I've been waiting for a while to do this blog post, so as I've found myself with a bit of time today I thought I'd give it a go, it's certainly not exhaustive and built from personal experience, but I hope it helps you think about how to make money as an indie musician.
Firstly a WARNING- Being an independent musician is no different to being self-employed in any other career - to make it work YOU have to WORK YOUR ARSE OFF ...but if you're not deterred by that, read on for how to diversify your income and start to make money from your music!
1. Music Sales - Making money from music is not so much about selling your actual music any more. Unfortunately, streaming isn't going away any time soon; people are going to be able to get your music for next to nothing, that if you limit yourselves by not putting it on them then you're limiting your audience. We don't want to do that, as this audience, that you can build up through effective social media use (see some of my other blog entries on that!) are the key to you making money through other means. That's not to say that you won't get something from your online distribution, I think I get about $20 a month from it, but that barely covers my gin habit so...
2. Merch' Sales - Kinda hoes without saying, but selling good quality merchandise is a sure fire way of making money... make sure it's the kind of stuff you would buy if you were at a gig though, which brings me on to...
3. Gigging - The only way to make initially money through gigging is through the sames of merch' - so these two are linked. Once you get big enough to tour and sell tickets etc, then you'll get some benefit there too, but having spent time touring with much bigger bands than myself, I know that the tour itself is usually a loss-leader, or at best cost-neutral, and the money comes from the merchandise sales at each gig. These people are playing tours around the world to 750-1000 people, and they're still reliant on the MERCH.
4. Exclusive Treats - People will stream your music as it doesn't cost them anything, they may follow you on facebook or twitter, as it doesn't cost them anything, but someones, one of those people will slowly and without warning become... a FAN - and fans want Limited Editions. (I bloody hate using the word fan, it makes me feel kinda weird, it's all marketing-y and nasty. But I mean people who like your music PWLYM - which sounds Welsh so I like it. Yes, this is what I'm going to use instead of fan from now on!)
A PWLYM doesn't want to buy the same CD that they can stream for free, they want a special one with nice packaging and extra bits, or a t-shirt you've designed yourself that there are only 25 ever printed, or a limited edition vinyl pressing of one of your releases. Think about the artists you LOVE, and your habits with them. Personally, I love Nine Inch Nails and their exclusive merch' products are incredible, they have this part of things DOWN - and so what do I do - I emulate.
5. Ask For Help - Now we all know making music is expensive, from recording to pressing CDs, making merch' to touring, the outgoings well outweigh the income in the first year or so. So how do you combat that? Two sites that I have used successfully, and continue to use, are Kickstarter and Patreon - now they are both in effect a type of crowdfunding, but they operate very differently. Kickstarter is great for one off goals like I WANT TO RELEASE AN ALBUM, but Patreon is a slow-burn and is more akin to when patrongage of the arts was a thing back before CD sales became a thing (which interestingly, no longer is as much of a thing....) Patreon is all about SUPPORT ME REGULARLY AND GET SPECIAL THINGS ONLY FOR YOU. It's another level, and really only works when you start to work on your growing the number of PWLYMs you have.
It's not a magic wand, but I challenge you to go any have a think about all the extra things you could add to what you already offer and see whether you can add anything new in there to help boost things up to the next level... Like I said at the start, being a musician is like any other business, so start treating it like one :)
Hugs and love and sunshines!