How to earn online from making music
Times have changed since the days when the only effective way to get your music heard was to send your demo's to various record labels or get airplay on major radio stations. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet there are various ways to self promote your music to gain popularity and ultimately sales. In many cases record companies may spot you as an unsigned artist from online promotion and offer you a contract, however recently many people are able to earn $1,000's per month through direct sales of their music.
How do they do it?
There are numerous sites where you can upload your tracks to the community and simply quote your own price. If you are just starting out then it is probably best to quote the minimum price in order to gain popularity and initial sales e.g. $1 - $10 per track. Some good money earning sites to upload your beats are below.
MySpace (no direct facilities to sell online - will need to implement a widget)
Apart from MySpace all the above sites have integrated store widgets which allow people to easily purchase and download your tracks via Paypal. I have my Paypal set up so that the money is transferred directly into my bank account at any time, very convenient.
To make money you will need to get your track near the top of the charts, preferably the top 10. Users that have tracks at the top of the charts are easily making $1,000's per week however you don't need to be at the top of the charts in order to make money. Some users may be happy making $500 - $1,000 per month even with tracks that are not so popular. Most money is made from the sales of multiple licence tracks however there are usually options to sell your track as a one time single use track for a much higher prices e.g. non lease.
As you can imagine it is rather competitive since many people with little music knowledge and talent are able to earn, sometimes more than your average salary. The big earners will need to have music in the popular categories e.g. a Hip hop producer will probably earn the most money with simple synth sounding dirty south beats. If you are an r&b producer then rather than the typical soul, you will need to go for the more synth sounding dancing type r&b like Rhianna.
Many musicians are often accused of "selling out" when they change their music to suit popular categories.Myself for example like the classic Jazzy Neo Soul type tunes and this is the type of music I like to create however I know that won't sell on sites like the above. For making money on these sites I would simply incorporate my Jazz / Gospel knowledge into more of a modern rhythm and tempo which would be appreciated more for the younger generation. I do not think that this is "selling out".
How to get your music out there
Basically it is all to do with promotion and especially networking. You need to observe other peoples work in a similar music category who are doing well and leave them comments. No need to spam but simply let them know who you are. If they like your stuff then they will possibly share and play your tracks. Since they are already popular, your tracks will be will known and will spread with popularity. Some people only like tracks because somebody else recommended it.
YouTube is also a must because you can promote your videos via other peoples comments.
At one stage you will need to have your own website to promote your music for the best earnings, don't worry, the sales for your music will more than cover the hosting fees.
For home production I would recommend software like FL Studio, Reason or Ableton. Amateur producers should easily be able to get to grips with these and they are also used by professionals. There is also other popular music software such as Cubase, Pro Logic and Studio One however these are more for the integrating instruments into the final mix for the engineer. Software packages like FL Studio and Reason have pre-loaded sounds and enable to you create the tracks from scratch using e.g. Drums, Bassline, Keys, Synth, Strings etc. This may be all you will need for just track making with no vocals.
Garage Band is also a very popular and often free DAW for users with Mac's. Garage Band has stepped up in the DAW game over the years with functions you will find on more expensive fully fledged DAWs.
Magix music maker is an easy to use DAW that doesn't require any prior musical knowledge. Good for entry level musicians.
Other methods for making money online with music
YouTube - If you have a lot of video and a decent amount of views, Google will contact you regarding their partnership program. This is what displays the adds on your page (optional) and you get paid for every view or even more for ever click. People can make a lot of money if their videos are popular or even go viral.
There are other methods on YouTube such as Content ID. Meaning your family home video could have the label of Chris Brown's "Forever" and even have the backing track. If the video gets a lot of views you will earn a lot of money through the ads. This is what happened with "Harlem Shake" in 2014. thousands of copy video generated income from the views and the adverts.
YouTube also allows annotations. These are notes or links that can be displayed over your video, in order to point views in the direction of your sales, whether it be music, merchandise or even your webpages.
Digital Streaming - There are many digital streaming services out there. you simply put your track on their playlist and you get paid every time your song is streamed. the payments are very small, however the cash you make can quickly build up if you have popular tracks.
Digital Streaming services are Slacker, iTunes Radio, Spotify, Deezer, RDIO and Pandora. Worth checking out.
imix - A iMix is a playlist which you upload to the iTunes store. In order to make your music stand out, include a few of your own track with the commercial ones. There will definitely be listeners because they mainly download for the commercial track. The idea is that they bump into your tracks and take a liking to them.
Create a blog - Blogs are excellent ways to communicate to potential fans of your music. There are thousands of blogs springing up every day and people can earn additional income by monetizing those blogs with adverts such as Google adsense and many others. You can even get direct sales through blogs with a shop processing system via a wordpress plugin. Comment the best you can on other blogs of the same music category. People will be able to follow you back to your own blog and music through the link in your signature.