Money makes the world go-'round, and, as EDM producers, there are plenty of ways to earn a living. Whether your goal is to go full-time or to produce some extra money on the side, there are plenty of opportunities for you.
The types and viability of the income streams available to EDM producers have changed and shifted over the years (mass adoption of the internet, streaming and decreased physical record sales, Telecommunications Act of 1996, etc.). If you're looking to make money as an EDM producer today, you've come to the right place.
Though it's not easy, EDM producers can make a good living with their craft if they understand how to leverage their skills in the marketplace and comprehend how the various income streams work.
We're going to do things a bit differently in this article from the other “make money as an EDM produce” articles online. I'll share various methods to make money for each potential income stream and offer resources for each. The lines between certain income streams may become blurry, though I'll do my best to stay on topic.
With that written, let's get to the income streams:
The top 11 ways to make money as an EDM producer are:
- Sync licensing
- Artist production
- Ghost production
- Producing beats
- Video game compositions
- Sample packs
- Mixing engineer
- Recording engineer
- Selling merch
- DJing and live shows
Streaming may be the most well-known way popular EDM (Electronic Dance Music) producers make their money. Take David Guetta, Avicci, Swedish House Mafia, and Tiesto as a few examples of EDM producers who have done very well with streaming services.
If you don't regularly listen to these artists, you are at least familiar with their music because you have likely heard their songs at a club or party.
Consumers, as a whole, don't pay money to buy songs the way back in the early 2000s. EDM producers make more money from streaming royalties than actual song sales.
The simple explanation of how streaming royalties work is that you get paid per stream and paid out once you reach a certain threshold (number of streams or earnings).
Because these artists own their music (either wholly or partly), they collect royalties when their music is played, including when it's streamed online.
For example, Spotify will pay an artist roughly $0.003-$0.005 per stream that they get. Although this may not seem like a lot, it adds up quickly if you produce music that people like and want to listen to.
To make $1,000 per month at $0.003 per stream, you'd need 333,333 streams.
To make $1,000 per month at $0.005 per stream, you'd need 200,000 streams.
Publishing your music on multiple streaming services to reach a larger audience can boost your streaming numbers to help you make money.
Be sure to sign up with SoundExchange so that you have an organization to collect your royalties for you online.
2. Sync Licensing
Sync licensing is not solely exclusive to EDM producers but rather an opportunity for someone who makes any kind of music. However, it is a possibly lucrative opportunity since it can help you rake in the dough, especially if the music is used in a big production, such as a hit movie or television series.
When you are watching a movie, and you hear a popular song by your favourite artist come on in the background, that is because that artist has licensed the movie to use their song.
The artist is generally paid a flat fee for the use of their song, so whether or not the production is a hit doesn't usually affect the amount of money they are paid.
In addition to the typical upfront payout, royalties are often paid out on the back-end, which ultimately does mean that the better the results of the production, the more money in your pocket!
An acquaintance of mine got an EDM track placed in a movie trailer and made hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Although you can get into sync licensing by yourself, it is often easier to hire a company to handle all the technicalities so you can focus on the music. It is most common for artists to license music they already have made rather than making new music specifically for a video or movie.
3. Artist Production
Becoming successful with artist production is about talent and strategy. An artist producer will work with an artist and create music solely for them.
This usually means creating beats and an instrumental soundtrack to go along with their lyrics. Sometimes they even write lyrics for your favourite artists, as many singers don't write their own music.
Artist producers can make a fair amount of money, especially if they work for a successful artist as their main producer. As an artist-producer, you can charge for almost anything extra that is needed, including sound programming, helping with lyrics, or recording.
Related article: What Are The Differences Between Audio Mixing & Producing?
4. Ghost Production
Ghost production is similar to artist production. However, your name won't be on the track, as another artist will take credit for your music once you sell it to them. If you are not interested in artist production but still want to make music, you can make a fair amount of money as a ghostwriter or producer.
For this kind of production, you can make more money if you have worked with experienced artists in the past or have a decent following on a streaming site. Those who choose to go into ghost production can make anywhere from $250-$1,000 per track they sell.
5. Producing Beats
Selling your beats can be done in a couple of different ways, either non-exclusively or exclusively.
If the producer sells exclusively, he can generally charge more since that beat is officially off the market and cannot be sold to or used by anyone else. If the beat is sold non-exclusively, the producer can sell it to as many people as he wants.
Selling beats online without face-to-face interaction with a client is ideal for marketing to clients in different parts of the world. A beats producer was able to share his story and tell us how he is currently going to school full-time because, by selling his beats to a studio across the country, he has enough income to support himself through school.
To make a good amount of money selling your music, you have to make good music. It will take time, practice, and trial and error to figure out what sells and what people want to hear.
6. Video Game Compositions
A video game composer can be a desirable way to make money as an EDM producer because of the variety of music that video game composers create.
Soundtracks, as well as sound effects and short vocals, need to be recorded and compiled into one score for the game.
To land a video game gig, you will need to prepare and have a lot of knowledge about video games and their scores.
One of the most popular video game soundtracks is from the Legend of Zelda video game series. Not only can the music be upbeat and exciting, but it can also be soulful and relaxing. There are hundreds of remixes on YouTube and thousands of young children across the United States learning to play their favourite songs from the soundtrack on the piano.
If being a part of something like this piques your interest, it is important to start connecting with local video game developers and creators and marketing yourself to them.
A video game composer can make $75,000 or more per year in a full-time salaried position and even more as a freelancer. There are many opportunities for part-time video game composers as well.
7. Sample Packs
Creating sample packs can be a fun and easy way to make money on the side for an EDM producer.
A sample pack generally includes short “loops” and other sounds called “one-shots”.
The loops will be short sections of audio, and there will be different sounds and different tempos included.
One-shots might be drum noises or different instrumental sounds.
Additionally, MIDI packs, which contain MIDI clips and information, can also be sold for profit.
A small sample pack can consist of 50-100 samples, while a larger one might hold 200-300.
Sample packs are intended to be used as starting blocks for other artists to get the creative juices flowing. Most EDM artists, big and small, use sample packs, so sample packs need to be original and full of new sounds. Unfortunately, selling sample packs won't bring in a ton of money, but it can be a good side income.
8. Mixing Engineer
A mixing engineer is an important part of the artistic process, as they are the ones that bring the beats, lyrics, and artist's vision together into a final product. A mixing engineer needs to be a jack of all trades and have experience with all aspects of a song, which makes a good mixing engineer somewhat hard to find.
Reputable mixing engineers generally work with artists and producers who are big in the music world. The more experience in the field and reputable clients a person has, the better they will get paid.
Top-tier mixing engineers can make up to $125,000 per year or more. Although this may seem like a lot of money, the 12 hour days and hard work are a turn-off to those who wish to find an easier way to make big bucks.
9. Recording Engineer
A recording engineer generally works in a studio and works less on their own music and more on recording other artists' music. There are recording schools that these engineers can go to to learn how to record properly, but many record engineers are self-taught.
Getting professional training or teaching yourself doesn't seem to affect how much you get paid (there's no official license required to make music). While I went to college to study and help with job prospects, many others learned to record and mix themselves.
Recording engineers don't do much in terms of editing music or giving suggestions to the producer. They record the music and make sure it sounds good. If you have this job, you will generally be working in a studio with a specific artist, although some people have home studios and recording equipment in their garage or a home office.
Salaried recording engineers often make between $30,000-$70,000 per year or more, with the potential to make side income if recording out of their home or doing extra work in the studio.
I was within this range when working professionally as an audio engineer (before going full-time with My New Microphone).
10. Selling Merch
Since song sales are somewhat a thing of the past thanks to streaming services, EDM producers often turn to selling merchandise as another way to make a little extra cash.
You need a large group of people to market the merch to, making it easier for those with a large social media following or who are fairly well established to make money this way.
Working with high-end graphic designers can be expensive, so creating connections within the community and working with local businesses can be a good way to create high-quality designs and save a little bit of money.
Selling merch can be fairly rewarding, especially if you can create a design that people want to buy and then charge enough for the merch to make a profit.
In talking with a college student who had an old high school friend that started producing music, it became clear. Even though the music was mediocre, the student bought merch for two reasons:
- the connection she had with her friend
- the quality design of the t-shirt, tapestries, and posters that he was selling
Creating personal connections and having a good designer to help with your merchandise can be a game-changer in making money this way.
As cool as it is to have fans listen to your music, it's often even better to see them wearing your artwork!
11. DJing And Live Shows
Perhaps the most common way to make money as an EDM producer is by performing your music live (which often involves sharpening your skills as a DJ). This job can be extremely fun and rewarding, and decently well-paid.
As you establish yourself as an artist, you can begin playing your music at bigger and bigger events.
Touring and playing live shows can be extremely lucrative but also hard to come by. For many producers, it is a dream to go on tour and gain both the publicity and the money that come along with it. The majority of those who go on tour already have successful music rather than those who are just starting their career.
Touring as a well-known EDM producer can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars per show, making it a goal of many artists. However, this market is extremely competitive, and tours are hard to book, so many DJs choose not to rely on income from touring.
The skills you acquire from performing your own EDM live will translate to DJing and vice versa.
Being a club DJ is generally for those who have less experience in the field and those who like the chaotic and late-night lifestyle of working at a club.
Commercial DJs have a steadier income and are typically better established in their community and field. These are the kinds of people you see DJing weddings or other important events.
Regardless of the kind of events you DJ, it is still important to constantly work on new music and continue producing on your own. Being a DJ is more of a side gig rather than a full-time profession, especially if you want to keep your music fresh and continue to be booked.
Club DJs generally get booked to play a set a couple of nights a week and can make up to $1,000 per night. A commercial DJ may make less money per booking but can get more consistent gigs. Generally, a commercial DJ will make $10-$25 an hour.