations (e.g. schools, colleges, youth clubs, parent groups). Most importantly, get your pupils to recommend you to others.

Another way to make money from music is to turn your skills into a range of teach yourself books, videos or cassettes, that could be sold via ads in music related publications and/or marketed through music shops. Alternatively, develop a mail order correspondence course. If you've no aptitude for music at all, pay experts to produce the course materials then make money from selling them.

3. CD Retail and Mail Order

If you're into music, then selling CDs, vinyl LPs and cassettes is a natural progression. In fact, buying and selling second-hand CDs is the ideal market stall business. Because they don't deteriorate you can pick up decent used stock very cheaply, and popular items will sell at a healthy mark up. You should either cater for a specialist area of music (jazz, classical, pop, or sixties music, for example) or stick to popular records that you know will sell. Encourage people to bring in CDs, which you can buy off them and resell at a profit.

Keep an eye out for record fairs in your area - they could provide a good source of income and stock for a record stall owner. Mail order is a profitable area, although it may work best if you target people with specialist musical interests. It is a good idea to run your operation on a club basis. Charge people an annual membership fee, give them a package of CDs (that you have purchased cheaply, of course) at the start of the year to entice them to join, and offer them your stock at a reduced rate. CD retail and mail order can be hugely profitable way to make money from music if you know the business well.

4. Record Sourcing

Sourcing records - seeking out and buying specified records on behalf of a customer - is an area which many record enthusiasts and retailers are moving into. Many people collect old sixties singles, obscure jazz records, autographed records, imports and concert bootlegs for example, and might require particular items to complete their collection. They could contact someone to trawl the record shops and fairs on their behalf and collect a finder's fee when they have located the specified items. This is the ideal service if you're interested in snooping around racks of old records. Advertise it at record fairs, in record shops and in the music press.

5. Buying and Selling Pop Memorabilia

It's not just the records people love - they'll pay big money for anything if it is related to a particular singer or band. Just look at the prices that Elvis and Beatles related memorabilia fetches at auctions all over the world. You could make money buying and selling memorabilia to collectors via ads in related publications, or buy things on their behalf in the same manner as a record supplier, and collect a finder's fee.

6. Live Performance

If you can play a musical instrument you can earn a crust providing background music at restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels and theatres, or even cruise ships. Check out the entertainment press, or try approaching places yourself. If you're a singer you could recruit a band (use small ads in the local paper or music press) or perform to backing tapes.

It is also well worth contacting local recording studios to see if they need singers or instrumentalists for session work. Remember, you don't have to aspire to selling out Wembley Arena - thousands of musicians make a solid living from working the pubs, working men's clubs or cruise ship circuit. If bookings are thin on the ground you can always take to busking.

7. Fan Clubs

Behind any successful act you'll find a thriving fan club. Although most offer top quality service and products and provide a much demanded service for the fans, they are essentially exploiting a captive market and generate healthy profits as a result. Bearing this in mind, one possibility is to contact up and coming acts via their record companies and offer to run their fan club facility on a profit sharing basis. If they refuse, there's nothing stopping you running an unofficial fan club.

You'll need a computer with a database for storing personalized names and addresses. You will also need a word processor for producing a newsletter containing news, interviews and photographs of the person or group, along with letters from the fans, requests for pen pals, quizzes and puzzles, and so on. Don't forget to send out lists of merchandise. Many fan clubs organize functions and trips for members too. If you get involved just before an act takes off this could be a real money spinner.

8. Song Writing

If you write a song which becomes successful the rewards can be amazingly high. Take "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston. Every time it is played on the radio anywhere in the world, or is performed live - no matter who by - the songwriter collects a royalty payment. If you want to do the same, first you have to write, and copyright, your song. To get it recorded by a major artist and make some money you'll require a music publisher. These act as agents for songwriters and promote songs to record companies and artists, taking a percentage of the earnings, and they also help collect royalties from organizations such as the Performing Rights Society.

To earn a publishing contract you will need to send them a demo recording of yourself performing the song (most demo tapes contain two or three songs), along with a copy of the lyrics and a covering letter. A full list of publishers' addresses is available from the Music Publishers Association - Tel: 020 7839 7779. They may need to hear more before they make a decision, but if they like the songs enough they will offer you a publishing deal - at this point it is important to seek legal advice from a solicitor trained in the music business. If they can secure a recording of your song and it becomes a hit, they will collect performance and mechanical royalties on your behalf and will promote the song as widely as possible. For example, getting the song onto compilation albums, advertising jingles, films, TV and so on. If the publisher is doing its job it will still be promoting your song five, ten, even 15 years down the line. Remember, it might take just one hit song to set you up for life.

There is one truly excellent course on how to succeed in the music business. It is called The Serious Writers Guild and it is run by Dec Cluskey. He knows this business inside out and back to front; Write to him at Stanton Prior, Darley Road, Meads, Eastbourne, BN20 7UH.

9. Recording Songs and Music

Many songwriters hold the dream of attaining fame and fortune by performing their own songs, but there are all sorts of other ways to make money, depending on your skills. For example, you could offer a service writing and recording personalized songs - these might make excellent wedding, birthday or engagement gifts. Or, provide a service putting people's own lyrics to music. These could both be advertised in the entertainment section of the local paper as well as in the music press. Writing backing music for films, TV and computer games is another lucrative area. Approach these firms directly with samples of your work (if you have a publishing contract your publisher should do this for you). An alternative is to offer your music in copyright free form. In other words, the company gives you a one off payment for the music, which they can use in any way they want (as backing music for corporate videos or TV programs for example) without having to worry about paying out royalties. The advantage to you is that you can still sell one piece of music many times over.

10. Recording Sound and Special Effects

There is a big market for recordings of bird song, wildlife sounds, relaxing beach, sea, forest, river noises, railway sounds, and special effects that people can use for sound recordings, radio plays and so on. If you have suitable recording equipment, such as a portable minidisc recorder and microphone, you can very easily produce such tapes. Get 500 or 1000 made and sell them with ads in suitable publications, and/or get retailers to stock them.

11. Musical Instrument Rental

Why not make money from music by renting out instruments such as drums, guitars, pianos and electronic keyboards, plus amplifiers, microphones, public address and sound recording equipment? Offer hourly, daily and weekly rates and promote the service to individuals, bands, schools and community groups. Provide deliveries too. You could advertise in the local paper and music press, and expand business by promoting the service in partnership with music shops. You could either handle the rental side of the business on their behalf (this would save you buying equipment), or get them to promote your service and take a cut on each booking.

12. Videos

These days every pop single released has to be accompanied by a promotional video for it to gain any kind of recognition. This means there are superb opportunities for aspiring video directors. If you've got the necessary ideas and equipment, try contacting record companies to see if they need anyone to make videos. It only takes one success to get your name known, at which point the sky will be the limit. Alternatively, if you only possess relatively basic equipment you could advertise in the music press to make cheap videos. The idea here is that you are making demo videos for bands to try and get a record deal. You can still charge 100-200 for a day's work and make a very healthy living out of it.

13. Buying and Selling Musical Instruments

There is a ready market in the UK for unusual folk and ethnic instruments, so why not seek out a supplier and import them? Your local business library or Chamber of Commerce will carry trade directories from foreign countries. You can either distribute the instruments to retailers or sell them by mail order. An advantage is that the individuals and small firms overseas who make such products will be glad of any additional outlet, so prices (and your profit mark up) should be very reasonable.

14. Event Promotion

Promoting concerts can be a great way to get a profitable foothold in the entertainment business. The principle is the same whether you put on rock gigs in your local pub or choral concerts in the community hall. First, you need to book the act(s) and the venue, ensuring that there are adequate facilities for the entertainers and the audience. You need to promote the event widely - put up plenty of posters, hand out flyers, leave piles of leaflets in pubs, bars, shops, theatres and so on, send press releases to the local media, plus free tickets to get reviews, and have competitions and ticket give-aways in the local press - these methods all help to get publicity. You must sell tickets too - the venue will usually have its own box office, or at least will sell tickets for you, and you could sell them in other outlets such as record shops or tourist information centers.

It is a good idea to set up a telephone line to deal with reservation credit card bookings. Finally, you must co-ordinate proceedings at the event itself. You may have to hire extra front of house security and backstage staff. When you are planning the event, put together a budget and keep in mind the number of tickets you need to sell to break even. That way you will always know how hard you have to work to hit that figure.

15. Entertainment Agency

Being an agent is a wonderful job for anyone who loves talking to people. An agent signs up artists and takes a commission whenever they can get them work. This means believing in the artists and working for them 100%. The best agents cultivate a wide network of contacts and are able to use them to secure bookings. You will need to advertise in all kinds of entertainment related publications in the early days, both for new clients and bookings, although as you build up a solid and successful client roster, the bulk of your business will be conducted on the phone.

16. Musical Trips

Many of the world's biggest musical acts tend to only play a handful of stadium dates in the UK in places like Wembley Arena and Birmingham NEC, as opposed to playing smaller venues all over the country. This makes it difficult for all the fans to see a particular act, but means there's a growing demand for coach trips to rock and pop concerts. You could make money from music by offering a travel only ticket or provide a concert ticket and coach package deal - adding a decent mark up of course. To maximize your income you could also provide musical sightseeing tours.

17. Hiring Out Studio Space

Bands need somewhere to rehearse, so if you've got an old garage or a spare part of an office you can earn money by leasing it out as a practice room. All it needs is to be reasonably soundproof and have a few power points and a heater for when it's cold. You could get two or three bands to share the rehearsal room and pay according to the number of hours they use it, or one band could pay a retainer to have the room exclusively. Whatever, you will probably only need to put up a few postcards in the early days. Once you've got some regular bookings you can sit back and rake in the cash.

18. Be a Roadie

If you want to make money from music but you've got absolutely no musical talent and you don't mind lugging heavy equipment, then being a roadie could be the perfect job for you. It can be fairly well paid if you are working for a name act who tour regularly, but you'll need to be prepared to put up with cramped, hot and often very loud working (and traveling) conditions, and generally being the lowest of the low. Aside from the wages, the compensations are that it can be extremely good fun. You might get to mix with some talented and well known musicians, and if you're very lucky, with the fans too! The best way to get work is to approach bands directly - at gigs, for example - and to put up postcards at recording studios and practice rooms.

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