Affiliate Programs

A musician’s guide to earning passive income

A musician's guide to earning passive income
Written by publishing team

The revenue that musicians earn from live streaming, copyright publishing, and physical sales is constantly discussed in the DIY music community. However, passive income sources are mentioned less frequently. Here, we look at what passive income is, and how artists can set themselves up to earn it.

by Greg Majowski From CD Baby’s DIY music blog

revenue stream. Copyrights. CD sales. We’ve talked a lot about these revenue streams. But today we’re talking about a lesser-known source of music revenue: passive income.

What is passive income?

Passive income is any income that is generated after the work is done. You invested in the work up front, and now your finished product is ready to work for You are.

In the case of music, some passive income is generated after a song is released, a video is uploaded, or a new merchandise line is launched. And through this lens, you can consider the revenue mentioned in the introduction as passive income.

But it could also mean that you earn occasional revenue while sharing music or video content via affiliate links. In other cases, it could mean earning recurring subscription income before creating anything new at all!

We’ll cover these passive income sources below. But first…

How can I benefit from passive music income?

As we said above, passive income works in favor of You are. This is the money that comes after the hard work of creating music is done. We are talking about months, years and even decades. You never know who would be interested in something you finished long ago.

If you have massive success with passive income, that’s great! But even if the revenue is little here, and little there, this is almost easy money that you can use to help your music move forward.

What are passive income sources for musicians?

Passive music income falls into a variety of categories:

1. Affiliate programs

This is one of the biggest, and perhaps most elusive, sources of passive income for independent artists. So what is an affiliate program?

An affiliate program (or affiliate marketing/affiliate forms) is a form of advertising that is performance proportional. In short, an online retailer like Amazon pays a small commission to a third party for web visits and sales that are directly attributable to referrals. In other words, you are posting a link to a product or service. If someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase, you earn a percentage of that transaction.

Lots of aspiring content creators use affiliate marketing to earn revenue. Have you ever watched a YouTube video and the creator mentioned that viewers can purchase the product with links in the video description? This is affiliate marketing!

So how do musicians use affiliate marketing? Just like everyone else, designed just for your music career.

Here are some affiliate programs that musicians should consider.

How to Earn Passive Income with Amazon Associates

That’s a big thing, because Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world. It is also the most accessible affiliate program.

Through the Amazon Associates Program, you can use link building tools to direct your audience to specific products you use or recommend. Then you earn commission from purchases through these links.

Do you have a favorite guitar, VST, or pair of headphones? What about the DAW or audio interface you use for all your home recordings? Recommend them through Amazon’s Associates Program and earn money when someone buys these products through your links!

The Amazon affiliate program is especially powerful for musicians because you can also earn a commission from a link to your own songs on Amazon Music.

This is done through a system called rewards. These are fixed commissions that you earn when your fans sign up for a free trial or subscription to Amazon Music*. Basically, you earn money while sharing your music with your audience!

There are two ways to earn rewards on Amazon Music:

1.) Deep Music Links: Allows you to select your music on Amazon Music and create an image that you can add to your website. When a fan presses play, they will be offered a free trial of Amazon Music. If they sign up, you earn a bonus.

To set up a deep link to music, choose a track, album, station, or playlist from the Amazon Music catalog. Click the icon with a circle and three dots, then select Share Playlist.

Click Copy Link, then add your Store ID to the back end of the deep link you just created.

2.) Embed widgets: Allows you to embed a track, album or playlist in the content you publish. Listeners are offered a free trial of Amazon Music, and you’ll earn a reward if they agree to it.

To create a widget, click on the icon with a circle and three dots, then select Share Playlist. Instead of copying the link, click the “Embed” button. Make sure to add your store ID on the back end of the embedded link.

How to earn passive income with Apple Music

The Apple Music Premier Partner works on a rewards system like the Amazon Music deal, where you earn a one-time commission when your referral results in a conversion to your first paid month of Apple Music.

These referrals are made through links to Apple Music that you can create through the Apple Music Toolbox. You can then place these links on your various online profiles. You can link to Apple Music to create subscriptions, or to iTunes for a commission on download sales.

You can even get more fancy and put a QR code for fans to scan. This QR code will take them to Apple Music instead of having to click a link. Simply add your referral code to get this nice bribe!

Active on Twitter? You can also include a 30-second preview track in a Tweet with your code. This way you get commission from any signups resulting from those clicks.

How to Earn Passive Income with Deezer Affiliate Program

Like the other DSPs mentioned above, participants in the Deezer affiliate program (called Dealers) earn money when people sign up for the service through privately tagged links.

This program only applies to subscriptions to Deezer’s HiFi service to stream in lossless FLAC format.

Deezer improves the deal even further by offering a free Deezer HiFi account to its affiliate participants.

2. Fan Subscription Earnings

Subscription-based income is revenue that is earned directly from people who follow your art and contribute in a reliable and regular manner. Content creators use subscription services as a sustainable source of steady income from the work they create.

Think of it as a paid fan club or a monthly membership…in your music career!

These models also tend to foster a closer relationship between creators and their audience because fans of artists pay their favorite creators directly. It’s like the digital version of going live to your favorite musician after the show and giving them a few bucks, except for the fans Also Get great content for their membership.

Musicians can use these subscription services:

  • Patreon: Patreon is definitely the most popular subscription service with creators, and it’s a flexible platform with plenty of options for musicians. You can host exclusive content such as music videos, instrument lessons, and demos of new songs only for your subscribers who pay a monthly fee to access this content. Patreon takes a commission from 5 to 12 percent of the monthly income from creators. They also take a 2.9% plus $0.30 processing fee for donations of over $3 and 5% plus $0.10 on donations of $3 or less.
  • Bandzogel: Do you use Bandzoogle to host your website? If so, you can create a subscription service directly on your site! With Bandzoogle’s subscription option, your fans can pay you commission-free revenue for accessing your content. You can also create subscription layers for different access levels.
  • Set it up yourself: Musicians who are sufficiently motivated can build their own subscription/membership model. It may take a little work to connect the payment system with closed content on your website and email/SMS management system, but the trade-off is: you keep all the money and build it your way.

3. monetization

This is a very broad category, where monetization can mean many things in the music industry. Here we’re talking about the revenue generated when someone uses your music in media, such as:

YouTube Content ID: Has someone used one of your songs in a YouTube video? When that happens, YouTube places an ad on the video. When someone clicks on the ad, you earn revenue from the ads.

Sign up for YouTube monetization with CD Baby.

Sync License: Like Content ID, sync license works by placing the song in media projects. Sync license is more expansive in that it represents any kind of media: TV shows, movies, video games, just about anything that uses music.

The CD Baby sync license service puts your songs in a catalog that music moderators throughout the entertainment industry can access. If they want to use your song on their project, they simply call our sync team to make a deal. This can lead to a huge pay day!

Since the songs in our catalog are pre-scanned, you don’t need to do anything except wait for your payments for the position in advance. This same leave makes our catalog attractive to music moderators due to its ease of use. Since they only need to go to one party, music supervisors like to work with CD Baby to get the right song for the job.

4. Online courses

This is a source of income that musicians often overlook. If you are an expert in a specific field, sign up to teach a class at an online school! Or create and market your own curriculum.

Are you a great guitarist? Perhaps you’ve been producing your own music or booking your own shows for years and are ready to share your knowledge with other independent artists. You can create an online course and get paid when someone signs up.

Got some knowledge to share? Be a teacher at these online schools:


There are bound to be many sources of passive income for musicians, and we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Were you making extra money on autopilot? Let us know how in the comments below.

* CD Baby earns affiliate revenue from Amazon via this link

Greg Majowski He wrote about the heavy beats of the Invisible Oranges, Metal Bandcamp, and several now-defunct metal spots. When he’s not writing, he can be found at the gym or searching forums and blogs for the mysterious ’90s death metal. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and hundreds of plants.

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publishing team