How To Make $30,000 As A Musician Without A Job

Freedom has always been a big thing for me. When I was a child I had an illness that kept me off school for pretty much two years. The illness wasn’t much fun. But staying off school was great. screenshot-2016-10-27-16-14-53 I had as much autonomy over my time as any kid can imagine.

I hated biology in school. I hated physics and chemistry too. All my friends had to do those classes because it was on the timetable. Not me. I was at home feeling sick as a dog. Those poor suckers!

When I grew up and got jobs, I hated them. I hated being managed by people. I hated being told what to do. I hated having to park what was important to me, so that I could do what was important to someone else. I was living someone else’s dream, not my own.

There seemed no way out. Sometimes on the walk to work, I’d see a truck coming up the road. I’d fantasise about chucking myself in front of it. Anything but go to work.

I’d swap jobs all the time. Maybe work wasn’t shit. Maybe I just hadn’t found the right work for me yet. My longest stay was two years. The shortest was a day and a half.

Job swapping didn’t solve anything. It turns out that work is shit after all.

Some friends mistook my attitude for laziness. But I’m not lazy. I’m a workaholic. You just have to let me choose my work. Then I’m madly productive.

In the end, I walked out of my job and never went back to another one. Only since then have I felt happy and in alignment with myself.

Since that time I’ve released five music albums, with a sixth on the way. I’ve been the Creative Director of a cultural festival. I’ve set up a non league football club. I’ve created training courses that help people. I host a podcast. I’ve gigged with some of my heroes. Other people have recorded my songs.

The biggest barrier for musicians like you wanting to do the same and quit your job is the finances of it.

So I’m going to break that down. Making money without a job isn’t about taking that one big leap. People who make money tend not to have one golden goose that lays all their eggs.

James Altucher has been interviewing wealthy, successful people for years. One of his biggest learnings is that rich people have more than one source of income. Millionaires, he discovered, have around seven income streams. Not one.

The musician Ali Handal isn’t a millionaire. But she says much the same thing. She is a professional musician. She achieves it by having five different sources of income.

I am reminded of a book I read many years ago by the careers writer Barbara Winter. It is called ‘Making A Living Without A Job’. She identifies the key to making it happen.

“That key is to develop and expand what I call Multiple Profit Centers. Rather than thinking in terms of having a single source of income…the savvy entrepreneur thinks about developing several income sources.”

As you can see, there is a pattern developing here.

I wanted to see how well the pattern plays out for the people I know who make a living without a job. So I asked them two questions.

The first was “Do you have multiple sources of income?”

The answer was yes. Result!

The question I asked next was born of a hunch.

When it comes to time management, I am a fan of the 80/20 principle. It is sometimes known as The Pareto Principle after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

This principle states that we get 80% of our results from just 20% of our “inputs.” So, for example, 20% of jockeys win 80% of horse races. Likewise, 20% of our activities bring 80% of our successes.

The numbers don’t have to match up so perfectly. It’s the principle of “the vital few” having a lop sided impact that is important. Whatever data set we analyse, this phenomenon tends to occur.

I wondered if this was the case with income streams too. So I asked my second question:

“Does one of those sources of income earn a lot more than all the others do?”

Again, the answer – crucially – was yes.

So here’s my guide to earning $30,000 as a musician. It’s simpler than you might think. The principle is the same for whatever income you aim for. It’s just that 30k makes the maths easier for me. (If you want 60k, just double the numbers.)


To begin, come up with an idea that you believe can earn you at least $1,500 per year. This is achievable. It involves setting up a stream of income from music that brings in less than $30 a week. That’s your first step. Just focus on that for the time being.

Once your first idea is set up and producing the goods, do it again. Come up with a second stream that can earn you at least $1,500 per year.

Once that idea is working and you have two income streams ticking along, come up with a third.

Keep going, one step at a time, until you have five income streams – each earning at least $1,500 per year.

By the end of that process, you will have most likely met your target of earning $30,000 without a job.

Hang on! Those sums don’t add up! Five projects earning $1,500 each makes just $7,500 – not $30,000.

All true, but don’t forget Pareto. He showed that the world is not some neat and tidy, symmetrical thing. Instead, we can expect one of our income streams to take off. We can expect 20% of our income streams to bring us 80% of our results.

So instead of

Stream A = $1,500
Stream B = $1,500
Stream C = $1,500
Stream D = $1,500
Stream E = $1,500

we can instead expect

Stream A = $1,500
Stream B = $1,500
Stream C = $1,500
Stream D = $1,500
Stream E = $24,000.

One of our streams won’t just be making $30 a week. It will be making more like $450 a week.

If this seems like mere theory, remember my second question: “Does one of those sources of income earn a lot more than all the others do?”

Remember that the answer was yes.

Earning $30,000 a year from music might feel a daunting hurdle. But setting up something that earns less than $30 a week is more than doable.

By doing that on repeat, you will hit upon the income stream that outstrips your expectation.

And pays your bills.

And brings you freedom. Good luck.