How To Make Money From Your Music

What I know about how to make money from your original music as a musician in Australia

How To Make Money From Your Music

4 minute read · May 1, 2024 · Written By Damien Johnson

ATTN Music Makers.

Ok, so after catching up with a great friend this morning for coffee, where we discussed the various perils of being in the music industry, I felt inspired to share, freely, what I know about how to make money from your original music as a musician in Australia.

Now note, I am specifically talking about making money directly from music, so I am not going to talk about merchandise because as far as I’m concerned, if your primary source of income comes from selling t-shirts, then your business isn’t music, your business is clothing and you just have really expensive and obscure advertising jingles.

So here it is, everything I know about making money from your ORIGINAL music as a musician in Australia in 2024.

1. Ticket Sales: This one is obvious, but if you’re writing and performing ORIGINAL music, you can make money by selling tickets to your shows. Of course the money you earn from your live performances is usually directly related to the amount of people who will pay to come watch you play and chances are, when you’re starting out, that won’t be many people, and the price they’re willing to pay probably won’t be very much, so it’s important to be realistic about the size of the venue you book and the price you put on your tickets, but this is definitely, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding ways to start generating income as a musician.

2. Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) APRA AMCOS: If you have written a song, you are entitled to a royalty every time that song is performed live. This includes when you perform it, when someone else performs it or when a recording of it is performed. These royalties may be small, but they add up. Of course, in order to receive these royalties, APRA need to know that you have written a song, so you need to register your works with them. This is FREE to do and is a very easy process. Here's their website.

3. Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited (PPCA) PPCA. Did you know that you are also entitled to royalties when a recording that you own gets used? This means that if you have released a song and it gets played on radio or television or via a digital platform, you can earn money for the recording being used (which is a subtle but important difference from your APRA royalty). Similar to APRA, in order to receive these royalties, you need to have your recordings registered with the PPCA. I’ll be honest and say their process, in comparison to APRA’s, is very cumbersome. However, if you have an account with GYROstream (here's their website), you can nominate Gyrostream to act like a publisher on your behalf, and they will take care of registering your recordings with the PPCA and collect your royalties on your behalf and distribute them back to you. Here's their website.

4. Streaming Royalties. Ok, Ok. I know, streaming platforms don’t pay much…but they pay something, even if it is only $0.003 per stream (and only after a song has had 1000 streams in the past 12 months). But even this adds up and, given that the outlay of uploading your music to digital platforms is quite low compared to pressing CD’s or printing Vinyl, it’s not a bad way to maybe pull in a few bucks here and there. To do this, you simply need to have your music distributed through a digital aggregator, such as Gyrostream or Distrokid etc. NB, Make sure you read the small print to ensure you maintain ownership of your recordings.

5. Digital Downloads. Some people still like to own a copy of your song that they can download to their own device, so selling you music on Apple Music etc can also bring you some income. Getting your music onto online stores usually occurs automatically when you distribute your music via a digital aggregator. You can also use platforms like Bandcamp, you just need to manage that yourself.

6. Physical Sales. (I put this low down the list because this one takes the biggest outlay from you and therefore may be the hardest one to gain returns on). Many people will still want to buy a physical music product from you, such as a record, CD, or even a cassette tape (although Cassette tapes are usually just for novelty purposes). The plus side of these sales is that you keep 100% of your profits and can decide what profit margin you wish to use, the down side is you usually have to produce a large quantity of product to make the ratio of the unit cost price and unit sale price attractive to both you and the consumer, and so you may find that rather than making money from physical sales you end up going into debt and end up with a box a 500 records in your garage for the next 25years.

7. Synchronisation and Music Licensing (Sync): I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have a lot of experience here and have found that the effort involved in trying to land a sync deal is immense and the outcomes are mostly out of your control, but you can make money from selling/licensing your music to be used in movie soundtracks, television shows and commercials. There are a few agencies that can assist with this, such as ‘The Sound Pound’ in Brisbane or TAXI in the USA. From my experience people looking for music to license are after very specific things, and if your music doesn’t fit exactly, it will be overlooked. Also, a lot of the agencies that act on your behalf to license your music will require you to pay annual fees that may be upwards of $300 (which does not guarantee your music will ever get placed anywhere) so it’s a risk you may not be able to afford.

Anway, this is what I have come to learn about making money as a musician. I want to stress that I am sharing anecdotally from my own experience, and whilst I give this information in good faith that it is true and accurate, I must caveat that you fact check things for yourself. Happy music making!