The 7 Best Ways To Make Money as a Musician Without Being Famous

The 7 Best Ways To Make Money as a Musician Without Being Famous

how to make money as a musician


As a musician, your goal is to make money. The best way to do that is to focus on the most profitable gigs you can find. You might think this would require you to be famous, but it doesn't! What's more, you don't even need to look outside of your hometown in order to find these gigs. In fact, they're probably right in front of your nose: weddings and corporate events are great ways for professional musicians like yourself to make money without relying on fame alone. So if you're ready for an honest day's work as a musician—without having other people tell you what music is "good" or "bad"—keep reading!

This isn't going to be easy.

Now that you have the facts, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into. This isn't going to be an easy road, but if you're willing to put in the work and make some sacrifices, then it can be rewarding.

First and foremost: You need to network like crazy. Like most industries, everything is about who you know. If no one knows who you are or why they should listen to your music, then it's going to be difficult for them to find out about it.

You'll also need to market yourself well enough so that people will want a piece of what you're selling (or at least try out what it sounds like).

Next up: Be prepared for anything! The more styles of music that a person can play proficiently on any instrument(s), the better off they will be in this industry because versatility is key when trying out gigs or playing live shows as part of an ensemble unit such as an orchestra or jazz band; even solo performers often include covers in their set lists because covers sell tickets!

Play weddings.

If you're a musician looking for a side gig, consider playing at weddings. You don't need to be famous to make money, and there's a good chance that hiring musicians will be one of the first things people think of when planning a wedding.

You'll probably have to do some research in your area first to see how much the going rate is (or if there even IS an "going rate"), but this is something that can be done almost anywhere in the world. If you live near or travel around the country often enough and are able to secure gigs before leaving town on tour, then this could be an excellent way for you to bring in some extra cash every month or two!

Depending on where you live, wedding gigs can be quite seasonal, but they're generally much better pay than bar gigs.

Play corporate events, or other private parties.

There are many corporate events that include music, from company parties to retirement celebrations. You can also play at conventions, annual meetings, and more.

The upside of playing corporate events is that they often pay well. The downside is that you don't get much artistic freedom as the event organizers typically have a specific theme in mind for their party or meeting (think "80s", "retro", etc.)

Play instrumental music to accompany movies, plays, and commercials.

  • Play instrumental music to accompany movies, plays, and commercials. This can be as simple as playing a few notes on the piano for a theatrical production or as complex as composing original music for a film.
  • Become an arranger. If you have experience in arranging music, consider making your services available for hire by other musicians—or even non-musicians who are looking for help putting together a song or album.
  • Be part of an ensemble. Playing in an ensemble (a collective group of people) is a great way to build up your skills while having fun with like-minded people and meeting new friends along the way.

Write music for video games.

Writing music for video games can be a lucrative gig because each game is different and you're writing music specifically for that game, so the publisher will pay you based on how popular the game is. This means that when a game becomes a hit, you'll make more money than someone who wrote music for something less popular (like an iPhone app).

The catch? Writing video game music means that it's usually not your own voice singing or rapping over the track. In fact, most developers hire singers to sing out their lyrics as they play through their games and listen to them—and there's no guarantee that these hired voices will add anything original or worthwhile to your song!

Compose ringtones, answering machine messages and custom hold music.

Ringtone composition is a growing industry. In fact, it's the fastest-growing medium of digital music sales in the United States and Canada. And while it's certainly not as lucrative as selling millions of records or downloads, composing ringtones can be highly profitable—and it doesn't require fame or a record contract.

There are two basic ways to make money composing ringtones: through royalties (which are paid by consumers who buy your song) and through licensing agreements with companies like Apple and Sprint (who want your music but don't want to shell out big bucks for it). If you're working on an original composition that you intend to release on CD at some point, then these royalties may not be worth pursuing; after all, if people love your songs enough to purchase them on iTunes or Amazon MP3, there's probably no reason why they won't pay for them in their digital form as well. However if what matters most here isn't so much whether or not people pay for their own enjoyment but rather how much money those same fans will be willing contribute towards supporting musicians financially through purchases like this one then that can definitely change things significantly!

Join an entertainment agency that can get you gigs.

One of the best ways to make a living is by joining an entertainment agency that can get you gigs at hotels, restaurants and bars. Agents take a commission, but if they get you enough work, it can be well worth it. They often have lucrative contracts with their clients who bring repeat business to the agency.

Often, you'll need to audition for an agency and bring your own promo materials, like photos, a bio, video demos and audio recordings (also known as a press or media kit). Make sure you come prepared!

Be a session musician.

  • What is a session musician? A session musician is someone who plays in bands that are recording an album or have an out of town gig. If you are a good guitar player, or keyboardist, or singer—any instrument really—you can find work as a session musician.
  • How do I get paid as a session musician? Your pay depends on how many hours you played and how well you played those hours. You will receive payment by the hour but depending on your talent level and what kind of contract was signed with the band leader (bandleader) you may be able to negotiate your rate per hour. For larger recordings or union work, there may even be royalties on the table.
  • Should I become one? If being onstage is not something that interests you then this may not be the best option for making money as a musician without being famous. However if playing live shows isn’t really your thing but still want some cash flow coming in every month then becoming a session musician could be just what you need!

Don't forget - you're a business. Keep track of your gigs, income and expenses like the pros with Back On Stage app.

Your music career is not a side job; it's a full-time (and sometimes more than full-time) venture. That means keeping track of your gigs, income and expenses is essential. If you're looking for an easy way to do this, Back On Stage is the app for you.

Back On Stage helps bands and musicians keep track of their booking details, income and expenses by giving you a simple workspace with all the tools you need. Never forget who still owes you money and be prepared with invoice and contract templates that make your business legit.


While it's true that there are some great revenue streams available to musicians, it's also important to be realistic about how much money you can make. If your goal is just to be able to pay rent and eat, then don't expect to quit your day job anytime soon. However, if you're willing to put in the time and effort required for a full-time music career—and have some luck on your side—then there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to make a decent living from what you love doing most: making music!

About The Author

reuben avery bandleader and musician

Reuben Avery

Reuben is a bandleader and musician from Vancouver, BC. When he's not busy organizing gigs for his 9-piece funk band, he enjoys practicing his trumpet and learning about web development.


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