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Income Sources for Musicians


Most musicians rely on more than once income source to survive and prosper. The following is a partial list of the ways musicians can earn money:


Live Performance Fees 


Negotiation of fees and use of written contracts can help you secure reasonable fees for your performances. For soft seat concerts, performers are usually paid a guarantee vs. a percentage of the door (or percentage of the net profit after expenses), whichever is greater. Fees vary, depending on the audience draw and how well the performer or group is known.




For small performances, benefit concerts or voluntary appearances, musicians should receive a small honorarium to offset expenses for travel, etc.


Recorded Music Sales 


Although sales of CDs have dropped, they are now rising again. Distribution of recordings, locally and nationally, however is a real challenge, with small record stores and distributors closing down. But sales at live performances are still an important part of income for working performers. In addition to physical sales, downloading through pay-per-song sites also generates income via sites like CD Baby , Amazon , iTunes , etc.


Performing Rights Royalties (SOCAN


Performing rights royalties are paid when you perform or when your music is played on radio and television, if you take the time to join SOCAN and register your songs and compositions. For concert royalties you must also submit a list of the songs performed, following the concert along with proof of performance (copy of contract or poster.)


Mechanical Rights Royalties (CMRRA


These are paid when someone else records your original song, provided that you have joined Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency and registered your songs with that organization. A standard rate is charged for each recorded copy made, and payment is sent to you after it is collected by CMRRA as a license fee.


Neighbouring Rights Royalties (MROC) 


A royalty collected and distributed by MROC is paid out to all those who assist in recording original music in Canada. It is free to join this system through the CFM, and you do not need to be an CFM member to participate.




The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR) provides loans for recording that are forgiven if you don't sell enough copies. The application process involves a full budget and support materials which are then reviewed more than once by a series of juries.




Our provincial music industry association offers funding for recording, touring, marketing and professional development thanks to funding from the provincial government. A limited number of grants are offered each year for demo recording and for full length albums. You must be a member of MusicNL to apply.


Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council 


Applications are accepted twice annually by the NL Arts Council for project funding for recording projects, musical works in progress, performances and tours.


The Canada Council for the Arts 


The Canada Council provides funding for recordings that are essentially artistic (non-commercial). There are deadlines for applying and application forms available from the Canada Council online for various categories of music. Since there are far more applications each year than available funds, this is a bit of a long shot, but worth pursuing if your project is strong.


Sound Recording Special Payments Fund 


Residual payments are available to anyone who participates in recording a major recording in Canada under AFM contract. To qualify, the contract must be filed with the AFM, and pension and work dues must be paid. This can generate as much as $5-8000 per project.


CBC Agreement 


Musicians who perform live for CBC radio and television or whose performances are recorded for broadcast receive significant payments under the current CFM-CBC agreement . The amount paid depends on the type of concert, the number of airplays and whether live streaming on the internet is also involved. This applies to AFM members as well as non-members (for whom CBC deducts a non member fee, which is kept as a credit toward membership in the CFM Local.)


Music Teaching 


Musicians also teach music, privately or as a member of a school faculty. Rates of pay vary, but the average for private music teachers is currently about $30-45 per hour. Many music teachers do not realize that as CFM members they can participate in the Musicians' Pension Fund of Canada by using CFM contracts with their students.


Musicians' Pension Fund of Canada 


Musicians who regularly file AFM contracts make contributions to their own pension plan under the Musicians' Pension Fund of Canada . Rates of return are very good, and after the age of 55, participants can begin receiving their initial contributions plus interest the plan has earned. For anyone currently working as a performer or recording artist, it is worthwhile to learn more about this excellent national pension plan.


Synchronization Rights 


This is income resulting from the use of your music in film and television. Generally, the composer negotiates with the media producer for a fee and/or residual payments based on the usage of the music. The amount can vary greatly, depending on how well known the music or musician is, and the way the music will be used. This income will be in addition to the other sources listed above (SOCAN airplay, mechanicals, etc.)


New Use 


Continuous expansion is going on in new ways of using music, including video game production, ring tones and ambient music. With an AFM contract new use payment is guaranteed. These sources of income are greatly increasing and are making up for the decline in CD sales in the music industry.


Commissioned Works 


Musicians may be paid a fee for works requested by an individual or agency. Fees vary depending on length, type, genre and audience.

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