How Do Musicians Make Their Money?

It’s not hard to see the appeal of being an internationally acclaimed musician. Not only do you get to do what you love, but you also receive plenty of social status. And then, of course, there’s the money factor. While it’s not true to say that all musicians are rich (or even close to it) if you’ve got an international following, then, chances are, there’ll be cash coming your way. But how? In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at how those famous musicians get to afford their luxurious lifestyles.

Label Advances

It’s a big moment when a band gets a record deal. The main advantage of a deal is that it allows the artist(s) to get into the studio and produce a record. As part of the deal, artists will usually get an advance — this is essentially a lump sum of cash that is provided in advance of future earnings with the record company. This can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars if there’s been a bidding war for the band.


Artists don’t automatically get money because they have an album. They get money when that album does well. In the olden days, bands would get a percentage of each record sale (with the rest largely going to the record company). These days, people don’t buy albums all that much. Instead, artists get money from downloads and streaming. It can take a long time to make money via streaming, but if you have a hit that everyone loves, then it can provide a pretty penny. Ed Sheeran has earned millions thanks to his hit single Shape Of You alone.

Selling Merchandise

Fans can be pretty passionate about the artists they enjoy, and that can be an excellent source of revenue for musicians. Virtually every musician or band with a fanbase sells merchandise such as t-shirts, caps, and posters at their shows, in stores, and online. Indeed, such is the market for band-related merchandise that some highly-acclaimed artists have sold some truly bizarre band merch — Eminem sold a brick from his childhood home to mark the 16th anniversary of The Marshall Mathers LP, while legendary rockers KISS sold a “KISS Kasket,” a real, functional coffin.

Live Shows

Artists make the majority of their money through live concerts. And there’s a simple reason why this is the case. Unlike their records, which typically pump money towards the record label, the vast majority of the money earned from a concert goes directly to the artists. Bad Bunny’s tour grossed some $120 million in 2022 alone. If you’re wondering why some bands always seem to be on tour, then there’s your answer — they have to pay for that luxurious lifestyle somehow, and going out to delight audiences is the best way to do that.

Track Licensing

Artists can also license their tracks for use in television shows, movies, and advertisements. Some artists have earned much more money via licensing than they ever did via record sales alone. Indeed, at the top of the scale, artists can make upwards of $500,000 for the continued use of a single song in a commercial. Fans don’t always like hearing their beloved tracks used to sell products, but from an artist’s point of view, it makes a lot of sense.


Finally, if an artist gets famous enough, then they command a fee for appearing in advertisements or otherwise promoting a product. Artists such as David Bowie, Jack White, Iggy Pop, Cat Power, and Britney Spears have all appeared in world-famous ads, all because of who they are.

If you’re an artist looking to make money from their craft, then the above methods are how you do it!