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The Top 42 Ways Artists Make Money Today — Shocklee Entertainment Universe ● The Future Frequency

The Top 42 Ways Artists Make Money Today

The Future of Music Coalition set out to gain information on how artists are making their money these days so over the course of a few months, they reviewed the financial records of artists, interviewed 80 musicians and composers and held an online survey that 5,000 people took part in.

The Artist Revenue Streams project is a multi-method, cross-genre examination of how US-based musicians’ revenue streams are changing, and why.

Results of the survey are now available with more info rolling out through June 2012. Check out the findings:

If you’re a musician or composer, you probably have a basic sense of the ways you can make money. Some revenue streams are simple to understand, like playing shows, or selling CDs or t-shirts. But there are many, many more ways that musicians can earn money from their compositions, performances, sound recordings, brand, or knowledge of the craft. We list 40 of them below.

As you read the list, remember that a song has two copyrights: [1] the musical composition, which includes the notes and lyrics, and [2] the sound recording, which is the performance of a musical composition. So if you hear Patsy Cline singing “Crazy” which was written by Willie Nelson, Willie created the musical composition when he wrote down the notes and lyrics. Patsy created the sound recording when she performed Willie’s song, and it was captured on tape. As you browse the list, it’s important to keep these distinctions in mind since there are many times when different parts of the creative team are paid differently.

“These case studies offer an unprecedented look at how real musicians and composers earn a living,” said project co-director Jean Cook, who spent many months sifting through individual artists’ tax returns, Quicken files and PRO royalty statements to pull together this data. “Our hope is to start a public conversation about how roles, time, investment and other factors combine as essential components in musicians’ lives. What is revealed is a complex and profound intersection that musicians must negotiate every day.”

“I think these case studies provide musicians, and the field at large, with a real sense of how today’s musicians are knitting together a career,” added co-director, Kristin Thomson. “For some folks, there are just a handful of core revenue streams. For others, it’s a truly mind-boggling amount of sources. They might be juggling live performances, recordings and session work, with a bit of composing money here, and some CD sales there. To see the range of streams laid out as a chart is, for me, both exciting and humbling. These case studies really underscore the diversity of the musical landscape, and what musicians do, routinely, to make it work.”

Here are the top 42 Ways artists make money today:


01. Publisher advance
02. Mechanical Royalties
03. Commissions
04 Public Performance (PRO) Royalties
05. Composing Original Works for Broadcast
06. Synch Licenses
07. Sheet Music Sales
08. Ringtones Revenue
09. ASCAPLUS Awards Program
10. Publisher Settlement


11. Salary as Member of Orchestra or Ensemble
12. Shows/Performance Fees
13. Record Label Advance
14. Record Label Support
15. Retail Sales
16. Digital Sales
17. Sales at Shows
18. Interactive Service Payments
19. Digital Performance Royalties
20. AARC Royalties
21. Neighboring Rights Royalties
22. AFM/Secondary Markets Fund
23. AFM/Sound Recording Special Payments
24. AFTRA Contingent Scale
25. Label Settlements


26. Session Musician/Sideman Fees for Studio Work
27. Session Musician/Sideman Fees for Live Work
28. AFM/AFTRA Payments


29. Music Teacher
30. Producer
31. Honoraria or Speakers Fees


32. Merchandise Sales
33. Fan Club
34. YouTube Partner Program
35. Ad Revenue
36. Persona Licensing
37. Product Endorsements
38. Acting


39. Fan Funding
40. Sponsorship
41. Grants


42. Arts Administrator

The Future of Music Coalition is a national non-profit education, research and advocacy organization that seeks a bright future for creators and listeners. Here’s more info on how you can support the organization and the Artist Revenue Streams Project.



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