5 Not-So-Obvious Revenue Streams for Musicians

By Cliff Dumas
CMA, ACM & CCMA Winning Broadcaster

Making a career out of your music ability is the dream of virtually every musician. But how do you do that? Who do you trust? How do you create sustainable revenue? Here are some excellent not so obvious revenue stream suggestions from Michael St. James founder and creative director of St. James Media.


A version of this article originally appeared on Performer Magazine.

You’ve probably seen many lists outlining revenue opportunities. Here’s a little twist on not just learning what they are, but also how to utilize them. In fact, some of these may never have even occurred to you. Here are five ways you start making money from your music right now!

1. Master/sync licenses

Photo from mollaeilaw.com

By far, this should be the most important part of your music business plan now. In other words, this is where the real money is. Without boring you with music publishing and rights laws, here’s a basic breakdown.
If you wrote and paid to record your own music, you are the songwriter, publisher, and label. This gives you an advantage over most majors, as they have separate labels and publishers to grant licenses for the master and sync rights respectfully. You can negotiate a deal granting the master (recording) and the sync (underlying song) rights all by yourself. This is called a “one-stop” or “pre-cleared” deal.

Every entertainment medium needs music: commercials, TV shows, movies, local news, web campaigns, and games. Try to start local first; find a local restaurant, car dealership, even a local filmmaker. Understand their messaging, then pair a track with it for your pitch.

2. YouTube monetization

youtubeSet up your YouTube channel to allow monetization, and choose ads that are less than 30 seconds (unless they’re trailers). Fifteen-second entertainment ads pay best but can’t be skipped. Every song you’ve ever recorded should have at least an album cover video and a lyric video. Uploading these gets your music into the YouTube content ID system, and you’ll earn a percentage of the revenue share with Google on the ads.

But the key here is to have your music available for other content creators (like your brother’s sister-in-law in her basement making fashion videos) to use simply and in a way it makes you money.

That’s right. If complete strangers need to use music for their videos on YouTube, and your music is available, it’s free for them to use, but you get paid. You must administer those rights on the platform and be a partner. This is a little-known secret: you cannot do this on your own, and you will not get paid if your music isn’t administered properly. So use a service like Audiam or Rumblefish, which charge a 25 percent admin rate off of the top.

Think outside the box here. You could use your own songs to do a tutorial lesson on bass, guitar, or vocals. You could break down one of your song’s structures and boom – another video. Add an audio track to one of your songs, explaining the life moment behind its writing.

3. Instrumentals

Photo from Rappingmanual.com
Photo from Rappingmanual.com

Probably the most important facet of lost musician revenue is the lack of a clean instrumental track. To effectively license music and make sure you have as many chances as possible for uses, make sure that you have an instrumental version (no vocals) and a “TV-up version” (just background vocals – “oohs” and “ahhs”), as well as a separate vocals-only track in addition to the final master mix of the song.
So, you have four “songs” now:
• full mix (regular song)
• instrumental (no vocals)
• TV-up (just background vocals)
• separated vocals (acappella)
There are countless times when a song cannot be used because of a lyric here or there, or the vocal just doesn’t hit the right emotion. Sometimes you can get the same money for 30 seconds of the bridge without vocals as you could for the whole song. This is imperative.

4. Shazam

shazam logoShazam might be one of the most important drivers of the future of music. Industry insiders are watching these charts very closely – trust me.
To get your music onto the platform, first make sure you have a distribution service (like CD Baby, The Orchard, TuneCore, etc.) in place, then ask them to submit your music to the Shazam database. Once you’re in Shazam’s ecosystem, tag your own song and save it. Then, plan a “Shazam Party” by asking all of your fans to download Shazam (free), then play that song on their computer or stereo at a time (like Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. EST), and all Shazam it at once.You’ll hit the top of local charts and possibly larger ones. It will get you noticed and might lead to a larger licensing deal.

5. SoundExchange

sound exchangeYou know of PROs that collect for performance royalties, but they only do that for songwriting, publishing, and composition. SoundExchange administers the statutory license for satellite radio and web-casters. They collect for the recording owner and featured artist. Think about this way: Aretha Franklin didn’t write “Respect,” nor did she own the publishing or the master recording. But she is that song, plain and simple. So why shouldn’t she be paid every time that song is played? Well, that’s what SoundExchange does – only for satellite and web radio (non-interactive, like Pandora). No terrestrial radio (yet).

Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specialising in music licensing, publishing, production, and artist development.

In Conversation with Original Song winner Katie Francis

The Claim2Fame Podcast is a resource for artists

Every episode features successful artists and industry experts sharing compelling stories and valuable knowledge about the music industry hosted by CMA, ACM & CCMA Award Winning Broadcaster Cliff Dumas.

Cliff talks to Claim2Fame Original Song winner Katie Francis

Katie Francis

Katie is a country singer from Toronto. She won First Place in Claim2Fame’s Original Song contest for her song,

Katie won, $5000 Dollars in cash and a personal training session with American Idol Associate Music Producer Michael Orland. Michael has mentored every American Idol contestant from Kelly Clarkson to Carrie Underwood and has appeared on Oprah, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and The Ellen Show. Katie also won a vocal training session with American Idol Vocal Coach Peisha McPhee, Peisha has worked with some of music’s top producers and songwriters, including Jimmy Iovine (Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Gwen Stefani, U2), Tricky Stewart (Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Justin Beiber) and trained her own daughters Adriana and Katharine McPhee. Katie’s prize package also included a private mentoring session with Andy Curran General Manager of Label services-A&R for ole and media training with Hall of Fame Broadcaster Cliff Dumas.

In Conversation With American Idol Winner Trent Harmon

The Claim2Fame Podcast is a resource for artists

Every episode features successful artists and industry experts sharing compelling stories and valuable knowledge about the music industry hosted by CMA, ACM & CCMA Award Winning Broadcaster Cliff Dumas. (Co-Host of syndicated Cliff and Sharon radio show)

Cliff talks to American Idol winner Trent Harmon about winning the final season. How he almost gave up on music the night before qualifying for AI, his first single and advice for young artists hoping for a career in music.


trent-harmonTrent holds the reigning title as American Idol. The Season XV victor originally hails from East Mississippi and immersed himself in music from an early age. From singing “Amazing Grace” with his family to starring in various musicals in college, Trent credits life on his family’s farm as a major influence on his music career. Less than one week after taking the title during the final season of American Idol, Trent entered the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, earning him a “hot shot debut” with coronation song “Falling,” which was written by Idol judge Keith Urban along with celebrated songwriters Dallas Davidson and Brett James. Already in the studio, the 25-year-old musician is eager to begin recording his self-described “Country-soul” album and recently released his debut single “There’s A Girl” on FOX & Friends’ Summer Concert Series. Critics raved week-after-week following each of Trent’s “vocally gifted” (LA Times) performances as he covered hits by Justin Timberlake, Sia, Parson James, Percy Sledge and more. For the latest updates, follow Trent on Twitter.

This interview was courtesy of the syndicated radio show: Cliff and Sharon

*Photo courtesy of Getty Images

In Conversation With American Idol Music Producer Michael Orland

The Claim2Fame Podcast is a resource for artists

Every episode features successful artists and industry experts sharing compelling stories and valuable knowledge about the music industry hosted by CMA, ACM & CCMA Award Winning Broadcaster Cliff Dumas.

Cliff talks to Michael about what young artists can learn from Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and other Idol contestants.


Michael with CarrieMichael was the Pianist, Arranger and Associate Musical Director for the hit FOX-TV series AMERICAN IDOL its entire run (14 seasons). Michael has appeared on OPRAH, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, ACCESS HOLLYWOOD and a record number of appearances on THE ELLEN SHOW. At the end of every IDOL season, Michael also accompanies the top 3 contestants to New York for appearances on REGIS & KELLY, CBS EARLY SHOW, and concerts on the plaza for THE TODAY SHOW. He has collaborated with music industry giants such as Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Diane Warren, Elton John, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Jennifer Lopez, and Tony Bennett all as a result of American Idol. He also served as a pianist/coach for the successful summer series AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (Seasons 1 & 2) and a few seasons back AMERICAN JUNIORS and has Associate Produced two hit singles (GOD BLESS THE U.S.A. and WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE) for

Sites and resources discussed on this Podcast:

American Idol Associate Producer, Michael Orland Michael
Great resource: The Artist’s Way
American Vocal Coach Peisha McPhee
Claim2Fame’s 25K Giveaway.

Why Do You Want A Career in Music? Great Post By Aaron Pritchett

By Cliff Dumas
CMA, ACM & CCMA Winning Broadcaster

If your reason for wanting a career in music is fame and fortune, you should rethink your strategy.

Instead ask, “Do I love making music, and is it my passion?” If your sole purpose for following a career in music is money, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. The first rule of successful entrepreneurship is to do what you love and success will follow. I know it’s easy to say but more challenging to implement especially when you have bills to pay. Here is a powerful and insightful Facebook post by Canadian Country artist Aaron Pritchett about why he makes music.

Tamar_Make_Up-Aaron_Pritchett-01FAaron Pritchett

I want to make a public statement that is truly coming from the heart.
I don’t make music to be rich. I don’t make music to be famous, popular or put on a pedestal.
I make music for two reasons:
1.) Because I LOVE making music!
2.) In hopes that fans, friends and family love what I (and my team) have created.
Even back when albums, records or whatever you want to call them, sold millions and made artists, record labels, agents, managers and everyone else in the music industry many MORE millions of dollars, I truly believe that the massive majority of those artists did it because of the same two reasons above. If not the second reason then for SURE the first.

I don’t sit and write songs, spent (and still spend) sometimes endless hours in studio recording, take 2 hours out of my life for a gig and play on a stage exerting all that energy, stress about the success (or lack of success sometimes) about a single or album, deal with all facets of the industry that may frustrate me and emotionally beat the shit out of me BECAUSE I HAVE TO! I do all of that because I LOVE to make music and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to entertain. It’s in my blood, folks. It really, honestly is. I can remember to when I was a very young boy, possibly around 3 or 4 and all I wanted to do was to make people laugh… make them feel good and happy. It’s my duty in life to do that. Music was my avenue to have people feel that way and it makes me feel good that I can help humans feel that. Fans, industry colleagues, family, anyone anywhere. It’s because I LOVE making music and making people happy.

It’s true, the industry is not what it once was when those aforementioned artists, record labels, agents, managers, industry types would all make a great amount of money off the success of a single and record. Nowadays, we get by with about 60% to 70% less income from the sale of music but in no way can I complain about that, though. It doesn’t matter. I’m truly happy and sincerely honoured to be able to say that people do download my music, some still buy CD’s (thankfully!) at places like HMV, etc. and have it make them happy. I’m truly happy for that.
That being said…. if you’d like to download my new song “Dirt Road In ‘Em” because you like it and it makes you feel good n’ happy then I would be much, much appreciative. Here’s the link.

Please help support other artists in Canada too! Such as…George Canyon, Brett Kissel, Madeline Merlo, Emerson Drive, Tim Hicks, Dean Brody, Paul Brandt, JoJo Mason, Cory Marquardt, Dallas Smith, Chad Brownlee, Jess Moskaluke, Jordan Macintosh, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Cold Creek County, Bobby Wills and so many more!!!

A great supporter of Canadian Country artists that has great current charts and lots of info on all the artists is topcountry.ca. Check them out!!
Thank you for reading and THANK YOU for the support over the years!

The take away?

Approach your music career with the right attitude, commitment and discipline needed to continually polish your skills and attain the success you are hoping for. The music industry isn’t easy; there is no magic template for success. The only constant is the time and energy you put into advancing your career through learned and practised skills. Explore resources, reach out to people you admire, make connections and most important make the music you love!

Enjoy ‘Light It Up” from Aaron:

Why You Should Release a Lyric Video for Your Next Single

By Cliff Dumas
CMA, ACM & CCMA Winning Broadcaster

Today’s technology allows artist to produce music videos at a fraction of the cost of even a few years ago. Everything from simple solo acoustic performances to full productions can now be done using an iPhone and simple software. A recent episode of the hit TV show Modern Family was shot completely on an iPhone 6! You can produce and release your own music, build a following and learn to monetize that audience.

Consider producing a lyric video, here’s why, according to Mike Baldo senior account manager of video services at The Orchard.


A version of this article originally appeared on The Daily Rind.

film reel purchased from shutterstockAs YouTube carves out a larger space in the music community, the way music videos are being made and consumed is changing. With millions of artists and creators collaborating constantly, stunning music videos have been made that sometimes challenge typical production conventions. Along with YouTube’s Music Key, there are now multiple forms a music video can take. This combined with a lower barrier to entry has given rise to excellent alternatives you can consider when deciding how to publish your music on an evolving video streaming platform.

Building off of YouTube Art Tracks

With the launch of YouTube Music Key, you’ve probably started to see an influx of Art Tracks in the system (here’s one if you haven’t seen them yet). These simple videos are a great way to get your full catalogue out to viewers and improve your chances for discovery. They expand your presence and give viewers more of your content to listen to. But you can do better.

Though a great addition to YouTube’s massive collection, Art Track videos provide a more passive viewing experience. Because the only visual is a static image, typical viewers press play, then move onto something else as they listen to the video in the background. This is still good because you’ve got them listening, but it cuts down on engagement and your potential to draw the viewer closer.
A creative, yet simple lyric video could give you that extra hook to keep the viewer around your video longer. These typically incorporate animated text synched with audio to guide the viewer through each song. There are some amazing, intricate lyric videos out there, but that doesn’t mean you have to necessarily go that far with yours. A clean and punchy lyric video with nothing but colorful moving text could be all you need to get your fans following along. This sets your video aside from other Art Tracks and gives you more of a unique viewing experience for your fans.

Alternatives to the MTV-style music video

Photo from Newnoisemagazine.com

For better or worse, the days of tuning into awesome, cinematic music videos on MTV have been swallowed whole by reality TV marathons (RIP). These music videos still exist in part on YouTube and VEVO, but they’re being consumed and advertised against differently than in the old days, making the ROI of a huge video production more questionable. This is both good and bad news depending on how you look at it.

Producing and shooting a classic MTV-style music video costs tens of thousands of dollars. When MTV was the only way to watch music videos, this was a painful but necessary struggle. Though these types of videos are still being made, they’re no longer the unshakable standard. Since YouTube broke down the barriers of entry for publishing videos to the world, indie artists and major labels alike have found better ways to create videos for their music.

By embracing a more open community of viewers and creators, many artists have turned to lyric videos as a fast and cost-effective alternative to full video production. Because lyric videos don’t necessarily require a live shoot, location, scheduling, and casting can be removed from the process. With less of a logistical headache, these videos are often faster to create and publish, which is huge if tight deadlines are imminent.

Though a great animator could still run up your production costs, you at least have options and some room to work with. By keeping your ideas simple, a good animator can get you an excellent lyric video relatively quickly and for much cheaper than a traditional music video shoot. Make no mistake though, lyric videos aren’t just a cheap hack for indie artists on a budget. Huge pop acts like One Direction and Ariana Grande have used lyric videos to premiere Top 40 singles, generating millions of views.

If you have the budget to hire a crew and shoot an amazing music video, by all means do it. These are clearly the heavy-hitters of the music video world, but not always in the best way. Conversely, not having that budget doesn’t mean you’re limited to just Art Tracks. If you can create something in the middle with a clever, catchy lyric video, you’ve set yourself apart.

Mike Baldo is the Senior Account Manager of Video Services at The Orchard a pioneering music, video and film distribution company and top-ranked Multi Channel Network operating in more than 25 global markets.