How Any Artist Can Earn Dependable Income Performing Live Music With 3 Simple Steps

Maybe you’re a local band or a cover band. A solo artist just getting started or a classical musician that hasn’t performed in years.

Either way, you want to earn dependable income from live music.

Perhaps you’re wondering if that’s even possible?

Yes, you can!

Just ask independent musicians like Shannon Curtis, Michael Walker, Danika Holmes—all are earning a comfortable living performing their live music.

This article will show you how step by step.

The Single Reason Your Gigs Aren’t Profitable…

You make it hard for the audience to pay you. The key to getting paid what you’re worth, requires making it as easy and fun for the audience to give you their money.

Thinking of the audience as your employer, not the venue, is a game changer.

Three Discoveries

The decision to earn income with music leds to three BIG discoveries. These discoveries will change the way you THINK about making money with your live music. Making it easier to begin earning dependable income from the gigs you’re already doing. They are…

  1. You Can’t Make People Come To Shows (Do This Instead)
  2. To Earn Income, You Don’t Have To Sell Anything
  3. No Prerequisites (Get The Most With What You Have)

Click on those will take you to the section in this page. Each discovery leads to actionable steps to break through every obstacle standing between you and a profitable live performance.

Let’s look at each discovery and then tie them together into a repeatable, dependable system you can follow to make money at every gig.

Discovery #1: You Can’t Make People Come To Shows (Do This Instead)

Most of us invest a lot of energy trying to persuade people to come to our gigs. We’ll create facebook events, post flyers around town, even send one text at a time.
We’ll spend countless hours and exhaust our energy. And what do we get? A few people show up.

And that’s a big problem. We need people in the venue.

And with spending 5 – 10 hours inviting people only for 2 – 3 to show up, performing live is not sustainable.

That discovery lead to thinking about a few things differently. I needed a better way to get people to gigs. A way that didn’t involve me having to motivate and remind them to come. I needed to make them SELF motivated.

How To Make People Self Motivated To Attend Your Gigs

Let’s say there’s a mouse in your house. To catch it, you’re not going to hunt it down, catch it by the tail. No. You’d set a trap and plop a plump piece of cheese right on top of it.

The point?

Find out what you fans want and tell them where to get it

For example, my band plays in a lot of venues where alcohol is served. We negotiated with the venue free alcohol for or fans who arrived to the gig.

Then, we created an invite telling them about the free thing and sent reminders their way every other day.  Instead of “Come see us play” the invitation becomes “Come get free beer and see us play”.

The Result?

Instead of spending 5 – 10 hours inviting people only for 2 – 3 to show up, we spent 1 – 3 hours and dozens of people showed up.

After a few months of doing this and tweaking the message, it was not uncommon to get 100 – 200 people into a venue. Without the time and energy spent doing it the hard way with fliers, text messages, etc.

And that’s a powerful shift. This additional time and energy will pave the way to ramp up uour income.

The question now becomes, now that you have all these people in the venue, how can you capitalize on the opportunity and earn more income?

Discovery #2: To Earn Income, You Don’t Have To ‘’Sell’’ Anything

If you’re like me, the thought of “selling” stuff at your gigs makes you queasy. You’ll be glad to hear that not only do you not have to sell anything, in fact, doing it is a really bad idea.

I believe that most musicians shouldn’t EVER try to “sell” stuff at live shows.


The last thing you want when trying to grow a local fanbase, is to begin that relationship by trying to get somebody’s money.

With what I’m about to show you, in most cases, you won’t actually have to ask anyone for money, but they end up giving it to you anyway.

The first time I asked someone to buy my music was at a dive bar in Orlando, FL.

Before the show, I wandered up to a group standing by the bar and tried to convince them to like my music and that they should buy it.

To picture how this went, think back to high school and recall the most awkward dating invitation situation you can think of.

This was worse.

I was so embarrassed that I went in the restroom and didn’t come out until it was time for the show.

Not only did I not make any money, but I made I turned those people off. They believed I would try to constantly sell them stuff. I didn’t earn their trust.

I realized I needed a better way to make money with my live music.

The Experiment

I realized the traditional model wouldn’t work. And I didn’t yet have a professional CD of our new music.

And I didn’t have the money to go to the studio. Instead, all I had were demos recorded on our guitarists home computer.

We stayed up late the night before a gig and burned three of our demos songs onto a CD-R disk and slid it into an envelope along with a card that had our band’s (handwritten) contact information on it.

We made ten of these demo CD’s. The cost of the material was about $20.
The next day, I walked into the venue before our show, carrying those 10 demo CDs. I was too embarrassed to show them to anybody.

We played the show. And afterwards, folks came up to me to say they enjoyed the music. I thought about mentioning the demos right away, and asking if they wanted to buy one, but I didn’t.

Instead, I asked them questions. Not because I wanted to dupe them to buy my music, but because I was curious.
Shortly after, one of the dudes asked if I had any music available. I remembered the demos, and thought: “I can’t ask him to pay for these.”

I also remembered the awful experience last time I tried to “pitch” someone.

Then, I decided to try something different.

I told him the truth.

“Yes,” I replied, “I do have music but it’s just a demo. We want to go to the studio but don’t have the money right now. I don’t feel right about asking you to pay for this, but if you want to donate something I’d appreciate it. At the least, it’ll help us fund being able to record in a professional studio.”

I pulled out the CD, handed it to him and what happened next blew me away.
The guy reached into his pocket and gave me a wad of cash.

“Sure, man,” he said, “here’s 13 bucks.”

I followed that basic script for the rest of the night. By the end, every demo was gone and I had over 80 dollars in my pocket.

I’ve perfected it over time, but I still follow that basic script at every show I do. And it doesn’t matter if anyone there has heard my music before. I can use the strategy to get paid, grow a fanbase, and earn dependable income.

I call it the CD-Donation Strategy.

And started a relationship with 10 people who trusted me. And guess what? I saw those 3 of those people against the next show.

Paradigm Shift: If you want to make money playing live music, “making money” can’t be the motive. Trust and the long term is infinitely more valuable. And you must give them the space to choose to support you financially. You don’t have to “sell” anything.

Discovery #2: No Prerequisites (Get The Most With What You Have)

During the few semesters I was in college, there were classes I needed to take that I couldn’t until I had completed what they called a “prerequisite course”. It’s a course that covers the basics of a topic that you need to understand in order to go further and take the next course.

For making money with music, a prerequisite is thinking we have don’t have one thing and therefore we can’t make money with music.

Start With What You Have

Here are the common “make money with music prerequisites”. The things we think we need in order to earn dependable income from our music and performances.

“I need a nice CD to sell”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to present a perfect product. But the problem with waiting is that you delay earning income. The more you perform, the harder you work, without making money, the more taxing (and discouraging) it becomes.

That’s why the CDDS is so important. It gives you a way OUT.

“I have to play covers (and I don’t want to)”

Every strategy on this page works with original music. You don’t have to be a cover band, or play covers, to use them to earn money playing live.

“I need merchandise”

I didn’t have merchandise when I started following the steps I’ve taken you through. Yes, you’ll eventually want to have merch to sell, but you don’t have to have it to start earning income.

“I need a large following”

You see now, that it doesn’t matter. You can use the CDDS at a gig where nobody’s even heard of you before and earn income—every time.

“I don’t have money”

It’s common to think that, because you’re low on cash that you can’t buy what you need. All you need is a few bucks to start using the CDDS. That will get income rolling in that you can then reinvest back into your music.

Do you start to see how so many of us get in our own way with this stuff?
There’s a way around every problem. And the moment I realized that was the beginning of figuring out this blueprint and consistent income.

Now that you know to start with what you have, let’s look at how this all ties together with the Success With Live Music Blueprint.

The Success With Live Music Blueprint: Three Steps

Get a printable PDF of the Success With Live Music Blueprint – Download it HERE and use at your next show.

Success With Live Music: Step One

The first step in earning income is to figure out where this gig that you’re playing is leading and how it fits into your overall strategy of consistent income. Maybe you want to go on tour and the only thing that was stopping you is the ability to earn income.

Regardless, you want to look at every local gig you do, as a way to improve and perfect your ability to go into any venue and earn income.

Your reasoning might be different, but connecting every gig you do to a higher goal is powerful.

Because, with our previous example, you’re not just “doing a show”, you’re figuring out how to go on tour and earn income no matter what, so that you can go on tour and earn income.

This is important, because it totally changes your perspective and the purpose of every gig you’re playing. Your goal to earn income might not be so that you go on tour. But the idea is to identify I higher goal so that you know how earning income from every gig is helping you get there.

Get a printable PDF of the Success With Live Music Blueprint – Download it HERE and use at your next show.

Success With Live Music: Step Two

The second step, is to make sure that you have what I call a “home base”. A way for people to easily give you money.

As we said earlier, this is important, because, if you’re like most artists, your problem isn’t that people don’t like your music, it’s that you don’t make it easy for those people to give you their money.

If you don’t make it brain-dead simple for them, instead of asking you how they can support you financially, they just won’t do it.

Get a printable PDF of the Success With Live Music Blueprint – Download it HERE and use at your next show.

Typically a “home base” is a merch booth, but in the beginning if you don’t have a merch booth, that’s fine. What I did was I set up a tip jar. That simple thing told people “if you want to give me money, put it here”.

The first time I use a tip jar, I earned and twenty five dollars from the same gig where before I had earned nothing.

So, step one, have a “home base”. Make it as easy as possible for people to give you money. Start with a simple tip jar.

Success With Live Music: Step Three

The third step, is to use the CD-Donation Strategy. The one-two punch of receiving donations and engaging in authentic conversations, is a powerful way to grow your fanbase and get immediate income rolling in.

In addition, it presents the perfect opportunity to do the single most important thing to your success: Building an email list.

Your email list is your fanbase.

Remember earlier when we talked about creating the CDDS demos, and you insert a card containing your contact info? As you talk to people in the venue, some people aren’t going to donate money. You can trigger the reciprocity emotion and get an email address from them so that you can keep them updated on future shows.

Combine a growing email list, with increased incentive from the “free” offer from Discovery #1, and you have everything you need for exponential growth.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Get a printable PDF of the Success With Live Music Blueprint – Download it HERE and use at your next show.

The Music Marketing Funnel, What It Is And Why It’s Powerful

The most effective marketing models around is called the “funnel” model. Here’s how it works…

You use a free item to attract people into your fan base. Then use the same free item sell other paid items to those people.

This is how you earn dependable income from your music. The demo CDs or any other free thing you want to give a way in exchange for an email address at your gigs.

Be sure to watch the video above for a detailed introduction.

For more examples of how a Music Marketing Funnel works, I recommend skimming this article on MusicianMonster.


So that’s how you do it. That’s how you and any other performing artist can earn dependable income.

Use the CD-Donation Strategy. Earn income. Perform to a sold out crowd at every gig.

The blueprint works at any venue, in any town, anywhere. Even if nobody there has heard your music before.

This is how myself and other independent musicians earn consistent income from live music. Start now. And join us.

If you want to use the Live Music Blueprint to use at your next show, I created a printable PDF version of it. Visit this page on MusicianMonster and download it free.

the success with live music blueprint 2.0 mockup

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