When you’ve ever listened to a YouTube video of “lo-fi beats to review or chill out to,” you would possibly have interacted with Michael Turner’s music.
Turner, 26, is a full-time musician who makes pop music under the name PLVTINUM. A 12 months and a half ago, he began spending a few of his weekends producing music in what he calls the passive listening space — and quickly found “lo-fi” music production to be a “very easy” side hustle.
It’s lucrative, too. Under the name Bonsai Beats — a band mostly comprised of Turner and guitarist Mike Bono — he’s earned an additional $33,139 over the past 12 months, in line with documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
Lo-fi stands for “low fidelity,” which essentially means it lacks the high production value you’d find in most skilled music. It’s meant to be listened to within the background as you cook, work, study and even sleep.
Meaning Turner’s goal is easy: quantity over quality. When he and Bono collaborate on lo-fi tracks, they set a timer — just two minutes for writing, producing and naming each song. Together, they’ve made almost $60,000 over the past 12 months from 85 tracks, which only took a complete of roughly three hours to create.
The alleviation of expectations that comes with lo-fi music production is “form of therapeutic,” Turner says, and the additional money doesn’t hurt. Here’s how he built and manages his lo-fi music side hustle.
At age 18, Turner posted a YouTube video of himself singing and playing an original song, and it racked up greater than one million views. “That was my first exposure to what web virality can do, and I became addicted from then on out,” he says.
Lo-fi tracks may not at all times rack up as many streams as Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, but they will still develop into popular: Lofi Girl, a well-liked streamer on YouTube, has 13.6 million subscribers and videos that usually accrue tens of millions of views.
Bonsai Beats has roughly 12,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, in line with its profile page. Of its 53 tracks on the platform, only three exceed two minutes in length. One, called “Lovely Lofi,” boasts greater than 300,000 streams.
The production of those songs is “much simpler than people realize,” and the one real cost is time, Turner says. He and Bono make the tracks using a guitar, a keyboard and Logic Pro, a well-liked music mixing software that currently costs $199.99.
You could possibly just as easily use GarageBand, a software that comes free with Apple products, Turner adds.
Next, you will likely need a distributor. Turner says he uses TuneCore, a web-based service that places your tracks on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and TikTok. Its pricing ranges from a limited free version to a $49.99 annual subscription service, and Turner pays for a $29.99 mid-tier option, he says.
Paying that subscription fee means TuneCore won’t keep any of your sales revenue, which contrasts against traditional distribution agencies that may claim as much as 85%, says Turner.
“The barrier to entry is so low that anyone who’s an expert or casual musician can start on this as a side hustle immediately,” he says. “The fantastic thing about streaming is that the price floor is actually low … You only put it on Spotify, and if it’s the suitable offering, it just about immediately starts earning money.”
The relatively low payouts from Spotify and other music streaming platforms are a typical conversation topic amongst musicians. But for Turner, the democratization of music — or, the concept anyone can make cash using streaming platforms — is an enormous deal.
Other musician friends of his even have lo-fi side hustles. One published a track for sleep and rest, and racked up almost 20 million streams — making roughly $100,000 — as people listened to it on repeat while falling asleep, says Turner. One other friend, a author and producer without regular income, recently sold the rights to his passive listening catalog for $1.68 million, he adds.
“Institutional finance has develop into focused on streaming, and anyone who has [song] streams which can be recurring can get a buyout offer from a standard investor,” says Turner, adding: “It’s a serious space.”
In August, Turner launched his own record label, called Rebel Records. His aim, he says, is to assist further democratize the music industry — applying his production skills and online virality research to assist emerging artists. His label will keep 25% of every artist’s royalties, slightly than the industry standard of 50-60%.
“This can be a really exciting time in music,” says Turner. “I’m optimistic.”