by Alex Cosper (7/22/13)
Independent artists who are signed to small labels or are unsigned tend to not make much money at recording but can make a decent living playing shows in their own home town. Unfortunately, the best way to make money on a local level is not with original music. Either playing lots of cover songs or hosting karaoke shows tends to be the best ways to make a living at music, unless the artist gets widespread media attention. But even artists who tour constantly on the road can find themselves barely getting by. The key is to create a loyal following that leads to lots of bookings. Playing every night of the week is common for acts that earn a decent living at performing music.
Teaching music is another avenue for musicians to make money. Either promoting yourself as an independent music teacher or working for a well known musical instrument store or school can help build income. There have been very few success stories or indie artists living off of CD or digital download sales, but anything is possible in the do-it-yourself world. DIY artists are more likely to sell their music merchandise at their live shows than online, unless the artist can general widespread media coverage.
But the models for selling music are gradually changing. As more online platforms develop, the potential to upload music to the internet and sell it to music lovers around the world will increase. ReverbNation has become a popular platform for indie artists to showcase their music while Facebook and other social networks help develop online followings. YouTube is another powerful tool for building an online following. It's already becoming more popular among young people than radio for exposing new music.
In order for indie musicians to meet cost of living expenses, they may need a day job or at least a part time job outside of music, unless they perform every night. Clubs typically do not pay local artists much money unless they can deliver crowds or play mostly cover songs. Company parties that feature local talent can pay thousands of dollars per gig, but they usually want cover bands. The same is true of weddings. Many local bands end up playing for free or drinks. Since clubs tend to offer low paying opportunities, it helps to keep bands small, as in three musicians. One person acts are ideal in terms of income opportunities. In those situations, it's reasonable for a singer/musician to earn an average of $100 per show.
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