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Beyond sales and streams: alternative sources of revenue for bands and artists

The age of buying music appears to be over, with niche vinyl sales now outpacing digital downloads and most people choosing to stream their music instead. But with streaming fees still very low – what other avenues do bands have to generate revenue?

Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and the numerous other streaming services available online have revolutionised how people listen to music – but even for the biggest artists, the revenues from streaming rarely pay the bills. Today, only a handful of artists manage the stratospheric albums and ticket sales needed to turn them into millionaires – but luckily there are various other ways for musicians to make a living from their art.


Synchronization licensing is the term for the agreement where artists can license the use of their songs for visual media output such as television, film, video games, or often most lucratively – advertising. Not only can the use of a song in a widely promoted TV advert generate additional sales and streams for an artists, but the advertiser will also pay a hefty fee for using the music to promote their products or services.


Once a band has made a name for themselves, then it is not only their music that has value, but also their brand. The most obvious use of this type of branding are the commercials for the likes of Pepsi or Coca-Cola, which have featured a variety of huge popstars over the years from Britney Spears to Beyonce, but the opportunities go far wider.

To generate the most profit from their short shelf-lives, pop bands will often put their name to everything from clothing lines and perfumes, to action figures and online slot machines.

If a band or artist has managed to gain a loyal fanbase through their music, live appearances, and carefully crafted media presence, then they have a huge opportunity to earn money from a wide array of sources.

Band-branded merchandise is no longer just a screen-printed t-shirt, but instead can include bags, shoes, phone cases, sunglasses, and everything in between. One of the most creative co-brands in recent years was the UK X Factor-formed pop band Little Mix producing their own branded hair colour, but we’ve also seen limited edition beers, barbeque sauce, and even condoms from other more adventurous artists.

Even when a band’s best years are behind them, musicians can earn significant sums by licensing their image and name for use in games. Everyone from legendary rockers Motörhead and Guns N’ Roses, to Kiss and Michael Jackson have teamed up with gaming firms like NetEnt to create games where their fans can listen to some of their most popular tracks while earning free spins and multipliers with games like. Even guitar hero Jimi Hendrix and rock’n’roll king Elvis have their own dedicated games.

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