vienna damato hall at grand river brewery

How To Make Money At Music – My Awesome Guide!

Are you a working musician?  Then you know there’s no short cuts when it comes to making money.

Being in the music industry, I see musicians struggling all the time. People play a show, and for one reason or another, they are not asked to play there again.

One of the main reasons for this is because they don’t bring enough people out!

Nobody wants to go to a show with three people in the crowd, especially when those three people are your band manager, your mom, and your friend’s mom.

I’m sure your mom is a nice lady, but I don’t want to spend my Friday night talking *Mom stereotype* with her.

empty concert one guy sitting there

It’s important to treat every show like an audition, because in the music industry, it’s safe to assume that someone is always judging you.

I’ve compiled this list of things to keep in mind when organizing a show, assuming you have any interest in a good turn out, and making a bit of money.

1.​ ​Create​ ​a​ ​Solid​ ​Social​ ​Media​ ​Presence!


A great way to get people involved is through social media – connect with other musicians through Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, etc! Connect with people who LIKE music through these social media platforms as well!  Create profiles specifically for your music, and keep them up to date!

2.​ ​GO​ ​TO​ ​OTHER​ ​SHOWS!!!

Malady band

I cannot stress this one enough! If I don’t see people show up for other shows, I am not going to their show. Plain and simple. Don’t expect people to show up for you if you cannot show up for them.

If you’re going out with friends, why not suggest going to see another local band, rather than drinking to karaoke or the radio?

3.​ ​Merch / Album Sales

Do not try to force people to buy your stuff! Don’t give albums away for free to strangers because chances are they won’t listen to them, and it’s basically saying ‘hey, I don’t value my time and art, and you don’t have to either’.

If you have merch for sale, set up a table with a trusted friend working at it to make sales throughout the night! Mention what you have available a few times throughout the night (between songs), and recommend that people go take a look!

Something along the lines of ‘If you’re digging the tunes, go talk to my friend friend’s name at the merch table over here to see what we have available’, ‘If you are enjoying the music, we have cds for sale for only cd price, t-shirts are available for t-shirt price, thanks’, etc…


4. Go to open mics!

I don’t care how often you’re playing, and how great you might think you are, going to open mics helps to promote your music, and helps you to meet other musicians who may want to collaborate with you, or play shows with you in another town!

Playing shows with other acts is a great way to network and introduce more people to your music. Go to open mics in different cities as well, just to expand your network even more!

Here is a highlight reel from a place called the Kiwi, which is a pub in my town of Cambridge, Ontario.  

While it’s true playing open mics isn’t going to give you instant fame, it’s fun and you never know who will be listening / watching.

5. BUSK!

Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re making $1000 a gig – go busk! You might not make much (or you could make a killing) but you WILL meet people who like music, and some people will ask about your music – a great opportunity to promote your music and upcoming shows!

6.​ ​Switch​ ​things​ ​up​ ​with​ ​HOW​ ​you​ ​get​ ​paid

Some shows will be offered to you with a set pay, and this will enable you to play shows that are free to the public.

Because the venue is paying you, you can let your friends come listen for free! (These are great shows to invite strangers to, they are more likely to come for free than to pay to see you at first).

Some shows will be ticketed, and if that is the case you need a few months to sell tickets. I suggest teaming up with other acts. If you are filling venues, find a local up-and-coming artist to open for you!  

This will help to give them exposure, and will help to fill your crowd. Be sure to choose similarly styled acts so that everyone enjoys it! If you are not filling venues, try a smaller venue, with a few other acts!

vienna damato hall at grand river brewery


Really ask yourself: who likes my music? How is your stage presence? Is your music exciting? Mellow? You don’t have to change anything about your music, but you might need to change who you play your music for.

If you are a fun band that gets everyone dancing, play wherever you want, it should go over well.

However, if you play more mellow music, try going for a dinner time show where people can enjoy a meal and a glass of wine, and calmly give your music a listen.


I don’t drive, and I hate the bus, but I don’t want to invite the same crowd out every week to listen to the same music, because they will get bored with it! It doesn’t matter what kind of music you play, it doesn’t matter how great your friends are, people want variety.

So play your hometown, and then give some other people a chance to play those venues.

Visit surrounding cities! Take the bus! Invite a friend!

Connect with those new social media friends you have, or those musicians you met at the open mic last month, and play a show with them in their home town! It will help you to create a following in other areas and also to make sure your hometown buddies don’t get bored and stop coming to your shows!

7.​ ​Don’t​ ​be​ ​afraid​ ​to​ ​spend​ some ​money!

There are tons of options for marketing/promo. Make posters for big shows.. Print tickets (and sell them at a discounted rate an absolute minimum of one month in advance) You can run a facebook ad for as low as $1 a day! You might have a guaranteed $50 gig, plus tips.

If you don’t get anyone out you’ll get $50 – great, but if you spend $10 for one week leading up to your gig, you might get 6 extra people out who will maybe tip $5-10 each…

You end up making $70-100 that night, just in guaranteed pay + the tips that those three couples brought. And if they don’t tip, they still might come out again for future shows and that is a great way to ensure that you are welcomed back by a venue.

Remember… a happy venue owner (who pays you) = a happy wallet!

happy pimp


As I said in the beginning, there’s no quick and easy solution to making money in the music industry these days, especially if you’re an “independent” musician.  

In other words, you can’t be lazy.  You have to be thinking on your feet all the time, and going after what you want.  It simply isn’t enough to just write songs and think that’s it.  

Nope, you gotta do a bunch more work yourself, unless you have someone who can be your manager for free, working for literal peanuts, which is highly unlikely!

This is all made to be a lot harder because you probably have to work another job, as most of us do.  So you can’t be purely devoted to your art 24/7.  

You might have to pump gas.  And that’s fine.  Anyway, I hope I showed you something useful here in this article, and I genuinely wish you luck.  

Feel free to share your stuff and comment below if you could relate to anything I said here and it wasn’t all just pops and buzzes.  😀

liv gains ontario musician

Senior editor for Ultimate-Guitar, passionate about good music and quality gear. Bassist. King Crimson fan. Travel enthusiast.
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