The music industry has gone through a monumental change.

Record labels have lost much of their power and importance, music sales have dropped, and the digital age has brought on a sea of independent artistry and self-produced album releases.

The question on everyone’s mind is “how do I make money in music?”

To be thorough, we would have to write enough words to fill our entire website, but what we can provide is a few key points that apply to any position or facet of the industry. But first…

A New Era

The first thing we need to recognize is that the old music industry is dead. It is no longer the age where a good band gets signed and the label provides everything they could possibly need so the musicians can just focus on the music.

Not only have music sales been heavily declining, but record labels have completely changed their place in the industry. They have gone from being the mark of success to being unnecessary for the majority of artists.

But… why?

The internet is at the core of everything. The shift in the music industry, and the key to succeeding in it. The combination of both the negative influences (music piracy) and positive influences (create, distribute your music and connect directly with fans for free) have shaped the industry into what we know it as today: the digital age.


If we don’t accept that the old way of doing things is almost completely gone, then we can’t succeed. If we don’t know what game we’re playing, we can’t win. Know the game you’re playing, be realistic, stop chasing the path of success your heroes took because that path leads right off a cliff now.

The First Step

Before you can start making money you have to find out two things:

1) What are you good at?
2) What is unique about you?

There are many careers that went nowhere because certain individuals believed you only needed one of these things, but you need both of them to sustain a career.

You can’t just be incredible at playing guitar if you sound just like everyone else. You can’t have a unique stage persona and sound if “your sound” is akin to nails on a chalkboard.

These two factors must be present or you will not have a career. If you aren’t skilled and you don’t stand out from the crowd, you’re dead in the water.

Spend some time thinking about these two things, and if it takes months or years to figure those two things out, so be it. You can’t build success without those two things, so take as much time as necessary to figure out who you are in the music industry.

Turning Identity Into Income

We’ll start by looking at your skills. Once you’ve found what you excel at, you need to distill it into a service that can generate income.

Having a service as opposed to a product means you have repeatable income. If you sell a t-shirt, the sale is done. No one is going to buy it again because they already have it.

As a result, you need to constantly be developing new products. This is a broad generalization and there are exceptions for things like reusable products (guitar strings, for example), but you get the idea.

If you sell a service, people are likely to come back because a service isn’t a finite object. It’s open-ended and allows for variation, and therefore allows for returning customers.

In other words, if you provide a high quality service people will keep coming back.

Let’s look at a few examples of services:

If you’re skilled at guitar you can:

  • Teach lessons
  • Become a studio/session guitarist
  • Play at weddings and special events

If you’re skilled at audio production you can:

  • Record/mix/master albums
  • Provide a drum editing service
  • Provide a reamping service

If you’re skilled at songwriting you can:

  • Teach lessons
  • Become a music producer
  • Sell your compositions to other artists

This may seem very obvious at first, but these are just the broad ideas to help us understand how to develop a skill into a basic source of income.

Let’s take these broad income ideas and make them more specific by using what makes you unique as an individual.

Finding A Niche

The problem with the income options we’ve listed is that they’re too broad. We all know tons of people who teach guitar, who are bedroom producers, so how do we compete with those people without becoming just another faceless head in the crowd?

Who are you?

You need to find a niche… to give these basic incomes a more specific and identifiable twist.

Let’s say you’re a metalhead – this will give us something even more unique to approach the market with.

We can now go from “I teach guitar lessons” (like every other kid in your hometown…) to “I teach metal composition and techniques like sweep picking, tremolo picking, and more.”

Now we’ve taken you from just another guitar teacher to someone with a unique voice in the market. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of guitar teachers in your city, but how many of them specialize in metal? Far fewer.

As a guitarist who listens to metal, you’re far more likely to choose the instructor that specializes in the music you like than the one who is just a “general instructor.”

Let’s stop here for a minute and drive something home… This is extremely important: find a niche.

The people who jump at any opportunity to make a penny are not the ones who are able to make a consistent, steady income.

A jack of all trades but master of none is not something people are looking for. They are looking for someone who has one or two core strengths.

There are millions of people searching “metal guitar lessons” on Google. How many are searching for “well-rounded guitar lesson”? None.

By finding your niche you’re able to focus on excelling in one specific area and developing a strong reputation as a result. If you can make yourself “the go-to guy for ______” you will have an excellent chance at a lasting career.

You just need to fill in that blank.

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