6 Smart Tips for Making More Money Playing Live Music

how to make money playing live music

If your sole source of revenue from playing live music is the money from the gig itself, you’re doing it wrong. Welcome to the world of earning money from live music. It’s a hustle and a grind—and that’s even if you haven’t started tapping into the potential revenue streams you’ll read about here. Sitting back and letting your royalties fund your musical lifestyle is an awesome thought. And quite possible, however, your cash flow symphony will take some orchestration. Live gigs can serve as a catalyst to the whole system, but keep in mind they are just part of the equation. Here are six smart tips for making more money from your live music gigs you can apply now:

Tip #1: Don’t just network—be prepared to network.

If 100% of your current revenue comes from your live gig fees, this is the first area you can really maximize.
I know, I know— “network” is a vague term. So my advice is going to follow the motto of the Boy Scouts of America: if you’re going to network, you first have to be prepared:

  • Business cards. Sounds lame, right? Like maybe even the notion of having a business card turns you into a pseudo Patrick Bateman? But cards are not solely the realm of suits and power brokers; they’re for anyone with a brand. If you want something simple and unique, try Moo’s MiniCards and keep them in your wallet during every gig.
  • Website. The web site is the business card of the modern world; if you don’t have one, fans are going to wonder what’s up. If you’ve never set one up before, buy a musician theme from ThemeForest.
  • Set your rates. Google around local bands in your area to find what might be reasonable rates and don’t forget to factor in your own needs as well. People with gigs will ask you what your rates are; you need to have an answer.

Tip #2: Get Your Merch Properly Designed

Here’s some truth: even if your band stinks, good-looking merchandise will still sell. Everybody loves cool packaging. Take the time to have a logo professionally done and work with some of the best merchandise outlets online, including:

As for what you put on the merchandise, it’s worth the extra investment to have a fun custom logo created rather than finding some cheap work on Fiverr. Utilize sites like Upwork or Crowdspring to connect with top freelance designers.

Tip #3: Learn to properly craft your merchandise.

Is it enough to slap a cool logo on some merchandise and call it a day? If your branding is really stunning, maybe. But there’s more to the art of merchandise, especially if you work with a vendor like CafePress. You’ll have to make choices like background color, shirt types, and more. Here you have to know your audience. If the vast majority of people at your gigs wear T-shirts, then merchandise T-shirts. But browse through their All Gifts section to see what other creative goodies you can come up with that will separate you from the competition. And don’t make a large order until you know there’s a market for your goods.

Tip #4: Incorporate Mobile Payments

When you sell your merchandise, you want the transaction to be simple, painless, and easy to track—both for you and your customers.

Our recommendation? Set up an account with Square and utilize a proper point of sale system any time you set up shop. Even a simple MagStripe reader is enough to take credit cards.

Better yet: work with a cute girl or guy to handle your merchandise while you’re busy packing. Let them work on commission so that they’re motivated to push your merchandise and so that your investment is protected.

Tip #5: Create Online Downloads

The more you network, the better your website, the more attractive your merch, the more people are going to flock to your website. Don’t ignore this potential source of revenue. Use a service like BandCamp to easily set up downloadable tracks. And don’t be afraid to get creative and think business: if you have a surplus of merchandise, then use that as free giveaways to promote the downloading of your tracks. If you upload anything to YouTube, make sure that you follow the example of the minds behind Harlem Shake and monetize that revenue rather than looking to shut down anyone who shares your music.

Tip #6: Bundle

With merchandise, downloadable tracks, and an effective website set up, it won’t be hard to set up shop with Shopify and create discounted bundles that allow people to buy CD’s, digital downloads, and merchandise all at once. Make sure that these bundles cost less than buying them each separately; that way, you encourage customers to buy the whole range of your gear—and it’s still all profit on your end.
Finally, keep in mind that monetization doesn’t just happen. It takes consistent effort, creativity, and a willingness to see your band from the fan’s point of view and ask yourself simply: “if I was a fan, what would I want to buy? And what would make that easier for me?”

There’s never been a better time to be a content producer. Hopefully these tips and tools have given you some ideas to help maximize your revenue potential and start making more money from your live gigs!
About the Author:
Rick Belluso is a drummer, marketer and co-founder of Ninebuzz Music Tech. He’s the creator of a Drum Beats+, a fun and musical metronome app and Guitar Jam Tracks scale trainer and practice buddy, available for iPhone and Android.

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