How to Make Money as an Independent Artist [2024] 16 Best Ways

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You’re an unsigned artist. But that “un” also means unstoppable. 

Today, you can make millions of dollars as an indie artist. (I’ll give you a real example!)

To learn how to make money as an independent artist, explore the clever tricks I’ve discovered through the years. One way can make you money today – as in right now.

Independent artists can expect to make about $4 per 1000 streams on Spotify.1 But you can make way more money. Because I’ll give you the inside deal on:

  • multiple sources of income, 
  • passive revenue, and 
  • unusual ways independent artists are getting paid.

You already know about selling merchandise on Shopify, streams, and tours. But do you know about:

  • free money from grants,
  • uploading music courses on Skool,
  • and step by step how to get brand partnerships?

Let’s dive in.

How to Make Money as an Independent Artist

Here are smart ways to make money as an independent artist, plus I’ll reveal surprising money-makers. 

If you want to know how independent artists make money, we’ll study singer Tiffany Alvord together. I’d estimate she’s made over a million dollars- maybe 2 or 3 million. In a moment, I’ll show you exactly how she does it!

She freakin’ crushes it.

Screenshot of singer Tiffany Alvord’s social media links.
Tiffany Alvord monetizes her music and popularity as an independent artist with Cameo, PayPal tips, Patreon, a songwriting course, and more!

Teach Others Your Skills

Here’s an unusual way to make money as an independent artist: sell courses on making music like you do!

Indie singer Tiffany Alvord is teaching a course and you can too.

Screenshot of Tiffany Alvord’s songwriting class check out card
Indie artist Tiffany Alvord makes $100 per student when they sign-up for her music class. What’s cool is she recorded just 90 minutes of instructional video and gets paid for it year after year as passive income.

Look, your fans love you. And some of them aspire to be like you. So you can teach them how to sing, play guitar, rap, dance, or do pretty much anything you get complimented on.

How?

Post your tutorial videos on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc. 

Then let your followers know you’re selling a video course and even 1 on 1 private music classes.

Record videos of you teaching and upload them to a platform like Teachable or Skool. What’s great about those online teaching platforms is that they do everything for you. 

They help you with marketing, organizing, accepting payment, and creating a community for your students.

Think about when you first started performing. How cool would it be if you were able to get mentored by one of your favorite independent artists?! 

As an online music teacher, you’ll make extra money each month helping students who are eager to learn from you.

You can host free webinars to answer questions live and to encourage attendees to sign-up for your paid course. Here is the best webinar software.

Sync Deals / Synchronized licensing / Paid Broadcasts 

Sync deals can be the best way to make money as an indie artist! The pay can be very lucrative, and you can work from home.

Music sync deals or synchronized licensing is when the musical artist gets paid whenever their music is featured in visual media. So if a clip of your song is in a video game, movie, or TV show, you’ll get paid.

You’ll be paid a flat fee for each sync placement of your music. In addition, you can earn royalties (continuous payments) for repeat broadcasts or continued use of your music.

How do artists get sync deals?

The most common ways are to submit your music:

  • Through a music publisher because they have connections
  • To music libraries that do sync deals, such as Songtradr, Artlist, Music Vine, MusicBed, Soundstripe, AudioJungle, and Epidemic Sound
  • Directly to the people who would want to license it

Here’s a way to get sync deals as an independent artist:

  1. Go to your favorite YouTubers. 
  2. Email them asking if they’d like to use your music for free. They must agree to credit you and link to your channel.
  3. Now email other YouTubers using that placement as an example of your work. This time, set your price for the placement.
  4. Next, contact independent filmmakers and offer them your music for a fee.
  5. As you build your portfolio, contact bigger and bigger fish like Netflix and TV show producers.

Create a Newsletter 

Getting lots of followers on social media is a great way to find new fans. But what happens when the algorithm changes? Now, all your hard work can be lost because the algorithm hides your posts.

The way to fight back against changing social media algorithms is to create an email newsletter like the pros.

When you have email addresses of your fans, you can send them messages anytime you want. 

This is how you’ll ensure they receive the message about your new tour dates, new merchandise for sale, and, of course, a heads-up when you release new music.

Use ConvertKit to host your email newsletter. It’s very affordable for independent artists and very easy to use.

Taylor Swift is one of the smartest music marketers of all-time. She knows the power of email newsletters:

Screenshot of Taylor Swift’s email sign up form on her website
Taylor Swift encourages fans to sign up for updates via email. She can send news, special offers, and more to make money.

But you’re wondering, does indie artist Tiffany Alvord have an email newsletter?

You’re darn tootin’ she does!

Screenshot of Tiffany Alvord’s VIP List email marketing sign up form
Tiffany Alvord is brilliant at making money as an independent artist. Steal her techniques!

Learn more about the best email marketing software.

Sell Messages to Fans on Cameo 

Wondering how to make money as an independent artist the fast and easy way? Give your fans what they want – a personalized message from you!

Indie artists and huge superstars of music all use Cameo to make money online:

 Screenshot of some of the available musicians on Cameo, including the Lead Guitarist of KISS, Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, and a semi-naked cowboy from Times Square.
Even if you don't paint your face or stand in your tighty whiteys in Times Square, you can make really good money on Cameo as an independent musician.

Tiffany Alvord knows how to make money as an independent artist. She’s unsigned but a powerhouse with 3.1 million YouTube subscribers. And guess what? She does Cameo!

Screenshot of Tiffany Alvord on Cameo, where you can purchase a shout out from her for $25.
Independent artist Tiffany Alvord makes money on Cameo with personalized shout outs.

It looks like Tiffany Alvord has made at least $10,000 on Cameo and probably a lot more!

You can get set-up with Cameo right away to earn money. Here are other ways how to make money fast.

Sponsorships / Brand Partnerships 

How do independent artists make money with sponsorships? First, find businesses with a track record of sponsoring artists in your genre. Then reach out to them to let them know you’re open to a brand partnership.

Another form of sponsorship is submitting yourself as user-generated content (UGC) for brands. UGC is when you review a brand or product and get paid for it when the brand publishes your video on their site or social media. 

See if your favorite brands accept UGC submissions. 

You’ll stand out because you can literally sing the praises of the brand using your talent!

This is sort of like creating a commercial jingle to get paid.

Basically you’ll be acting as an influencer as a way how to make money as an independent artist.

Mega influencer is one of those dream jobs that pay 1 million dollars a month.

Merchandise 

If you want to know how to make money as an independent artist, sell merch! 

You might even make more money selling merchandise than with your streams.

Vanessa Ferrer is the founder of Merch Cat2.  Vanessa puts it like this, “It takes around 3,400 streams on Spotify to make $15. You can make $15 selling one shirt.”

As an independent artist, you can sell merchandise on Shopify pretty easily.

Tiffany Alvord uses Shopify to sell merchandise as an independent singer. 

Screenshot of the types of items Tiffany Alvord sells on her YouTube channel, like hoodies, tees and mugs
On Tiffany Alvord’s YouTube Channel, she shows her merch for sale on her Shopify store.

Get your Shopify store going and create your website with the best blogging platform.

Here are more ideas if you want to know: what can I sell to make money.

Selling merchandise as an indie artist can become one of those amazing jobs that pay over 1 million a year.

Patreon memberships

As an independent musician, you can make a fan club on Patreon. Charge members like indie singer Tiffany Alvord does:

Screenshot of singer Tiffany Alvord’s Patreon account, where you can buy access to behind the scenes photos or inside scoops, downloads of every song, and more. 
Make money as an independent artist with a membership program for your fans. 

You can copy Tiffany’s ideas or create your own. According to Patreon, she has 70 paid members. So she makes between $140 and $700 per month from her Patreon members.

Another unusual idea is to make a paid membership on OnlyFans. You can keep your clothes on. Keep in mind the biggest money makers on OnlyFans are musical artists Cardi B and Tyga. Here’s how to make money on OnlyFans.

Grants

A little-known way how to make money as an independent artist is by winning a grant from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). You can win up to $100,000.

Other grants for musicians include

  • NewMusicUSA4
  • Foundation for Contemporary Arts – they’ve awarded 7,000 grants for over $25 million dollars5
  • Tennessee Arts Commission – for residents of Tennessee6

YouTube

When you allow YouTube to show ads on your videos, you get paid. How much you get paid by YouTube as a musical artist can vary a lot. You can earn anywhere from $5 to $30 per 1,000 views from ads on your videos.

That means your video with a million views could make you up to $30,000.

It’s important to monetize your videos in other ways, such as collecting email addresses for your email newsletter, selling merchandise, promoting your touring schedule, promoting your Cameo, your Patreon, and more.

Sticking to our Tiffany Alvord case study, as of publication she has about 715 million video views. And yes, she allows YouTube to place ads on her channel. That means it’s quite possible she’s made over a million dollars from YouTube ads.

If you want to know how do independent artists make money, this is a way to earn passive income, because your viral music videos can earn you money for many years.

Here are other ways how to make 10k a month.

On your YouTube, be sure to direct people to your website. Use the best small business website design to treat your music like the real business that it is!

YouTube Lyric Videos 

You’re ballin’ on a budget. OK, so you don’t have the tech, time, money, or expertise to make a music video. What now?

Make a lyric video instead.

What is a lyric video? It’s a music video that shows the song lyrics on the screen as they’re sung so people can follow along.

This is easier and cheaper to make compared to a regular music video. 

You can try apps like Video Lyric, Superstring, or Lyric.tv. 

Allows ads on your YouTube lyrics videos to make money.

A YouTube channel is one of the most profitable online businesses.

And lyrics videos? Dang, talk about low cost business ideas with high profit!

Paypal Tips and In-Person Tips

Whenever I hit my local Irish bar for live music from an independent artist, they’ve got their tip bucket out. And it works!

Music lovers like me love live music and are happy to put cash in the can.

When I visited Nashville, it was awesome to see how much independent artists were getting tipped from tourists!

And here’s how to make more money: be savvy and set-up ways to get tips via CashApp, Venmo, etc.

PayPal makes it easy to accept tips online for musicians:

 A screenshot of Tiffany Alvord’s virtual tip jar on PayPal.
Making money online as a musician is easy with PayPal. Accept donations from fans.

If right now making music is more of a hobby for you, check out other hobbies to make money for ideas.

College Tours 

When I was in college, we had independent artists perform on campus nearly every week. Some shows were for small audiences while others were really big. 

Here’s how to make money as an independent artist: get yourself an audition on a NACA showcase.7

You can get paid between $1,000 to $4,000 per college gig.

Live Performances / Tours 

The way to make the most money as an independent artist is by touring. Instead of earning pennies per stream, you’ll earn a big fat percentage of ticket sales – perhaps 85%.

If you have enough fans, booking a tour manager and agent can make sense. These folks can help you set up your tour. 

You’ll promote the tour in every way you can.

And remember, when you’re on tour, you can sell merchandise and more.

Some of my comedian friends who are independent artists have gone on tour as opening acts for their famous stand-up comedian friends. As an independent artist, be sure to network with other bands and performers. You never know who will want you to play on their shows!

Session Work and Voiceovers

Here’s how to make money as an independent artist with a side hustle. Get yourself on Fiverr or Upwork. Offer your musical talents as a remote musician.

Use your home recording studio, set your price, and upload tracks in return for sweet sweet cash money.

Other bands might need your talent as a musician or singer to help with their songs. Or they may need you to substitute in for someone.

If you have a nice voice or unique sound, consider voiceover work, too. I’ve hired voiceover artists on UpWork. There are also sites like Voice123. Upload tracks and set your price.

This is a terrific job for guys, and freelancing is one the best business ideas for women.

Freelance Producing and Mixing

You can mix songs for other independent artists for about $300 each. Post your profile on UpWork or Fiverr.

Use audio editing software to help other musicians and get paid for it.

This is one of the top low-cost business ideas with high profit.

Credit Cards – Use Responsibly!

You're an independent artist. That means you’re the boss. It also means you have a business. Even if you don’t use an LLC service, you’re automatically classified as a sole proprietor.

That means you can qualify for the best business credit cards. I have business credit cards that awarded me a $1,000 sign-up bonus. I also earn cash back and travel points for spending I’m going to do anyhow.

As a musician, this means you can earn free hotel stays—even free flights.

I love my Chase Ink business cards to earn money and free travel.

I’ll say it again, do NOT get credit cards for the bonus money if you don’t trust yourself with credit. But if you can spend only what you can afford, it’s a great money maker for musicians.

You might also want to check out the best credit cards for young adults

With my Chase Freedom card, I get cash back everywhere.

extra point Extra Point: Protect your privacy and find out How to avoid using home address for LLC.

Common Questions About How to Make Money as an Independent Artist 

How Much Money Can an Independent Artist Make?

An independent artist can make millions of dollars in their career. It’s possible to make that much money from touring, ads on their YouTube channel, merchandise, sync deals on TV and movies, tips, and more.

How Do Unsigned Artists Make Money? 

Unsigned artists make money from

  • Touring
  • College gigs
  • Merchandise
  • Tips online and in person
  • Patreon fan club membership fees
  • Sync deals / placements on TV shows
  • Sponsorships
  • Session work
  • Voiceover work
  • Teaching music classes online on Skool or Teachable 
  • Freelance producing and mixing
  • Grants

How Do Independent Artists Get Noticed? 

Independent artist get noticed by marketing themselves with

  • YouTube videos (Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube)
  • Social media videos on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. (Lil Nas X got big on Twitter and then went viral on TikTok)
  • Emailing other artists for collaborations (Lil Nas X got even bigger by collaborating with Billy Ray Cyrus)
  • Be a guest on podcasts
  • Make your own podcast and perform on it. (You’ll need podcast hosting)
  • Emailing brands for sponsorships
  • Winning contests
  • Winning grants 

How Do Independent Artists Make Money Without a Record Label?

  • Tour – this is the most lucrative way how to make money as an independent artist
  • College gigs – showcase at NACA – get paid up to $4,000 per show
  • Merchandise – use Shopify 
  • Earn tips online and in person 
  • Patreon fan club membership fees
  • Sync deals / placements on TV shows
  • Sponsorships
  • Session work
  • Voiceover work
  • Teach music classes online with Skool or Teachable
  • Freelance producing and mixing
  • Grants

How to Make Money as an Independent Artist Online? 

Here’s how to make money as an independent artist online:

  • Sell Merchandise – use Shopify 
  • Earn tips online with PayPal 
  • Teach music classes online with Skool or Teachable
  • Patreon fan club membership fees
  • Set up sync deals / placements on TV shows
  • Get Sponsorships like an influencer – check out TikTok for business
  • Session work online through UpWork or Fiverr
  • Voiceover work through UpWork or Fiverr
  • Freelance producing and mixing online
  • Apply for grants for musicians 

How Do Musicians Make Money Without CDs?

Here in the 21st century on planet Earth, musicians aren’t making much money with CDs. Even selling MP3s, downloads, or streams doesn’t pay that much. Here is where the real money is for musicians now:

  • Touring – biggest money for musicians 
  • College gigs – make up to $4,000 per show
  • Merchandise – use Shopify
  • Tips online and in person 
  • Patreon fan club membership fees
  • Sync deals / placements on TV shows
  • Sponsorships
  • Session work on Fiverr
  • Voiceover work on Fiverr
  • Creating a music video course online with Skool or Teachable
  • Freelance producing and mixing
  • Grants

Check out how to do rappers make money.

How Much Do Independent Artists Make on Spotify? 

Indie artists make about $4 per 1000 streams on Spotify. So if you have 1 million Spotify streams you’d earn about $4,000. That’s why it’s important to create multiple sources of income as an independent artist. 

Sell merchandise on Shopify.

Upload videos teaching people how to play music, edit videos, or sing like you. Use Skool.

Related:

Sources:

1 – https://soundcamps.com/spotify-royalties-calculator 

2 – https://www.merchcat.com/

3 – https://www.arts.gov/grants/grants-for-arts-projects/music

4 – https://newmusicusa.org/program/new-music-creator-fund/

5 – https://www.foundationforcontemporaryarts.org/grants/

6 – https://tnartscommission.org/grants/individual/

7 – https://www.naca.org/

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About Scott Lieberman

Scott Lieberman is founder of Touchdown Money. Scott has been making money online for over 20 years. It's allowed him to travel the world while working remotely. Scott is an expert in online business, digital marketing, credit card reward programs, and content marketing strategies.

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