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How to Make Money as a Classical Musician

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How to Make Money as a Classical Musician

Unless permanently employed, classical musicians often rely on several sources of income to make a living from their passion for music. This article aims to explore various avenues to make money as a classical musician, including commissions, music lessons, or classical music streaming services.

How to make a living as a classical musician

Employment vs. self-employment in music

The music industry is full of exciting opportunities for artists and enthusiasts alike. Thanks to the nature of their field, musicians can usually choose between employment, self-employment, or something in between. Which one to pursue depends on an artist’s skills, needs, access to opportunities, and relationship to security.

Permanent employment tends to provide more financial consistency, making it appealing to those who are more risk-averse and value steadiness and routines. However, considering the industry’s unpredictability, employment does not always guarantee long-term stability.

On the other hand, self-employment comes with its own set of benefits and disadvantages. Freelancers usually enjoy more flexibility, have more autonomy over how much they charge, and can reject offers they do not resonate with. At the same time, their success primarily depends on their efforts to find clients and build networks. While self-employment does not guarantee a stable income, it allows for exploring various opportunities which can be profitable in the long run.

To circumvent the disadvantages of freelancing without missing out on the benefits, artists can seek out part-time employment. This model offers stability without limiting them in their access to further opportunities.

9 tips for monetizing classical music online and offline

1. Classical music commissions

Classical musicians often get commissions for their art, allowing them to earn money from composing for their customers. Clients can range from orchestras, ensembles, conservatories, and theaters to media and entertainment companies, which often require the help of classical musicians to compose for films, TV, or ads.

How much money a musician can earn from a commission usually depends on their reputation, the customer and their budget, the length and complexity of the work, and the number of instrumentalists involved. Costs for music copying are not included in the fee and should be charged separately.

When it comes to music for film and TV, artists should pay attention to copyright rules and ownership to ensure they get paid fairly once the product is released.

2. Music lessons and classes

Experienced classical musicians can make (extra) money by sharing their knowledge of music theory and instruments with individuals who are eager to learn. Music lessons can come in various settings and formats and can be offered privately, at schools, or colleges. While many teachers and students prefer individual, in-person classes, others are open to virtual sessions.

Online classes are beneficial for those with busy schedules or from remote locations but may not always be as accommodating and educational as offline sessions. Where and to whom a classical musician can offer music lessons depends on their level of skill, professional and academic background, and location.

3. Classical music streaming services

Classical musicians who record their music can make extra money from uploading their works to streaming platforms. Apple Music Classical, IDAGIO, or Vialma are especially beneficial for classical musicians, as they specifically center on the genre. In this way, artists can directly reach their audiences. Meanwhile, publishing their music on large platforms such as Spotify makes it accessible to the average consumer.

Are you a classical musician struggling with getting your music on Apple Music Classical, IDAGIO, or Vialma? Fortunately, we can help you upload your work with ease!

Ready to get your music discovered and heard across the world?

Upload your music to the most important classical music platforms.

Need more info about classical music distribution? Find out more about how to distribute a classical music release and the formatting requirements in our FAQs.

4. Live performances

Classical music is often enjoyed within the scope of public performances organized by institutions, orchestras, or passionate musicians. Next to being a source of income, concerts can help aspiring musicians expand their network and strengthen their reputation, opening new doors and avenues for money.

For this reason, many choose to become performing instrumentalists or singers. Musicians usually become part of orchestras or get booked by venues via agencies. However, they should not miss out on smaller opportunities, such as one-time performances at weddings. Such jobs can be found through social networks and online platforms, including Facebook groups or job portals.

5. Running choirs, ensembles, and other forms of music collectives

Those who would like to combine teaching and performing can look into launching their choirs, ensembles, or other forms of groups and collectives. This decision would allow them to take on various roles and tasks, such as teaching, composing, setting up concerts, and performing with the members. Managing a group alone may be challenging, which is why teaming up with others may make more sense.

6. YouTube channels and social media content

Experienced musicians can contribute to the world of classical music and make the genre more accessible by launching their own YouTube channels. For instance, they can post educational videos on music theory and instruments or offer insight into the history of classical music beyond the big names. In this way, they can also passively make money via YouTube ads. Once they have reached a higher level of visibility online, they can try getting sponsorships from brands.

7. Recording, mixing, and mastering classical music

Before a recorded work gets published, it has to be mixed and mastered to align with basic industry standards. The approach toward classical music differs significantly from contemporary songs, which we discuss in our article on preparing a classical music piece for its release. Classical musicians who understand or want to learn mixing and mastering can, at some point, begin offering their services to other musicians. Because of the intricacies of the process, they can earn fairly well.

8. Work in the industry as a decision-maker or organizer (institutions, etc.)

Because music remains a highly competitive and challenging industry, artists do not always manage to make ends meet. As a result, many end up having to work a 'regular' job, at least for a while. This may be a hard pill to swallow, but there is no reason to fret! A strategic approach can help musicians pursue their careers and sometimes even boost them. One such approach may be applying for (freelance) jobs within the classical music industry that are not directly related to making or performing music.

Some common options include writing for blogs and websites, getting involved in labels, organizing concerts, or working for institutions that aim to foster and cultivate classical music. Such jobs can be beneficial, as they allow artists to expand their networks, get further acquainted with other sides of the industry, and come across new creative opportunities.

9. Grants, funding, donations, and awards

Applying for grants and other forms of funding or participating in awards and classical music competitions may not be a sustainable, permanent source of income for musicians. However, it can still make much sense to look into such opportunities.

Reaching out to institutions for funding can be a complicated process, so we have summarized the most essential information in our article on how to get music funding. Additionally, artists may consider launching a GoFundMe and inviting their listeners to donate to support their careers. Sometimes, even small donations can help.

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