How To Making a Living in the Music Business

How To Making a Living in the Music Business

By Lou Pomanti

Since the advent of Napster in the early 2000s, and the rise of streaming it's become increasingly challenging to make your living 100% from music. Now be warned, making your living from the 'music biz' and making it from 'music' can be two different things.

1.  Get All Your Income Streams: In today's music industry, relying solely on album sales or live performances may not be enough to sustain a comfortable living. Its important you make use of all income streams such as music licensing, royalties from streaming platforms, merchandise sales, sync placements in films and commercials, teaching music lessons, session work, and crowdfunding campaigns. And in my experience it's nice the way royalty payments tend to come in just as other work gets slow! My personal royalty income streams are from:

1- SOCAN (

2- MROC (


4. Film Musicians Fund (

By far the largest share of my royalties comes from SOCAN, from the years I spent writing film and TV scores.

2.  Monetize Your Music Online: Distribute your music on streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal to reach a global audience and generate royalties. Utilize digital distribution services like TuneCore, CD Baby, or DistroKid to upload and distribute your music across multiple platforms. Additionally, consider creating and selling CDs, vinyl records, and merchandise through your website or online storefronts like Bandcamp or Shopify. Take note that unless you're getting tens of millions of streams a year your payments will be very small. One million streams on Spotify translates into less than $4,000.

3.  Build a Strong Online Presence: In today's digital age, having a strong online presence is essential for success in the music industry. Leverage social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to engage with fans, share your music, and promote your brand. Create compelling content that showcases your personality, behind-the-scenes moments, and creative process to connect with your audience on a deeper level. Consistency and authenticity are key to building a loyal fan base and driving traffic to your music and merchandise.

4.  Develop Multiple Skill Sets: In addition to being a talented musician, developing complementary skill sets can open up new opportunities for income generation. Offering services such as producing, mixing, mastering, and songwriting for other artists can be lucrative elements that complement your music career. In recent years I've become a mixer as well as a producer, writer and player. Not only does it reduce the cost of your record, but when you become good at it, it eliminates the middle man, and the sound of the music is totally your own.

5.  Network and Collaborate: It really is who you know. Most of my big breaks in the biz have come from people recommending me.  Collaborating with other artists on projects, tracks, and performances can help you tap into new fan bases, gain exposure, and cross-promote each other's work. Attend industry events, conferences, and workshops to connect with like-minded individuals and stay informed about industry trends and developments.

6.  Hang In There: Success in the music industry doesn't happen overnight. Like it or not, when you decide on a career in music you are become a self-employed entrepreneur. It requires patience, perseverance, and resilience to overcome challenges and setbacks along the way. Stay focused on your goals, keep honing your craft, and never lose sight of your passion for music.

During my 50 year career in the music biz, I've done just about everything.  I started as a player, then a session musician, then became a songwriter, producer, then a composer for Film & TV, and wrote a few jingles along the way too. My income has always come from a lot of different sources. During the '80s and '90s there was rarely a day when there wasn't a check in the mail for something or other. It's not for the faint of heart. I think you need to be excited by the possibility of what MIGHT happen to stay in it. In this business, a single phone call or text can change your life. Out of the blue you can receive a royalty payment that is 10x what you expected. That's what always kept me going, the endless possibilities

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