How Can indie artists make money from their music?

Jan 20, 2019 | Entertainment Law

How Can I Make Money with my Music?

With the transition from physical music sales (#vinyl albums, CD’s, tapes, etc.) to digital streaming, many artists are trying to figure out how to monetize their music. In response to this question submitted from the website, I suggest you first check out my article on music streaming and how it equates to money, necessary reading to help understand which digital platforms pay the most for each stream and how digital money is collected and paid. In addition to understanding streaming, here are a few ideas to help you get started with turning your music and passion into cash.


Products such as T-shirts, hoodies, posters and just about anything with your name and logo printed on it can generate a ton of additional income. In 2016, music merch saw sales reach $3.1 Billion (yes billion) and sales are expected to continue to increase by about 10% each year (see Rollingstone). Selling merch has moved beyond a single table set up at an artist’s show as many artists are getting creative and utilizing “Pop-up” shops to sell limited edition items. A limited pressing T-shirt might sell for $25 at a Pop-up and that same t-shirt is often resold in secondary marketplaces such as eBay, for four to ten times the original price. (read more about Pop-up Shops in this Forbe’s article). Unique artwork, a distinct logo or custom clothing and accessories are all ways an artist can express their creative side outside of music while expanding brand visibility and potentially generating additional income. Before you share your original artwork or logo with the world, consider speaking with an experienced entertainment attorney to help establish a #trademark and protect your intellectual property.

Live performances

Live music performances continue to be a leading stream of income for many artists. According to, Ed Sheeran made the most touring in 2018, grossing $432.4 million, followed by Taylor Swift ($345.1 million) and Jay Z/Beyoncé ($254.1 million). The top grossing tour earners contained names from artists many would consider to be past their prime, such as the Eagles ($166 million), who came in behind Jay Z/Beyoncé, and right after Bruno Mars and Pink. How can you guarantee that your fans will support your live shows? Make sure that each and every performance is well rehearsed, has great sound and always, always make the crowd feel like their evening out was well worth their time. Artists need to be realistic and understand that it will take time to build a name and a following respected enough to generate any type of payment for the artist’s performance. Realistic, for most artists, in order to get paid to perform, the artist has to have a following. While you build your following, get as much live performance experience as possible by performing in your town’s open mic nights, talent shows, asking to open for other local acts, working with local promoters to help you set up shows, even set up small shows for just friends and family so they can give you feedback and lay the foundation for your initial fan base. Practice, rehearse, practice some more and when you think you have your show perfected, practice again!

Sell CDs, Cassettes and Vinyl (yes, Vinyl)!

In 2018, 90% of hip hop albums weren’t released on CD and six number one albums ( Eminem’s Kamikaze, Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, Kanye West’s Ye, Migos’ Culture II, Travis Scott‘s Astroworld and The Weeknd’s My Dear Melancholy) did not have CD’s available during the week of their initial release (see Billboard article from 9/26/18). Despite the move away from CDs, in 2017 CDs still saw sales greater than digital album and digital single sales combined (see RIAA sales data) and Vinyl sales still managed to bring in $388 million (RIAA). So what does that mean for the indie artist? It means that a niche market exists for smaller scale, independent releases. Consider releasing your project on a unique physical format with limited edition and special packages that your fans will love, and collectors will pay top dollar to own. Different color vinyl packages, cassette tapes & CD’s with artwork, pictures or linear notes make collectors salivate and they can be sold on the artist’s website and at shows. Check out a few of these companies to get an idea on what your custom vinyl, CD or cassette projects might cost: Vinyl, Vinyl, and more Vinyl or CDs; CDs; Cassettes. To get some ideas of what custom vinyl products can look like, check out these titles from Slice-of-Spice Records, who specialize in limited edition vinyl releases.

Jason Bost, Esq., MBA, is an attorney in the State of New York who focuses on civil litigation and entertainment law, and is the founder of the Bost Legal Group LLC, a firm providing legal counsel and representation on matters related to intellectual property, entertainment, trademark, real estate, foreclosure defense, bankruptcy, trust and estate planning, probate and surrogate court issues, immigration and civil litigation. If you have any questions feel free to contact Mr. Bost at 718-361-0299 or by email at

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