In this podcast episode and blog post, you’re going to learn five smart ways to earn money as an artist. You’re probably far away from making a full time living off your music. To help you survive (and build your career at the same time), I’ve put together five ideas that will help you make money as a producer. These types of side-hustles will not only generate income but actually help you grow your music career instead of crushing your soul (as many side-jobs do).
The problem with typical side hustles of upcoming artists
Let’s be honest here: Nobody likes to be the starving artist. Even if here in Berlin the city prides itself on being “poor but sexy”, nobody enjoys eating cheap junk food every day just to be able to pay the bills. You have to make money as an artist, and since your music career probably hasn’t taken off yet, you need a side hustle to help you stay afloat.
But what are some typical side jobs of upcoming artists?
- Working at a bar or coffee shop
- Some random, boring office job
- Even worse: The call-center of doom
- Food delivery services like Deliveroo, Foodora, etc.
- Driving Uber or taxi
Now, I get it. Some of these jobs actually can actually pay quite well. We all have to do something to Some even offer you a good amount of flexibility. But the problem here is the opportunity cost. What else could you have done with that time? I’m pretty sure my five smart ways of earning money as an artist trump the jobs I’ve just mentioned.
A little side-note: If you currently do one of the jobs mentioned above, please don’t get me wrong. I have the highest level of respect for you. We all have to pay our bills. My goal with this blog post is to show you what alternatives are out there. It’s up to you to decide which path feels right for you.
Sure, working at a bar or coffee shop might help you train your social skills a bit. But let’s be honest: The people who take on these jobs are usually not socially awkward or shy, to begin with. Moreover, you have to work weekend shifts (which might interfere with your gigs) and it can be very exhausting, physically.
A boring office (or call center) job can seriously drain your mental capacity. These types of jobs can be creativity killers that make you want to do nothing but switch on Netflix after coming home from work. Food delivery or being a taxi driver isn’t much better for your stress level.
The big problem with these side-hustles is that they stand in the way of your music career. What pays the rent still costs valuable time and mental/ physical resources that could be invested elsewhere.
So what can you do instead? I’m now going to show you five ways to earn money as an artist that won’t interfere with your career.
Introducing: How to make money as an artist while growing your career
Here’s the good news: As an artist, you possess certain skills that are in high demand. You’re creative, maybe musically trained or technically savvy, and most importantly: You’re a self-starter who enjoys taking on challenges. So in my opinion, there’s no reason to be bound to the typical side jobs. I’m sure there’s more for you to discover.
The type of side-hustle you should be looking for
The best ways to earn money as an artist have at least one of the following qualities:
- Maximum flexibility in hours and schedule
- You can make use of your talents and skills
- The job helps you grow a certain skill
- You can grow your professional network and build meaningful relationships
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to get these types of jobs. But they are out there and I’d love to see you find something meaningful that you can do with your time rather than mentally dying in a call center or bringing burgers to couch potatoes who don’t leave their apartment to go to the burger grill just around the corner.
Smart side-hustle nr. 1: Teaching
You’re playing an instrument really well? Great. You’re an Ableton Live genius? Even better! Your skills are highly in demand. The great advantage of teaching is, that by structuring content you start to understand certain things way deeper than before.
It’s also a challenge for your social skills. Teaching situations can be quite stressful (especially with group events and masterclasses), but this is very positive stress. Your students will ask tricky questions that you have never thought of before. Moreover, clear communication is a very powerful meta-skill that you can grow while teaching.
Since I’ve started offering 1 on 1 coaching and also thanks to my freelance tutor experience at dBs Berlin, I’ve experienced tremendous growth on many levels. It has also helped me expand my professional network quite a lot and I can truly recommend this type of side hustle.
The best part is, that you can also offer your services online these days. Thanks to fast internet (at least in most developed regions), even live-streaming of shared DAW-sessions isn’t an obstacle anymore.
Smart side-hustle nr. 2: Working at booking agencies, labels or music PR companies
Now, this is what I call a smart way of making money as an artist. These jobs aren’t easy to get, but they can pay off massively in a multitude of ways. If you work at a booking agency, label, or music PR company, you essentially grow your music industry knowledge and skill set.
Moreover, your professional network will grow tremendously. You might even find mentors that believe in you and help you grow your own artist profile. The relationships you can build there can be the foundation of your future success.
Smart side-hustle nr. 3: Composing music for commercials, movies, shows, and games
The so-called “sync licensing” business offers very cool opportunities for upcoming artists. The ad industry, the gaming industry, and the film business are constantly looking for fresh and unique sounds. This can range from big score composition (probably a bit hard to start out with) to little sound design jobs (a better starting point).
Getting your first jobs there won’t be easy, but once you’ve done a few projects and built a little portfolio, you can create a significant income off your creative talent. It takes some initiative and you have to be willing to pitch your services to a lot of people in the beginning. But hey, that’s a skill worth learning as well.
Here’s a little pro tip: Since augmented & virtual reality applications are becoming more and more mainstream, you can specialize in producing music in the ambisonics binaural 3D-audio format. This is a very sought-after skill at the moment and a great opportunity for you.
Smart side-hustle nr. 4: Offering your non-musical skills/ experience to your local music scene
Let’s assume you possess some non-music-related skills like design, photography, social media marketing, etc. Wouldn’t it be great to make use of this and help your local music scene grow? This is maybe not the most revenue-generating way of making money as an artist, but you can mix this with other forms of income at least.
Labels are looking for graphic designers that really understand what they’re about. Artists want to work with photographers who help them present themselves in the right way. Even if you have experience as a carpenter, this is a skill that can be super valuable when people are building their studio. You can specialize in something like this and generate a decent side income.
Smart side-hustle nr. 5: Work in your favorite local electronic music club
Okay, this one is a bit tricky and I’m also cautious of recommending this. I’ve mentioned at the beginning that I’m not a big fan of the typical “work at a bar” job. But there’s an exception: If you have the opportunity to do this in your favorite club, then it might be an option. There are more jobs, of course. From guest list management and artist care to booking assistant to cleaning (probably not your favorite choice, I know).
If you want to take this path, I suggest you try to find a position that offers a good chance of regular interaction with the bookers, resident DJs, and other core members of the club. Only then a side-hustle like this can help you grow your career.
Putting it into action: How to earn money as an artist while growing your career
I’ve shown you the five smart ways of earning money as an artist, now it’s time to implement this. In order to make your life a bit easier, I’ve put together three action steps that you can take.
1. Evaluate your current side job
- Does it leave you with enough time to actually grow your music career?
- Is it flexible enough to support a busy touring schedule?
- What are the implications for your physical and mental health?
2. List all your talents, skills, and opportunities that you could monetize
- What creative or technical skills could you teach others?
- What non-music related skills could you offer to your local music industry (or online)?
- Which labels, booking agencies, music PR companies, and clubs might benefit from your skills?
- Is composing music for commercials, movies, shows, or games an option for you?
3. Plan and execute your transition
- You don’t have to quit your current side job immediately, but start reaching out to potential new opportunities and, if possible, reduce the hours in your current job
- Offer free test projects to earn people’s trust and try to add as much value as you can; money will automatically follow
- Make a plan for the next six months to transition into a side hustle that helps you make money as an artist while helping you grow your career at the same time
Alright, now I’m very curious to know what your current side job is and if you’re thinking about switching to something more music-related. Which of these five ways to make money as an artist resonates with you the most? What are you going to implement? Let me know in the comments, I read everything!