I get asked every single day, at least 5 times a day, “Austin, how can I go full time as a producer?” or “how do I make money as an artist?” Honestly, it’s a good question, but there isn’t one answer. Everyone has their own path, their own journey, their own skillset, and their own work ethic. There is no single factor that will propel you from making no money off of music, to make $100k a year. That just isn’t reasonable. However, in my journey to be full time I have picked up a few tips, tricks, and observations that I think might greatly help any producers, writers, engineers, or artists pursing this career path. I have done a video about my personal story and how I became a full time producer, linked below this post, but here are some tips and things to think about that I think might help you.
1. What do you want YOUR job to be? What is your goal? Do you want to be a topliner, producer, artist, engineer, session vocalist, designer, multiple things, one specific thing, etc. And then further in detail, what genre do you want to focus on or are you okay with doing a little bit of everything?
2. Clients/Fan Base/Workflow: Do you want to work with people in person, people online, in studio sessions, a bit of both. Do you want to collaborate for points and splits or are you looking for work-for-hire clients? Are you interested in doing any artist development with a couple of your favorite artists you work with. Do you want to work with labels and publishers or do you want to work for independent acts? Do you want to be an independent act or signed?
3. Marketing: This will depend on your client base. If you want to work with people in person, go to shows, network locally, hand out business cards everywhere you go, collaborate with local artists, get in with local studios and meet the owners, engineers, and producers. If you want to work with clients online, check Facebook groups, post snippets of your work on Instagram and tag it, use services like, Fiverr, SoundBetter, and Taxi, start a Youtube, post memes on Twitter, literally anything. Whether you want to work in person or online, link up with other artists, producers, writers, etc. and try to get into their team. If you want to topline, find producers who get clients that need toplines so they can outsource you. If you want to do vocal editing, link up with local studios and online producers and show them your services, etc.
4. Ways to make money (if applicable to you): Production, toplining, writing lyrics only, writing melody only, engineering, editing stems, selling instrumentals, selling samples, selling presets, mixing, mastering, royalties, synchronization to film or television, session vocalist, session instrumentalist. If you are an artist then releasing music, getting on Spotify playlists, play local shows and events, tour, selling merchandise online and at shows, play weddings and private events, make music specifically to try and sync to television or film and always submit your releases anyway.
5. Ways to passively promote yourself: Be active on Facebook groups and post content AND contribute to other conversations, make a YouTube channel (could be tutorials, vlogs, skits, whatever) and always plug yourself subtly, ensure that you do a good job on projects so you can get return clients (these will save your ass on slow months), make friendships and legitimate connections instead of always just trying to talk and link up about potential work.
6. Have a game plan: Layout all of your finances, personal and work related. Lay out your rent, utilities, phone bill, car payment, loan payments, food, gas, extra spending money, insurance, new gear, any studio overhead or any overhead as an artist (merchandise, website fees, production fees, marketing, etc.). How much money do you need to make? How many projects a week do you need to land to make that much? How many income streams do you have? What will you do if you can’t land any work? How many hours a week will you be working? What are your rates? Don’t just jump into going full time because you think you’ll nail it. You might, but still have a game plan set up. Don’t financially ruin yourself to try and have that full-time clout.
7. What are the first steps you need to take to make this transition? Do you have a portfolio? Do you have a website? Do you have marketing, branding, and some advertising set in place? Do you have a network already? Do you have a safety net? Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? Are you going out and meeting people or meeting people online constantly? Are you going to be dedicated to creating content when you aren’t booked (YouTube videos, extra songs for potential placement, etc), because these can DRASTICALLY increase your business. Are you ready to basically be on the clock all of the time when you work for yourself?
The more income streams you have, the easier it will be for you to make ends meet, at least at first. Once you get into it and have a steady client base or fan base, find your sound, etc., then you can start to narrow down.
Always be working on SOMETHING. If you aren’t booked, figure out what you can do to attract attention. Post a video on Facebook, make a new song, make some samples, link up with people, and collaborate, literally anything. Don’t just sit at home with your thumb up your ass because no one is telling you what to do. It’s easy to fall deep into that trap.
Take it slow. Realize that this is something that takes people, very skilled people, years to accomplish. Some will do it quicker and easier than others. Some will make more money. Some will work with bigger artists. Don’t try to compare yourself to them when you are starting. Just do the best that YOU can do.
Stay organized. When you are booked, keep a calendar of your projects going. Keep your books tidy. Keep invoices and contracts filed away. Look at your numbers every week. Look at your project timelines and make sure everything looks good. If you constantly stay on schedule, you will almost NEVER overbook yourself or get into a pickle.
Realize that this IS a customer service job. Yes you are a hired professional, but the client is still a client. It’s their money, and normally quite a bit. Be as nice and professional as you can. Do good work. Take pride in your job. Don’t just phone it in because they are not the greatest client you’ve ever worked with. Don’t get lazy. Don’t fuck people over. COMMUNICATE with your artists, fans, and clients.
At the same time, have boundaries. Don’t let people just walk all over you, take advantage of you, and disrespect you just because they paid you money. Again, handle everything like a professional.
These are all pretty randomly laid out and super sporadic, but hopefully they helped. This topic could literally be an entire novel or an entire YouTube series. Let me know if you have any questions! Below I have linked some resources that I have made in the past about this same subject!