concert tickets

How to Make Money Playing Music Online

It is May 2020 and social media is full of musicians, artists, and organizations uploading or streaming performances. The entertainment and hospitality industry as a whole is having a tough time and live performance as revenue streams have disappeared for most. 

This article covers how to use Eventbrite and Zoom to make money from online performances. I’ve additionally added some ideas on how to incentivize the promotion of online gigs and a tactic to keep building that ‘local,’ easy to reach fan base using ‘Meetup.’

(To note, Facebook has recently announced that it will shortly provide creators the opportunity to charge for their live events within its platform, when that happens I’ll update and let you know but as of May 2020 Zoom is the best platform I can find.)

Why Use Eventbrite?

Eventbrite is one of the most recognized and therefore trusted online event platforms out there.  They reported for March 2020 a 9x increase in the number of online searches for events so people are also seeking opportunities on its platform for entertainment.

Additional advantages of using Eventbrite include; your event can be published on their own event program listing and you do not need to worry about setting up any ticketing payment and management system on your own website.   The only disadvantage of using them is that you or your ticket buyer will need to absorb a handling fee.

Leaving Money on the Table

The debate as I see it is roughly:

“Just because you can does not mean you should.. and other sensitivities around charging for art.”

Versus ..

“I need to make some money and my job is playing music.”

The debate has been amplified on both sides because we are in the middle of a pandemic, and nothing seems normal anymore.  It can feel tough when there are a lot of people out there doing things for nothing.

Charging for your performance is a personal decision, most people do something for promotion, for a good turn or just to be helpful in their community for free, but there has to be a limit and of course, I am not suggesting everything should be at a cost.

We do not know how long these restrictions locally, nationally, or internationally are going to affect gigs and tours.

It is quite noticeable that a large proportion of musicians are still playing for free on Facebook to their audience and haven’t moved to the stage of charging. I think this is partly down to musicians adapting to the new medium of live streaming, and possibly also, an insecurity that their online performance isn’t good as ‘in person,’ and therefore they feel reluctant to ask for money. 

Why You Should Not Routinely Play For Donations

My simple answer to anyone using the free or donation approach is – why?  Most professional musicians would not wish to be paid out of the hat at a gig, so, therefore why give this as a payment option online? 

This model is mainly appropriate for larger-scale institutions such as the National Theatre, which anticipates a large uptake on platforms such as Youtube for it’s listings.  Such donation-only performances from institutions such as the NT can assume a reasonable donation response. 

In addition to this, such organizations need to measure their public ‘impact’ through reach and education. This is often because they receive some public funds. 

If your performance gives happiness and entertains, using a skill you’ve taken years to develop you can legitimately charge. 

If you have been doing free online streams up until now and feel uncomfortable with now asking for money you could break the pattern by promising to do something different or showcase new material. 

The Solution

With this model you will be planning your performance, setting the date, selling the tickets, (on Eventbrite) promoting the sale (on Facebook/Instagram, etc), and streaming your performance privately (Using Zoom).  Your Facebook audience will not be able to view your performance.

What If It Goes Wrong?

If it goes wrong, the technology fails for whatever reason, which does occasionally happen, you can rearrange the event or refund.  The Eventbrite platform enables you to message all those that have bought tickets through the system and give refunds if needed.  People are surprisingly tolerant of technical glitches especially at times such as now. 


I could write a lot about the promotion of online events however these are three quick mentions which I think make Eventbrite useful. 

  1. Sell Your Tickets on Facebook. You can have a post on your Facebook page (and your Friends news-feed) which enables those in Facebook the opportunity to reserve and pay for the ticket within Facebook.  When you create the event Eventbrite will ‘push’ out this option to your Facebook page.
  2. Turn you Instagram into a Sales Channel
  3. Pay a ‘Promoter’ or ‘Influencer’ to Sell Tickets If you do not have a social media channel with enough viewers or would just wish to increase your ‘social reach’ to get more sales then Eventbrite has a useful affiliate scheme.  You can set the commission on every ticket sale that they get.   Promotion today is a very different skill set to what it was previously. You should really looking for someone who understands social media, online marketing or is simply a social media channel or musician who has a lot of subscribers.   As the financial reward is a commission-based payment it is down to them to work their magic.   

Example Eventbrite Cost Breakdown

Initial Ticket CostQty SoldFinal Ticket CostProfitCalculator Link
£850£8.92£400UK Site
£1050$11.26$500US Site
As of May 2020

Using the ‘essentials’ package, with assumed ticket cost and quantity sold. In this example I chose to pass on the Eventbrite cost to the buy. You can choose to absorb this cost yourself. Figures taken May 2020.

Is it Complicated to Set Up an Event on Eventbrite?

There are quite a few Youtube videos on setting up your Eventbrite event. The important key point is to ensure that you choose your location to be ‘online’ when you enter your event details.

If you are using Zoom as a platform make sure that you use a paid for subscription with an ‘audience’ or delegate capacity to match your expected gig audience, or else you will not have be able to have many people on your event.  The reason why I am suggesting Zoom is for this solution is down to ease of use, it enables a private event and it is approved to work well with Eventbrite. 

I am not aware of any method where a Facebook live event can be set to private viewing for your paid audience members.

Where to Start?

  1. Make an account if you haven’t already. Check out this step-by-step guide to getting started for more details.
  2. If you have an account, log in to create your event.

Eventbrite Resources

Most Popular Features:

Affiliate Links – set a referral fee that promotes earn for each ticket sale they generate

Eventbrite Apps – Eventbrite integrates with 150+ applications like WordPress, MailChimp, Survey Monkey and more

Facebook Integration – Sell tickets directly on Facebook

Instagram Integration – Turn Instagram into a sales channel 

Eventbrite Organizer – A free app you can use to check-in attendees & view your event on the go

Embedded Checkout – Sell tickets directly on your website

Eventbrite Studio – A tool used to create a customizable site for your events.

Set-up Online Event – in ‘Add Webinar’ section, you will see a list of the platforms our creators have been using

Alternatives to Eventbrite


Like Eventbrite, Meetup is a well established brand and would be recognized globally in most cities. It is a website where you find out about social meet-ups with other of similar interests. With the meetup model you create a ‘group’ on Meetup which people then join. The group could be for example the band / performer name. Outings or in this case online events would then be promoted to this group.  A recent addition to the Meetup service is the ability to apply ticketing to these events. 

This could be a good platform to use if you particularly want to market the event to a local audience with a particular musical interest.  Meetup is built around users choosing their interests on its website in order to feed them with activities, meetings, that they might be interested in. This does mean you will be promoting to and audience that is interested in seeing online music events. A really interesting proposition to promoters of local music.

Meetup Charge

Meetup has a monthly group administrator charge (for the organiser of the group) Cost for Meetup is: $23.99 pm or $98.94 for six months commitment / term. Uk and US pricing is the same. At the time of writing I noted that Meetup was applying a 50% discount on this fee.

Meetup Ticket Handling Costs

An additional requirement to note however, is that, you need to sign up to Wepay. Further fees are applied for any charged event ticketing. A percentage from Wepay for the card payment is applied as well as Meetup’s ‘handling’ costs. WePay receives 2.8% + $0.30 of each payment. Meetup receives 4.7% + $0.20 of each payment. Meetup therefore advises the total cost of each ticket is approximately 8%.

Meetup Local Promotion Tool

Meetup can be used for all sorts of group activities including learning and business, however it is very much a site to find social activities. It could work especially well if you wish to promote and event in a local area. Whilst this is not always possible at the moment you could use the platform to build up a group ‘locally,’ host the event online then when returning to in-person gigs you should have grown a local fan base.

There is a bit emphasis on the social community element, so events are hosted. For example there is a local meetup group for film. The group admin will devise a calendar of films to attend promote the activities and arrive early at the venue to greet the group members.

A ‘promoter’ could take advantage of this platform to help promote a number of events and either sell tickets off the platform or the audience pay on the door as per a typical gig.

Just a Few Meetup Groups Around London Who Have Musical Interests

A quick glance here will show the potential number of members who are interested in music events and are signed up to Meetup. My own small city has groups with 1000’s in a group, of these members not all will turn up to an event but it serves as a platform to build and engage with interested music followers.

Is Patreon Good For Musicians?

Patreon works as a membership platform where you commit to provide added ‘value’ to your subscribers who help you financially by paying a monthly subscription.

You can connect your Youtube, Facebook or Instagram etc account to Patreon. It’s benefits are claimed to be the ability for you to receive regular revenue and build an active following. It creates a sort of VIP club for your fans.

Overall I have mixed feelings about Patreon. Firstly you cannot access your pay-out instantly you receive your funds monthly when requested or have a monthly draw down facility. There is also an additional delay on the first month due to admin.

It is not a ticketing service, it is a subscriber service. There is an ongoing commitment from the musician to create an added value to their supporters. Therefore if the supporter decides the added value isn’t as expected they can dispute and those funds will be withheld whilst the dispute is checked.

The musician needs to commit to provide this additional monthly content or ‘benefit’ to justify the Patreon charge. Whether it be music, answering questions, behind the scenes content etc. I think this for most musicians, who normally have a very hectic lifestyle due to work demands would not enjoy this additional requirement. Most importantly, in my view, if you are thinking of creating useful content, just put it up on Youtube, build a following and drive value through this platform. Why restrict your hard work and commit to a timetable for a few? There are smarter ways to make money from content.

Patreon Fees

See under Fees on their legal page. For the US it is : The payment processing fee in U.S. Dollars is 2.9% plus $0.30 per successful pledge for pledges over $3, and 5% plus $0.10 per successful pledge for pledges of $3 or less. PayPal payments from non-US patrons have an additional 1% fee

In Summary

Use online platforms to provide an opportunity to reach your audience, do not feel shy in ticketing these events. If you create interest and ‘excitement’ by careful presentation to those who already follow you on Facebook or Instagram you should be able to convert this interest into ticket sales. In the future watch out for announcements from Facebook and other platforms who will be eager to meet the demand for new streaming services. Whilst this need has come about through a pandemic these new ways of interacting with an audience can continue to be new ongoing income opportunity long after the venues reopen.

Written by Zoe Humble