42 Revenue Streams

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. Don’t worry if it feels like too much to keep in your head at once — we get confused, too! Just take a deep breath and dive back in.

Songwriter/Composer | Recording Artist | Performer | Session/Freelancer | Knowledge of Craft | Brand
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1. Publisher Advance
Bulk payment to songwriter/composer as part of a publishing deal. Paid to songwriter/composer by publishing company.
2. Mechanical Royalties
Royalties generated through the licensed reproduction of recordings of your songs — either physical or digital. Paid to songwriter/composer by publisher, label, Harry Fox, or digital aggregator like CD Baby or Tunecore.
3. Commissions
Typically a request from an ensemble, presenter, orchestra or other entity for a composer to create an original work for them.
4. Public Performance (PRO) Royalties
Revenue generated when your songs are played on radio, TV, in clubs and restaurants. Paid to songwriter/composer/publisher by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC.
5. Streaming Mechanical Royalties
Revenue generated when your songs are streamed on on-demand services (Rhapsody, Spotify, Rdio). Paid to publisher by Harry Fox or other mechanical licensing agent. Publisher then pays songwriter/composer.
6. Composing Original Works for Broadcast
Typically a commercial request to compose an original jingle, soundtrack, score, or other musical work for a film, TV or cable show, or an ad agency. Paid to songwriter/composer by agency requesting the work.
7. Synch Licenses
Typically involves licensing an existing work for use in a movie, documentary, TV, video games, internet, or a commercial. Paid to songwriters/composers either via publisher or record label, or via a direct licensing deal with the licensee (movie studio, ad agency, etc) if you are self-published.
8. Sheet Music Sales
Revenue generated by the sale or licensed reproduction of songs/compositions as sheet music. Paid to songwriter/composer by publisher, or directly from purchasers if you are selling it on your website or at performances.
9. Lyric Display
Revenue generated by the licensed display of song lyrics. Online lyric sites pay publishers, which then pay songwriter/composer.
10. Ringtones Revenue
Generated from licensing your songs/compositions for use as ringtones. Paid to songwriter/composer via your publisher, your label or Harry Fox.
11. ASCAPLUS Awards Program
Awarded by ASCAP to writer members of any genre whose performances are primarily in venues outside of broadcast media.
12. Publisher Settlement
Payment from publishers to writers for litigation settlements.
13. Record Label Advance
Paid to artist as part of signing a deal.
14. Record Label Support
Money from label for recording or tour support.
15. Retail Sales
Revenue generated from selling physical music in retail stores or via mailorder. Paid to artist/performer by your label, or services like CD Baby or Bandcamp that help musicians sell physical product.
16. Digital Sales
Revenue generated from selling music digitally/online. Paid to artist/performer by your label, or digital aggregators like CD Baby or TuneCore, or directly from fans via services like Bandcamp.
17. Sales at Shows
Revenue generated from selling recordings of music at shows/live performances. Paid to artist/performer directly by fans.
18. Interactive Service Payments
Revenue generated when your music is streamed on on-demand services (Rhapsody, Spotify, Rdio). Paid to performer by your label, or digital aggregator like CD Baby or TuneCore.
19. Digital Performance Royalties
Revenue generated when your sound recordings are played on internet radio, Sirius XM, Pandora. Paid to performers by SoundExchange.
20. AARC Royalties
Collected for digital recording of your songs, foreign private copying levies, and foreign record rental royalties, distributed to US artists by AARC.
21. Neighboring Rights Royalties
Collected for the foreign performance of your recordings.
22. Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund
Paid to performers on recordings used in film, TV and other secondary uses by the Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund.
23. Sound Recording Special Payments Fund
Paid to performers for the sales of music recorded under AFM collective bargaining agreement by the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund.
24. SAG-AFTRA Contingent Scale Payments
Paid to non-royalty artists when a recording hits certain sales plateaus.
25. Label Settlements
Payments from labels to recording artists for litigation settlements (MP3.com, Limewire).
26. Salary as Member of Orchestra or Ensemble
Income earned as a salaried member of an orchestra, band or ensemble.
27. Shows/Performance Fees
Revenue generated from playing in a live setting (for non-salaried players). Paid by concert promoter, presenter or venue to performer.
28. Session Musician/Sideman Fees for Studio Work
Payments to studio musicians/freelancers/sideman for work in recording studio. Paid by label, producer or artist, depending on situation.
29. Session Musician/Sideman Fees for Live Work
Payments to studio musicians/freelancers/sideman for work in a live setting/on tour. Paid by label, producer or artist, depending on situation.
30. AFM/SAG-AFTRA Payments
Payments from the AFM/SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which distributes recording and performance royalties to non-featured artists.
31. Music Teacher
Revenue generated from teaching your musical craft.
32. Producer
Payment for producing another artists’ work in the studio or in a live setting. Paid by labels, featured artists, studios, presenters, or foundations, depending on situation.
33. Honoraria or Speakers Fees
Payment for conducting a lecture, workshop or master class. Usually paid by school, conservatory, or presenting organization.
34. Merchandise Sales
Revenue generated from selling branded merchandise (t-shirts, hoodies, posters, etc.). Paid to artist/performer by fans.
35. Fan Club
Money directly from fans who are subscribing to your fan club.
36. YouTube Partner Program
Shared advertising revenue, paid to partners by YouTube.
37. Ad Revenue
Miscellaneous income generated by your website properties (click-thrus, commissions on Amazon sales, etc.)
38. Persona Licensing
Payments from a brand that is licensing your name or likeness (video games, comic books, etc).
39. Product Endorsements
Payments or free goods from a brand for you endorsing or using their product.
40. Acting
Payments for appearances in TV, commercials, movies.
41. Fan Funding
Money directly from fans to support or pre-sell an upcoming recording project or tour (Kickstarter, Pledge Music, IndieGogo).
42. Sponsorship
Corporate support for a tour, or for your band/ensemble.
43. Grants
Foundation or public arts grants to support your work/project from foundations, state or federal agencies.
44. Arts Administrator
Money paid to you specifically for managing the administrative aspects of a group that you are a member of.


See these revenue streams organized by Existing, Expanded and New

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