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How To Make Money Playing Guitar?

18 Mins read

Do you want to know how to make money playing guitar? Are you passionate about it?

Well, let me tell you something…

You can make money from playing guitar, it sounds almost impossible sometimes but you can always cash your passions into real money if you really want to and do the right things.

Now…

If you came here looking for some “how to get rich quick” vibes, you are in the wrong place. I will be talking about legit ways in which you can build a sustainable business and earn an income as a guitar player, not how to make a million dollars in one week.

There are many ways to use your creative abilities to earn money.

I will go over some of the ones that I’ve seen people use over the years and also some others that have worked for me as well.

Let’s now start…

1. Get yourself into freelancing

You can freelance your way into guitar playing to earn money.

There are many session guitarists who are asked to play live or for recordings when other bands or musicians require a guitar player.

Local event managers could tell you about such gigs, so one thing you would need to do is go out there and talk to whoever leads most of the events around your town.

Now…

I know this is not a movie, most of these event managers are not going to spend their time talking to every guitar player that approaches them.

A good thing you can do is…

Go to your local music store, and see if they have a board in which musicians put ads on it.

You will often find other bands that are already making money by playing gigs that need a guitar player.

Besides that, now you have the opportunity to go online and advertise your skills. Some online platforms allow you to set up profiles as session guitarists so people can find you when they require your skills.

Many people have found success on Fiverr selling their own guitar songs or riffs, or even recording for others.

How could Fiverr even provide some income for a guitarist?

Good question.

Fiverr is an online marketplace for freelance services.

There is a section that is exactly dedicated to that, session musicians that can provide services related to their craft; of course for a fee.

Fiverr gigs start at $5, but you can price your work even more than that if you want.

You just need to create an account and start selling your “gigs”.

As more people hopefully buy your services, you will start gaining more popularity and you could even start networking with other musicians.

A lot of money could be made from using Fiverr, but as always there will be a lot of competition.

You would have to deal with it; just be smart, and be better than them by offering more value every time somebody orders from you and you will do better than the average seller.

Let’s take a closer look!

I went ahead and searched for “Session Musicians” and selected to only show “guitar” gigs.

These were some of the results I got:

As you can see, the platform will push up whoever has 5.0 stars reviews.

If you scroll down, everybody else with 4.9 and below, starts to appear.

Let’s go to an actual Fiverr guitarist seller’s page…

I chose someone that at the time was not even a Level One Seller.

Quick Note: Fiverr ranks its sellers in different groups:

  • Seller
  • Level One Seller
  • Level Two Seller
  • Top-Rated Seller

To read more about it, you can go here.

So, this person has 5 stars, with 46 reviews.

And have in mind that not everybody writes reviews, so the total number of gigs that he has sold, might be more.

His Basic package is $5, but then he also has a Standard package that is priced at $15, and a Premium package that costs $25. (All this is at the time I’m writing this. )

If we do some calculations, and we are extremely pessimistic about his earnings, using his basic package ($5), and even forgetting about the fact that you can upsell your gigs:

That will give us 46x$5, which would be equal to $230. But, there is also a catch, though.

How does Fiverr make money?

Well, they take a fee from every purchase that you get.

So that same calculation that we just did would end up giving you approximately $185.

You might say that’s not enough to pay for rent, and that is the real truth. But it is money you didn’t have before, and that’s really the mindset I think you should have while doing this.

I really encourage you to watch this video for a more realistic point of view about making money on Fiverr as a guitarist:

I Sold My Guitar Services on Fiverr

By no means, we are being sponsored by Fiverr and want to sell you this image that this is all very easy to do.

It’s very hard, and I cannot stress that enough.

In that video, you will get his very honest opinion on making money on Fiverr, and the very entertaining story of how he got $0 with a newly created account.

A few Fiverr alternatives or just other platforms to sell your work are:

  • Upwork.com
  • Freelancer.com
  • Peopleperhour.com

2. Teach others how to play the guitar

Now, this one is one of the most stable ways to make money playing guitar. If you are a pro and know how to play guitar, you can set up tutoring lessons.

You can advertise or market your skills through posters around your town or even just with your own contacts.

Even if you get a few students at the start, it will all be for good in the long run as more people start to learn about your skills and word-of-mouth starts to get bigger,

If you are a patient person, it will not be difficult for you to explain the basics of playing the guitar and teach students to follow sheet music at all.

In fact, it will be an interesting way to use your skills as you will find yourself also learning along the way.

On the other hand, if you feel like your abilities are not enough, this might help you.

You just need to know more than the average person.

Some people will literally pay you to learn how to play chord progressions and small riffs.

Now…

Please don’t advertise something that you won’t be able to provide. Always be honest about your skills and what you can teach.

There are many sites that will let you join as a teacher. For example, lessons.com

Lessons website for guitar players

You can join as a teacher, and create a professional profile, and if you get lucky enough, you could find a few potential students around your area that are already on there, that will maybe even travel to you.

The amount of money that you will make, will highly depend on how much you charge your students.

Let’s think about another scenario now…

You don’t like going to other people’s houses or you don’t have space to teach students in a studio or house.

What can you do?

There are many approaches to this, but another option would be to create a guitar course and maybe sell it on Udemy.com or even your own website (which gives you more freedom to do whatever you want).

You can price it as high or low as you want. Some of these guitar courses on Udemy.com go for as high as $199.99.

If you take a close look, that first result of my search currently has 21,054 reviews.

Even with the website’s fees, you would still be earning a lot of money if you get to the level that these instructors are in.

But…

It is not all that great and I must be honest and give you a reality check.

Most Udemy instructors have been doing this for years, and even have very popular YouTube channels that they use to drive traffic to their courses, as well as landing pages to collect emails, etc.

So, this is not a “get rich fast” strategy, but it’s surely a very stable one.

In the beginning, it might be really hard to build this type of success without an audience, but that’s the challenge I encourage you to take.

You might fail, or you might succeed, but at least you tried.

Some Udemy alternatives are:

  • Skillshare.com
  • Udacity.com
  • Lynda.com

To get started, just go to their respective homepages, and look for a “Become an instructor” link.

3. Start doing more live performances

This one might be a little difficult for people without the right connections, but with time, it can become a very convenient way of earning money since this is what generally every musician wants to do as a career.

How do you go about it?

You will have to start by playing at a local restaurant, club, or bar, if possible.

If you want to ask for a show, you have to seem credible.

That is why, if I was you I would record myself playing, and then show the videos or audios to the manager, or whoever is in charge of the place.

Your recordings will be proof that you are worth a try.

At first, stick with small payments since you want to build your image slowly. Don’t hope to get paid a couple of thousands of dollars on your first gigs.

That’s not how it usually goes.

Telling you to expect to get paid at first is me being extremely positive about it. You might find yourself playing for free for a while.

As a manner of fact, I think you should go up to the manager of your favorite restaurant or venue, and offer to play for free for a few shows, and then say that if they like it, you would want them to start paying you for your work, and to make you a contract.

Now…

As you grow your skills and experience with live performing, you can also aim to play at bigger restaurants or venues.

Experienced and popular artists are always paid better.

Just be patient in the beginning and work your way up.

Pro Tip: Having a strong social media presence is really important.

Let’s be rational for a second…

You are the manager of a restaurant and some guitar player tells you that they want to play at your venue. What’s the first thing you do?

Your answer to that question, among many others, should have been to just look them up on Instagram, YouTube, etc.

So, showing your gear on Instagram, and posting some covers on YouTube would start to make sense at this point.

Other things to do while live performing

If allowed by the venue or restaurant:

Try selling your own merch; meaning accessories like hats, or picks that are related to you or your band (usually with your logo or name on it).

But…

Again, reality check!

If you are a small artist and you want to sell some merchandise, it would make the most sense to sell generic guitar-related or music designs, rather than putting your own name on it at first.

Note: Take that as a marketing opinion, and not a fact, since every case is different with each artist and their fanbase.

Aside from this, and maybe even more importantly, you can sell CDs with your own music once you start to play at bigger venues.

Inevitably, in my opinion, people will stop using these, and they will become more of a throwback thing, but you might still find this to be a good practice if you are lucky enough and your audience likes it.

By handling CDs with your songs, you are actually making money and promoting yourself at the same time, which is something not everybody can do.

4. Simply record your own music and upload it to streaming platforms

This one goes almost side by side with the one before.

Let’s face it, you love music and you want to be that artist that gets paid for doing what it loves. If this is the case, then you should start recording your own music.

We talked about how you should record yourself to show people around so you can hopefully get some shows.

Well…

Make that opportunity the perfect one to come up with music so good, that it is worth releasing it.

It is important to have faith in your skills to produce and record yourself, but you can always book a studio and start to record your own tracks professionally.

Pro tip: You can earn money through shops that stock your works and online platforms that feature your music. Upload your music to streaming platforms and make money through those as well.

The old days of record labels being the ones owning every opportunity for every artist out there are over.

Nowadays, you can upload your songs to Spotify, Apple Music, and pretty much everywhere, from your own computer.

There are many platforms to do so, for example, DistroKid is my personal favorite since you get to own 100% of your royalties, but you also have TuneCore or CDBaby.

make money with guitar through streaming platforms

Note: If you register your music with a Content Identification System (DistroKid has this option),  you can also get paid every time somebody uses your music on YouTube, for example.

You can also sell your music directly to fans who genuinely love your music.

If by releasing songs and playing live shows, you are able to build a fan base, then you are pretty much on the right path to even more success.

5. Use YouTube to upload videos and monetize them

YouTube has many opportunities for anyone.

Anything from teaching the world how to play guitar, showing off your instruments and knowledge, uploading covers, to even talking about how to make money playing guitar.

We have seen how many guitar players from all over the world have made it to the top by simply doing this, uploading YouTube videos.

What are some ways that you can make money with YouTube?

You will get paid depending on how many views you get.

There are many ways in which you can monetize your channel, the most common ones are:

1- Through Ads

As I mentioned, you will get paid depending on how many views you get. You will usually get paid per thousand views, and the number may vary from channel to channel.

This one is one of the most effective ones. The correlation between the people that watch your content, and how much you get paid, will tell you what you are doing well and what you are not.

Meaning, that if you see that a certain type of video is getting more views, you would obviously upload more content on that same topic or style.

Also…

Just so you know, you cannot just create an account and upload a video or song to YouTube and start getting paid right away. There are requirements that you need to take care of before you even get accepted to their monetization system.

Source: YouTube Studio Monetization Tab

In order to use other monetization strategies like Channel Memberships, Merchandise Shelf, Super Chat & Super Stickers, and also YouTube Premium revenue, you should comply with other requirements as well:

Source: YouTube’s Help Center

As you can see from the first picture above, this is what YouTube has to say about this topic:

To get into the YouTube Partner Program, your channel needs 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months, and 1,000 subscribers. Your channel will also get reviewed to make sure it follows YouTube monetization policies.

Another example of the fact that some of the ways to make the most money come with harder efforts.

2- Through affiliates

Getting paid through affiliates is generally very handy for small channels since you don’t need too many views to start seeing some money flow in.

You can join any affiliate program, and then promote products on your videos. Later on, after you have put that product’s link on your video description, if people click it and make a purchase, you will get a commission for it.

Note: With Amazon Associates, you get a commission for everything a certain person who clicked on your link bought, being not necessarily a guitar-related gear.

How to make money playing guitar Amazon associates picture

For example, you can promote guitars, pedals, or pretty much anything that has an affiliate program.

Tip: Make a video reviewing the gear you currently have (guitar, pedals, amps), and then place an affiliate link on your description.

If any of these videos that promote a product get rank high on YouTube or even Google, the amount of money could be very high. Depending on the demand and the search volume of whatever keyword you are going for, you will start receiving more and more visits every day.

Again, this is not easy to do, but highly rewarding in the future.

3- Sponsor videos

Making money through sponsor videos is the most difficult one. This is because brands usually go for whoever has the most amount of subscribers.

This is not something that is generally the case, though.

Sometimes you see pretty small channels also getting paid by sponsors as well, but at that point, in my opinion, it is more of being lucky than anything else.

Now…

You can try talking to brands and offer them value, instead of just waiting for them to find you.

You can contact them and say something like:

Hey, love your stuff. I see that you are promoting (insert their product). My YouTube channel is currently receiving (insert your true statistics). I was thinking we can manage to make a deal in which I feature your product on my channel, let me know what you think.

This won’t always get you a deal, but it puts you out there.

That example text, it’s not even close to what you should be sending to these companies since it sounds very generic.

Always make sure to make it as personal and humanly as possible and to add your own taste to it.

If you have a growing audience:

  • You will make more money from ads
  • You will get more clicks to your affiliate links
  • More companies will contact you to promote their gear

On this YouTube video, you will find a deeper take on this very specific part of this topic on how to make money playing guitar.

Making Money As A Musician On YouTube

In the long run, YouTube can be a useful platform for you if you know how to use it well.

Not only to make money but to get exposure as an artist as well.

6. Use Instagram to build an audience and charge for sponsored posts

Not a lot of guitar players are using this resource to grow as artists and to make some income.

But if you pay close attention to it, it has all been happening for years now.

Have you ever seen these big guitar pages with hundreds of thousands of followers giving shout-outs to small creators?

As some of them usually do it for free, others, obviously ask for a fee.

A great example of a page we love is @guitardaily on Instagram:

As you can see from their bio, it says “DM for inquiry on paid features”.

Most of the time when you see an artist being posted, that means the artist paid to be on there,

So, as a guitar player, a great side hustle could be to either create your own repost page or just grow your own personal account to then charge others for exposure.

There are many ways you can price this, but it all depends on you.

And again, this is by no means easy!

That page alone has already posted 6,976 posts at the time I’m writing this.

And have in mind that, at first, you will have no followers and you would need to grow it by reposting other people’s contents: meaning you will always want to ask for their consent before doing so.

It can be really time-consuming, and not really that worth it in comparison to other methods in this article.

7. Try street performing or busking

This one is maybe one of the oldest methods to make money while playing the guitar.

Street performance or busking is according to Wikipedia:

The act of performing in public places for gratuities. In many countries, the rewards are generally in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink, or gifts may be given.

So, essentially what you would want to do is go to a really populated place, and set up a small environment in which you would have your guitar equipment (amps, guitar, pedalboard, etc) and then some sort of box (sometimes your own guitar case) so that people can give you money.

In my opinion, this way is one of the fastest ways to make money playing guitar.

Although one disadvantage is that your income will most likely be inconsistent.

But if you feel like you will be comfortable playing in front of people in the streets, then you should definitely try it out.

I really encourage you to watch this video to take a look at a real-life guitarist who is making money while busking:

Busking: BASIC TIPS for a NEW busker!

He talks about how much he made on that day that he was recording and shares some tips for people who are thinking about starting to do it as well.

8. Create a guitar blog/website

Having a guitar blog or website could essentially work almost the same way as a YouTube channel.

Meaning that you would upload content, and with time and effort, you would be able to put ads on it and monetize it.

In that same way, you can also put affiliate links on written product reviews, for example. When people click on those respective links and buy that said product, you would get a commission.

And once again, this one is by no means easy, and it requires a lot of work to put it together, as well as some initial investment like buying hosting for your website, buying a domain, etc.

There are plenty of ways to earn money through your passion.

The key is to invest time into your skills and to know how to properly use them.

9. Sell tabs or sheet music online

There are multiple online platforms that you can use to sell your original sheet music or tabs.

MusicNotes.com is one of those platforms. You can go and upload your sheet music and then people that are interested in buying your work would just go there and do the checkout process.

But who are these people that will magically buy your work?

Well, people won’t appear all of a sudden to give you money, that’s for sure.

You need some sort of traffic on a website or a YouTube channel!

But what you can do, is use the other ways of making money that we talked about before and combine them with this one.

If you upload guitar videos to YouTube, have a website, or simply a big audience, then you’re 50% ahead of many other guitar players reading this right now.

Checkout page on MusicNotes.com

If you have original work that you created yourself and a good amount of people are interested, then you will most likely get some sales.

And before you get discouraged…

If you are like me, and probably 90% of all guitarists and don’t really use or understand sheet music, then I have some good news for you.

This same platform has a session that is specifically for guitar tabs.

It would look something like this:

Now…

The problem with this site is that due to the need of having proper licensing and data on each piece that they offer, you can not just sign up and start selling your work right away.

But they are open to working with you if you are an artist with “an established base of musicians looking to perform your music.”

Meaning, that if you are somebody that already has a lot of people willing to buy or play your music, then you can simply reach out to them. They encourage those who qualify to contact them via email at publish@musicnotes.com.

You can read more about it in this article posted on their support page.

On the other side, this is not the end of the world for those that might not qualify, there are many other alternatives that many would even argue that are better.

For example, you can create your own website to sell your music with your own payment system.

This way you will have full control over the pricing and there won’t be any processing fee other than the one from the payment system itself.

10. Make relaxing music with either your guitar or other digital instruments

This method is a bit similar to the one where we told you to upload videos on YouTube, but I feel like this deserves to be a point of itself.

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen one of those relaxing videos on YouTube, those channels get A LOT of views.

This video for example was posted on Oct 1th, 2015 by Yellow Brick Cinema:

3 Hour Relaxing Guitar Music: Meditation Music, Instrumental Music, Calming Music, Soft Music, ☯2432

At the time that I’m writing this exact sentence, that video has 109,723,308 views.

Now, if we do a little bit of research on this channel, according to Social Blade, a YouTube analytics website, it is estimated that this channel is making around $8.6k – $137.7k a month.

making money with relaxing music

At the same time, their estimated yearly earnings are about $103.3k to $1.7M.

Even if those numbers are highly overestimated, it still gives us a decent idea of what’s possible with a channel like that.

You don’t have to play guitar for 3 or 10 hours straight, you could just create a track that’s about 3-10 minutes long, and then you loop it for 3-10 hours with any royalty-free image or video.

If you have experience with any music-making software like FL Studio, Logic, Ableton Live, etc. then doing something like this is extremely easy and fast to do.

Frequently asked questions

Can you sell guitar riffs?

You can sell your original guitar riffs, but this is not as simple as that.

There are many things that need to be done before you even consider doing something like this.

If you want to do it the right way…

First of all, you will need to get into multiple legal steps to simply prove that said riff is even yours.

Is not like you can just go ahead and sell the Sweet Child O’ Mine riff for example, because you don’t own the right to that song.

You would need to copyright your songs and then sell the right to use them to other people, with your own terms and conditions.

But if you research this topic a little bit further, you will find out that there are many loopholes in U.S. copyright laws.

Those loopholes make it a lot harder to copyright just about any melody and riff.

That’s why things such as music sampling exist.

These laws are still being changed nowadays and don’t really have a solid base just yet.

Imagine copyrighting a 12-bar blues riff?

That would hypothetically cause a big number of lawsuits among almost any musician since those riffs have been used by many guitarists for as long as we can even remember.

I encourage you to research this topic more according to where you live, just so you get a better understanding of your personal situation and how you can go ahead and do something like this.

Before you go

Our website is all about guitars and how to get better at them.

We share many tips and tricks in our blog for anyone that’s a beginner and an experienced guitar player as well.

You will also be able to see what we think is the best gear out there through our reviews and lists.

Make sure to check out other articles as well, and feel free to see more of our content.

Thank you so much for being here! 🤘

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