Let’s start with the most obvious places for musicians to make money—using their playing and related skills.
First, have you fully explored the markets for live music? Most of us think in terms of concerts or clubs, but there are a number of these and even more alternatives.
So you play? Can you read or are you a quick study? How about making money as an accompanist? These gigs often run in the areas of religious services and weddings. I know plenty of sax, flute, trumpet, piano and organ players that accompany the church choir for pay. It’s not much of a leap to get to the wedding ceremonies. While you’re at it, think about accompanying a theater company—maybe even providing them a warm-up act. Heck, I’d do that one almost free because of the gigs I could get out of it.
Another outlet is studio recording for money. A quick study is more important than a reader, at least from what I’ve seen. A few weeks ago I was called in to play on a session for Abby Lakew, a Ethiopian pop star. Great fun. And these days you can cut your tracks and use ftp on Internet to get them to the studio half-way around the world.
If you read and have a good hand, you might look for work as a music copyist, but you could also do band and orchestra arranging.
You’ve probably picked up some tech skills over the years. How about running sound or lights for live shows?
On the playing front, you might be thinking clubs. Don’t forget house concerts, conventions, corporate events/etc.
Songwriting for money is a tough go these days, BUT in a later article I’ll talk about exploiting even that rather over-represented talent.
Finally, there is teaching music of course. You may not be a particularly high-level musical expert, but you can always find people who know less than you. If you can get them turned on and into the process of learning, you might be more effective than a concert pianist who can’t relate to kids or learning adults. Hand them off to the experts once you have them up to a decent level. Your job may be to help them get bit by the bug—and it’s a lifelong joy that you’ll be giving them!