Increase your artist income

The internet is a veritable treasure trove of information, but at the core of it for musicians looking to increase their income are three key principles which are at the heart of long term music marketing.

To increase your income you must first increase your active fanbase.


None of these three parts are brain surgery. But they do take time and strategy.

I’ve said in previous posts that you cannot market music online in the same way you would market a diet product or car insurance. Traditional internet marketing – in my opinion – doesn’t work very well for music. Why is this?

Products that sell online tend to solve people’s problems (like losing weight or making money). In order to market music effectively, you need to approach the whole thing a bit differently.

With a little customization and savvy strategy, musicians can use those three basic principles to increase their own incomes.


The Three Ways to Increase Your Artist Income:

1. Increase your number of fans (fanbase).

Here is how you can do this: Get serious about your newsletter.

 On socials, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole frantically searching for new fans,  but you may be forgetting the ones you already have. 

These fans don’t need to be found, because they’re already following you!

Studies have proven that it is much harder to make a new client and get them to purchase something than it is to get a client that already knows and trusts you to purchase from you over and over.

Yep, stop wasting time on Facebook ads and tweeting till your fingers go numb and adding more filters to Instagram!

The #1 way to get fans to engage and purchase is still with your newsletter.

You need to be consistent in sending and have a reason for fans to open each and every one.

Use Mail Chimp or Constant Contact

You must be able to track open rates and customize and train yourself to send your newsletter at least once per month. Train your audience to expect them on a certain day and time of month.

Always Be List Building

Take time every month to add new email addresses to your list

Mine your inbox and outbox for names and addresses to add.

Send DMs to Your Most Engaged Fans on Socials

Spend time on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and ask if you can have their e-mail addresses for your newsletter.  This is a bit arduous but the results will pay off.

If you need to whip your socials into shape I have a process to help

Invest in Clipboards & Promote From Stage

It’s so old school but it works – pass a clipboard around the venue asking people for their social media (everyone wants more followers) as well as their email addresses

Invite people onto your mailing list with a raffle or giveaway from the stage, and collect e-mail addresses.

During your performance, hold up a merch item on stage and then give it away: you’ve just inserted a full commercial into your set without feeling “salesy” and you’ve excited one of your fans by giving them a gift.

Or get a cheap phone and ask fans to text you their email straight from the stage!

Study Newsletters And How To Best Utilize Them

Here is a full article on best practices that expands on this – I touch on subject lines and CTAs (calls to action).

And here is a newsletter how-to video, with a downloadable action sheet if you are into this kind of thing!


2. Increase the frequency of purchase (how often your fans buy from you). 

To do this, you’d better have more than just music to sell!

Ask yourself: what can I offer your fans on an ongoing basis that will get them to buy?

First, you have to have real fans that have proven they want to buy. Once you do here are some ways to get them to 

Have A Strong Presale Strategy 

Watch this video with my dear friend Michael Shoup of 12 South Music all about how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign:

Work with Pledge Music to structure an effective pre-sale campaign before you launch a new project to monetize it.

Monthly Fan Club – Use Patreon

Record a unique track, live session or video once a month and charge your fans a small fee and have a sliding scale the club ($2 – $10 a month).

Special Events with the Band Club

Create a fan club that hosts periodic special events a year. Not all of them have to be you performing. You can get creative. Have a wine tasting, a bowling night, a dessert party or a pub crawl. Get local businesses involved by holding these events on a slow night, like a Monday, or during a down month for the business.

Artist Critique and Feedback

Invite your biggest fans to come hear the songs that you’ve written for a new album or EP release. If your fans don’t all live near your hometown you can do this on a live streaming site or as a Facebook Live!

Play the tracks and give listeners feedback cards and let them contribute thier opinions. This makes your fans feel extra included because they can help you choose what will make it onto you new record.

Private Gigs

You can play a dinner party or a backyard BBQ, or a coffee shop gig that’s private-invite only. You could arrange these 2X – 4X a year. Offer the fact that you are available to play private gigs in the newsletter. Your fans may bite – but you have to make the offer!

An Event for Each Season

How about a concert for each season? This would be a great way to get fans to pay four times a year. Hold a quarterly concert with a theme, such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Summer Solstice, April Fools, or Winter Wonderland.


3. Invest In A Long-Term Musician’s Marketing Plan

Before you go straight to hiring a radio promoter, a Spotify playlisting company or a publicist – STOP! 

Ask yourself what your objectives and goals REALLY are!  Most of the time just getting PR won’t add money to the bottom line!

I am always amazed that artists will spend years preparing a release and then spend almost zero time planning for how to properly roll it out according to what is actually working in today’s wild-west of the music business.

To create momentum,  this you need a Long-Term Strategy that focuses on money – Is it playing more gigs, licensing to film and TV, or creating better merch that sells for you?  Without a plan in place for how to increase your income you won’t.

I deeply suggest you work with someone who knows how to build a plan or take some real time to get clear on how you are going to build and make sure you allocate serious time for each part.

We have identified 15 steps to prepare to release new music in our Musician’s Marketing Plan series – Here they are:

15-Step Musician’s Marketing Plan Guide

The First 5: Ramping Up For Release

 Put these 5 into place before any official announcements about a new album, EP, or even a single

1. Distribution – choose the right distributor
2. Website – modern and functional and easily updatable
3. Social Media – well branded and primed for building news
4. Newsletter – platform selected and new contacts added
5. Single (s) Selection – choose the strongest singles and plan out how each one will be released before a full EP/album.

The Second 5 Elements: Ordering the Chaos
The next 5 elements are all about organizing so you will be in action and not in reaction mode

1. Timeline – plan some milestones before the release date and follow through
2. Release – make sure the release day is as effective as it can possibly be
3. Social Media – content strategy and calendar planned out
4. Press & Promotion – PR targets and social media tastemakers identified
5. Shows – release show or special listening party event planned

The Constant 5: The Ongoing Work!
And finally, the work transforms into supplying consistent compelling content to strengthen relationships with fans and potential fans.

1. Releasing New Music – keep fans engaged with what they originally came for
2. Live Shows ­- hit the road or get in front of your audience without leaving the comfort of your own home
3. Ongoing Social Media – keep your channels exciting and fans interacting
4. Merchandise ­- plan what merch to get, how much, and when
5. Making Money – Newsletter, film & TV placements, continuation programs, VIP experiences and crowdfunding are all fabulous options

Want some help with organizing your Long-term marketing perspective?  Come download this fabulous checksheet to help you get organized:


Click to Read All About Total Tuneup Flat Fee $2,500

Up Next In This 3-Part Series…. 

The next blog post in this series attacks principle number two, increasing the frequency of purchase. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you build your fan base in the comment section below!

16 Responses to “3 Ways To Increase Artist Income – Part 1: Build Your Fanbase”

  1. Will

    Building a list and following up with offers are crucial. I prefer to use a general email service like rather than a band-focused email service. You can also offer your list products that you don’t make, using affilate offers of products you like. These emails can be autoloaded so they get sent out on a regular basis automatically.

    Since selling mp3s has fairly low value these days, you have to find things of higher value to sell. Most musicians focus on selling their cds or merchandise but there are many spinoffs or things you may know about that you could charge for.

    The ‘Ali Brown’s’ of the world are charging thousands of dollars for 10 cd sets and seminars. They repurpose their content in various formats of higher perceived value. So we can try to replicate this by selling ‘home study courses’ for songwriting, singing lesson, guitar lessons, or anything else you have expertise in.

    I see musicians traditionally working at music stores, gigging and playing guitar on the street and it makes me sad that most won’t be able to support their music careers.

  2. Twitted by dhuman

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  3. Jami Jackson

    This is a great article! I think that we defintiely should utilize the social sites to ask for email addresses. This is the best way to grow a list.

  4. Alex

    Awesome advice. As an independent artist trying to build a following and career, this type of advice is incredibly helpful. Keep it up!

  5. Gorilla Liz

    These are great examples that go great with the grass-roots promotions approach we teach the bands in our artist development program. Thanks for all the new internet marketing tips!

  6. Allyssa

    Thanks for this, Ariel! What I appreciate most is your recommendation to have everything linking back to my official site. My practice has been to send my newsletter to my subscribers, then send or post it in full on my Facebook music page, MySpace and other places. Really, what I need to do is use the social networking sites as gateways- not alternatives- to my official site. I heard the same message in terms of CD and merch sales at a marketing session I attended ASCAP Expo last month. I’m sure I’m not the only artist who is looking to focus their marketing efforts, to work smarter instead of flailing around internet.

    Thanks also for the tips on using Twitter following and ReverbNation widgets more effectively. Looking forward to trying those!

    To Will- I agree with your thoughts about increasing value by expanding one’s “products” beyond mp3’s. In addition, I have found that my biggest activity/subscriber spikes happen when I’ve participated in a cause or other event where I haven’t been focused on selling myself. Too often we focus on hustle for hustle’s sake and forget that music is at its best about creating community. Communities tend to develop lives of their own that feed the artists they grew around.

  7. KSE

    Ariel has always published some of the best ‘free’ advice on the Internet.

    We are advocates of making fan based building one of the highest priorities an artist has. In, Texas, the first thing a venue owner/booking agent will ask you is: “How many fans will come to see you, if we book you?” If you give them a number that is not real, I can assure you, you will not get a second chance, unless you guarantee them the difference out of your pocket.

    What kind of fans do you need? WE call them TBF (True Blue Fans), which means, they support you in ALL that you do, including coming to your shows and buying your merch. They are your street team workers in each city; they are your advocates, wherever they go & to whomever they meet; they are your ‘wheels’ that keep your career moving forward; they show up at your shows with new fans.

    As an artist you acknowledge them each and every day; you provide them with free tickets; you provide them with backstage access from time to time; you make a ‘special’ section on your website, only accessible to them. Most artist have no ideal of how much work they should be doing. And, you can find out a lot about artist by just follow them on their social networks sites & I mean: How dedicated they really are, then they wonder why the world is not knocking on their door each day & buy their M&M’s (music & merchandise).

    Music Success is a long & never ending road. An artist has to keep moving down or up that road, each day, or they will get run over.

    Ariel’s approach and her programs can help any artist, plus, they are priced for just about any budget. If they are not affordable, then I would suggest an artist get enough side work to afford them.


  8. KSE

    Lowering the price can make money, provided the demand is there.

  9. Melody Gross

    These are great tips. Some I’ve shared with my own clients.

  10. Shannon Kennedy

    These are all really great tips.  I’ve already put a lot of them into practice, but I think my twitter might need more attention than I’ve been giving it. I look forward to reading parts 2 and 3.

  11. Karen Davis

    Very simple but helpful advice – especially the ‘clipboard to every appearance’ thing. We’ve forgotten it several times, and not having it is a great way to lose fans. As of now, the clip board goes into the gig case, with my gig guitar and does not come out except at shows and then at home to add email addresses. Thanks for the reminder. Following people on twitter is also a great way to connect with other musicians and fans. Doing that right after I put the clipboard in the gig case.

  12. Michael Williams

    Nice article loved it


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