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What to Make Money with Your Music? Take it to the Streets

What good is your music if no one hears it?  And what good is talent if no one sees it? You began playing to get seen and heard. You went into this business to make money. At no other time in history has the creative had so much control over his or her professional destiny.

Here are five ways performing pays:


1.       Become a hometown headliner at local venues[MKC1]

2.       DIY tours

3.       Public and private gigs

4.       Busking

5.       Royalties


In these five posts, we dive into each of these income streams to see how others have done it and are doing it. If you have something to say, please join the conversation and tell us how you’re doing it.  Artist promotion isn’t that difficult if you think outside the box a little.


Takin’ It to the Streets


Singing in the streets worked for Jessie J.  Cirque du Soleil created a multi-billion-dollar empire by doing its thing in the streets of Quebec and the Boss still does it. From guitar acoustic to hip-hop, buskers are making a living—decent ones—literally taking their music to the street.


Most U.S. cities respect busking as a form of freedom of speech, and with public art becoming a must-have for the rising creative class looking for places to start their careers, busking is an attractive option for musicians seeking to make money, try out new material and hone their performance skills. And those coins add up. Experienced buskers make an average of $200 a gig.


In fact, it’s become such a viable art form that people are sharing how-to’s from their own busking experiences to help those who are just starting out. Here’s a couple of tips:


Make it a Great Act.  Seventy or so decibels can be heard at 200 feet, and an average person walking at an average pace takes about a minute to walk those 200 feet. So, you basically have a minute to make a good impression. Even if you’re still working out the kinks in a new song, it has to be performance ready. Yes, busking is a great way to try out new material and hone your craft, but it’s still a gig with a real audience. Give them your best.


Try to give them a standing performance. Standing looks more professional and allows for more interaction with your audience. Dynamic audience interaction is what sets the master performer apart from the panhandler. Engage with your audience. You’ll never have a better opportunity to do so than on the street.


Find Optimal Performing Spots. As I said before, most cities in the U.S. are cool about you playing in public spaces and if they’re not, they’re pretty cool about giving you a chance to move before handing out a fine. Public places are safe, and a set-up against a wall is great for acoustics. It goes without saying the busier, the better. So choose your locations, days and times accordingly for maximum coin.


Set everything up beforehand. You don’t want to break momentum by stopping to adjust your equipment. Setting up can be part of the build—grabbing attention and building anticipation. Look at this part of the gig—setting up, talking to people, tuning, etc. as performance art; the opening act for the big performance.


Bring Your Merchandise. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Merchandise sells. Not only in terms of immediate cash but in building your brand, too. A t-shirt with your website URL will create buzz, boost word of mouth and result in more fans and more sales.


Track Your Performances. Just as in any business, you need to track your results to see what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly to maximize your results. Keep a record of where you perform on what days and at what times. You’ll start to see a pattern that you can build on. Write down what songs worked and what didn’t. What you said that made them laugh and what seemed to turn them off. This is invaluable information for taking today’s street show and turning it into tomorrow’s sold-out arena concert.


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