First of all, to clarify on the title above, know that I think DJs are musicians. When I was transitioning from musician to my career in music marketing, I worked as a DJ and know first-hand what they bring to the table as far as creating musical moments that audiences love, even if it's just mixing two previously recorded records together in a way that keeps people dancing.
A lot of musicians don't feel this way though, which is why I separated the two in the title of this post.
One thing is certain -- regardless of whether DJs are "musicians" are not, many music artists known primarily as DJs are making a ton of money right now. Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0 just published a list of The 30 Richest DJs that backs this up with specific numbers.
Tiesto is worth $70MM. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, known collectively as Daft Punk, are each worth $60MM. DJ Pauly D, perhaps known best as a cast member of the reality television show Jersey Shore, is worth $15MM.
1. Live Performance
The majority of DJs make money via live performances, usually in venues where there is already a sound and light system. This makes it easy to show up and go at it. And more and more DJs mixing from laptops and computer equipment, this is getting easier all the time.
Musicians have similar options available. Performing live doesn't mean you have to bring your own sound system or even a full band. Even rock musicians can benefit by doing "stripped down" gigs, such as a solo acoustic performance.
The more live performances you do, the more people you reach. Not only will you make more money based on performing, you'll also make more money from other outlets as well.
2. Constant Product Creation
In my book, Six-Figure Musician, I talk about something I call the "drip method" -- constantly creating music and releasing it in small batches, even singles, to keep fans engaged with what you're doing and, perhaps more importantly, keep them from forgetting about you entirely.
DJs are constantly releasing music via this method as the dance music market is based around single tracks. It's not uncommon to see successful artists release new songs every month as the half-life of music in dance genres is very quick.
While most genres don't have the churn and burn speed of dance music, regardless of your genre, the moment you release music to the world, it starts to die. Sometimes songs get rejuvenated through cover versions or alternative uses, such as film or commercial licensing, and there will always be some people who hear a song and love it more as time passes, but when it comes to selling music, most of your success comes early, peaks shortly after release, and declines after that.
If you are not constantly writing, recording, and releasing new music, you are leaving money on the table.
Here's a great idea you can swipe... Ernie Halter writes 52 Songs in 52 Weeks. Once you check out the videos on how he sold the idea to fans, I recommend you join the club here, so you can see how he does followup.
When it comes to squeezing the most of a song, there is no genre that does this more consistently than dance music. Once good song can be released (and re-released) dozens of times though remixes. Each time, this brings in more money for the writer and publisher.
In addition, as so many remixes now have additional post-production, this brings in more money for the person remixing. So even though the song you're listening to might not have "DJ Pauly D" listed as the artist and he might not have written the original version, he may be making writing/publishing money from it, if he has substantially changed it by remixing.
See Six-Figure Musician more thoughts on this concept that you can put into action today.
4. Music Publishing
A good dance track, even though its life can be short, can be used a lot. In addition to remixes, it's not uncommon to see a hot track on multiple compilations. Each time this happens, it's more royalties for the writer and publisher, in addition to licensing fees for the owner of the master recording.
Tiesto, number one on the list above at $70MM, owns his masters.
While compilation CDs aren't what they used to be for most music genres, there are still opportunities for those artists who focus on releasing singles rather than entire albums.
5. Lifestyle Tie-Ins and Sponsorship
Dancing is done in public places, usually in bars where alcohol is served. And, for the most part, the genre is very style and fashion concious.
The good news for you is that every genre of music is this way. The favorite hangout of your fans might not be a dance club, but it's somewhere, and wherever that is, there is a drink, style, and fashion to go with it.
Take advantage of this.
6. The Product Itself (HINT: It's Not the Music)
As its name suggests, dance music is based on the common thread of dancing. People do this because it makes them feel good -- it also makes them the stars of the show.
Most artists forget that it's actually the people in the audience who make an event great. Music performance is a two-way street, you give and the audience receives. Without a responsive crowd, no matter how well you play, you have nothing.
What can you do to make your audience more part of the show?
Dance music is hot right now. DJs are hot right now. The business model outlined above will work with any genre of music regardless of what's hot though. Take advantage of it and make more money!