Hi there musicians, as promised, here is the second edition of “Ways to Make Money as a Musician – During Lockdown”. We are continuing our look at different things musicians can do to earn an income during times like these, when gigs aren’t happening. I want you to be able to continue/begin your career as a musician, even during the crazy times we are living through currently.
What Will You Learn?
- Teaching Music Lessons
- Receiving deposits for future bookings (parties and weddings)
- Performing for Seniors – Online
- Alternate non music income sources. I took some initiative to make money outside of music – in tough times it’s worth considering other options. I’ll discuss the things I did to keep paying my bills and save up a little extra cash.
When I began my music career about 11 years ago, teaching and gigging each made up about 50% of my income. Gigging has since taken over as my main money maker but teaching helped me get through the early days. At my height as a music teacher, when I had between 20-30 students a week, I was making anywhere from $400-700 a week with teaching. That’s not bad, especially as a new “full-time” musician. Combined with gigs I was able to pay all my bills and even save up a little bit extra for myself.
This year and last, people around the world have been stuck at home. With a world FULL of people that have “learning to play the guitar (or piano…or…)” on their bucket lists, there is no shortage of potential clients. Many people are still working (many from home) and have more disposable income than ever. Restaurants and bars are closed and travel has become complicated and impractical. You can take advantage of this to try to find some students to teach weekly music lessons.
How to Find Students
Through a Music School
There are many music schools around the world. Look for local music schools on Google and get in touch with them to see if they are looking for teachers. Many schools have adapted to offer lessons online and your services may be needed if the school’s demand has been exceeding what they can offer.
Your own private Students
You also teach your own students, which is awesome because you can charge your rate, as opposed to a school which takes a cut. It’s only fair as a school finds you the students. Being your own boss is where it’s at though in my opinion. Another great thing about finding your own students is that you can start your own music school when you have more students than you can teach. When I talk about being a Music Entrepreneur THIS is exactly what I’m talking about. Building something that you can grow into a company that can actually support you and your family. Of course you can start small and scale up, but keep this growth in mind. Stay hungry and ambitious and you can always accomplish amazing things!
To find your own students you have many options! It can be as simple as making a posts on social media announcing that you are now teaching guitar lessons, for example. I recommend making a nice graphic (which you can easily do for free at Canva.com). Here’s a graphic for social media that I whipped up in under 5 minutes:
If you have a website or a facebook page you can add a link to your homepage when you create your post (on Facebook for example). The image will be clickable and people will be brought right to your website where they can “learn more” & get in touch”. You can ask friends and family to share your post too, but don’t go crazy with this as no one wants to be spammed non-stop.
Other Spots Where Potential Students Can Be Found
You can also make posts on market places such as Kijiji, Craigslist, Gumtree, etc. These websites have (free or pay-boosted) listings for services such as music lessons. I’ve found many of my own students this way. Another way to find your own students is by mentioning that you teach music lessons during your live music streams. Facebook groups are another great place to post your guitar lesson services.
There are hundreds, even thousands of guitarist and music theory groups on FB – just make sure to read the groups terms & conditions to stay in good standing there. Lastly, you can pay to advertise. On sites like Kijiji (etc) you can boost your posts as I mentioned before. Facebook and Google also allow you to advertise. Remember, when a service is free you are the product. This is especially true for social media.
We all give so much information to Social Media. Everything we do, post, and like is recorded which let’s us be advertised to with pinpoint precision. I’m not here to debate the merits of that. I simply want to discuss it as an option. I have more experience advertising on Facebook. It costs less than Google Ads in my experience and can yield decent results. If you go this route start with a low budget to see how that goes and adjust as you go. Typically you will be paying for cost-per-click. This means everytime someone clicks your ad you get charged.
On Facebook I’ve gotten my ads to perform the cost-per-click range of $0.15-0.2 per click. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here I’m happy to help you out with more info. Simply comment at the bottom of this post or get in touch with me (“contact” in the menu bar up top).
Lesson Length & Rates
The length and how you charge for your lessons is ultimately up to you. Different areas have different standards. You can learn about the going rate in your area by inquiring about music lessons from your competition. Also, the response you get from potential clients will also help you pinpoint the sweet spot, pricing wise. If you are offering 30-minute lessons for $45 and aren’t having any students sign up, then try lowering your rate and see how that goes. Below is a guide to help you get the ball rolling on lesson length and price rates. I’ve always seen lessons broken down in 3 time formats:
- 30 Minute Lessons: It is reasonable to charge $15-35 for an online lesson of this length. The stronger your social media presence is the more people may be willing to pay.
- 45 Minute Lessons: You will probably have success charging in the $25-45 range.
- 1-Hour Lessons: You can charge $30-50 for hour-long lessons.
Keep in mind this is just a guide! On to the next way to make money as a musician during lockdown.
Receive Deposits For Future Gigs
Events such as Weddings and outdoor gatherings aren’t really happening currently, something we all know too well! This doesn’t mean that people aren’t planning these events. In order to plan a wedding for 2021/2022, for example, couples need to begin their planning right now. There are so many vendors to book when getting married and leaving this to the last minute can result in your preferred vendors not being available for your date. That would be a serious drag so couples are proactive in order to avoid this fate! No one wants an angry fiancé 😛
Event companies (like Music businesses) take a Deposit in order to set the date aside for whoever is booking them. With my entertainment company (Brad Cooper Weddings) I am able to ask for a deposit which my clients can pay by credit card on my website or by E transfer to my Email address. It is perfectly reasonable to do this. In fact, I fully recommend it. I didn’t always take a deposit to lock in my services and it came back to bite me really hard one time.
The Time I Paid The Price For Not Securing A Deposit
One time, in my first year of business (as Brad Cooper Weddings), I had a wedding booked and the event was fast approaching. I was attempting to contact the couple to discuss their song requests for their key wedding moments (first dance, etc). No one was getting back to me which I thought was super weird. I kept trying to get in touch with both the bride and groom to be, but with no luck. I felt I was being ghosted – but I couldn’t just assumed that and not show up. Afterall, I wanted to do the gig and get paid! The day came around, and without having any contact with the couple I decided I’d pack my car with all my gear, get my suit on, and headed to the venue. Luckily the venue was in the next town over because what happened next really sucked.
I got to the venue and I walked in to find my contact (as I always do). After 10-15 minutes of walking around confused and wondering where everyone was I found an office with a lady working inside. I knocked and introduced myself and told her why I was there. At this point her jaw dropped and she informed me “I’m so sorry, the couple actually broke up and called off the wedding!”. I’ll let that sink in…
I felt terrible that their engagement was called off but what the heck!?! Why did no one tell me?
This is the reason we take deposits in order to book us. I could have played a wedding somewhere else that day but instead I wasted my time and had nothing to show for it.
When It Makes Sense To Charge A Deposit
The reason I can charge a deposit is because of my events company. Take a look at my website, bradcooperweddings.com (opens in new tab 😁). I’ve built a website and a social media presence showcasing what I do. Some of my couples have even left reviews on my website which helps new potential clients to trust me and the service I provide. If you can put something like this together you’d be able to advertise your services. It’s an oversimplification, but the advertising methods for teaching guitar lessons actually work here as well. You just need to tweak your messaging and images/videos. Oh, and having some video of you doing your thing I super important.
If you don’t have a website you can create a Facebook Page and even upload your videos to YouTube. That said having a website is really important for building trust and so I recommend it. (Check out my article discussing the importance of having your own website in 2021). Personally, I charge a 50% deposit, but I have been flexible with that here and there. I take people’s situation into account as not everyone is working to full capacity currently. You can create a payment schedule of 30% up front, 30% in 3 months, and the remaining 40% due TWO WEEKS BEFORE the event. How you do this is entirely up to you.
I’ve been able to book a few weddings for 2021/2022 during lockdown which has really been a boost financially – it’s helping me survive the pandemic! (A special Thank You to my couples for putting your trust in me to perform your wedding music and for helping me get through these times. I am so excited to perform at your wedding!!!).
On to the next method of making money as a musician – 2020/2021 style!
Performing For Seniors
Performing music for seniors is one of the most rewarding things I have done as a musician!
I used to perform for seniors homes anywhere from 1 to 5 times per week. I love doing it. I’ll go more into detail about how to find these gigs another time, but now I wanna talk about playing for seniors during these times.
Things have changed a lot. Seniors are very susceptible to Covid, so measures to keep them safe have been top priority. Quality of life is also important though. Did you know that most senior homes have a budget set aside for recreational purposes? I used to make between $150-200 for an hour performance before the “ish” hit the fan in March, 2020. The great thing is that I’ve been able to continue offering my music services for seniors in 2020/2021. I’ve brought my performances online and it has been great. For a Live Stream you can charge between $100-150 for an hour-long show.
Getting The Gig
I have been performing in seniors’ homes for over 3 years now. For that reason I already have contacts in dozens of homes and it was simple enough emailing these contacts to set up online performances. If you DON’T have any relationships like this you will need to get in touch to offer your services. Open up Google Maps in a tab and search “nursing homes in my area”. Make a spreadsheet or a note of the names of the homes and call them one by one. You can ask for the Lifestyle Manager or the Director of Recreation. This is the person you make your pitch to. Let them know you have a senior friendly setlist (make sure to know a bunch of old stuff from the 1950s and 60s). Have some videos ready to share with them in case they want to see you in action.
A Tough Nut To Crack
Performing in senior homes can be a tough nut to crack. I guarantee that most homes already have a roster of performers they are happy with, but you still have to try. I was able to get a chance in a few homes because they were looking to try something new. When I went in and did a great job the managers would recommend me to other homes in the area. Retirement living is a big business and you will notice that there are a few big companies with multiple locations. Once word spreads that you’re good at what you do you should be able to get into more homes.
Be warned though, recreation directors can be tough to get ahold of. They are often in programs with residents and are unavailable. For this reason you DEFINITELY want to leave a message on their phone or ask the receptionist for their email address. Make sure to take notes so that you know exactly where you left off which each home. Be persistent and organized and it could pay off!
Tech Aspects Of Performing For Seniors
Tech wise, I would use YouTube Live Stream most often as it was really easy to share the link. I’ve also performed for seniors VIA Zoom. The manager will coordinate with you to figure all that stuff out. It’s a good idea to test everything out a day or two before the show, especially if it’s your first time doing one of these performances. Another cool thing I’ve been doing is recording “specials” for holidays.
For example, in December I recorded a Christmas show and I emailed all the homes I work for. I offered the video for $50 per home. If they agreed I would send them the link (I made the videos on YouTube and had them unlisted – so they needed to pay for the link). If 5 homes signed up I would make $250. When 10 care homes signed up I made $500, and so on and so forth. This is a great way to make money as a musician and it’s really fun.
Performing for seniors pays off in so many ways. It’s great to put our talents to good use where we can actually make a big difference in someone’s quality of life. Sometimes these performances can be sad (especially in person). Just remember you’re brightening up someone’s day!
Alternate Non-Music Ways To Make Money (for anyone)
In times like these, when it isn’t easy to make money as a musician, it’s important to keep your options open. For instance, I had a buddy looking for some help with home renovations. As things are slow with music I had some extra time to help and my friend wanted to pay me for my labour. This gave me some extra money for bills in a time where things were very uncertain.
I’m not saying to go out and do drywall, lol, I’m basically saying that things like that ARE an option if you need to find other ways to pay the bills. It’s an example of ways to think outside the box and do what you need to do! There’s one more way I’ve been able to make money during the pandemic and that is through Food Deliveries.
Working For Uber/Skip The Dishes
I actually started out working for Uber in late 2017. I joined as a way to supplement my income as a musician. I’ll explain! I live in the suburbs just outside of Toronto. Most of my gigs happen in the city which means I’m usually commuting to get to my shows. I learned that Uber has a cool function that lets you set a destination wherever you’re going to sync you up with riders going that way. I used to make $30-50 extra one way going to my gigs. That’s up to $100 extra dollars to drive where I’m driving ANYWAYS!
When the pandemic began I felt unsafe driving people – and even doing deliveries at first too. By July things with Covid calmed down a bit, and as I was saving up for my wedding and to buy a house I decided to start doing food deliveries. At this point I also signed up for Skip the Dishes.
What It Is Like To Deliver Food
Look, music is my thing! I’ve been living as a pro musician for over a decade and that’s what I’m passionate about. Uber was never meant to be a full-time thing but let me tell you – it’s been HUGE for me during these crazy times.
Some weeks I’m more busy with my music. Other weeks there isn’t as much going on. When I have time I will go out and hustle hard to make some money with Uber. I really like that you can work basically as much as you like. You can work 12 hours straight before the App forces you to take a break. One week I worked over 60 hours and made over $1,300. The pay usually works out to $20-25 an hour, depending on tips. Here’s my pay from the week I worked the hardest, so you know what is possible:
It can be long days in the car, but I usually spend the time by listening to music industry podcasts. I treat learning new things about the biz like a job because bringing you value as a musician is what I love to do! Feel free to get in touch to learn more about this opportunity (or if you have questions). In the next day or two I’ll post a link to Uber’s signup page so you can get working too! Just remember to always save time to prioritize your music goals!
I Hope This Helps You!
That’s it for now. This article discussed a few more great ways to earn money as a musician – especially in these crazy days we are living through. What a time to be alive! Please leave any comments below or contact me if you have any questions. Also, if you could like and share this article it is a huge help! Sign up to this blog to never miss my great content.
Have an awesome weekend and stay safe!