How to Make Money as a Musician

in 2023

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In the past, making money off of music often required curbside sales, dingy clubs, deals with sleazy record label elites, and quite frankly, a lot of luck. Fortunately, making money as a musician in 2023 is a vast area to be explored. The digital market has taken over immensely, and musicians have more opportunity than ever to carve out a career in the music industry. But  that doesn't mean it's easy. A lot of effort is required to maintain a presence online, to stay active on digital platforms, and to continually produce new content to stay relevant for audiences and fans.

Being an aspiring musician or independent artist in the early 2000's and before, required initial steps that were extremely difficult, pricey, and quite frankly, required a lot of luck. But the digital revolution as allowed new strategies to emerge and reinvent the industry, such as music distribution services, music promotion services, social media marketing, and influencer marketing. Music industry revenue is now more accessible than ever. And these new strategies aren't just for amateurs. Established musicians who have worked hard to get to where they are, also need to become familiar with them, to stay relevant in this new high-tech music scene.

In this article we'll examine these new strategies and services, to help you get noticed and paid as a modern musician in 2023.

Music Distribution Services

Music is a business. If you are a new and independent artist or musician, you're also in many ways an entrepreneur. You don't only desire to be the next music sensation, you also want to make money. And you probably also need consistent financial income to help sustain and grow, as every new business does. As you navigate your way through the music industry through digital channels, making sure your music is available on all of the major streaming platforms is necessary for financial success.

There are numerous music distribution services to help you accomplish this, each with subtle differences. Even if you're an established artist, you'll need to choose one that best aligns with your goals and lifestyle. This is not an easy decision. So to help you decide, we've consolidated a list of the leading music distribution services and their pros and cons.

But first let's get up to speed on what music distribution actually is, and why you need it.


What is music distribution?

Music distribution is the process of getting your songs available for people to hear. 20 years ago this meant stocking music stores with your CD, cassette or album. It required a coordinated effort of mass producing your music as a physical product, and transporting it, and stocking and selling it in music stores.

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Luckily, this process is far more efficient today. "Music Distribution" now is mostly the process of getting your music on streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Distribution on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok is becoming important as well.

But getting your music out there and be heard on a large scale can be difficult for new artists.

This is why it's sensible to work with an established music distribution service, who can provide the necessary tools you need to get heard. And hopefully for a reasonable and fair price of course! The good news is, while they do charge a price for providing this service, they don’t touch your royalties. That's a very long topic for another day. However, it's one of the biggest benefits of the modern music era. One that allows you to control your own destiny as a musician.

Each music distribution service has different policies, charges and benefits. The following is an exhaustive list of distribution services and the features they offer. You can also read our article here comparing the top 3 leading music distributors.

Top Music Distribution Companies

TuneCore

TuneCore is one of the expensive distributors comparatively as they charge $9.99 per single release and $29.99 per album release, with an annual fee of $49.99. Plus, for every additional music store you have to pay extra $1.98.

Artists however keep 100% of the revenue from their sales and streams. If you're a new artist with a tight income, just be careful to make sure their fees fit within your budget.

Checkout our article here, for more detailed information on TuneCore.

DistroKid

DistroKid takes on the responsibility to distribute your music to 150+ streaming platforms and services for an annual fee of $19.99. And with that the artists also keep all of their royalties.

However, a few things are weak in this service, such as performance stats and analytics of your releases. Artists or their managers tend to have to do a lot of work to get their actual performance details. And watchout for the extra charges for the “leave a legacy” option, which offers to keep your music in stores forever, for a one time additional fee.

Checkout our CD Baby vs DistroKid comparison, for more detailed information on DistroKid.

CD Baby

CD Baby is almost same as TuneCore when it comes to pricing and services. They charge $0.95 per a single release and $29 per an album release.

Unlike other distributors, CD Baby doesn’t have the option for splitting payments among featured artists.

For more detailed information on CD Baby, checkout our CD Baby vs DistroKid article here.

Ditto Music

Ditto offers unlimited releases to the all of the major digital music stores for an annual price of $19 a year. This makes it one of the cheapest and effective music distribution services on the market.

Artists keep 100% of the royalties and rights of their music and also gets a 30-day free trial to get to know the service.

United Masters

UnitedMasters charges $5 as a monthly rate or an annual rate of $60 for unlimited releases on all of the top streaming channels, including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Shazam, and YouTube music.

There is also an alternative offer, if you do not want to pay the monthly fee of $5, you can share 10% of your royalties that you earn from downloads or streams.

Amuse

Amuse simply offers a Pro Package for $5 per month for unlimited releases. The benefits include 100% of royalties entitled to the artists and it also offers royalty splits between featured artists.

The downside however is they only deliver to 19 streaming stores, although this does include Spotify and Apple Music.

Symphonic

Symphonic offers the coverage of 200+ online music stores, on one condition, you only initially get accepted as a subscriber.

They do not charge any fee and take 15% of your royalties on your sales, streams and downloads.

ONErpm

With ONErpm you can distribute your music without any pre-distribution fee. However, they charge 15% commission from the revenues you make from your streaming, downloads and sales, and 30% for ringtones and from YouTube.

They cover 30 online stores/streaming platforms, while taking no pre-distribution fee, but do take a high commission on your profits.

Horus Music

Horus is less recognized with established artists, however their deals are very competitive. They cover an impressive 150+ online music stores with unlimited releases, for an annual fee of $20, while giving 100% royalties to the artists.

For more information about music these music distributors and aggregators, make sure to read our article: Which Is The Best Music Distribution Service?

Music Promotion Services

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What is music promotion?

Music promotion is the practice of publicizing music to increase sales or public awareness. Unfortunately, these services tend to specialize in a single strategy, with none of them actually being full-service. So you'll need to either use multiple services, or be selective in picking the service that aligns best with your goals and objectives. 

Below is a list of some of the leading music promotion services you should consider, categorized by the most common music promotion strategies that have proven effective for both independent and established artists.


Getting on Spotify Playlists

AKA "Playlist Induction". The following companies work with playlist curators to try to get your music featured on streaming platform playlists. Most of them focus primarily on Spotify, while some have options for Apple and Amazon Music as well.


Influencer Marketing for Musicians

These companies try to get social media accounts that have a following of a specific size (aka "influencers"), to use or promote your music.

  • Omari MC
    Offers to promote your music on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • YouGrow
    Offers to promote your music on Spotify, YouTube, ATikTok, and Instagram.
  • Indie Music Academy
    Offers both Spotify playlist and TikTok influencer promotions


Digital Advertising

The following are music marketing agencies with paid media campaign strategies and various platform promotion options.


Music Sync Licensing

The following companies specializes primarily in film and TV licensing for musicians.


We will explain more about each of these services in a future article. But for now, the main takeaway should be that each of these companies operate differently, with subtle differences in the features they offer. If you want to work with one of them, the key is to first determine what type of marketing you’re looking for, and then research each option to identify which is the best fit.

Best Day To Release Music

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Considering when to release music may at first sound trivial. But taking this into consideration really can help create a competitive advantage, as most musicians tend to rush to release as soon as possible.

Most data suggests the best day to release the music is Friday, or at least Thursday. But Friday gets more significance because of the few reasons that will be mentioned later in this article.

Global Release Day

For decades, the official music release day used to be Tuesday in the United States. And every country used to follow their own custom of releasing music on a specific day of the week according to the trends of their distribution market.

This process had some drawbacks because piracy and illegal selling of music for increasing due to different release dates in different counties. For example, if a song was released in the U.S. on Tuesday, that may translate to it being released on Monday in another country. This would result in some buyers performing unethical business moves by purchasing the music and selling it on piracy sites before the actual release. Activities like this create a financial loss for the artists as well as the distribution services. Plus, we do not know that who is earning from those piracy sites and where is that falsely earned money is used. We should all avoid downloading piracy sites, not just because you're getting music illegally, but because it indirectly hurts the artists.

Fortunately today piracy is less of a concern. Yet the practice of releasing music on Friday is still continued.

3 Reasons to Release Music on Fridays:

1. Streaming Platform Placement

Music lovers expect new music on Fridays.

Major streaming services and platforms (i.e. Spotify, Apple Music) have chosen Friday to be their day updating their playlists. Playlists are one of the most used features on these platforms, as they offer aficionados the music they love in auto-updating weekly lists. This is one of the more apparent reasons artists choose Friday to release their songs or albums.

And these playlists remain untouched for a whole week. Artists who released their music on Friday get the weekend plus an additional 4 days, for the public to hear, share, and publicize them.

2. Weekly Chart Updates and Calculations

It is very obvious that every artist, whether new or established, wants to top the billboard charts rankings. Releasing music on Friday make sure your music will be heard from the start of the period when the tracking starts for billboard charts. So the chances that your music gets attention and fan following increases.

Checkout the release dates of the upcoming songs and albums in 2023: https://www.metacritic.com/browse/albums/release-date/coming-soon/date

If you release your song or album on Friday, it has the benefit of being tracked all seven days of the week. If you choose another day to release your music, your first week will start from that day onwards. But if you go on Friday, you maximize your exposure and potential, with performance calculated as soon as the tracking begins.

3. Weekend Benefit

If there were no industry standard of releasing music on Friday, streaming playlists were not updated on Fridays, and the billboard charts were not updated on Fridays, even in that scenario, Friday would still seem like the most logical day to release your music. It is the start of a weekend! People are in the mood to tryout new music, in their cars, "in the club, bottle full of bub", or even at weekend house parties. 

In general, most of us just enjoy hearing the newest and most BUSSIN songs, as we head into what we hope is a weekend of fun, excitement.

...

"You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub"

Ya gotta release music on Friday if you want to find it "In Da Club"

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