Alternative Revenue for Musicians in a Time of Disruption

Alternative Revenue for Musicians in a Time of Disruption

By Kia O. Moore

The world has changed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Those in the music industry have been hit hard. With the halting of concerts around the globe, losses in ticket sales have reached the hundreds of millions. Although live music events are the bread-and-butter of many musicians’ income, there are alternative ways to generate revenue during this global shelter-in-place order and even after venues open back up again.


There are tools that all musicians can access to diversify their revenue streams. Here’s a guide:




Digital Royalties: With people stuck inside searching for ways to entertain themselves, music streaming has become a tool to break the monotony. Make sure those streams are working for you. Get those music royalty services set up so every stream can be used to put money in your pocket. SoundExchange handles the digital royalties for all artists featured on a track and recording rights owners. Digital royalties are fees that music providers such as Pandora, SiriusXM and other webcasters are required by law to pay for streaming musical content. SoundExchange takes these payments and allocates the fees of the recording according to how often each song was played.


Performance Rights Royalties: Performance Rights Organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, PRS, and SESAC license, collect and distribute public performance royalties to the copyright holders for songs. Generally this means publishing companies or record companies. They collect fees from (1) songs broadcast on terrestrial and satellite radio, (2) music used on TV and movies, (3) performed or streamed live at bars, restaurants, and performance venues, and (4) streamed over digital services like Spotify and Pandora. This means you should try to avoid playing covers in live streams, especially in well publicized streams. It also means that songwriters should publish their songs and join a performance rights organization. If you are a songwriter and have not taken that step, now is the time!


Reproduction Royalties: As the coronavirus lingers and people continue to shop for entertainment on places like Amazon, the physical and digital reproduction of works come into play. Organizations like MCPS and SOCAN handle the rights holders’ authorization to reproduce works on various media, including CDs, records, and digital media. SOCAN also handles performance rights royalties for rights holders.




The fans can support you by streaming your content and buying your albums thanks to those royalty checks you have set up. Now help them send money to you directly. There are two strategies one can go with when it comes to this revenue stream. There’s the “Pay-to-Play” route and the “Make a Donation” route.


Pay-to-Play: When asking fans to put money directly into your pocket, you can offer them something in return. Fans can pay for tickets for a virtual performance or an intimate Q&A session. You can also provide merchandise as perks for fans sending money your way.


Eventbrite is an event management and ticketing website. Users can create, find, and promote local events. You can sell tickets online for an event like a concert or Q&A Session and collect the funding from your fans. Eventbrite will charge a fee to the event organizer in exchange for online ticketing services. However, if the event is free there is no service fee.


Buy Me A Coffee is a space where creators have the option to have fans make one-time donations or recurring memberships. Creators can also make digital shops as well. Instead of dollars, fans can buy the currency of “coffees.” The creator sets how much one coffee costs and fans can choose how many coffees to purchase. With the online shops, creators can provide music or merchandise for fans in exchange for buying coffees.


Patreon is a membership platform where creators provide a subscription to content services. Creators earn a monthly income by providing exclusive content and perks to subscribers.



Make a Donation: Sometimes fans just want to send their favorite artists some funds. There are several platforms available that allow individuals to transfer money from one person to another by simply having a special name (or handle) to send it to.


PayPal has been in the money transfer and digital wallet business since 1998. It handles online transactions, money transfers, and invoicing. There is no fee to transfer funds to family and friends from a PayPal balance or a connected bank account. However, there is a fee to send from a credit card or converting currencies. Once you set up your PayPal account you can grab a money transfer link that you can share with your fans. The transfer link will be You can get your link at www.PayPal.Me/


Venmo is owned by PayPal and focuses on sending money to friends through a mobile app. It has a social aspect for letting others know when you send or receive money and what you send and receive it for. Although it is a mobile-first platform, you can log into your account on a desktop computer. Once you have a Venmo account set up you will get a handle that you can share with fans so they can send money your way. Your handle is usually @yourusername.


Cash App is a mobile app for peer-to-peer payments created by credit card processor Square. It is a transaction-focused app where friends and family can send money and request money from a Cash App account. Funds are linked to a bank account through a debit card at no fee. Once the Cash App account is set up you can share your handle to start receiving funds. Your handle is usually $yourusername.




Just because we are being told to stay at home, it does not mean the show does not go on. There are many online outlets to use to put on in-home concerts for your fans. With your virtual tip jars set up through PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App you can accept donations from fans as you play. Placing a sign in the shot with your peer-to-peer payment username can help your fans know where to send funds during the performance.


Lighting: When going live, choosing the right lighting and setting up good audio can make all the difference. You don’t have to buy professional lighting. You can source lamps from around the house and point them in your direction,


Just relying on overhead lighting will put shadows under your eyes and nose, which is often used in movies to portray an evil character. To counter this, you can use CFL Daylight Balanced light bulbs or an LED light bulb in your lamp. To get the proper look you will want to set up Three-point Lighting. For a more in-depth understanding of this Three-point lighting view the Lighting Guide for Live Streamers (CHEAP).


Audio: When live streaming the audio needs to be good. People can often make it through a video with good audio and poor lighting, but the opposite is not true. It is important to get a good mic, good mic stands, and a good mixer that allows you to manually adjust the highs and the lows. For a more in-depth understanding of audio view the My Audio setup for Live Streaming on Twitch (Cheap).


Camera: After getting your set-up right with the lighting and audio you can start out with using your smartphone camera or a good webcam to capture your performance. You will want to get a stand to hold your camera in place. The lighting and audio can make up for a cheaper camera. For a more in-depth understanding of a smartphone camera live streaming set-up view the Best Live Streaming Setup for Smartphones (iPhone & Android!).




Video Streaming

There is a set of online platforms that are video-driven. It is about what is on the screen and how the audience can interact with it. is a space for the live streamer. Twitch is best known for Gaming, but the service is beefing up its Music & Performance category. Anyone with your Twitch link can view the video, but only Twitch members can comment during your stream. With Twitch you can turn on a donation function where fans can send you money. You can also monetize with ads. Unfortunately, videos will not be archived indefinitely like on YouTube. To learn how to get started with Twitch follow the link Beginners Guide to Streaming on Twitch.


YouTube Live is the place with a massive following for content creators. People are looking for video content to consume when they navigate to YouTube. YouTube has live streaming tools, but finished content is king on this platform. With the live broadcasting function, YouTubers can use the chat function and accept donations from registered YouTube users. However, anyone with the link can view the live stream. YouTube will automatically archive the live stream video for the user. This way fans can revisit your live stream later (and if they can see your virtual tip jar in the shot, tip you). For a step-by-step guide on YouTube Live go to How to Livestream On YouTube, A Beginners Guide.


StageIt is an online concert venue. Artists perform live online and the show is not archived. It is a special entertainment experience that you only get to have once. Fans are encouraged to ask artists questions and request songs during the performance. Fans can support artists financially by buying tickets to the online StageIt event. During the performance, fans can tip the artists using the StageIt tip jar. For insights on how to get ready for a StageIt show go to StageIt Marketing Tips.



Social Media Streaming

Video streaming on social media is about creating a sharable experience for fans. It is a peek into the life of the artists and a way to intimately connect with them.


Instagram Live is an easy place to start with live streaming. The only tools you need is your phone and good lighting. You will have a built-in audience thanks to the followers you have amassed over the years. Instagram also pushes the Instagram Live posts to the forefront on the feed page. An added advantage of Instagram Live is that the expectation is that when you start recording it is really live. The content is expected to be personal, rich with content, interactive, but not necessarily the best technical quality. For an in-depth guide for getting on Instagram Live go to The Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Live.


Facebook Live is a space with a close-knit audience to perform to. Your Facebook friends and family can jump on a Facebook Live stream and enjoy your performance. They can even start a Watch Party and invite their Facebook Friends to watch the live stream with them and connect with the artist and other fans in the chat feature. Unlike YouTube, the video can not be embedded on other websites, but it will be archived on Facebook. For insights on how to put on a Facebook Live event head to Facebook Live for Media.



Video Meetings

There is a difference between streaming and meeting. The biggest difference is that you can see the faces of the fans that want to support you. You can see when fans clap their hands. You can hear their voices when they ask a question. There are several platforms to choose from when considering putting on a show in a video meeting space.


Zoom is typically used for work meetings, but during the time of the pandemic, artists are making their way to the platform. It can host a large face-to-face gathering. By default, Zoom can handle up to 100 participants. It has a feature to create smaller breakout rooms so a large crowd to get a more intimate experience. Zoom is a great tool for replicating the feeling of an interactive audience. It also works well for open-mic events and collaborative performances. To become an expert at all things Zoom head to the Zoom Tutorials page.


Google Hangouts is another great tool for meetings. For video calls, it can host up to 25 participants. With functions much like Zoom, Google Hangouts includes screen sharing and a chat feature. The interactivity between the performer and the audience is great with Hangouts. To learn how to work Google Hangouts go to  How to Use Google Hangouts.


Skype is a calling platform that specializes in video chats and voice calls. It is great for one-to-one videos and can host up to 50 people. If all you want to do is have a call to perform for 50 people or less, then Skype is the tool for you. However, if you want to call a mobile phone from Skype, you will need call credits. For insights on how to use Skype go to  How to Use Skype.


Google Duo is for a more intimate video conferencing experience. Google Duo is designed for the one-on-one video call, but can also handle groups of up to 12 participants. Duo is a mobile-focused design, but can also be used on a desktop computer. It can reach other people who have the Duo app. For more on how to use Google Duo go to Set Up Google Duo.




Multiplatform Streaming

With all the streaming platforms available, being able to stream to multiple platforms from one account is helpful. There are a few tools out there designed to do just this.


Vimeo Live is the live streaming arm of the ad-free video platform. Vimeo is known for hosting high-definition video. At the premium level, Vimeo users can host live streams. Live streams can be broadcast in full HD. With Vimeo, users have the capability to stream to YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Live, and Periscope simultaneously. For more insight on going live on Vimeo head to Vimeo Live Overview.


Restream is a multistreaming service that allows users to simultaneously stream video content to multiple platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mixer and more. By hosting multiple streams, this means the user has multiple chats to monitor. Restream has a solution for this issue. They have a global chat feature that shows the chat from multiple services. If you need to reach a wider audience and want to leverage what both video streaming and social streaming have to offer, Restream may be the way to go. To get an introduction to using Restream head to How to use Restream: Getting Started with



With the tools listed above, a musician can continue to engage with their fan base and garner financial support for their art during this stressful time. With a combination of royalties, virtual tip jars, and streaming platforms, the show still goes on.