Independent artists often struggle to monetize their content in the short term, and fall victim to missing out on revenue generating opportunities at the start of their career. Even with minimal streaming and digital sales, and a small local presence, artists can increase return on investment in marketing, studio time, and engineering costs with some simple tips. In this article, we outline some ways small, independent, and underground artists can make more money at the beginning of their career.

Monetizing Digital Uploads

While free upload and streaming platforms such as SoundCloud, YouTube, Spinrilla, and Datpiff allow artists to distribute their music to fans who are able to stream the content for free, they fail to help artists recoup the investments they make creating their art. Paid platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, help artists generate income for their music without requiring a listener to pay upfront for the song. In addition, with a number of affordable distribution organizations for independent artists, such as Distrokid, artists can easily get their music on platforms such as Spotify. By generating streams on paid platforms, as opposed to strictly free platforms, artists can recoup their investments more easily. Want to learn how to better advertise your monetized uploads? Check out our guide on digital advertising for music.

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Registering with a Performance Rights Organization

Receiving paid performance opportunities can be difficult as a small artist. Open mics and artist showcases provide independent artists with a crowd of engaged listeners, and the ability to network with other like minded individuals. However, these events rarely, if ever, pay the artists performing. However, by registering with a performance rights organization, or PRO, such as BMI, or ASCAP, artists are able to receive royalties for performing, even if the venue or promoter does not pay them. By registering with a PRO and performing consistently, artists can generate free traction while bringing in performance royalties.

Selling Merchandise

Create products for your listeners outside of music is a great way to engage with fans and drive revenue growth. Merchandise, such as tee shirts, physical copies of your music, and other tangible items are popular among new and diehard fans. Free hosting sites, such as Big Cartel, allow creators to set up web shops for free and sell their merchandise. We’re huge advocates of Big Cartel, and use the site to power our online store.


Starting your career as a musician can be difficult, especially with limited funding. While there are many ways to generate revenue as an artist, these five tips will get you on the ground running. Interested in learning how to better market your content? Check out our free artist resources, or contact our team to inquire on a marketing engagement with Downers Club Records.