recording studio income

How to make money from your DAW, stems, and more: Recording studio income A–Z

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In part two of our series on maximizing your recording studio income, we focus on the raw sounds you’ve created and how you can monetize them.

In “Making money from songwriting,” we discussed how you can create new revenue streams from the songwriting process. In this post, we’re focusing on how the next step of the song-making and recording process can generate revenue and promotional opportunities, including your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and the raw track by-products and sounds you create with it.

As we talk about in our book, Making Money With Music, a finished track represents just one thing that can generate money for you. With some creativity, there are many other revenue-producing streams that naturally come out of your songwriting, recording, and mixing process. We call this technique “making music with money in mind,” and it includes monetizing music by-products to generate sales, royalties, and licensing opportunities.

These studio income revenue streams are all open to you if you plan for them and capture them out of your creation process. Here are some of the key revenue-producing streams you can tap from your recording process and, specifically, your DAW.

1. Your DAW source tracks, beats, and stems can be sold or licensed

Your source tracks and stems can have a multitude of income sources tied to them beyond the final track. Much of what you capture can be useful for licensing or sale. However, most musicians ignore these source track and stem streams, either because they don’t know they exist or because they’re so focused on creating the final track.

How this makes you money: There are multiple income sources from your source tracks. You can:

  • Sell them for remixing (see the “downloads” section below).
  • License them for synchronization in ads, TV, film, video, and more. These licensing deals often require you to send them source tracks — because they want to remix/remaster the work or even make a derivative work — which provides a lot of creative opportunities for licensing your music. There’s a reason it’s one of the bigger chapters of our book — check out the “Licensing and Royalties” chapter for details.
  • Create and sell your own remixes/remasters.
  • Create and sell your own samples library. For example, we know one musician who sampled all of the drums he recorded so he has a massive library he can sell.
  • Provide these to your high-paying Patreon supporters (dolphins or whales) as special incentives to keep them paying monthly. Plus, it may attract people to become supporters or join a higher tier to get the benefit.

How this promotes you: If you license your source tracks and stems, this can become a promotional opportunity. You can also put them up for sale at the sites in the “downloads” section below and turn them into promotional opportunities since your music can come up in searches.

2. Your DAW files can be sold

Making Money With MusicIf you use a digital audio workstation such as Ableton or Logic, your fans and other musicians may want to buy your DAW file so they can remix your song or create their own derivative versions.

How this makes you money: You can sell your DAW files as downloads. You may need to pair this with the other items below (MIDI, plug-in chains, and virtual instruments) so that people can make their music, so it might be wise to group the files together in one download.

You can also provide the raw DAW file to your high-paying musician Patreons (dolphins or whales) as special incentives. Plus, if you offer it as a reward, it may attract remixers to become supporters or join your higher tier to get this benefit.

3. Your synth presets and virtual instruments settings can be sold

Some musicians are famous for a particular sound they’ve created. If you’ve created new, unique sounds using your virtual instruments and synths, your fans and other musicians may want to use them in their music, videos, or other creative works.

How this makes you money: You can sell these virtual instruments as downloads or provide the files as patronage rewards. If you get known for being particularly good at sounds, you can even create large sets of presets and sell them.

4. Your MIDI files can be sold

If you write your song as MIDI, your fans and other musicians may want to use it to remix your song or create their own versions. Note that MIDI files may also be used to create sheet music, which is a separate revenue stream that we talked about in the previous article.

How this makes you money: You can sell these MIDIi files as downloads and provide these to your high-paying patrons.

5. Your plug-in and effect chains

Very often, an artist’s particular sound can come from sets of plug-ins chained together, along with their settings. Those plug-in chains and presets can also be sold as downloads. If you’re knowledgeable about music and sound, you can program your own plug-ins based on a particular sound.

How this makes you money: You can sell these plug-in files/settings as downloads and provide these to your high-paying patrons.

6. Your sounds can be sold or licensed

If you’ve created special sounds or sound effects such as breaking glass, rain, or more to your tracks, you can sell these as separate items for musicians, filmmakers, YouTubers, and other creatives to use in their works. Sounds like these are usually used for “sound design” purposes.

How this makes you money: You can sell these sounds through services and sound effects libraries. You can license your sounds for use in video, film, TV, and more. And, of course, you can provide them to your patrons as special incentives.

Downloads: Selling and licensing your DAW tracks, stems, synths, and sounds

Every element above has its own revenue stream you can tap. Since all of these are just digital files, you can always sell them directly through your own website by download services like Shopify, Squarespace, or Payloadz. These services will handle the payment and digital download fulfillment for a percentage of your sale.

If you can cultivate a relationship with the curated beats marketplaces such as Splice, Beatport, Beatstars, or Airbit, you can reach the musicians that use them.

These services specialize in selling or licensing original stems, beats, tracks, and other sounds and have large customer bases. Their customers tend to be musicians as well as music supervisors looking for the right beat or sound for their TV, film, movie trailer, or advertisement. Note that these marketplace services are typically choosy as to who they let participate. Each has its own requirements for joining, so check out their sites for details.

— — —

The time to start thinking about making money with your music starts at the songwriting stage. Capturing the files you can monetize at the outset will help you create music with money in mind and ensure you protect and promote your music as well.

Read the series
Making money from songwriting
How to make more money from your studio recordings
Turn your behind-the-scenes work into music revenue and promotion
How to maximize music income from songwriting and recording: Part V

Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.

How to 
Make More Money With Music, the Complete Guide

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