How Musicians Can Earn Money During The COVID-19 Crisis

The global pandemic we’re currently experiencing has cost millions of people their jobs.

Entire industries have shut down, including our own live music industry.

Every single tour in the country has been canceled or rescheduled.

Musicians without day jobs have lost their main source of income.

Musicians who rely on day jobs may or may not still have those day jobs.

Almost 40 million people in the US are unemployed.

But, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost – there are still ways to earn money, both as a musician or in other areas, that could help you stay afloat during this crisis.


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Music income streams

Playing shows to a digital audience

This is a question thousands of artists worldwide are asking, and we hope to help!

While some of these answers should work for artists worldwide, others may be specific to the US. Please accept our apologies if something we mention won’t work in your area.


Live streaming shows with well thought out offers for your fans

Practically every artist on the planet is live streaming now, and that’s great!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many artists facing several issues that hurt their live streaming revenue:

  • They do a terrible job promoting the live stream in advance
  • They have nothing unique or interesting to offer their viewers (fans)
  • It’s another boring, uneventful live stream with bad production
  • They have too many different calls to action, rather than one strong CTA and one secondary CTA
  • They haven’t planned out their stream appropriately to keep the energy going
  • They don’t take advantage of the right streaming platforms

One or two of those issues won’t kill your revenue… But having most or all of the issues definitely will.

The good thing is that, for the most part, they’re relatively easy to fix.


Promoting your live stream

The first thing is to let your fans know in advance that you’ll be streaming live. Ideally, this is at least 24 hours before the stream starts, and you can post reminders two hours before the stream and again about 15 minutes before the stream begins.

If you can commit to it, you could do a live stream at the same time every week, for example every Saturday at 10AM. But, only do that if you can show up every single week (for a very long time) as fans will come to expect it.


Have a unique offer

I’ve seen a billion live streams where the artist says “I’ve got a virtual tip jar on PayPal and Venmo please donate if you can.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for tips, don’t get me wrong.

But you should be able to offer something to your fans who are watching the stream.

One of my favorite bands, Ballyhoo, did an amazing job with this – on each of their live streams, they offered a limited edition shirt that was only available for 24 hours, and after that fans could never get it again.

This did two things:

First of all, it gave the band an opportunity to offer their fans something in exchange for their support.

Secondly, it introduced scarcity. Fans who were on the fence about buying the shirt knew they only had a limited time to buy it, and they had to decide practically instantly.

The band made another great move by deciding that the shirts would be a presale – that way they could print just as many as they needed, and not lose money by printing too many.

What you offer on your stream doesn’t have to be a shirt, but you should definitely have a product of some sort so fans can walk away with something awesome if they want to give you their money.


How to make your live stream not suck

This could be a really extensive topic, so I’ll stick to the basics.


Make sure your sound is the best possible quality you can get.

Your stream is about the music. If the audio is awful, people won’t stick around for long. Similarly, your performance has to be good or people tune out almost instantly.

The best way to do this is to use an external mixer with good microphones, plugged into your phone with a device like the iRig Stream.

That being said, the newest iPhones have great audio quality, and if you’re just singing and playing acoustic guitar, you can get decent audio quality with the built in microphone.

The key here is that you need to control your dynamics to keep your vocals and the guitar in check so neither is overpowering the other.

It’s best to shoot a few test recordings before going live so you can get the hang of playing for the camera.


Get some inexpensive lights to improve your video quality.

A lot of people think they need a better camera to shoot good videos (and live streams).

Thankfully, that’s not typically the case.

Lighting can make a massive difference for video (and photos). Before buying a new camera, it’s worth picking up a set of inexpensive photo/video lights to see if your camera is good enough.

Even if you still end up needing a better camera, you’ll need the lights anyway!

These are the lights I use for all of my Better Band Bureau videos.


Keep the viewers entertained and engaged.

Even if you don’t have any viewers yet, keep them engaged. How do you engage a non-existent audience? You fake it ‘til you make it.

Encourage them to request songs and use the chat feature of your livestream platform, reply to them between songs, and play their requests if at all possible.

Why? For the replay people will watch later!


Don’t confuse viewers with too many CTAs

A CTA, or Call To Action, is a powerful tool that shouldn’t be overused.

If you ask your listeners to donate, buy merch, listen on Spotify, listen on Apple, etc. etc. the viewers will not have a clear next step. They’ll be overwhelmed by this.

Instead, focus on one primary CTA and one secondary CTA.

Your primary CTA should be about the unique offer you’ve created for your stream’s viewers. Whether it’s buying some merch or something different entirely, it should be your main CTA.

The secondary CTA can be whatever you want – but make sure that you focus on the primary CTA as much as possible and only mention the secondary CTA in passing. Whether it’s your virtual tip jar, or listening on a streaming platform, keep it short and specific.

One last note before I move on: Instead of asking for tips verbally, add a graphic to your stream that shows your usernames for any payment platforms you have. That way fans are constantly reminded that you accept donations throughout the stream and any replays!



A streaming platform specifically created for musicians

For almost a decade, StageIt has been enabling artists to livestream their shows and get paid for it.

If you have a following who would be willing to pay to see your stream, it’s worth a shot – all you have to do is set up an account on StageIt, then create a show and set a ticket price.

Once that’s set, share the link with fans and they can buy tickets with “notes” (1 note = 10 cents USD) to attend your stream!


Sell creative merchandise online

Last year, long before COVID-19 was a household name, KoRn added surgical masks to their online store.

Then, COVID hit and their webstore sold out practically overnight

Now they’ve got masks back in their store, and were able to increase the price by 50%.

Similarly, whiskey distilleries across the country have pivoted to manufacturing hand sanitizer instead of whiskey, and are experiencing massive success.

If you’re able to sell creative merch online, such as masks, branded hand sanitizer, or anything else that is in high demand right now, fans could gobble it up.


Use your musical skills in new or different ways

Millions of people are staying home instead of going to work – either because they’re out of work, or because they work from home.

Either way, they’ll now have more free time, even if it’s just an hour saved by not making their daily commute.

People who are interested in learning to play an instrument (or improving the skills they already have) now can dedicate more time to practicing and learning their instrument.

That’s where you come in!

Offering music lessons via Skype or Zoom could earn you a decent amount of money if you can find recurring clients for weekly or bi-weekly lessons.

It might be as simple as a Facebook post asking who wants to take lessons. If you have fans who follow you on Facebook, they might even be willing to pay a premium to learn from one of their favorite musicians!


Non-music income streams

It may not be glamorous, but if the bills need to be paid these are some great alternatives. 

Because we’re here to help you with your music career first and foremost, this article focuses on that…

But, if you need some quick cash, check out the below. Just be sure to do as much as possible to ensure you can stay safe and healthy!

Ok, so this one’s a little music-related. We’ve all got more gear than we need – instead of taking it down to the pawn shop, why not sell it for what it’s really worth to someone on Reverb who will fully appreciate it?

See what your unused gear could be worth now!



I’ve used Turo to rent cars and trucks a few times over the years, and it’s been a super easy experience! The beauty is that you’re renting a vehicle from another person, rather than a company.

That’s where the income stream comes in – you can list your own vehicle on Turo and let others rent it out.

While people aren’t traveling much, demand for “normal” vehicles probably won’t be very high, but pickup trucks, vans, or unique cars (like sports cars) might be worth putting on the platform as there will still be demand for those.

List your car now!



Since the quarantine began, Instacart has seen a massive increase in orders placed through their platform.

With flexibility to work when you want, Instacart is a great option to have a nice side-hustle and be a household hero for people who need a little extra help with their shopping.

Sign up to shop, deliver, and make extra money with Instacart!



By now, we’ve all heard of Postmates. And, I’m willing to bet you’ve given it a shot at least once.

It’s not a bad gig, I did it for a few weeks – until I was approved for Lyft. I wouldn’t want to drive passengers around right now, so food delivery seems like a good compromise. Start earning now!



No matter what…

Remember, we’re artists.

The show must go on. No matter how tough things are right now, at some point life will start to look more like what we’re used to.

I don’t know when that will be, but I can guarantee that everyone who misses going to shows right now will go to as many shows as they possibly can once it’s safe to do so!

Want to learn more about surviving the COVID-19 crisis as a musician? Listen to episodes 24 (click here) and 25 (click here) of The Better Band Bureau Podcast to learn how you can stay relevant and get ahead of the game to be prepared for the return of live music!