Making Money from Music (Passive Income)

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The term Passive Income seems to keep cropping up in conversation, perhaps my YouTube recommendations are playing tricks on me, I don't know. Despite this, I think we are fortunate enough to live in an age where we don't have to rely on one full time job. Passive Income is defined as 'earnings that are derived with little to no active involvement' and without realising, I've been using the techniques below to earn that for a little while.

If you are already making music and haven't released or 'signed' (I always hated that term) to a label, you might be wondering how else you can earn money from producing. Unfortunately, and in this age especially, signing to a label doesn't necessarily that mean your bills are now paid for. In this blog post I'm going to discuss a few streams of revenue (also read: cash) that you might want to consider if you want to subsidise that shopping list of synths and equipment that just keeps growing and growing.

Record Sales

Record Sales

First up, the main one. Selling music. It sounds straight forward enough, but getting onto a decent label still doesn't guarantee you any real return or cash flow. Not in the short term anyway. In fact, over the years I've heard consistent stories of artists not getting paid for their releases (at all) on both independent and major labels.

Have I scared you yet? It's not all doom and gloom. In fact, once you've found one that you can work with it's fairly smooth sailing. It's one of the main reasons that I've continued to release on one record label rather than lots of different ones. 

A record release on digital and vinyl on an indie label might see you get paid between around £200-£1000 depending on how well it does, how many are pressed and any costs incurred from vinyl pressing, distribution and PR/advertising. Digital downloads often soak up some of the cost of vinyl pressing so if you are being given the option by your label to do a 'vinyl-only' version, I don't recommend it. Expect to see that money between 6-18 months after it's been released. I've had releases come out of my own music that were written 1-2 years before the actual release, that’s a long time to wait for a few quid.



The bread and butter. This is what we are all here for really. DJing and playing live is the best way to play music to other people, you get to travel the world, etc. Getting a release on a label might see you get asked to play a few shows, so in that sense, you can think of it as an extension of revenue from record sales. It's not uncommon for people to tour a record release for a few months earning them enough money to live on for 6-12 months. 

You can manage these yourself, quite a lot of people do in the dubstep scene, but working with an agent gives you the added protection that they will ensure you get paid. I've had bad experiences in the past before with promoters not paying me, which isn't the most heartening of experiences at 5am after a good night.

Most promoters will pay you for the show on the night, either before you step on stage or just after. In comparison to releasing music, that’s a lot quicker.



Licensing your music is another way to exploit your creations to get a bit of extra ‘P’. A good example of this is getting your music onto a compilation CD. This can net you a bit of extra cash, and the amount varies based on how good your negotiation skills are (much like gigs really).

The licensing processes I’ve been involved in in the past have paid an upfront recoupable advance. The term advance is used loosely, often the earliest these things tend to come through is a month after the release of the licensed product in question. If it does well, you might make a bit more based on MCPS and PRS royalties further down the line. This is covered in the next section.



If you are making music and haven’t signed up to your countries royalty collecting organisations (PRS and MCPS in the UK), listen closely, DO IT NOW!

Every time a label presses a copy of your music they are required to pay a fee. In the UK, the MCPS collects this and providing you’ve registered the release you are entitled to a small percentage of each copy. Remember those compilations I talked about earlier? Those are included, landing on a compilation that prints 10,000 copies nets you 10,000 miniscule amounts of royalties. (Don’t worry, it’s all added up so you get one payment every three months.) I’ve used physical products as an example here but the same goes for digital downloads too, every iTunes sale should bank you a bit of MCPS money.

As well as mechanical copyright royalties, you get paid for every time your music is played on radio, TV and other broadcasts. This is where you stand to make a decent bit of money, those people that made Christmas songs in the 70’s and 80’s that get played every year, are getting paid every year. TV pays more than radio plays, and different stations pay more than others. (Radio 1 pays the most.)

Other forms of royalty streams can come from playing gigs. Venues in the UK have to pay for music licenses, if you are playing in those venues and submit set track lists you can get money for that. Soundcloud also recently joined up with the PRS, so all those listens count for royalty collection too.




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Merchandise isn’t something that’s really taken advantage of in the electronic music scene. In the alternative, rock, punk and metal music scene it’s huge. I’ve always thought that was strange. I guess wearing a t-shirt with a DJ’s name on isn’t quite as appealing compared to one with the word ‘Slayer’ written on in dripping red blood. Still, knocking up a batch of t-shirts, hoodies or tote bags can be a good way to get your name out and about and make your fans look cool in the process.

To make the most out of this, you’ll have to get a batch printed before you sell them which requires an initial outlay on your behalf. You’ll also have to be confident that you’ll sell every piece of merch too, or at the very least, enough to break even. Then, there’s the postage and packing to each person that buys something. Fortunately, there’s a new way to do this and it involves a process called ‘dropshipping’. I’ll be posting a full blog about this in the very near future so if you don’t know what that is yet, all will be revealed.


Getting that youtube money takes some time and serious viewing figures. Still, having content to put on your youtube channel such as live streams, production sessions and music videos has more benefits than a few quid for putting adverts on your videos. People are more likely to engage with video content than a few bits of text on a Facebook status, even if it involves you waffling on in front of your sequencer. 

IF you do want to earn some money from YouTube, you need to ‘monetise’ your videos. This involves checking a box in the upload settings that allows YouTube to play an advert at the start of your videos whenever anyone watches it. This is one of my recent videos, sitting at about 1,500 views. 






Sponsorship from a brand or company is another way to get returns, most will pay by giving you their product for free, the real reward though, is exposure. It’s not technically a revenue stream, but it saves you a bit of your own hard earned. A few examples that spring to mind over the last couple of years are Subpac and Audeze. Both companies have given out their products to producers who are more than happy to post on their social media accounts.

Again, if these things are something you’d want to own yourself, it’s a lot more favourable to get it for free.

Affiliate linking

This one is a bit loose, but I thought I’d mention it. Some companies offer out affiliate links that earn you commission whenever you send a sale their way. Say for instance, I make a blog post detailing five bits of studio equipment you need to make music. I could use affiliate links to link you directly to somewhere like Amazon, where you can buy said equipment. In return, I’ll get a percentage of that sale when you buy. Simple.

Amazon aren’t the only company that do this and it’s not restricted to posting other peoples products, if you sell your own beats or samples the option is always there for you to offer affiliate links to other blogs. There’s a fine line between blatantly whoring yourself out to get a commission and politely pointing people in a certain direction, but done correctly, can certainly help you rack up a bit of cash to cover the cost of hosting a blog or domain name.

One of the reasons I’ve added this is that from time to time I’ll be using affiliate links in my own blog posts (my very first one did!). I think it’s important to stress that I’d only do so with products I either use myself or think are useful, and that the links are added after I’ve written a post. I’m not being influenced or paid by anyone else to write these things.

Blog posts

Blogs. How can you make money from blogs? Doesn’t everybody just use Facebook? I’m preaching to the choir a little bit here, obviously this blog has a shop that links to my own material. If you really like the blog posts you might buy a sample pack or click an affiliate link, netting me a bit of extra cash.

Writing your own blog doesn’t just have to be about money though. It’s a good way to keep people up to speed with your current activities and schedule. Whats the point of playing shows if no-one knows about it?

Sample Packs


This is a bit niche for producers, the people who really like your beats might not necessarily want to make their own (or know how) so you’re really catering to a small percentage of people who are into your sounds. With that being said, sample packs are a great way to earn extra cash from the skills you’ve spent so long developing as a musician and I encourage anyone to have a go, even if you are doing it purely for your own productions. At the very least, it will improve your productivity as a musician.

It won’t get you gigs (trust me on that) but if you make 10 tracks a month and like 5 of them, chopping the 5 you don’t like into a folder of samples for use in the future is a smart way to save yourself a bit of time later on. Putting those packs up for sale helps other producers who are learning out and also nets you a bit of pocket money.

There are a few big companies that offer decent sized advances to make sample packs for them, and it’s very tempting (they've asked me, I never followed through). If you’ve got the patience to let the sales trickle through rather than all at once, you can make a lot more.



Teaching is another way to use your production skills and experience, theres loads of different avenues you can go down with it too. In the UK, you need to have qualifications to teach in schools and universities.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t share those skills. In the past I’ve taught privately via one to one Skype sessions, extending to youtube tutorials. Local community outreach centres are worth looking into if this is something you want to try, often these places will favour real life experience and give you an opportunity to help others along the way without a certificate. This is a really rewarding and positive experience, I really recommend it. 


I’ve used all of the techniques above to earn money as a producer, and I know others that do the same too. It might be worthwhile delving a little deeper into some of these in the future so if there’s something I’ve mentioned here you want to know more about, let me know in the comments below and I'll look at doing a proper blog post about it. As usual, if you liked this post (or didn’t and know someone who would) please pass a link to friends.





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