Band Business

Passive Revenue Streams for Musicians

If you work as an independent musician, chances are pretty good that you’re still trudging along in a full-time job as well. Very few indie musicians make enough money from their music to support themselves. It’s a bit of a catch-22. You want to earn a living from your music, but you have to earn a living to be able to afford making and selling your music.

Well, all hope isn’t lost. I’m going to give you some tips to increase your passive revenue. These aren’t going to bring you a fortune overnight, but with good forethought, they can lead to decent income in time, allowing you more time for your music, without being stuck in a 9-5 world.

First of all, what is passive revenue? – Passive revenue is an income stream that doesn’t require regular work from you. Sounds great, right? Think about your CD sales. You can record a CD, have them produced, and make them available for sale on your web site. Once the initial work is done, you can just sit back and earn income as the CDs sell. (Of course you’ll make more if you actively promote it, but this is just a theoretical example.) That’s passive revenue.

Here are five possible passive revenue streams for independent musicians:

1. Merch Sales – You can design and have your merch (shirts, stickers, buttons, or pretty much whatever you can imagine) for sale online, which won’t involve much work on a regular basis. To make it even easier, use a service like or to handle the storefront, orders, and shipping for you.

2. Old CDs or Show Videos – Use a service like to have your old albums printed on demand. You can do the same with DVDs. Just have a friend shoot some of your shows for you, and submit the files and artwork. They manage the storefront and orders for you. You can find out more about’s service and how to use it by reading Let Your Old Music Make Money for You.

3. Write and Publish – If you’re a decent writer, why not put together some music articles, or even a book or ebook? You can sell the book or ebook online (again with a POD publisher like or, or create a group of articles that you can make available for reprints.

4. Affiliate / Ad-Based Websites – If you have a knack for web design, put it to use. Create an affiliate web site selling CDs or music industry books, or create your own informational site with a blog or articles, and earn some passive revenue by including advertising (such as Google Adsense ads). To do this successfully, target a general area of music that you know a lot about. Simply placing ads on your band’s site won’t do the trick. You need to talk about more than just yourself if you want people to care.

5. Create Online Courses – More likely than not, there’s someone out there who wishes they had your musical skill. So why not create some online courses or tutorials, and sell them online? You can do this through password-protected web sites, podcasts, or video. Teach someone how to start playing the bass or guitar. Show them how they can improve their vocal range. Just pick something that you’re an expert at, and teach it to someone who isn’t.

If you put the work in early on to build great products or services, you’ll increase your chances of earning the extra passive revenue to eventually let you quit your day job and focus on your music full-time.

Jenn Mattern is a professional writer and PR consultant, formerly specializing in music PR for indie artists. She owns 3 Beat Media, the parent company of AudioXposure. While AudioXposure is retired, you can still find Jenn at her other web properties including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, and NakedPR.

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