The music industry is not designed for you to understand


It’s a bold statement right? But it’s true, the music industry is not designed for you to be able to understand it.

So I have been thinking about this topic for some time...

It is something that I think is soo important I have resisted writing it. But I think it is soo important I want to put it out there!

I am going to take the very basics, condense them down and give you a summarised version. If you want to be in the music industry learning and constantly educating yourself is a must!

Here goes …….

The Music Industry is not designed for you to understand

It is no secret the music industry is a shady place. 

A world that's full of bad deals, newcomers, and established behemoths looking to make as much money as possible!

Contrast this with people who just want to make great songs and get those songs heard!

It's a match made in nightmare heaven!

Goldman Sachs estimate that the music industry’s revenue will increase from $62 billion in 2017...

To a whopping $131 billion by 2030!

If reading is not your thing check out our video on this whole article below:

So who is getting all of this money?

In recent years we have seen Taylor Swift pull her music from Spotify for unfair compensation.

Old school pioneers like Gary Numan complained that he only saw £37 (approx $50 USD) from over a million streams.

But this is not a new phenomenon!

In 1993, the Artist, Prince, became the artist formerly known as prince.

He did this in protest of unfair treatment from his label.

As they had great control over the amount of music he could release, and he felt trapped!

Did you know? There are rumoured to be over 500 unreleased Prince songs!

Watch Prince on YouTube

Who wins in the music industry?

As can be seen in the above introduction. The music industry makes a great deal of money.

In fact $62 billion in just 2017 alone!

For the most part, great musicians are making great music.

Therefore, why do people struggle to enter this industry and make a consistent modest income?

No parent says to their child, “Go to school, study, and become a musician!”

For many parents, it's right up there with clown college.

And for some reason, most people don’t see music as a viable career choice.

But given the amount of revenue being generated, the low barrier to entry of quality production, and the ability to reach fans in a variety of ways, for free or very little cost...

There has never been a better time to stake your claim!

So, why do people think music is not a "proper" or "real" career?

It is very simple!...

The Music Industry is not designed for people to understand.

People are naturally wary of things they do not understand.

The structures in the music industry are complicated

This is by design. 

You need to make music, package it, put it out there, promote it and then make sure you get paid.

Major Record labels and Music Publishers have systems in place to deal with everything for you!

However, if you take this option you never get to truly know the process and how to make it work to your advantage.

How does the $9.99 per month fee paid to Spotify or Apple music get distributed between the songs you listened to?

What happens if a song gets played on the radio, or included on a Netflix programme?

All of this is a minefield!

There's no wonder why you would rather have someone take care of it for you!

Rates of pay across all different platforms vary.

There are also different rates of pay depending on which country a song is played in...

Different rates for a premium account, and accounts subsidised by advertising.

If you have ever seen a royalty statement, you will know it can be hundreds of pages long.

Containing line after line after line of entries from all around the world. Looking at it is a headache, let alone auditing it!

Who watches the watchers?

The 5 main sources of income for musicians

Here is the unfortunate truth...

In order to make music and get people to hear it, you need to be able to make money.

As you need money for equipment...

Otherwise, how will you buy a computer, a microphone, and a decent DAW?

How will you get the services you need like artwork, mastering, or promotion?

As a musician, you are a business person.

The art you put out into the world is your Business

And it's tough! Even if you've won the lottery and do have some money just lying around!

Let alone if you have a job that drains your most valuable resource - TIME

But do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having money already.

And if you do that's great news!

If that's the case you will still need to use it wisely, and use it in a way that results in you generating income on the backend.

Otherwise, it is just money down the drain.

There is also nothing wrong with having a job whilst building a music career.

In most cases, the wisest suggestion may be to ensure you do not just up and leave everything and go all in before the time is right to do so!

You may have to simply endure and then you can use that steady income to find your feet, get feedback, and start building your fan base.

Once you figure out your route to success or at least think you have!...

Now is the time to jump in full time!

We created this graphic to show you the main 5 ways musicians can monetize their art, they include:

  • Services
  • Royalties
  • Live Performance
  • Merchandise
  • Endorsements & Sponsorships
5 music industry revenue streams


If you are a musician, you have a skill. This skill is also a service that you can monetize. Just as you need to collaborate with or hire others, someone out there needs you!

Most of the time you're just not looking at it the right way or through the correct lens.

Get out of your own way!

With over 40k songs uploaded every day to Spotify, there has never been a better time to stake your claim in the new DIY musician revolution.

So what are some of the services that you can offer as a musician?


The first thing it takes to be a successful musician is top-quality sound.

Let’s start small and work our way up!

When it comes to sound-based skills...

Let’s say you don't play any instrument, you have no music studio, and no mixing or mastering abilities but...

You do have your voice!


If you have a great voice put it to work!

Ultimately your goal is to get yourself known, both by fans and behind the scenes.

Getting paid to collaborate is a win-win.

So there are two main ways that you can capitalise on this.

Firstly you can get paid to feature on a song.

Why would someone want you to feature?

Maybe you can bring something to the song they can not.

Are you a singer whose vocal would sit perfectly on the hook?

Would a verse from you take it to the next level?

Could the audience you have built help the purchaser to reach a brand new audience and gain credibility?

Secondly, you can record guide vocals.

What is a guide vocal and why would someone want one?

A guide vocal is recorded in the early stages of a project.

Producers and songwriters use these to send to performers, labels, or publishers.

They do this in order to give the recipient a better idea of how a finished song will sound.

These vocals will be replaced later in the project by the desired recording artist.

If you are a producer or songwriter and you want an artist to use your song...

Do you think it’s a good idea to just send the instrumental with the lyrics in a Word doc? That is no way to get your message across fully!

Record labels and music publishers are also always looking for new songs.

It is how they make their money.

People get bored quickly so they constantly need new material.

Often they have trusted contacts that they communicate with regarding their needs.

They will likely say “looking for a song that sounds like X”...

Or “looking for a song in the style of Z”

One sure way to give your song the best chance is to have an awesome guide track. 

If you can offer your vocals as a service, what are you waiting for?

Studio time

Many artists or producers either do not have or simply do not feel like they need a permanent studio!

That said, of course, there are some barriers to having a music studio.

Having all of your equipment costs serious money (try not to think about it).

There is the real estate it occupies...

Maybe traveling between locations is necessary therefore having a whole setup is just not feasible.

Also, there is skill. Who makes a greater audio engineer than you!

If you have a music studio, large or small! It might just be what another musician needs. 

Having your studio available to hire is a great way to supplement your musical income.


Have you got some great equipment, awesome plugins, and skill?

Perhaps you have spent hours and hours scouring YouTube and you have found an awesome sound?

There are levels to the music game!

And I can guarantee, if you're good, there is someone out there who would hire you to take their song to where it needs to be.

If you have some clout and have worked on great songs or with well-known artists. Don’t be afraid to monetise your mixing skills.


Arguably one of the most important parts of the song creation process is Mastering.

If you have this skill it is highly in demand!

Many music projects can get held up at this stage.

So if you have the skills and can deliver on time you are on your way to success!

Build a good reputation as a mastering engineer and this can really move the needle on your music finances.

Session player

Do you play an instrument?

You can make great additional income for your music career as a session player.

Some session players earn over $100k per year

If you play a real-life instrument this can be a great addition to any production.

Nowadays there are many plugins and VST's but sometimes you just need the real thing!

Whether it is an acoustic guitar recording or something more unique like violin or saxophone...

As a musician looking to make music a career, or to improve your earning possibilities you need to put yourself out there!

Do not self impose limits.

Some producers may also be looking for a Midi that they can manipulate and edit as they need.

So if you can play the keys make sure you let people know!


When a song is made, a plethora of royalties are created.

Music royalties are the lifeblood of the entire music industry. This is where the real money is made. But it is a gift and a curse.

It is also the hardest part to fully get to grips with.

Furthermore, there is a lot of contradicting information on this subject.

You just have to put the work in, do your best and keep learning!

At Indiy we have some great articles to help you get started.

Rather than re-capping it here, I will put you onto the articles here:

Live Music

Watching your favourite musician play live is an amazing thing to do...

Unfortunately, since the beginning of 2020 live music has taken a real hit!

We all hope that this gets better as soon as possible.

Hopefully, by the time you see this, we are well back onto the road to recovery.

However, for our learning of the music industry, this really highlights why you should not have all of your eggs in one basket.

If you are a live musician you need to think about how you can diversify your revenue streams.


Now a great way to increase the lifetime value of your listeners is to invest your efforts into creating merchandise.

More commonly known as 'merch'.

You need to be creative and stand out.

Whilst at the same time it needs to match your branding and make sense.

In the event that you are not able to create the designs yourself, you can hire a pro!

If designing merch and branding is your forte you can offer this to other musicians. 

If you want someone else to take care of the logistics of getting your merchandise to fans (meaning printing and delivery) then you should check out

Endorsements and sponsorships

If people like what you do they may very well want to become patrons.

With the arrival of social media, there are now many avenues to gain sponsorship.

You can do this directly with your fans using sites like Patreon.

Brands are also always looking to partner with musicians who can build their visibility among the musicians' fans.

To get to this point you need to put the hard work in.

Without a fanbase or people believing in your vision you will struggle here.

However, the more you put into the previous four areas the more likely and quicker you are to get here.

Round up

In summary, the music business is a huge industry!

Ensuring that you make money, and therefore stay creating and doing what you love is crucial to us here on Indiy.

Get started as soon as you can, learn and build.

A great methodology to employ is the 1000 true fans theory

Hopefully, this article has helped you to break down the different ways revenue is generated.

You need to be always learning in this industry...

Things are changing all the time so make sure you stay up to date!

Lastly do not forget to get your free copy of my book How to get started in the music industry right here.


Indiy exists to help people create great music!

Did you know 40 thousand songs are uploaded to Spotify every day!

We want to hear about what you do, what makes you special and share it with the world!

Submit to be interviewed for Indiy Spotlight, its 100% FREE Just click here for your music interview

If you are working on new material, we have partnered with Audio Mastering to offer mastering on your next release from just £2 per song (approx $2.75 USD) - Check the offer out here

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Founder of Indiy I believe that Independent musicians can make music and make money. Without money, there is no art! I believe together we can build a new better music industry

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