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A little extra cash for musicians

Here's a very quick list of things I have experimented with to inject a bit of cash into my musical career. Some are obvious, some are creative, others are downright ugly! Sometimes, in order to continue your career and support a family, you have to collect all the tiny fragments of income you can.

1. Sell your music - this seems overly obvious but it's amazing how many people don't even try to sell the music they have created. Get it recorded to a decent standard and get it out there! Uploading your music to digital services can be as low as £19! I've used DittoMusic in the past and they seem pretty good. Another good choice is CDbaby.com

2. Claim your royalties - Once you have music streaming on digital platforms then you are entitled to royalties. Okay, they won't be massive to start with, but this blog is about grabbing every last penny. I suggest signing yourself up to PRS for music (Nominal Fee) and/or Sentric (Free). You can also sign up to PPL even if you are not the owner of the music (as in, you are not the composer). If you have performed on a track then every time that is played in public you have royalty rights.

3. Don't buy s**t you don't need! - Too many musicians get drawn into the idea of new gear will make them sound better. The sales and marketing teams know exactly how to press your buttons! Don't be lured in by the promise of a great sound, most of it is down to you. My simple advice - buy something really good and stick with it! When I buy something new I try to justify the decision by asking myself "how many gigs will it take to pay for it?"

4. Buy through your business - If you are a professional, or even remotely close to a professional then you own a business - it's you! Even if you got paid £30 for a summer garden party then you can offset your purchases against the income you earned. All my instruments are owned by my business and I can factor in depreciation through my accounts. I also claim all servicing and insurance costs so that my tools of the trade are in peak condition. It's worth talking to a local accountant about it. I'd also highly recommend Bryan James Musical Instrument Insurance

5. Get physical - It's time to think outside the box a little bit. Whilst I would love to dedicate 100% of my time to music (actually it would be more like 50% music and 50% family), the reality is that it's very difficult. One option for extra income and the added bonus of being outdoors and active, is odd jobs and gardening. Everyone can think of a few jobs that need doing and many have friends that would be willing to offer a bit of cash to walk their dog or mow their lawn. It's not pretty and it might hurt your ego but it's healthy and it may surprise you how much you enjoy being active in the fresh air! It also, believe it or not, acts as a catalyst for your practice as after a long day of manual labour, it's amazing how fired up you feel. I have built fences, trimmed hedges, cut down trees, cleaned guttering and facias (even with my pitiful fear of heights), attacked rose bushes and laid gravel drives. Even if you don't get paid for the work you do, if you own the property then you are saving having to pay someone else to do it.

6. Making money online - This is the dream isn't it? Post a few viral videos on YouTube and watch the money come rolling in? Yes, it's possible but it's also highly unlikely. However, if you have more realistic expectations then you can earn small amounts of money. YouTube is a good start, but the new settings restrict you from monetising your channel until you have at least 1000 subscribers. It's a good way to offer your customers/fans a bit more content though and you may see increased sales in your music or more prospective students if you have an online presence. The same applies for social media. I would avoid advertising until you have researched it fully and you are sure you have something good to sell. Facebook will tempt you to boost the post to reach more people but if it doesn't have a call to action then it's not really worth it. I would suggest setting up a bandcamp page (here's mine) to sell your music and merchandise and sell on your own website.

7. Wheeler dealer - you should have experience and expertise in your field and you can use this to your advantage to offer people good deals on equipment. Don't try to rip people off but if you pick up a cheap saxophone at a car boot sale, service it and sell it on for a profit then good for you. Be warned though, not all nice gear is what people want. Try to think like a salesperson and know your market, otherwise you'll be conflicting with point 3 above!

8. The ugly - if you thought gardening and dog walking was bad, then this may not be for you! There are lots of companies that will pay small amounts of money for either your data, your opinion or your location. I have earned money for market research, questionnaires, review writing and data checking. There are apps these days that make the whole process very easy. Try searching the app store for Enlightly, People.IO, OnePulse, i-say, bemyeye, jobspotter for starters. I'm sure there are a lot more. It's soul destroying and menial but I've used some of the income to buy my kids christmas presents! You could also try the debatable and highly risky act of match betting. Its actually more legit than you may think and not risky unless you lose track of things. Search online for a thorough guide and an odds calculator. If you also sign up and bet through a mediator like TopCashBack then you can earn even more! You may laugh at Cashback sites, but I bought a £2000 boiler for my house with the income I made on TopCashBack

9. Save - as with point 3, part of the challenge is to not spend money. Saving with a bank will not earn you a great deal but there are alternatives, albeit with slightly more risk. If you are not a risk taker then check for the best rate with a trusted high street brand. If you squirrel away a little bit each month and forget about it, then the compound interest will help turn it into a nice surprise. A good option for this is a 10 year bond plan. You can also try more risky short or long term investments with people like property moose or funding circle

10. Online Market Trading - this is something I have dabbled with and to be honest, I've done quite well. However, this is by far the riskiest option; it is essentially gambling. If you want to experiment with this then be prepared to lose money as you would putting all your money on red in a casino! I would suggest using a free practice feature offered by Plus500 or Trading212. If you want to make money quick then you can make short term investments and see quick profits but this is also exactly how you will lose money quickly! Most smart investors know that making money on the stock exchange is a long game and it's best not to have an app where you keep checking it every 5 mins. It will drive you crazy!

11. Affilates - yes, it's true that some (not all) of my links on this blog are linked to affiliate programs. I hope you have already worked out that I am not some sort of financial guru. I'm just a musician trying to stay a musician! If you like a certain product then in my mind it's perfectly acceptable to tell people about it and gain some commission. It's actually quite rare that I really rave on about a certain bit of gear or a service. When I do find something though, I tell a few choice people and hope they can get the benefits too. There are many big affiliate program schemes and if you have a strong social media presence then it can lead to extra income.

12. Endorsements - When you get good and you don't need the money as badly, ironically, people start throwing free stuff at you! Whether it's branded clothing for your instagram account, a HD camera for your YouTube channel or free guitars....just because everyone loves guitars! It's best to do the leg work first and expect the endorsements later but it doesn't hurt to contact companies and try.

So there you have it, a small guide to some of the desperate measures I have taken to pay bills and keep my music alive. I haven't sold a kidney or signed up for drug trials but I have tested out lots of very accessible avenues for income. If you have it in mind that rather than trying to catch a really big fish, you catch many, many small, almost insignificant fish, then you will have a good meal at the end of the day! Good luck and please post ideas and experiences you may have had below. I'd love to hear your feedback.