top of page
  • Writer's pictureSkill

5 Ways to Make Money at a Free Performance

As an upcoming, independent artist, one of the most frustrating things is that all the venues that are willing to let you showcase your music are not willing to pay you. I've heard many artist that are coming up complain about this and I'm amazed that they haven't thought of ways of getting what they want in another way. As I was preparing for my trip to the USA, I was going to be making a small income promoting and performing songs from my music arsenal and more importantly from my "Jumped On A Plane & Wrote This EP" which was released on the 08 March 2016. I'd like to emphasis that none of the performances that I had were scheduled and I was able to make a satisfactory income doing what I love and connecting with people from a different country. So let's get into it:

1. Have Hard-copies Version of Your Music

While this may seem like the most logical thing to do, it is something that most performers I've seen in the Eastern Cape at large neglect. As an independent artist with little/no following, it is important to be able to make a little money selling your music. At a show, it's possible to sell to someone who is very removed from your current reach.

You have to remember to keep the audience informed about your CDs and in a "not-so" annoying way. Some places will only allow you to perform one song. A sneaky way to perform more than "one" song is to mix two or three songs into one track. This way you let the audience hear more than one song and you still are performing "one"song. This also keeps the audience interested and it also gives you the chance to showcase your tape.

2. Sell Merchandise

When people think of merchandise, they think of clothing. T-Shirts, Hoodies, caps etc. are all good and well but to be able to make a pleasant return from these, you have to sell at least half of your order amount. Example: if you got 50 made, you have to sell a least 25 items. Try getting the items that no one else has thought of. Remember anything people desire with your brand is considered as merchandise so don't be afraid to break trends and start on another lane.

I found there are a lot merchandise options that don't necessarily have to be pointing to your brand per say that will sell to a broader market. An example of this is the #NoBeatsForMahala T-shirts that I worked on with SilasBeats. While we didn't necessarily sell them, there was/is a definite interest in the T-Shirts. Having an affiliated brand or concept helps with promoting your brand indirectly and more people can relate to it.

3. Tip The Performer - Have A Tip Jar

Tip Jars may seem a little desperate but if you actually put effort in your Tip Jar, then it screams effort. While I was in Amsterdam waiting for my connecting flight to the USA, I had a hat with a note reading "Tip The Pianist : I only have Rands, Dollars and 8 hours to wait for my next flight". This note implied I don't have money for food! I played piano for about 45 min and I made about 50 Euros which is about R850. This was my biggest "paycheck per hour" that I've ever received for piano playing and I didn't even play for an hour.

Depending on how big the performance is and how good your performance is, it's possible to make quite a bit of money performing by having a tip jar at the entrance, bathrooms and to have a mobile tip jar that's moving around with your CDs.

4. Running A Competition During and After Your Performance

Having a competition running during your performance and afterwards that links directly to your brand somehow is a good way to keep your performance in people's memories for a lot longer than your actual performance. An example of one competition question I used will I was abroad is "Beef, Pork, Lamb Chops, Skill doesn't like all of them. What does he like?" this was in direct reference to the chorus of a song I performed titled "I Like Chicken" which you can listen to here.

Obviously, having a prize is crucial but the key to converting the competition into an income is to have a very low entry fee. I was charging 1US Dollar in the states to enter which isn't a lot but I had 50USD in no time. This isn't enough to change the world but it was enough to realize that this idea could be beneficial if the crowd was bigger and it's also 50USD more than I have before.

5. Purpose Driven Donations

I used this form of funding to finance 2/3 of my spending money while I was in the states. People like supporting a cause and my cause was the derailing rand vs the USDollar. I was going to spend three weeks in the USA and the conversion rate was not favourable.

I used the "Help Me Get To USA" line as the crowd line. To get the crowd on my side and to buy CDs, donate and "help me get to USA" theme was necessary. This form of purpose driven funding is used for fundraising for charities, non-profit organisations and other low profit businesses. As an independent musician, you're most likely a low-profit entity, help yourself by painting a picture that the general public can see and want to help out.

As mentioned in several of these points, I used these points to help fund and continue to fund my trip to the USA. What needs to be emphasized is that I used more than one of these methods per performance and selling CDs was mandatory every single time. Another point I'd like to mention is that having music which is mixed and mastered to acceptable radio standards is where we should be striving to be. If you're looking for mixing and mastering let's connect via email or whatsapp: or 0835709602. If you have any other points you'd like to discuss or if you have other ideas that you use, don't be shy, let me know.


Other Topics That May Interest You:

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page