I originally wrote this article with guitar players in mind but realized these are all side hustles for musicians in general. It really doesn’t matter if you play guitar or piano. You have a passion, you have skills, you have a boat load of knowledge. Why not make a few extra bucks?
We all need an extra buck once in a while, right? And why not earn some money while doing something you love and utilizing the skills you already have? Some of the ideas may be obvious while others you probably never heard before. Although obvious, did you ever picture yourself making money in this manner? Maybe you should.
This one may seem obvious but there are many musicians out there who have never considered their passion may be a money generator. The beauty of the live music side hustle is you can make it happen relatively quickly. You will have to consider who, what and where.
Who are you going to play with? What are you going to play? And where are you going to play?
The band option is probably the most challenging. Depending on the skills of you and the other players, it could take months to be ready. On the other hand, three seasoned players could put together and night’s worth of blues songs in a few rehearsals.
Many bars like the idea of live music but without the cost, volume and space. You may prefer to play in the full band setting but think about doing a gig with one other musician and possibly doubling your per gig money. Not only is the money better, the equipment is less. Also, putting together a night worth of music takes a lot less time for two musicians.
Playing solo is a whole new ball game for a guitarist. Your first and more lucrative option is to play and sing. People love hearing a guitarist sing some Tom Petty and Van Morrison songs while sitting at the bar. While you don’t need to be a great singer, you are going to have to be good enough to make it through the whole night without having the patrons toss bottles at you.
Another option is to play instrumentals. Both fingerstyle and jazz standards would work well with this format. A looper pedal could make playing instrumentals a little more accessible for most players.
Keep in mind, whether playing solo or in a duo, you are often relegated to playing “background music.” That doesn’t mean it is not still enjoyable as a player and don’t be surprised by the random listener who will recognize that rare song you sneak into your set.
Where do you get the gigs? Anywhere and everywhere! For immediate feedback start out at your local bar, particularly if you know they hire bands. Use your personal social network accounts and friends circle to let people know you are looking for gigs. Word of mouth can be a great source for gigs. Find some folks who are playing music similar to yours and see where they are getting work.
If you want to perform live but would prefer a more freelance model than busking(aka Street Performer) may be your hustle. You decide your hours, you decide the repertoire, and you play where you want. This generally works best for a solo performer in a busy downtown or a touristy area. You may want to hook up with a retailer who will let you play in the front of their store. Set up your equipment, put your tip jar in a prominent location and start playing. The downside is you are working for tips and sometimes the local authorities may chase you.
3. Rent Out Your Equipment
Chances are you have some nice equipment but you are not using it every night. Why not let your equipment earn some money for you? Many bands do not have their own PA systems and have to rent one for each performance. Touring bands often do not have the room in their vehicles to carry a sound system. There is also the all too often occurrence of equipment failure right before the gig. Get known by the local musicians and venues as someone who can come through on short notice.
Local festivals and fairs are often in need of PA systems. Even if they are not having live entertainment they will often need to make announcements. Most of these events are run by volunteers who do not want the extra hassle of setting up and running the equipment for the event.
4. Equipment Consultant
Do you know a lot about amps, PA systems or recording equipment? Many people are looking to buy, many for the first time, but don’t have anyone they can ask. Often the only person with any knowledge is the salesperson who is either working for a commission or limited by what brands their company has in stock. As an equipment consultant, you can charge clients a flat rate to give them honest recommendations based on their needs and budget. This side hustle could be done through a website or social media to reach a global market.
5. Guitar Repair
Do you repair your own guitars? If so, maybe you have the skills to repair others. Whether it is cleaning up a dirty guitar and re-soldering the wiring, many people don’t have the skills or patience to do it themselves. Worried you don’t know how to repair every possible issue? Cross that bridge when you come to it. You can either learn as needed, consult a more experienced guitar tech or politely turn down the job.
Buy a few basketcase guitars at yard sales and get them playable and ready for resale. There are a ton of books on guitar repair and even more tutorials on YouTube.
Good guitar techs can be hard to find so clients tend to be loyal.
6. Build Guitars
Building guitars would require some pretty serious skills but skills can be learned. Luthier schools are located throughout the country and offer programs from weekend workshops all the way to full time educational programs.
With the popularity of CNC machines guitar builders do not necessarily have to have the wood working skills of their predecessors. Even with the help of modern equipment, precision cuts and fitting are still expected.
Another type of guitar builder is an assembler. There are companies that sell all of the parts to build a complete guitar. You can also find new and used parts on eBay. Whether assembling the ultimate metal shredder or a retro class from new parts, this could be a rewarding side hustle.
7. Guitar Finisher
You don’t get your car painted by the same shop that fixes the transmission. Therefore the person that repairs a guitar’s wiring may not be equipped with skills or equipment to refinish a guitar.
This gig would require skills, equipment and a location. Because the paints and fumes, you probably don’t want to do this in your basement. However, chances are you will not face a lot of competition. If your skills are up to par, there is no reason you would not be able to get customers from the internet making this a global side hustle.
8. Guitar Flipper
With a keen eye and some basic setup skills, you can find guitars at yard sales, fix them up and sell them on eBay. How many kids buy a guitar only to quit a year later? Eventually dad gets tired of moving that guitar everytime he walks into the garage and out it goes in the spring yard sale.
A few things to keep in mind. Yard sales bring out the professional flippers. Ever see yard sale signs that say “No early birds?” These are the professionals who come out in their beat up van at dawn looking to get all of the deals before the locals wakeup. So it wouldn’t hurt to get an early start. Also, don’t be afraid to haggle. Some people think anything with six strings is worth 1000 bucks.
You may find some deals on Facebook marketplace but generally you have to act quickly.
Another source for unwanted guitars is estate sales. Find you local auctioneers for listings of sales. In these cases you will be bidding against experienced flippers but it is worth a shot.
9. Guitar Writer
Content is King! When it comes to blogs, websites and newspapers there is a constant need for content and most of this content is writing. You don’t have to create your own blog, in fact, you will get money much quicker writing for other people’s blogs. Nearly any topic you can think of related to guitars has a blog or two dedicated to it. Contact blog owners directly or use a website like UpWork to find work.
In many areas of the country, the local newspaper doesn’t even have any local writers. That doesn’t mean they won’t publish an article about a local band or music festival. This is where freelancers come in. Find out who the editor is and learn about their publishing process. Writing about the local music scene may also have perks when you are looking for some gigs too!
10. Jingle Writer
Did you know there are 1,000,000 podcasts? Not all of them have bumper music but most of them do and someone has to write, perform and record it.
The ability to connect your guitar to your computer and create some GarageBand tracks may be all you need to get started. Just like any recording process, you can get as complicated as you want but if you’re just selling the product, time is money.
It’s not just podcasters that need music. So do YouTubers, videographers, radio stations and anyone who makes their own videos.
Speaking of podcasts…this could be your side hustle as well. This may be a slow rider to success but consistency can lead to growth that will pay off.
If you do any home recording, chances are you already have the necessary equipment to record a podcast. The only thing you have to purchase is podcast hosting and maybe some podcast show art.
Income will most likely come from advertising. The cost of advertising will be based on the amount of listeners so choose your topic strategically.
Topics could be the local music scene, lessons, a specific genre of music, product reviews, artist interviews. The possibilities are unlimited. One should focus on how listeners will find you. Organic search and discovery is very slow in podcasting so having an audience or tapping into someone else’s audience can be beneficial.
Have a good ear? Can you write tab or standard notation? People will pay for guitar transcriptions. Not everyone can pick up a song by ear or has the time to do it. A service like this can be offered through your own website or a site like Fiverr.
Normally we think of highly educated classical musicians when we envision music arrangers. But how about creating fingerstyle solo arrangements for guitar or ukulele? Many guitarists perform solo or want to entertain themselves with solo arrangements. Most sheet music is not written for solo guitar and for many, reading sheet music is not an option. This is where you come in, you create solo guitar transcriptions based on melodic pop songs. Sell your arrangements individually online or even create an ebook on Amazon. If you are going to formally publish you will need to get the rights to use the songs but once it is online you can be making money while you sleep!
What is up YouTube!?!? You actually don’t have to start every video on YouTube with this phrase, in fact, please don’t.
YouTube is an amazing source of information. In fact, it is the second largest search engine on the internet. No matter how small or niche a topic may be you will probably find a video on it. This does not mean there is not room for more videos on any topic. People spend hours on YouTube searching videos.
Just like a podcast, the topics for your videos are endless. Whether you want to teach, rant, or review, YouTube is your place. Two major advantages YouTube has over podcasting: there is already an audience, a HUGE audience on YouTube and your channel can cover different topics more easily than a podcast can.
Again, income will come from advertising. When your channel meets the threshold of subscribers and hours listened you will have the offer to monetize. YouTube will run ads before your videos and give you a small percentage.
While you will probably not be quitting your day job because of your YouTube earnings, you can make some money. You also have the ability to recruit for advertisers on your own. Again, you need to have the viewers to make it worthwhile for advertisers.
If your videos are particularly helpful, you can set up a Patreon account and ask viewers to send you a monthly donation. If you get a 1000 people sending you a buck a month, that’s more than some drinking money!
YouTube is free to sign up and you can start with just a smartphone. As you make more videos, you can decide if you want to invest in better equipment.
15. Recording Studio
Today’s modern equipment has drastically reduced the size of the equipment needed to create a decent recording. If you have the equipment, why not make some money recording others? Not everyone wants to buy the equipment or learn the software. You can have musicians come to you or you can go to them. You will be getting paid as much for the convenience as for your product.
16. Guitar Recycler
Maybe you don’t have the skills to build a guitar but you’re crafty. A beat up acoustic destined for the landfill could make a nice bookshelf. How about a mic stand turned in a lamp? You get the point.
Look on Pinterest for inspiration, there is tons to see! Sell your products on Facebook Marketplace, eBay or even set up an Etsy store when you have enough inventory.
17. Guitar Consumer Products
While guitar products would be effect pedals and tuners, guitar consumer products refer to everyday items that could have a guitar theme. A guitar necktie, keychain or t-shirt.
Think of the question, gifts for a dad who plays guitar? There are a lot of them!
There are many different routes you can take. Original artwork for coffee mugs or funny guitar phrases for t-shirts. Another option would be to license famous brands or artists for your products.
While some of the products may require a significant investment and housing of inventory there is also the option to use Amazon’s Print on Demand services. Other companies also offer print on demand.
Sell your products on Amazon, eBay and Etsy as well as at flea markets. If you are ambitious, you can contact retailers and see if they will sell for you.
18. Concert Promoter
People love events. Whether it be a blues festival or Oktoberfest, people like to get out and hear some music. Someone has to put it together and there can be profit there.
You can promote monthly concerts or one yearly event. Another option is to team up with a charity or community organization. You handle the bands and promotion for a fee or a cut of the earnings. Don’t feel bad about earning money at a charity event, chances are the beer guy is getting paid too.
This side hustle could be risky. The bands may not show up, the crowd may not show up or an outdoor event could get rained out. It is best to make contingencies for potential problems. If you are hiring bands, talk to one in advance to cover if someone doesn’t make it. Pre-sell tickets so you know if there is interest. Rent tents in case of rain. Also, get sponsors to cover your expenses and give you a greater cut of the ticket price.
19. Social Media Manager
A social manager runs the social media accounts for a musical act. While many acts may have no problem running their own Instagram account, others could use some help.
You can also offer web design, online promotion, ad design and consulting. Social media platforms make their money on advertising which sometimes means limiting organic traffic. A good social media manager can help their client make the most of their advertising budget and increase organic or free traffic.
20. Guitar Importer
Have you ever seen Alibaba? Beautiful guitars for low prices but you need to buy 100 of them.
While there is a great deal of negativity about guitars made in China, the truth is many people cannot afford to buy American made guitars from the big brands. Sometimes you just want a cool looking guitar in the collection and don’t really care about the brand.
There are challenges for sure. Obviously, there is a language barrier but most of the Chinese manufacturers have representatives who speak English. As with many physical products, you have to invest in your inventory. There is also the quality issue. Some manufacturers make really nice guitars, some are just sloppy. One huge expense is shipping. China is far away and guitars are heavy and bulky.
Importing guitars can be profitable. Sell your instruments on Amazon and directly to retailers. If you are lucky, maybe you can get in with one of the big guitars retailers.
Tip: import something you don’t often see. An eight string guitar, a sparkle bass, electric ukuleles. This could give you a decent amount of word of mouth curiosity.
21. Guitar Teacher
This may be the second most obvious side hustle for guitarists behind performing.
How good do you have to be? Well, generally better than your students. At least offer them something they can’t get on their own. The key with instrument lessons is often accountability. Nobody wants to come in for their weekly lesson and stumble through what they were supposed to practice.
Teaching can be very rewarding. Everyone remembers their first guitar teacher. Also, everytime you teach a student you learn something. Your playing and your understanding of the instrument will improve.
Some things to consider. Make sure you are teaching correct techniques, whether it be holding the pick, picking the strings or even attitude toward theory. You want your students learning good habits and love for playing. Also, be patient. Watching a new guitarist struggle with a chord can make you want to grab the guitar and just play it for him. Don’t do that! Just sit and encourage your student.
We hope these side hustles give you ideas on how to make some money with your skills, equipment and passion. All could lead to full time work or just be some extra income. All of these side hustles can be combined and altered. You can teach and have a YouTube channel. You can do repairs and have a podcast.
Looking for more side hustles for guitar players or anyone? There are two great podcasts available: Side Hustle Nation by Nick Loper and Side Hustle School by Chris Guillebeau. Both websites have lots of great information and descriptions of the podcast episodes.
The possibilities are endless!