11 Ways To Make Money
As a Musician

Learning to play an instrument can be a wonderfully rewarding experience on its own.  You gain the satisfaction of learning a new skill, the ability to express yourself, and a great deal of other benefits, one of which is the ability to make money.   

At a certain point in your musical journey, you will acquire enough knowledge and skill to start earning back some of the money and time you have put in.

Below I have created a list of 11 things I have done over the years to earn money using my musical skills and knowledge.  I tried to keep each suggestion brief so if you would like to know more about any one topic leave me a comment and I will write an article specific to that topic.  I hope this list inspires you to go out and earn a little extra cash doing something you love.

In no particular order, here is the list of ideas on how to make money as a musician:

Offering private music lessons is a great way to earn some extra money,  it’s also an amazing way to speed up your own learning process. When you teach something to someone else it causes you to know it on a deeper level.   

Teaching music lessons is something I have been doing since I was in high school.  In fact, over the last 20 years, I can’t think of a time when I did not have at least one student.  

Having 1-5 students is the sweet spot if you also have a full-time job or are in school.  It’s not a huge time commitment, easy to remember what each student is working on, and gives you enough extra money to really put a dent in something.  

Teaching is a great option if you are looking to make some extra fun money or saving up for your next piece of gear.  If you work hard at acquiring students, you can even do this full time.

Expect to make anywhere from $10-$200 per hour depending on your skill level and the area you live in.  I typically charge $20 per half hour; this is very much on the low side for my area and skill level, but I mostly teach friends and people from the church.  

So what do you need to get started?

You will need to be able to play an instrument at a semi-proficient level.  I’d say if you have been practicing your instrument for 1-2 years you should be more than capable of teaching the basics.  You only have to be a little bit better than the people you are teaching.

Once you are confident in your skills, you will need a place to teach.  

Here you really have three options:

In your own Home

Pros

  • People Come to You
  • No wasted travel time
  • Comfort of your own home

Cons

  • Wear and tear on your home
  • Can be a strain on your family
  • Liability risk

In the Homes of Students

Pros

  • No one in your house
  • You can charge more
  • Free hospitality...sometimes

Cons

  • Travel time
  • Wear and tear on your vehicle
  • Loading and unloading equipment

At a Music Studio

Pros

  • They provide you with students
  • Quiet, private rooms for teaching
  • They have insurance

Cons

  • They take a cut of your profit
  • You teach whoever they send you
  • You can get fired

Finally, you will need students.  Your best option to start is with the children of your friends and family.  From there you can make a flyer or throw an add up on craigslist.

If you are interested in going deeper into the topic of teaching private music lessons, and how and where to get students; check out this article I wrote on how to make a living teaching music lessons. (Coming Soon)

Pros

  • Really fun for a certain kind of person
  • Creative outlet
  • Return can be good if you can build fast

Cons

  • Can be tedious
  • Requires some electronics knowledge
  • May end up costing you money

Selling DIY guitar effects pedals was also something that I found out about by accident.  When I first got into stomp boxes I was newly married and was barely making ends meet. I really wanted some effects pedals for my guitar, but knew I could not afford any.  Then I discovered build your own clone, a website devoted to selling effects pedal kits. I learned that I could build my own pedals for a fraction of the price of buying a name brand pedal, and they sound just as good if not better.  I did not know anything about electronics, but I do love a good challenge. After having built about 25 pedals and selling a few I have learned a few things.

  1. Building pedals is super fun if you like sitting in a chair for hours staring at tiny little numbers and burning your fingers on a soldering iron.
  2. You will build more pedals than you need, so in the long run, you really don’t save any money.
  3. People will pay the same or more for a hand built boutique pedal.

Selling these pedals is not too hard.  If you play enough gigs with them on your pedal board eventually someone will offer you some money for one.

Here are some BYOC Kits on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2paroOR

This Kit is way cheaper but does not come with very good instructions: https://amzn.to/2MCQyiz

 

Here are a few of the Pedals I have made:

Instrument maintenance

The most obvious instrument under this category would be piano.  Pianos need special tools and skills to be tuned and worked on, but drums and guitars need regular maintenance as well.  If you know how to change heads or guitar strings, you might be able to drum up a little money.

Find a local school or church and offer to change and tune all their drum heads.  Run an add in the local paper offering to change guitar strings, you could go to their house.  

Work at a Music Store

This one is pretty obvious, put in an application at Guitar Center, Sam Ash, or a local mom and pop shop.  Not the most glamorous job, but it is a great place to meet musicians and maybe get yourself into a good band.  You will learn sales skills, people skills, and a lot about gear. If you work hard you can work yourself up to a management position, or move up to an individual company, like Fender or Line6.  I have several friends who took this track and now work for the companies of the products they used to sell.

Write Music

Music writing is a really creative way to make some money.  The cool part about writing is, once you have written a piece and set up a sales funnel it can make you money 24/7.  You can do transcriptions of solos or classic pieces of music. Write original music for school bands, create a method book, or etudes and sell it online.  The more you write the better you will get. I wrote a lot of music when I was a band director. I could never find stuff out there for the instrumentation that I was directing so I just wrote it myself.

For all instruments I recommend Musescore, It is free and does quite a bit

For drum notation, you can’t beat Aered, The creator allows you to pay what you think it is worth.

Worship leader / Church musician

I have been both a worship leader and a paid church musician.  This one only works if you are a Christian, which I am so I have included it.  

Many, many churches are looking for part-time worship leaders.  Most of these churches will be small, 40-200 people. If you play guitar, or piano, and can sing well you have a good chance of getting the position.  It will mean joining a new church and giving up some of the programs that a larger church has to offer, but you will be able to use your gifts to serve the Lord.  You can check out websites like https://www.churchstaffing.com/ for churches in your area.

On the other side of this coin are larger churches looking for musicians.  A lot of larger churches pay the members of the band. Many times these jobs are not really advertised so they can be a little hard find.  I would suggest checking out the larger local churches in your area and asking if they are looking for musicians. You can also ask to talk to the music pastor.  If there are no positions open, at least give them your card or contact number, you may get a call if someone gets sick.

Also be sure to check out what the church believes and make sure you agree with their statement of faith.  You don’t just want to chase money here, but find a way to serve the church and get compensated.

Start A Band

Depending on the style of music you choose, this can be a long road before you make any money.  Payment for bands is a strange animal.

I have made the most money playing Jazz and top 40 (cover band) gigs.

Starting a jazz or a top 40 band will give you access to playing: weddings, corporate events, restaurants, upscale parties etc.  These types of gigs pay well. $20-150 per hour, per person in the band.

Rock bands tend to not make money unless they make it pretty big.  To start, most rock bands play at parties, bars, and pay to play at clubs.  Once you get a big enough following you can make money on ticket sales, and merch.  Soon you will be able to read my article on how to start a band here.

Final thoughts

There are many more ways to earn money in the music industry, but these 11 are the ones that I had the most success with.  Leave a comment and let me know how you are earning money with your musical skills.

If you Found this helpful share it with someone

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on print

Article by:

Mike Levitsky

Mike Levitsky

Mike is a Husband, Father, Pastor, and Musician. He is the owner, contributor, and editor of Drumsandguitar.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *