Careers in the music industry are often maintained through freelance and self-employed roles. Just 10% of working musicians are in salaried full-time employment, making the industry an increasingly competitive space for grassroots artists.
Whether you’re only just starting out as a performing musician or supporting someone who is, it’s important to know that freelancing requires dedication, patience, and a strategic outlook. It’s not always easy to feel optimistic, but once you’ve learned the best tips for building opportunities.
Starting out: Building a portfolio career
Every freelance musician should build a portfolio career. It’s a term that might sound lofty and far-reaching for newer artists, but it’s just used to describe earning money through various sources of income.
With a portfolio career, you’ll never rely entirely on one sole line of work. For a musician, a portfolio career could look like solo performing, private tutoring, lecturing, composing, and many more. For self-employed musicians, building a portfolio career is essential for a few reasons:
- Freelance work isn’t guaranteed
- You can work remotely
- You won’t be tied to one location or employer
Getting to grips with taxes
Once you’ve committed to a few roles as a freelance musician, you might start earning enough to necessitate paying taxes. If you’ve never had to deal with HMRC before, try not to panic. Even though the admin. can feel overwhelming, support is readily available.
However, the Income Tax Act states that you’ll be entitled to claim for expenses incurred for the purpose of your work. Therefore, it’s helpful to know that you might be able to claim on essential expenses such as your musical instrument insurance policy, especially if you’re regularly required to travel for performances.
Finding work as a musician
Opportunities can be harder to come by if you’re just starting out. In previous years, this might’ve meant hanging out at local gigs and events, music shops, and taking every live performance opportunity available.
Busking and open mic nights can still lead to opportunities, so don’t count them out completely. However, connecting online is invaluable for upcoming musicians. If you frequently share new work on Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, or other streaming services and outlets, you’ll be able to continually reach new audiences.
If you’re open to general or commercial work, you could offer your skills to create personalised songs, and jingles, or as a musician to hire for events. The most crucial thing is to constantly stretch yourself to expand on your experience, knowledge, and skills.
How to increase your income as a musician
Don’t just limit yourself to playing live performances and gigs. Instead, you should look at gaining streams of income from as many sources as possible. A few sources of income could include:
- Selling music, digitally and physically
- Selling merchandise on your website and at gigs
- Building your website and social media presence
- Posting regularly on YouTube
- Teaching or tutoring music
- Music Production
- Signing with a record label
How to attract and retain a fan base
Despite such a chaotic environment for musicians, you’ll need to incorporate both old and new promotional methods to gain and keep fans. Traditional press outlets – including radio or PR campaigns – might expose your music, but it might not reach the people who’d connect with your sound the most.
You should take a proactive approach to self-promotion. Use social media to your advantage and don’t overlook traditional marketing either – but try to mingle and build a network of professionals, friends, and fans to support you.
Working as a freelance musician comes with its challenges and you’ll need to be prepared for an unpredictable schedule. However, if you’re a motivated, headstrong individual with a powerful desire to succeed and make your music known, you’ll always have potential.
With Spotify, YouTube, and other popular streaming services, the modern music industry presents new avenues for sharing your sound – so with the right support, perseverance will be rewarded.