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How To Make Money With Music Licensing



Interesting fact: If you are a music writer, you need to get your song played 1,000,000 times on Spotify to make $3,000 (which very few songs ever hit).  Or you can license your song just ONCE and make $3,000!

A lot of starving artist hit me up and ask for copywriting/business advice....and sometimes I'm not super sure how to help them since the music industry is not my specialty.

However I recently came across a woman named Joyce Kettering who is a musical artist that's been able to license and sell a bunch of songs. Like....A LOT of songs.

joyce kettering music licensing

Here's some of the 2016 full-year stats Joyce had:

  • She wrote and produced 110 music tracks.

  • 52 of those 110 were placed in music libraries.
  • 100+ total licensed songs from just 2016 till mid-2017!!

These are extremely impressive numbers....so I'm gonna get off the keyboard, and let Joyce start typing from here on out:

---Joyce Starts Talking Here---

I’ve written over 100 songs. I don’t perform live, I don’t have a fan base. I don’t know anyone in the music industry.


The point is: I like to sit at home and make music.

I am NOT interested in dragging my gear around the country to perform live and entertain people when I don’t feel like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love the attention! It just seems like a lot of effort I’m not prepared to put in.

My music is all over the place:

  • I write electro-orchestral tunes in the vein of Woodkid and Hans Zimmer.
  • I write ambient, atmospheric tunes influenced by Air and Radiohead.
  • Once in awhile, I try to write happy music but rarely make it work.

Half the time I just don’t get social media.

So I hate performing live. I don't have a "genre" to stick to. I don't know marketing super well.....

As you can see, I don’t really have what it takes to build my “tribe”, a loyal following of listeners who will come to all my shows, buy my albums and support me in any way they can.

Still, I manage to make lots of money making music.


I license it.

That means that in exchange for the right to use my music in a project, people and companies give me money.

Given my profile as a non-gigging musician, music licensing is my best bet to make a decent living with music.

BUT I’d argue it’s the best bet for 90% of musicians.

Why? Well.... We all know album sales are not what they used to be and the money from streaming platforms isn’t exactly rolling in...

I laughed when I saw my Spotify streaming earnings for the first time!

$0.18 in the bank!

That was in March 2017. I had released 2 EPs and 2 albums in November 2016, 4 months prior:


Over a year later in 2017 I’m up to….

$1.69 !

How did I make that huge jump in earnings I hear you ask ;)

Well, from April 2017, I started driving traffic to Spotify:


After over three month of driving traffic to Spotify, I have $1.69 in the bank.

So that’s a $1.51 return on investment for asking my small following (essentially friends and family) to listen to my music on Spotify instead of any other platform.

Sweet! :)

What a great time to be alive!

Now I can hear you protest that I don’t have any fans and therefore very few streams and that I could try other streaming services to earn more.

Well, that’s incorrect.

First of all, all the streaming platforms pay less than peanuts (literally):



I used the statistics from my distributor (Distrokid) to calculate the average stream earning per platform.

This is what I got:


Whichever platform you look at, it’s a long shot to make a decent living that way.

Second, it’s true my streaming numbers are not very impressive.

9 months after releasing 2 EPs and 2 albums:

15,098 streams = $49.69


They're also pretty average when compared to other indie musicians.

Your streaming numbers would have to be EXCEPTIONAL if you were to count on streaming income to make a living.

1,000,000 streams on Spotify will get you approximately $3,000 in royalties:


I need 1 MILLION plays to make about $3,000!

Can you even hit that target in a whole year? I’m not even sure I could make it in TEN years!

So unless you're Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift, it's unlikely you'll make significant money through pure music streaming.

Enter the Money-Maker Known As Music Licensing:

Here are 6 different ways you could make $3,000 with music licensing. It might take you a whole year when you’re first starting out but it certainly won’t take you 10 years to get there!


By getting a song licensed in just ONE advertisement you can pull in $3,000+.

Now doesn’t that seem much more achievable than 1 MILLION streams on Spotify?

Instead of aiming for a HUGE number and not knowing where to start, you could aim for a much more manageable number of sales.

In fact, they are a LOT of other projects that could use your music AND the sales prices above are fairly conservative (as you’ll find out in a little bit).

So now you know WHY music licensing is a great income stream for musicians.

Let me show you HOW you can get your music licensed.


This is what I did to license 52 songs last year:

I've licensed a lot of my songs and made more money off my music than most musicians could ever hope for.  Here's the exact steps I took:


1.) I wrote a LOT of music in a LOT of different genres:

When I first started exploring the world of music licensing, I read or heard somewhere that you needed about 100-200 tracks to make a decent living through production music libraries (I’ll explain what those are later).

At that point, I didn’t have much going for me:

  • I had major writer’s block when it came to lyric writing.
  • The music I wrote didn’t fit any particular genre of music and varied greatly from one track to another.
  • I wasn’t very good at music production.

This is how I solved everything:

  • I gave up on vocals and focused on instrumental music.
  • I wrote a lot of everything, experimented different genres, trying unfamiliar styles that would “sell.”
  • I embraced the notion that quality comes with quantity (i.e. the more I produce music the better I will be at producing music).

This is what I learned:

  • There is a LOT of demand for instrumental music and ZERO need for songs with mediocre vocals.
  • I can write happy advertisement-ready music but I don’t enjoy it and I’m more prolific when I write electro-orchestral trailer music or sci-fi atmospheric music.
  • I can write really good music really fast. Knowing that is really helpful when there’s a big deadline looming.

Could I make more money if I wrote great lyrics and performed great vocals?

Possibly. A colleague who has all that now only submits instrumentals because he realized his versions with vocals never sell.

Could I make more money if I stuck to one genre?

Probably. It’d be easier to market my work and stand out from the crowd (provided I went super-niche).

Could I make more money if I persevered in writing happy music?

Maybe. Happy music is perfect for high-paying advertising jobs BUT it’s hard enough earning a living as a musician. Might as well enjoy it and write music you enjoy!

With my music recorded, mixed and mastered…


... I started looking for places who might be happy to use my music and...


2. I got 50+ tracks working for me in production music libraries:

If you’re just starting out and have ZERO experience and network in the music industry, getting your music in a production music library is a great first step.

Production music libraries are platforms that curate music with licensing opportunities in mind.

So their role is not to promote music to venues or potential fans, they don't really care about that, it's not their business.

The focus of music libraries is to make your tracks available for licensing to potential customers like ad agencies, YouTubers that need music for their video, videographers, indie filmmakers, music supervisors on TV shows (a LOT of reality TV shows out there! :p ), etc.


Navigating production music libraries can be tricky because they’re all different and you never really know which ones you can trust or not.

When I first started trying to get my music licensed, I just submitted lots of music to lots of music libraries, without really paying attention to anything except making sure I didn’t tie down my entire catalogue (about 10 tracks at the time) to an exclusive deal.

Note that I still manage to make a big mistake a tie down 4 of my best tracks to a 5 year exclusive deal. I have gotten ZERO licensing $$$ from these 4 tracks. 1 of those consistently outperforms all my other tracks on streaming platform so I KNOW it’s good :)


Overtime, I’ve refined my approach and have gotten better at identifying serious music libraries that can get me good licensing opportunities.


I ask myself 3 questions when I submit music to a library:

1.) Can being associated with them damage my “brand”?

In truth, at this stage I have no “brand” BUT I don’t want my best music on crappy royalty-free platforms selling tracks for $1 a pop.

For those libraries, I’ll use a pseudonym and submit music I’m not especially proud of. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s usually just meh.

Why the pseudonym when nobody knows my name?

Well… if I ever do make it to the next level and get some bigger opportunities, I don’t want to be perceived as low-quality.

2.) Do they require exclusivity for the tracks I give them?

I don’t necessarily mind granting exclusivity on some tracks (you tend to get paid more for those) but I always make sure that I have plenty of tracks left available for non-exclusive deals.

3.) Are they worth my time?

Basically, do they pay well.

For one track accepted to a music library, it'll take about 10-15 minutes to set it up properly (with a good description, relevant keywords and track information).

I want to make sure the music library will be worth my time before I submit 50 new tunes.

Let’s take a few examples:


Now that I know a few musicians who are also pursuing music licensing, I also ask around to find out if anyone has anything good or bad to say about a particular library.

Here are a few examples of production music libraries that will hopefully give you a better idea of what I'm talking about :D

  • Audiosparx.com (fairly big player that will give you a good idea of all the admin that comes with licensing, i.e. writing a description for your song, finding the right keywords to increase its chance of appearing in the search results, etc.)
  • Jinglepunks.com (big player, lucrative but selective).
  • Premiumbeat.com ("race to the bottom" type of library in the sense that they really sell their catalogue for cheap...)
  • Railroadtrax.com (small boutique library, competent & super friendly)


This is what I didn’t do (which saved me a lot of time licensing my music):

I DID NOT Get my music copyrighted.

I don’t waste any time, money or energy getting my music copyrighted.


There are more than 10 hours of music being uploaded onto Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud and other listening platforms every MINUTE of every day.

What are the chances of MY music being exactly what some little leach needs?

2. Even if I did copyright all of my music and someone stole one of my songs, I’d only start to care if they made a shit ton of cash with it and I didn’t get a dime.

In fact, it’d have to be so much money that spending years in court making advance payments to lawyers would be worth it.

Again, highly unlikely.

3. If someone is making shit loads of money with my music, that’s good news!

If Beyonce’s next hit single uses one of my instrumentals, here’s what will happen:

  • I’ll get my head out of my ass and realize SHE made it a hit and the music has very little to do with it.
  • I’ll record a video demonstrating that the instrumental Beyonce’s singing to was actually written by little me.
  • I’ll post the video everywhere to promote my music licensing platform, basically saying: Beyonce loves my music, it must be good!


Now, of course, it’s your call and it’s your responsibility. I’m just spouting off my opinion here. I’ve decided that, for my music, copyrighting is not worth my time and money. I may live to regret it.

By all means, get every single one of your songs copyrighted if you like. Just make sure you’re not using this step as an excuse not to move forward, like a wantrepreneur creating an LLC before having a product.


I DID NOT I Pay to get my music heard.

Another no-no for me is paying to get work.

I don’t pay any subscription service like Taxi, Songtradr or Music X-Ray.

These are what I call  “opportunity platforms”: websites that curate music licensing opportunities.

The difference with a production music library is that a library will take your tracks and put them on their website where potential customers can browse, search and find them.

On the other hand, opportunity platforms are letting you know about what their customers are CURRENTLY looking for and YOU can put your own music in front of those customers.

It goes a little bit like this...


Opportunity platforms can be great because you know exactly what kind of tune to pitch.

The flipside is they know it and most have you pay them for their service.

Fair enough I guess, they ARE providing you with information you don’t have easy access to.

There’s also an argument that by asking for a small submission fee, they ensure the quality of submissions are VERY GOOD.

My view is there are a LOT of businesses out there taking advantage of people’s passion projects. One of the most common passion projects is music.

Until you have a really good idea of what kind of music you want to write and you can clearly see in what type of project that music would work, I suggest staying away from paid opportunities.

I think you’ll learn a lot more by doing it yourself and looking for opportunities yourself:


There are others that are less expensive (for example Music Clout offers unlimited submissions for the platinum members who pay $179/year).

Songtradr is another one. The free plan gives you 35 credits per months. For $7.99/month, you get 250 monthly credits. One submission usually costs 2-5 credits so that’s about 840 submissions for $95/year.

Much better...

I only use free stuff. Maybe that’s a mistake but I don’t think so.

I’ve asked musicians from varying backgrounds and at various stages of their careers to share their experience with these services....

Most have been bitterly disappointed. Many feel like they’ve been scammed after spending more than $200 with nothing to show for it.

In fact, only 2 out of 30+ musicians who got back to me got a paid gig through these platforms.

Both are very experienced and accomplished musicians. One of them I know has also landed plenty of other licensing opportunities without paying a dime.

All of this suggest to me that you are better off submitting your music to free opportunities, at least until you have proof that your music is good enough by landing your first placement.

It seems these paying “opportunity platforms” can be lucrative but you’ll mostly be wasting your money if you start out that way.

One of the free platforms I use is Songtradr. They got me on 4 small licenses in the past few months.

Let’s have a look at Songtradr’s pricing tool. Songtradr are a curator of licensing opportunities. They’re basically a platform where music composers can upload their tracks and submit music to licensing opportunities.



If you’re a little geek who likes playing with figures like me, you can go ahead and register to Songtradr for free and have some fun with their pricing tool!


What I’m GOING to do (to license even more music):

1.) Get up to speed:

Too many tracks that are not working for me in music libraries yet. Need to upload and set up new tunes.

2.) Transition from amateur to pro:

In the past few years, I spent a lot of time experimenting with music and exploring different genres.

I didn’t care about quality too much as I focused on writing, recording and producing a maximum number of tracks possible.

That has served its purpose. I am now VERY confident in my music production skills AND I know I can write good music in different genres.

Now is the time to niche down and focus on high-quality only.

I’m taking down all the mediocre tunes on my licensing platform, keeping only the really good ones that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TV show, in a documentary, in a video game.

I am raising the prices, showing how hard I worked instead of how desperate I am for my music to work :)

3.) The Direct Sales Approach

With my tunes set up and working for me in production music libraries, I feel going direct to the customer is how I will get to the next level.

If you’re just starting out, you might want to try that approach at the same time as you contact music libraries. I really do think that we all underestimate our network and you might very well have a few rapper friends or Youtubers that could use some music and wouldn’t mind paying $20 for the privilege. You might know someone who works in an ad agency and can put music in front of a supervisor.

It’s not the approach I started with but it’s definitely the approach I’m going to be focusing on in the next few months.


Well, no more splitting 50/50 for a start :)

No, really, my music is already set up in a few key libraries that I trust. I’ll be adding a few new tunes here and there to show I’m still active and avoid dropping down their internal SEO ladder.

With my catalogue working for me in production music libraries, I’ll be focusing on getting deals over the line by going direct to my customer.

After a couple of years writing a LOT of music to make sure I had 100+ tracks for production music libraries, I’ve figured out what I enjoy writing and what I’m best at.

With that question finally answered, I have a clear idea of who my ideal customer is.

And with THAT question finally answered, I’m ready to go direct and license more music!

In a year’s time, if Neville’s up for it, I’ll let you know how that went ;)


Joyce Kettering


My Music Website: Madlassmusic.com

My Teaching Licensing Website: CreativeAndProductive.com

My SoundCloud Channel: SoundCloud.com/madlassmusic


Download this entire post for your files:


--Download and keep in your own files--

--Share with musician friends--

--Download in any format--

P.S. Joyce shares even more in-depth instructions on licensing music (and her step-by-step process) over at MadLassMusic.com

P.P.S. Have any questions about music licensing for Joyce? She'll answer any questions about her process, marketing, and music here!

User Feedback

Recommended Comments

Guest Priscilla Wood


As a YouTuber myself this is such an eye opener, I'm always purchasing music from those music library websites and I was wondering how I can upload my own tracks. Appreciate this post 1000x.
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Hey Mike,

I'm a classically-trained trumpet and piano player. That means I read music easily but freak out when I'm asked to improvise ;)

It's hard for me to point you in the right direction without knowing a little more about you :)


1. How many songs and/or instrumentals do you have ready (i.e. there's an MP3 that exists and I can listen to it)?

2. Where can I go listen to them?

Just a general piece of advice: go super niche :)

Whatever you're really good at, someone will be into it.

It's your job to find those people (figuring out who they are and getting in touch with them directly) and/or help them find you (by placing your music in libraries).

Music licensing is a very crowded and competitive space. When your music gets into a library, it will be competing with thousands of other tracks. That's when the battle to get to the top of the search results begins...

As with Google rankings, keywords help. If you go super niche, you'll be competing with less people and it'll be MUCH easier for you to get to the top of the results pages.

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Hah! I've been following Nev for years and I always wondered what he'd do with a business like this given his copy writing genius! I write music for a living as well and have not been able to break into writing my own style for licensing but I do have a deal with a major radio production company to write 5-8 genres of music worth of music every week( which amounts to about 10-12 tracks a week). Last year I got a deal to write a large amount of music for Viacom and ended up writing 75 songs between October and March. I do, indeed, agree that quantity is so important as it fine tunes your capabilities and enables you to work very quickly. I'd gladly trade writing "commercial" music in large quantity for writing my own style in lesser amounts any day but it seems like making that switch is very hard. I already spend so much time writing music that I'm pretty tapped out when I should be writing my own stuff. Thanks for the article you confirmed a lot of what I understand about this industry!

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Hey Ed,

I record in a home studio, using Logic Pro X on a Mac Book Pro.

If you're interested in gear, some of the tools I use are:

- an Akai MPK mini controller;

- East/West instruments for lots of orchestral samples;

- Yamaha HS7 studio monitors;

- Komplete Ultimate 10 by Native Instrument;

- an old school audio interface by M-Audio;

- Native Instruments' Komplete Kontrol 49; aaaaannnnnd

- lots and lots of notebooks! :)

Aside from real acoustic instruments that I love to collect, I've not purchased any new gear since December 2015 when I realized I was using only 10% of my plugins and was just making excuses along the lines of "if I don't have this shiny thingy, my tracks won't be good".

Basically I am a reformed *Gear Slut* :p

And yes, it's a real thing in the music world.... Google it!

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Hey Priscilla,

Do you write music already? Why are you using music libraries and not your own music on your videos?!

If you search for *production music library* in Google, you'll find loads of such libraries. They usually have their submission guidelines in the FAQ section or in the footer menu of their website.

Alternatively, you could let me know what kind of music you need and/or check out what's already ready to license on my website madlassmusic.com ;)

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Guest Ola Peluskie


If you not earning FREE money from your work (music) while you're alive someone else will do it while you gone (dead). Music licensing is like eating your money while you alive. Been a TAXI member over a year.
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Wow!!! That's like 500 tracks every year!!! That's seriously impressive Jason! :)

What does your writing schedule look like?

I used to write music at 5:30 am before going to the office and working as a financial auditor. Just didn't have the energy to do it consistently in the evenings....

Maybe you could experiment with something like this for your own stuff?

Basically treat YOUR music as a side hussle even though your full-time job is also music...

Do you have a catalogue of your own music I could have a listen to? Maybe I can help you figure out what opportunities would be a right fit?

In any case, if you'd like to do a video interview to talk about your work with Viacom and the radio production company, I'd love to chat some more with you and share your experience on my website!

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Agreed! I've been listening to them for a couple of hours now I think!!!
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Thanks Joyce for this great info. I don't currently create music, but I would love to for my meditations so it would be my original music. One thing at a time. I like that you don't have to copyright everything. Much appreciated and I requested the ebook. Cheers!
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Guest Aaron P


Love this post!

I've done the punk/hardcore band thing for years out of fun. Its not 'punk' to get paid. The most I ever got for a gig was 100 cash playing at a sketchy skinhead football club were we played for 20 minutes, then ran outta there.

But this is great! Doing something you love, and getting rewarded for it is fantastic.

Looking at those stats, I never knew google play was so up there in payments-makes me feel a bit guilty for using Spotify!

Well done, and cheers Nev for sharing this with us!

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Guest Mike Bass


Thanks for the info!

24 songs (two albums) on iTunes and couple on SoundCloud, with more singles on the way this year. Haven't done the Spotify/Pandora thing. But the albums on iTunes are full songs rather than underscore. Here are the links if you'd like to listen (I can email you this stuff if that's easier):

(this is the most recent, and I'll be uploading to iTunes soon. It's in Japanese, and my goal of goals is to license it to a Netflix Japanese TV drama :) )

iTunes albums:


https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-moon-through-my-window-level-1/id351270429 (this is an album I wrote to help teach kids English as a second language. I have the class activity for this one on YouTube as well)

Much agreed on going super niche and keywords. Thanks again!

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Guest Ken Theriot


Joyce - that was quite possibly a life-changing post for me! Thanks so much for sharing it. I don't know exactly how it came across Neville's email list (since I signed up for that for copy writing stuff), but it was PERFECT for me. My wife and I are songwriters and produce music (with vocals:)) mostly for our niche audience in the medieval re-creation society (SCA). But like you say, streaming income - even CD sales, equates to MAYBE $1K per year, sometimes $2K. But that requires at least 2 gigs a year where we travel to these big festivals across the country. I've thought, for some time, that there was a way we could get our music out to libraries, but I didn't really have a clue how. But NOW I DO, thanks to you! My wife suggested we start by taking all our songs (right now that probably is only about 60-70 songs) and just removing the vocals. After that, I'm going to try what you said about writing instrumentals and going for some volume. I already do music production and teach others to do home recording with Home Brew Audio. That's actually the site/business I work on the most and signed up for Neville's Kopywriting Korse for:-P. Anyway, I'm taking this as a sign to finally start looking into licensing our songs with libraries. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

Ken Theriot

(some of our music is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/RavenBoyMusic)

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Really, really, great and interesting post. Sent to brother who is an accomplished musician, writer and live performer.

Maybe we could have some links to JK's work so we can license it? I am always looking for YT music for my talking-head/cycling/running vids.


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Ooooh... I love writing meditation music! It's so relaxing, I don't even notice I'm working on a deadline! haha

Good luck with it :)

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Hey Aaron,

Yeah, I love this quote attributed to Walt Disney: "We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies."

Obviously he became filthy rich and the cynic in me doesn't believe a word of it but I still think it's a great way to think of the music industry :)

Re Spotify, it may be more complex than Google Play being "nicer" to artists and paying them more because Spotify do offer a free plan (with advertisers) to its users and that may impact the royalties they pay out when the stream is coming from a free account (although again, that should be paid by advertising...).

One thing's for sure, the royalties per stream on Spotify have dropped in the past couple of years despite the platform growing its gross revenue in that same period.

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Medieval Re-creation Society? Very cool! :)

Having instrumental versions of your songs always helps. Your songs are very niche though, I would also try to shop them around with vocals. The market may be tiny but there probably won't be much competition either....

Historians and documentary makers might be a good avenue to explore... Video games might be another...

I see on your website you also have a Christmas album available. Leverage that! You MUST have those songs up with a library by the end of October! :))) No pressure :p

For example, you could submit your music to Audio Sparx and tag it as "Christmas", "Knights of Old", "History", "Renaissance" and "Medieval" then watch what happens....

You could also search for "royalty-free medieval music" and submit to all the production libraries that pop up at the top of the search results.

Go for it Ken! And don't hesitate to get in touch if you get stuck at some point: joyce@creativeandproductive.com

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Hi Joyce,

I'm not much more than a hobbyist when it comes to making music, but there is an idea I've had been unable to validate. When you record songs, do you collaborate with other performers? Is there already a platform out there for artists to work together on songs, publish/share samples to showcase work, and showcase finished pieces?

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Hey hey Timbooo!

Thanks for asking ;)

You can listen to (and license) my work on www.madlassmusic.com

If there's anything specific you need that's not on there, I'm always looking for inspiration so don't hesitate to use the contact form and let me know!

PS: I'm based in Paris. When are you coming back for the Tour de France?!

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Hey Josh,

Yeaaah, there is. It's called Splice. You can make music online and invite other musicians to participate on your project.

There may be others but Splice.com seems to be the most popular and, to my knowledge, it's free.

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Guest Neville


I think the merchandising aspect of music is HUGE! Don't most bands make like 1/3rd or more of their rev from merch?
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Guest Neville


I know, super cool to see right! I had no idea this entire industry existed till Joyce shed some light (and numbers) on it.
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Guest Neville


Why thank you Doc :)

It's not easy as it looks to take a complex subject and make it easy, but we try our best. Fortunately I'm kinda dumb, and have to break down things into little chunks all the time, which in turn makes it easier to understand.

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Guest Neville


I thought this article would be super helpful to musicians, so they can enjoy the early and crazy years of their careers, but ALSO make money in the later stages when touring 24/7/365 will be more difficult.

Thanks for sharing this Betty!

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