Yes, You Can: How Real Musicians Are Making Music for A Living

making money with music
Image via Killer Infographics for the Seattle Office of Film+Music

The Seattle Office of Film+Music released this infographic last summer, but we liked it a lot and wanted to share it again to help dispel the myth that creative jobs can, in fact, be lucrative ones.

The graphic was born when a young student asked then-director James Keblas the age old question: Can I quit my day job to be a musician? Intrigued by the question, Keblas reached out to area musicians to ask how they had managed to turn making music for fun into making music for a living.

“The three musicians, each from different genres, willingly opened up their 2012 financial records and let Keblas’ team try and make sense of how the money flowed,” the OF+M explained on their blog.

“It was important for us to find musicians who modeled a middle class living,” Keblas explained, “We are trying to show that this kind of a living can be done without having to be rockstar.”

Keblas found that the musicians’ revenue sources varied depending on the genre, but there were seveal income streams which overlapped, inlcuding music sales, merchandising, and live performances. Other sources of income included licensing, wherein the artists would sell their music for commercials and other uses, instruction of other budding musicians, and studio recordings, where artists would lend their abilities to others who needed a different sound on their record or project.

“I was surprised to learn how accessible the opportunities to make money are in music while also being incredibly complicated to navigate,” Keblas explained.  “My hope with this information is to demystify the business of music and for artists to be in more control of a thriving musical destiny.”

Keblas said the findings also underscored the importance of a business plan, since juggling multiple sources of income can be difficult, both logistically and mentally.

“No one said it was easy, but if you have the musical skills and the perseverance, you can do it,” Keblas concluded.

Want to learn more about making music for a living? Check out Matt Halpern’s CreativeLive course, the Working Musician’s Playbook, for ideas and insight about how you, too, can quit your day job. 


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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.