One of the reasons we started MusicianWages.com was because of the huge reservoir of unqualified career advice that was being served to musicians online.

I usually keep quiet about the charlatanry tips I find online, but I just can’t pass this one up. It displays the characteristics of bad career advice so acutely that I just have to point it out.

The Busking Alchemist

This article dropped onto my reading list this past weekend.

Want To Make $50,000 a Year In Music? Start With One Dollar a Day.

There’s a pair of sentences early in this article that are particularly telling. One of the things that mystifies me about this article is why it continues after this:

How does a musician make money? Honestly, I don’t know for certain.

The article goes on to explain how daily busking, YouTube videos, Adsense ads and CD sales could net a musician $5 to $10 a day and ends with the epitaph:

What else? Do you have ideas on what can generate money on a daily basis? I think my ideas above could get an artist up to $10,000 a year. What would push it to $50,000?

The difference between $10k and $50k is a BIG difference – especially when you’re already spending 7 days a week busking on the street for $5. I can’t imagine how anyone would turn that janky business model into a $50k/year career.

Telling musicians to busk 365 days a year is terrible career advice, but the inconsistencies in the article (namely, the huge discrepancy between the title and the content) are not really my point here.

Bad Advice

Every day my RSS reader gives me pages and pages of what I think is lousy advice and useless data. What is the deal?

Here’s what I think. For about 100 years there was this economic bubble in the musician industry. We called it the “Recording Industry” and it made a ton of money. Some people made money hand-over-fist. (Most of that money, though, went to the people that ran the business and not to the musicians, but that’s another story.)

The problem was that the whole industry was dependent on a closed distribution system built on limited technology. Eventually some smart people created a way to circumvent that distribution route with computers and the whole house of cards collapsed.

100 years. It’s really not that long. Humans have been on Earth for about a half a million years, so the record industry era represented just a tiny percentage of our history. Beethoven made a living as a musician, as did many of the musicians that played in his orchestras and operas. They never sold a record. So what’s the big deal?

I think the 100 years of the record industry created a set of unrealistic expectations and entitlements in the musician business, and we’re still having trouble getting past it. Selling recorded music used to make a lot of money – quickly – and we want it back. When we can’t get it back we try make up substitute business models that might bring in quick money just as easily.

So what kind of content do we see being served to musicians these days? Articles about the collapse of our beloved recording industry. Articles claiming to give advice on how to make quick money again. Articles about mega-stars that are still making quick money.

It’s all nonsense.

Good Advice

You know how you make money as a musician? The same way everyone else makes money – get a job and go to work. Or start a business and make it grow.

There are plenty of jobs in the musician business – at schools, tours, churches, theaters, the military – we talk about them all the time here at MusicianWages.com.

Can’t find a job where you are? Move to a place where you can find work. You don’t see fishermen complaining that they can’t find a job in Oklahoma.

Musicians start businesses all the time – your private studio is a business. Your band is a business. Your solo career is a business. Make it grow and expect it to be difficult.

That’s good advice.

How to Really Make $50,000 a Year

  1. Get a church job (3 services a week @ $100/service) = $15,600
  2. Start a teaching studio (12 students @ $50/lesson) = $31,200
  3. Play background music once a month (@ $250/gig) = $3,000
  4. Play in a band twice a month (@ $50/gig) = $1,200

That’s $51k a year. That’s how it’s really done.

EDIT: Note that this is only one of the many, many different combinations of gigs that could bring in $50k/year for a musician. I have to say this because so many of the comments below fixate on the validity of these numbers. These numbers are real – this is actually how much money I’ve made on these specific gigs in the past.

But, look, it doesn’t matter – make up your different numbers if you’d like. Don’t teach that many students. Supplement your income with more performances – whatever. Again, there are a lot of ways to get to $50k and these exact numbers are not the point. – April 11, 2011

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104 Responses to How To Actually Make $50,000 a Year As a Musician

  1. Simon Mas says:

    Well, David, I received the same article and I have to thank you for deconstructing it.

    I have mixed feelings when it comes to busking: I have seen many a friend getting a hell of a lot better by doing it and in a period in which I’m struggling to get new concerts I’m thinking hard of learning of to face a less benevolent crowd by playing in the street.

    I agree with you about the moving where the job is part.

    Well written and well argued.

  2. Hey, David! Thanks for the critique of my article! I really do appreciate it. I don’t claim to be an expert. In fact, my blog is about experimenting. I also include the financial results of my experiments and call out as much.

    That’s why I put a disclaimer at the very top of my post, the one you quoted.

    The main point of the blog was to get musicians off their butt thinking someone else is going to come along and give them money for being awesome rock stars. A musician needs to start by making a dollar a day in one way shape or form with their music. Simply playing a bar once a month is not going to bring the riches.

    Your points are valid for making money. That’s why I also called out giving lessons as the way of earning $10,000 a year. 365 lessons at $30 an hour is $10,950 a year.

    Again, thank you for your criticism. Please, feel free to call me out on anything I say. I welcome your feedback.

    • Chris, what’s really frustrating is the bait and switch nature of your post’s title. You do some number crunching, but in the end, there’s no advice on how to get from $1 a day to $50k a year.

      Have you talked to buskers to find out what they make and what works or doesn’t work for them? There are a number of bands that busk in the subway and do quite well. It’s not for every band, but if you can master that skill, it makes for a nice income stream for everyone in the band.

      Of course, the key to quitting your day job is having multiple streams of income, as Dave points out. There aren’t many musician jobs that require all of your time, so you find several that add up to a decent living.

      • Hey, Cameron. I agree, the title of my article seems like I have a magic formula to just get to being a self-sufficient musician.

        Of course I’d be full of it if I gave that type of advice. Every musician would quit their job today.

        The point of the article was from me seeing all my musician friends thinking they are going to “make it” with their band. They think that a half hour show once a week, and the occasional tour will do it.

        My article was meant to spark discussion on what someone has to do every day, every show.

        That’s why I’m enjoying Dave’s retort. I think he makes a great point.

        • The real reason not every musician quits his or her day job to do music full time is because it’s really hard and you have to have a lot of skill. It takes a lot of time and effort to acquire those skills, and even more to market them. It’s not that the advice doesn’t exist, it’s that the answer isn’t what most people want to hear.

          On a side note, on my way to rehearsal I stopped and watched this band busking in the subway, at 34th St. It’s a prime location, but they earned their right to be there. I watched them for 5 minutes and counted how much money they made from tips and CD sales (best I could tell, anyway), and it was just over $50. In 5 minutes. I doubt every 5 minutes is like that, but that’s a decent amount of change.

    • Chris, if you’re not an expert then you shouldn’t pose as one. And if your point is that musicians should do something, then that should be your point.

      • Hey, David. I never claimed to be an expert. Where did I do that? In the About section of my blog, I clearly state that I’m an average musician trying to figure out how to be successful. I also point out my declining “Financial” section for my band. How am I being deceptive?

        But I understand your frustrations with my article. I am also sick of bad advice. But I’m not seeing where I’m giving “bad” advice in my article. Especially since both give the same good advice to provide music lessons.

        If a musician is currently only waiting for that weekend gig with their band, busking is a better option than earning nothing.

        Though I might not be an “expert”, I have been playing and touring with multiple bands through the years. I’ve dried up my bank account, I’ve busked to get dinner money, I got drunk instead of selling merch. I’ve failed a lot, and I learned a lot.

        The point of my blog is to “experiment”. To turn around not making money into making money. An experiment can fail or succeed. I wanted to spark discussion.

        • owen says:

          Hello Chris,
          Just want to say thanks for your site, I’m a full time musician. And I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and advice, I felt the need to comment after I read other people’s negative feedback.
          Keep up the good work,
          Cheers

    • Dan says:

      I’m actually 16 and I busker just as a side job because Im in school. (I’m a violinist) I make between 50-150$ an hour depending on what time of day it is playing on the street and I get many jobs because it is like advertising.

  3. Elliott says:

    Thanks for this article, I too read Chris’ busking idea with some skepticism. I know people who make good money busking, but they don’t fill out “successful self-employed musician” (or very much else for that matter…) on their tax return.

    Thanks for this dose of reality.

    And of course, @Chris – thanks for sparking the debate!

  4. Greg Arney says:

    Great article David!

    I like what you said about the record industry entitlements. You’re completely correct. Everyone loves to spin their wheels and wait for some magic fairy to come save them and make it right again. It’s our job! We’re here, now! We aren’t entitled to anything we can’t create. We were told this is hard!

    My other issue: screw $50k. That’s a median wage for adult employees with a bachelor’s degree. We don’t have to act like that figure is some sort of holy grail. Sure, it’s something to be thankful for–however, I know musicians who make twice that or more, and they’re not famous. Just hard-working, and needed by many.

  5. Chris Bracco says:

    David – I understand your frustrations, as I’m sifting through dozens of fluffy articles in my Google Reader as we speak. This article actually happens to be one of them. This is no better than the articles whining about the “death” of the music industry.

    There isn’t any in-depth advice on how to make $50k a year as a musician in your post, which is what the article suggests. It’s a total bait and switch, which is the essence of nearly every blog post you are frustrated with.

    This article is just contributing to all the useless, nonsense parroting “advice” out there.

    Oh, just start a teaching studio, just start writing background music, just start playing gigs. What most musicians will be wondering, especially in the beginning stages of their career, is HOWWWW to do these things.

    HOW, David. How. The best pieces of advice have experiences to back them up.

    Obviously there is value in just doing and learning from your mistakes, I do it all the time, but if you’re interested in giving advice in the form of a blog post (and not just jerking your name around the internet), then actually give some fucking advice.

    How do you put together a music lesson plan? How do you market yourself to people looking for background music? How do you find band mates? How do you know if your music is even good enough for people to want to consume? How do you set up a Facebook fan page?

    Not trying to rag on you, but come on, dude. I don’t know you, but I do know you’re better than that.

    • Hey Chris, you’re absolutely right, this article is not a “How To” and doesn’t offer specific advice.

      However, exactly what you’re asking for is what this site is all about. The articles on MusicianWages are written by musicians to share one thing they do to be more successful. Those articles MUST be based on experience. Other articles are more general profiles of musicians to get a cross-section of their careers.

      We turn down articles from others (and each other) if there isn’t enough evidence to support the advice.

      We haven’t covered everything on this site because Dave, myself, and the other contributors only write about our own experiences. As our careers develop we write more, and we’re always looking for quality articles from other musicians.

      Chris, you’re exactly who we want to write for. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, let us know and we’ll find an experienced musician to fill in the blanks. Thanks for reading!

    • Chris, you should really take a look around this website. We’ve been writing about all of those topics for years now.

      Start with these:

      How to Get Started as a Musician (Part 1 & Part 2)
      How to Get a Job After Music School
      Start Your Teaching Business in 30 Days
      Moving To the Big City and Finding Work
      How To Get a Job As a Pianist
      How To Get a Cruise Ship Musician Job
      How My Song Ended Up In a Movie

      I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the point. Click on the “Archives” tab and look around.

      Or try the jobs board, as I mentioned. Or check out the list of career links we have to other websites that list jobs for musicians.

      Literally, the HOWWWW of “how can I be a professional musician” is nearly all we write about and it all comes from first hand experience. We don’t allow anyone to write for the site that is not a working musician themselves, we’re very, very strict about that. It’s why so many people read our site.

  6. jim Means says:

    I have developed a way to generate large income from our original band. To the tune of $800-$2,500 a night.. Even on tour! It is totally legit and takes some effort to set the shows properly, once you have honed a model that works it takes much less time. No money needed to do it, just need the resources that you probably already have. Simply put, you have the venue invest what they would normally pay a band in to radio advertising for the event and the band takes the door. We have a production co. do all of our ads and we email them to the local station. We have a 20ad minimum that the venue has to invest in. If you’d like more info please email weekendswaptours@yahoo.com

    • Clark says:

      Jim, in my neck of the woods, the venues don’t invest anything in the bands. It’s all door deals, and 100% of the promotion is up to the bands. Venues here don’t advertise on radio, TV, or in print! And they wonder why their attendance continues to drop…

      I once dropped $1000+ on a TV campaign to prove to a venue that advertising is critical. The venue & my band had a great night, good attendance, (in the end I lost money due to band issues, though) but the venue never advertised again, as far as I know. Lead a horse to water…bla bla bla, right?

      Anyway, I’ll drop you a line, because I’m interested in knowing where your band is performing & more details on how you get compliance from the venues.

  7. Jason says:

    That $31,200 assumes that those 12 students will take a lesson all 52 weeks of the year. I realize this article is basically an academic exercise, but if you’re going to call Chris out for being unrealistic, you can’t ignore practical matters.

    That being said, I basically agree, although it needs to be more like 25 students at $30/lesson for 40 weeks throughout the year.

  8. Clark says:

    David, I’m with you on being fed up with all the “music biz gurus” that are out there at the moment. It would seem that the best way to truly make money in the music industry is to sell a book or “program” on how to make money in the music industry, rather than actually be a performing, writing, & recording musician.

    About your numbers; you have the lion’s share of income coming from lessons in your plan. In my city no one – and I do mean no one – would pay $50 for a lesson. Not even from a rock star. There are 1 or 2 teachers than can get $20 per, but they admit their student turn-over is so high that they have trouble keeping their student roster filled. Most teachers get $15 for a half-hour lesson, and there are so many teachers that it’s difficult to keep even 20 slots filled for any length of time. The average music teacher is only grossing about $9k or $10k per year here, & works very hard to make that. I’ve chosen to take a part-time job in an unrelated industry, where I can make 3 or 4 times that amount in the same number of hours.

    Our live music scene is almost non-existent. It’s tough to even make $50 per gig, twice a month, for most performers. Maybe 10% of the live musicians here can make that much or more on a regular basis. And $250 background music gigs? Not without driving 2 hours each way to Chicago, & even then competition is so fierce that the pay is dropping like a stone.

    So the obvious answer is to move closer to the water, to use your analogy. For most people that would mean leaving family & friends, if they have a wife & kids then that multiplies the issue. While I agree that there are ways to make money today, I think earning a living as a musician is far more difficult today than it was 30 years ago, even without factoring in the “bubble” of the recording industry. I made a full-time living as a performing musician (unsigned & unrecorded) back then, & I can’t do it now, unless I move. That means leaving my elderly mother-in-law, all my friends, all my wife & kids’ friends, etc, OR my wife & kids behind.

    Do I want to be a full-time musician so desperately that I am willing to do that? Nope. So I am constantly trying to find ways of developing income as a musician, and constantly looking for ways to make my performances/recordings/t-shirts/whatever unique enough that they have value to my fans and will perhaps attract new fans, as well. Maybe someday I will find that balance without relocating, but I’m not there yet. If I ever find it, maybe I’ll sell a book about it…

    ;-)

    • Hi Clark, thanks for your comment.

      Yeah, it sounds to me like you are far from the water. Where do you live? I grew up an hour outside Chicago in Elgin, IL.

      I hear what you’re saying. But I think 30 years ago the live scene was heavily influenced by the bubble – or if not the bubble, by the same limited technology that created the bubble. There was more need for musicians because there was so much more live music. There was more water, you could say.

      I think it’s got to be hard to grow up in an area that had plenty of work, and to have all that work dry up 30 years later. I think that if I lived in an area like the one you describe, I’d take a job in an unrelated field, too. It sounds like there is just far too much supply and not enough demand – and there’s no way to fight against those economics.

      But – that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make a living as a musician. I think it’s just impossible if you are not near the water.

      • Clark says:

        Hey David, I’m an hour west of Elgin, in Rockford.

        You could be right about the influence of the bubble. We traveled Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, even a little into Michigan, back then. We played 250+ shows per year (if we wanted to), made much better money than our factory-working friends, & were treated like stars. Then change came along (like it always does) and Rockford became a place where original bands had no place to play. Then DJs took up the space cover bands had filled, & so it went.

        Now there are so many bands that will play for nothing in Rockford (and Chicago, Madison, & Milwaukee) that it’s just absurd. Like you say, supply & demand. So I continue to write & record, while looking at licensing, short tours to profitable areas, etc.

        I know that if I were less reluctant to play covers, blues, wedding music, country, and more willing to travel farther & more often, I could increase my income a bunch. If I had a great singing voice, that would open up lots of acoustic gigs, too. That’s actually good advice for those that are willing: don’t limit yourself to one genre; one band; one concept. I have a friend who is nearly able to support himself by drumming in 5 bands, giving lessons, & taking any pick-up job that comes along. He does have to travel a bunch, but no wife or kids or other obligations. (Once unemployment comp runs out, he may need a new plan)

        For me, it is currently acceptable to be part-time muso, & part-time something else in order to raise my family while writing & recording my strange music. But I am certainly continuing my quest for finding ways to become a full-time musician, again. As things change with the family, maybe I’ll find ways to do thing that I can’t at the moment.
        :-)

        • Yeah, I remember gigging in that scene in Northern Illinois. I played jazz gigs and shows with rock bands in Chicago after I got out of college. I remember once I rehearsed with a band for something like 5 months – we finally had a show at the Cubby Bear and we all made $20. I just knew that I couldn’t make a living playing in bands in Chicago. I had more luck with musical theatre, and I like it, so I pursued that – which is what brought me to New York.

          I also had luck accompanying at schools and community colleges in the area. Also – I used to play background music at country clubs in the area. That’s actually where I got the $250 number in the article – I used to play 3 hours for $250 once a month at one of the local country clubs. But, you know, a big part of all that was that I got lucky with the instrument I picked. Pianist seem to have an easier time finding gigs, do you think that’s true?

          • Clark says:

            Pianists probably do find more work, & I think it comes back to supply & demand. I like to joke that if a person were to wander outside of whatever building they are in, close their eyes & throw a rock, they would hit a guitarist. When people ask me if their child should learn guitar or piano, I always tell them piano if they want to earn money, guitar if they just want to have fun. If they are delusional & insist on guitar then I recommend bass, Finding a good keys player or a good bassist around here (& other places, too, I’ve been told) is very difficult.

            There’s another piece of good advice: learn an unusual instrument or multiple instruments. I have a friend who is a harpist with an area symphony. She lives in the Chicago area & does weddings, country club affairs, harp lessons, corporate events & tons of private party events. She does nothing else for a living, and I think she has a pretty decent income.

            If I keep this up, I might actually have an article:”5 Things You Can Do to Move You Closer to Earning $50K as a Musician!” Hmmm…

    • The summer before High School, my dad took me to lunch to get me thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I already knew I wanted to do music, I think he (an engineer) might have been trying to get me to think of other options!

      But he gave me one piece of advice that made a big difference. He said you can choose where you want to live and find a job there, or choose what you want to do and go live in the best place to do that job.

      It sounds like you’re choosing where to live, and for all the right reasons. Maybe it means you can’t making a living with music where you are. I live in NYC, which is great for music, but a lot of simple things can be a big pain in the butt. It’s the trade off.

      The problem with finding better paying gigs in Chicago is probably just that you’re outside the scene. It’s taken years to make half decent money gigging in NYC just because you have to be here and know people and build your reputation. Nobody is going to call somebody two hours away for a background music gig–they’re going to give it to their friend so that someday the favor will be returned.

      My point is there’s nothing wrong with choosing to live where you want to live, it’s just that it comes with a trade off.

  9. Kathy says:

    I’ve read both articles.

    Why does this article say the original article is a bunch of bad advice, yet repackaged ideas from the same blog using your own suggested pay rate. Of the few unborrowed ideas, I see “background music” with no definition. Is that a pianist who works in the mall? Do they actually make $250 in an afternoon? Where do you find gigs like that? The other suggestion was not far off from “find regular gigs” ideas: playing three times a week at a church. In my experience, churches usually take volunteers or can’t afford much. Is this for organ/piano only? What about musicians that play other instruments? Can they realistically make money with that model?

    I agree, busking is not very realistic 365 days a year. The point the original article made was that 1hr of busking generated a tiny bit more income than you had before. Is $1 unrealistic to make playing a guitar for an hour? I’ve seen bills dropped into a musician’s case and I didn’t wait an hour. Like your article suggests, you need to do a lot of odd jobs before your musical career will generate $50,000.

    Yes, you could work a music related desk job, but that’s not being a musician, is it?

    Overall, without the other article, you would not have material today. Also your quotes were used out of context. They were to suggest that the author wants to leave it open for feedback, in yours they were surrounded with snippy comments saying the person was trying to trick you. Neither article should claim to make you $50,000 per year because neither are practical working models yet.

    • Hi Kathy, thanks for your comment. Yes, my article is a response to Chris’s original. I’m grateful that he brought the topic up so that I could have my say as well. And I’m glad that you came here to have your say, too.

      Sure, my numbers are all real. They are all gigs I’ve played, and the exact money I made. I used to play a background music gig once a month at a local country club. I’d make $250 for 3 hours. If you’d like to know how I got the gig, try this article:

      How To Get a Job as a Pianist

      I currently have a church gig here in New York. I have 2 services a week plus occasional weddings and funerals, and they pay $100/service. The church down the street has 7 services a week plus weddings and funerals. I picked 3 services in the article just as an example.

      As for whether it’s a piano or organ gig – well, I play piano and organ, so those are the gigs I talk about. This is one of my points – we don’t talk about things we don’t know here at MusicianWages. We don’t make up possible scenarios and present conjecture as advice. We only talk about the gigs we’ve actually played, often listing how much money we made, and we tell other musicians how they could do it too.

      Just because it doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it’s not a practical, working model. If it’s on this website, it’s working for somebody.

      • That’s a good point, David. I need to put my money where my mouth is.

        My blog is only a couple months old and is in the stage of “dreaming things up” for my new band (which is just forming). Yes, I’m using it as a platform to state opinions and dream up experiments and have a bit of fun with music marketing.

        But I will be eating my own dogfood. I wouldn’t throw it out there if it wasn’t something I’d be willing to try. And I will be showing any successes AND failures on my site.

        • Sure Chris, I get that. I like that you’re trying to think outside the box. But I really think that it would be more valuable to try something first, and then give your readers the results, good and bad. Throwing out ideas as if they were proven advice before you yourself try them is just, as I said, presenting conjecture as truth.

          You asked me in an earlier comment what you had said to present yourself as an industry expert. Here’s the thing about starting a blog man – once you start writing a blog you position yourself as an expert on your topic. Especially when you write articles that present themselves as guides, like the one I critiqued above, or your most recent, 6 Easily Avoidable Mistakes for a Band to Make at a Show (which, actually, I dig). Now, once your articles start to be passed around by niche leaders like Hypebot, MTT, Top of Guitar, AllAboutJazz, etc. – you’ve successfully positioned yourself as an expert in the field, whether you say you are or not on your About page.

          Be an expert. I have no problem with that – just be an expert at things you’ve experienced. Your 6 Mistakes article is a good example of writing from experience. But careful recommending that guys like me start busking on YouTube and asking for $0.25 at the end of it – unless that’s worked for you.

    • Hey, Kathy. Maybe David and I should split the difference and rename our articles “How To Make $25,000 a Year”? Heh-heh!

      When I wrote my article, I was just stewing thinking about the bare minimum, right now, it would take for me to quit my job. (My dream!) With my current debt, it would take $50,000. Thus the title and the use of that number.

      I wanted to quantify that amount and think of steps to hit it. The post was a brainstorm that made me smile, because it is things I will be doing with myself and my band.

      In my article, I definitely called out that I am not there yet. I’ll be happy if I can begin making $100 a month with music.

      I’ll be more down to earth with my next article: How To Make $10 a Year as a Musician.
      Thanks for your review, Kathy.

      • Kathy says:

        @ David: Making $50,000 a year in New York may be easier but it also means you are in poverty or live in a closet. Your rates are a bit ridiculous and non-standard from the majority of the country, which is why I didn’t think they were real. Gigs around here don’t pay that well. They are not as easy to acquire. Do you really have such a full rooster of students?

        What you are telling us is that you have to sell out and play music that is not original for the majority of your career. That’s like asking Leonardo to make copies of stock images. Not everyone can sell their soul like that. The occasional “band” gig and “background” gig would have to be satisfying enough. That’s the outlets that most musicians with day jobs get to do any way.

        @Chris: Your title was boastful. Yes, “How to Make $10 a Year” is more realistic. Have you busked? What did you make? How long did it take? Have you made $10 from it or another individual task? Prove it and do some follow up or your credit is on the line. I want to see results.

        Personally, all the money I’ve made in music is usually recycled back in to recording, merchandise, gas ect. Usually I have to take money from the day job to cover costs of my art. I enjoy it enough that paying for it is worth it. I have not tried much as an individual yet. I’m sorry I’m so pessimistic (realistic).

        • Ugh, Kathy, I get so tired of that “selling your soul” crap. If you don’t want to play gigs that pay actual money, then don’t complain when you don’t make money playing gigs. Your original music gigs probably don’t pay that much money – did they ever? What gave you the impression that they would?

          I think of it like this – I’m like a carpenter. Somebody gives me the blueprints of what they want built, and I build it for them. I’m very good at what I do and I take great pride in my craftsmanship. That’s my job.

          I don’t have anything special. I don’t have a music degree – my family couldn’t afford it. I’m a good musician, but I’m not a genius. No one in my family is in music, I didn’t have any connections at all. I just hustled and worked my way up the ladder and changed geography when I had to. And now I have this career that I really love.

          When I’m not at work, I build my own things – I’m free to make art. I like to write songs, so that’s what I do.

          What sounds so terrible about all this? You know, if you have any interest in actually working as a musician, you might try listening to what I have to say.

        • Been meaning to point out that the median household income in New York City is around $50k/year. The federal poverty line is much, much lower (around $12k/year).

          There are people in this city that make much, much more, and much less. Some of them may play an instrument.

  10. Clark says:

    @David: :-D

    • Kathy says:

      @Clark: How much does your harpist friend’s rich husband make? That’s a good business model. ;P

      • Clark says:

        She’s not married. And as far as I know, she did not inherit a fortune, win the lottery, or make a killing in the stock market.

        She is an excellent harpist, with a very deep catalog of music (she does “Free Bird” & “Stairway to Heaven” if requested!) and works hard to get those corporate & wedding gigs that pay well.

        The rich spouse idea may have to go into my article, or book, or whatever.

        :-)

        • Kathy says:

          I’m teasing on that one although there are several artists and musicians I know that are in convenient situations like that. It’s lucky that they can concentrate on art but not really a moral goal to specifically seek. I had a boyfriend who thought that I was ideally the ticket to a life of laziness and occasional music writing at his leisure as my kept man. He was very disappointed that I didn’t agree.

  11. tunesmith says:

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t take Chris’s original article as coming from a voice of authority, I took it as a thought experiment designed to spur others to brainstorm. And honestly, the goal of 50k/year is hardly consistent with the goals of making it big in the Recording Industry. I guess I could see the point of calling it charlatanry (ouch!) if it were an ebook he were trying to charge money for…

  12. Great debate everyone. An important take-away from this is that it was mentioned that “your band is a business”. I can remeber a time when this was the most uncool thing you could have said to a musician… or any artist for that matter. However, things have changed in a big way. Musicians who treat their band like a business are going to be more successful. Why? Because business minded people seek proven business advice and take action on that advice.

    If you want to sell more music online, then learn how selling online is done. Seek out an expert… who has proof of being a music marketing expert… and take action on proven priciples.

    Shitty songs hit it big all of the time. That’s because those musicians took advantage of things they actually have control over. Those things being, how much traffic you drive to your band’s website, what you do with the traffic when it gets there and how you position your music to be bought (not sold, there is a difference).

    Success is not a crap shoot. It’s a calculated and measurable endeavor. You don’t have to leave it up to fate and hope someone else make you successful. The reason blogs and youtube videos are such great vehicles is because they leverage your time. and help you cash in on compounding interest.

    Great stuff everyone!

  13. Ronn says:

    Bad Advice
    Every day my RSS reader gives me pages and pages of what I think is lousy advice and useless data. What is the deal?

    David – Sounds like it is time to clean up your RSS feeds. :-)

  14. dh says:

    David (and Cameron, since you guys are in cahoots):
    Although I appreciate the good ideas/advice that ultimately resulted from the “dissection” (a kind word to use) of Chris’s article, I think you were too harsh. When I read Chris’s article, I understood the point: You’re band could make it big, but most likely it won’t, so here are some diverse ideas you can use to BEGIN making some bucks with your OWN music.

    Most people that play their own music are not capable of doing the four suggestions you provide at the end of your article. Allow me to rip it apart:

    1.Get a church job (3 services a week): Possible, but there’s only one Sunday per week, so good luck unless you live in a city where there’s so many churches that you can find three that not only have staggered service times, but also will pay you $100 to play some music then leave to the next. Yes, I know that not all church services fall on Sunday, or morning for that mattter. Again, good luck everyone.
    2.Start a teaching studio ($50 per lesson): The majority of parents/students that take lessons (even pre-recession) aren’t shelling out $50 per lesson. Yes, lots and lots do. But unless you are conservatory-trained, you most likely will be charging around half that.
    3.Play background music once a month (@ $250/gig): Yes, I’ve done these gigs, but there’s no way I would have gotten $250 to play anything other than standard rep jazz or classical. Oh, I’m sure you’ll find a few gigs where you’ll be allowed to play solo piano or guitar musings from your own pen.
    4.Play in a band twice a month (@ $50/gig): It is what it is, but I found it odd that you would lowball that potential amount only on this one. I’ve made plenty more than $50 on band gigs lots of times.

    The bottom line is that your website caters to a musician with a certain set of skills that Chris’s article doesn’t address. Chris’s article is probably useful for music makers that are mostly untrained, so they would find no use for some of the articles on your site. However, ANYONE can read Chris’s article and begin using some of the ideas.

    As for the title of Chris’s article, I don’t think it’s misleading at all. You focused on the “$50,000 a Year” part of it, but seemed to overlook the “Start with $1 a Day” part. Yes, it’s unreasonable for even the unschooled players to actually make anything worth banking on from most of the suggestions, but I think Chris wanted people to THINK outside of the rock star box. His ideas aren’t any more unreasonable than a recent article of your’s that basically says “Wanna get a song into a movie? Put it on itunes, it might work.” Sure, but most likely it won’t.

    • dh says:

      David:
      I should apologize for the implications that you had gone to school for music. I was incorrect about that. You worked hard and had to make some sacrifices (such as living in NYC, even though you’ve only recently come to feel like you enjoy it)to get to this point as a musician.
      Regardless, I think the points I make are fairly sound.

    • dh, I think you bring up a good point about different kinds of musicians. I wouldn’t say that our entire site caters to only the trained musician, but I would say that I try to only talk about what I know. And all I know is how to work as a trained musician. So I guess that’s what ends up coming out of my articles. But we have articles from 29 other writers on this site – if my stuff isn’t right for you, we have other material.

      About your dissection of my points…look – that was just an example. You don’t have to do exactly those gigs to make a living. They were just examples. Jason Parker on his blog wrote a good article about how he makes a living as a musician, and he gave totally different examples.

      1.) Most churches have more than one services a week. My church gig have 2, the church next to me has 7 and both pay $100/service. I’m only speaking from experience.

      2.) Yes, starting a teaching studio is a lot of work, I’m not arguing with you there. But it is possible to make $30k doing that gig. Of course the numbers need to be crunched differently for different areas, but it’s possible. Lessons in NYC are more like $60-100. Geography matters if you want to be a working musician.

      3.) As for background jobs, I took that number right out of my career. When I lived in Illinois I used to play a country club gig once a month that paid $250 for 2 hours. I thought the gig was boring as hell, but that’s why they call it work.

      4.) Again, back in Chicago I used to play a jazz gig once a month and I made $50. I’m just using numbers I know.

      dh, if you’re argument is that it’s not, in fact, possible to make $50k as a trained musician…I don’t know what to tell you. How do you think musicians do make a living? Most of us aren’t making it on album sales, that’s for sure. We have to find other ways now. And while I appreciate Chris’ intent – to find innovative ways to make money as a musician – I think his advice falls short.

      • I guess this is one area where I’m not in cahoots with Dave, because I think our site DOES in fact cater to trained musicians. Or more accurately, we have to assume that our readers understand that first, you have to have a very solid foundation as a musician to make a living as one.

        To make money playing music (as opposed to selling recordings), it helps a lot if you can read music, have a highly trained ear, incredible chops (and the musicality to keep keep them in check), be well studied in a variety of styles. If you don’t have these skills, that’s fine, just practice.

        I recently saw a great article about getting started as a freelance musician. Point number one can’t be written enough.

        In reality, THAT is the job. We don’t get paid for the two hours of music we play, we get paid for the 10 years of practice that went into it.

        The better you are, the more you can do, the more gigs you can take, the more people you’ll play with, and the more gigs you’ll be offered.

        And I think you missed the underlying point of Dave’s article about his song being in a movie (in cahoots again). His recording was placed in a movie because it was a really good performance. It was discovered on iTunes because he used some advice from this site (ahem, my advice). But I’m sure the music supervisor found plenty of versions of that song, yet Dave’s was the best for their needs. He claims it was a little work and a lot of luck, but it was really a lot of work and perhaps if you believe in it, karma. But the underlying point was that he was actually doing something and not theorizing about how he could do it.

        That’s the underlying point of this entire website. Pragmatic advice rooted in real world experience. You won’t get anything less from Dave, myself, or any of the other authors on this site.

        • You know what – Cam makes a good point, and he’s right, we do cater to trained musicians on this website.

          I just don’t see how it would be possible to make a living as a musician without being an expert, trained musician. I know that for a long time untrained musicians made a ton of money on writing music and selling albums – but again, I the gold rush is over and that career model just doesn’t work as well as it used to. I mean, if we could find someone who’s making a good living as professional musician without formal training we’d have them write for the site. But I just don’t know anyone like that.

          Also, something that’s bugged me for a few days is this idea that was expressed by dh, but echoed by others here and on other blogs:

          Yes, it’s unreasonable for even the unschooled players to actually make anything worth banking on from most of the suggestions, but I think Chris wanted people to THINK outside of the rock star box.

          I think the idea here is that Chris’ advice is valid because, while none of it is practical, all he’s trying to do is make you consider other options and open your mind to other possibilities with monetizing a career in music. The implication I get is that the suggestions above are the opposite of that.

          Really?

          In the same way, yes, dh, you really, really missed the point of my story about getting my recording into a movie. How can you support unqualified advice that asks you to “THINK outside of the rock star box” and criticize a real-life example that does the same?

    • Just wanted to kick in my experiences on this one:
      1) My church gig has 5 services weekly, of which I play for 3.
      2) $40-$50/hr is the correct ballpark for piano lessons in Northern Virginia

  15. dh says:

    Incidentally, do you have an article somewhere about playing receptions, banquets, and so forth? Just looking for thoughts, experiences, etiquette, ideas. Thanks.

    • Like, how to get the gig? Or what to do once you’re there?

      Although…dude…it’s kind of lame that you’d rip apart my above post and then turn around and ask for more advice, you know?

      • dh says:

        You say it’s “lame” that I would “ask for more advice” now? First, I did not ask for advice, I asked if there was an article on your site that related to the subject of playing those types of gigs. I specified what I was looking for, although I realize it might have been slightly vague. I was wondering about the experiences that your (or other writer(s)) may have had playing background music. It’s such a specific type of gig, one that seems like it would be pretty cut and dry, but I was curious if there were any interesting perspectives that anyone had doing it. But no, not about how to get the gigs.

        Second, how is it that my comment must mean that you don’t dispense good advice? I’ve commented on many of your articles (maybe not always as “dh”), and excuse the hell out of me if I thought you were off base on this ONE article. If you had actually read all of the words I used, you would have noticed I was stating that your advice is great, but not for someone that is trying desperately to figure out how to turn their OWN music into something of a money-maker, however meager. Yep, a person sure can’t expect to make a living cranking out records. Or busking. Or using AdSense. So you gave great advice. But for someone like Chris, given his goal of playing his own music, it’s bad advice, and it should have been directed elsewhere, not AT Chris and his article.

        I’ve been reading your articles since April 2009 (the first being something about dating). I’m very offended that you chose to use the word “lame”. I don’t know how you expect people to keep up a cordial string of commentary when you don’t edit yourself just a bit more.

  16. Tim Carey says:

    As a musician who does make over $50K a year, I’m going to put in my 2 cents.

    You have to be good. really good, at music, not rock music, not jazz music, not country music, but music.

    It really helps to take lessons or go to school, but those things are not required. all that is required is that you are a good player and that you seek out work. In most cities, it’s there.

  17. Mikael Lewis says:

    This is a great debate. However, you guys all need to be nicer to each other. Geez, as far as I can tell, this is all about helping each other out. Chill out ya’ll!!
    I have earned a very decent living as a musician. And to be perfectly honest with you, I am not really that good. (OK, I’ve got some chops, but in comparison to some of the amazing players that I know, I am only average at best.) The key for me has been to diversify. I play solo acoustic gigs, wedding gigs, gigs for tips, band gigs and some work as a sound man. Its just about working hard and looking for new opportunities all of the time. Even the worst gig in the crappiest venue where nobody is listening is better than a “real job!”
    By the way, Kathy, I don’t think these rates are unreasonable at all. I have worked and lived as a musician in Ireland, NJ, AZ, UT and now in Nashville. These rates have been fairly standard across the board. The work is there at these rates. You just have to really look for it.

    • Thanks for your comment Mikael, you have a great perspective to add to the conversation.

      I think I should take the blame for setting the tone of the discussion. I knew that writing a critique with that kind of negativity would breed more negativity in the comments.

      The thing that surprised me, though, is the idea that the numbers I listed above are, I guess, lies. Or that the kind of career I describe above is not possible for whatever reason. There was a comment on another site that described this kind of career as somehow shameful or dishonorable.

      I’ve heard this kind of thing before – I mean, it’s a central debate in the musician community, right? Jason Parker brought it up in his response too – art vs. commerce. Somebody else on MusicThinkTank framed it as the pop industry vs. the musician industry.

      Sometimes it feels like there is almost a separate-political-parties kind of rift in the community – Original Music vs. Cover Songs, Rock Stars vs. Sidemen, Trained vs. Untrained – but none of those are exactly the right labels, I’m not sure what to call it. You know what I mean? It seems like that’s what this debate has really ended up being centered around.

  18. Robert Anton says:

    There is so much bad information out there, I actually decided to start a series on youtube to put out some good information. It’s called So You Wanna Be A Singer and talks about the day-to-day of being a professional singer including how to train, schooling, private classes, auditions, etc.
    I think it’s been a huge help to aspiring performers over the last 4 years…and it’s free.

    Check it out and Thanks for the article.

  19. dh says:

    David:

    Chris wrote an article in which you did not take into full account his intention. He clearly states his objectives on the “about” page of his site. His site is not riddled with “bait-and-switch” titles, so he clearly does not have an agenda to masquerade as a man of experience and wisdom as a musician. You want people to take consider all the other articles (and writers) throughout your site as a way to explain your article, but you have not taken the same consideration to further explore Chris’s site and intentions.

    I put “musician” into two basic categories, although a person can be in both categories. There is what I call the “blue collar musician” (or sometimes “Musician with a capital M”). This is the musician that approaches a music career in a diversified manner, taking various types of gigs, possibly teaching as well. You know, the one that reads charts well, can probably play very convincingly in a variety of styles, and so forth. Then there’s… everyone else that plays music. I don’t have a name for them. Basically, they may or may not know how to read music, may or may not be trained in a way, but these can also be true for a few (very few) blue-collar types. The main thing about this particular group is that they want to do their own music. That’s their primary objective. Yes, I know, many blue-collar musicians also have this objective to whatever extent, but my point is that the non-blue collar musicians, generally speaking, are not capable of taking on the blue-collar gigs. They also, generally speaking, may not even be aware of the distinction between their type of musician and the blue-collar type. They are very aware that there are people that do music as their career, but how to become their vision of a musician is baffling. As a result, they have a completely different worldview of what it means to be a musician. Many (NOT all) of this non-blue-collar type are starry-eyed, brimming with hopes and dreams, and so on. Many of them flounder for years and years hoping for the big time. This is not a criticism, it’s just how it is. When you read Chris’s article, you apparently forgot that not everyone is, or aspires to become, a blue-collar type musician.

    When I read your criticism of Chris’s article, it was obvious that you did not completely read the article. Yes, you DID read all the words, but you did not take into account all the other facts. He’s not a blue-collar musician (by the way, I do not consider “non-blue-collar musician” to mean “not hard-working”) because he does not have blue-collar goals. He has the perspective of a person that wants to make his OWN music, and he he’s not sure how to pull it off in a way that also allows him to profit from it. So there’s a certain amount of desperation there. He’s not claiming to be anything other than a guy struggling to “make it happen”. If someone that is an aspiring musician (blue-collar or otherwise) reads his article and gets some “bad advice”, so what? Lots and lots (not all) of the advice on your site would not be good advice for the musician that wants to get their own music out there, and to “make it”. Some, even lots, of the advice is excellent advice for the person wanting to create/perform their own stuff, whereas some bits of advice would result in a complete train wreck.

    When I responded to your article, I stated very clearly that “most people that play their OWN music are not capable of doing the four suggestions you provide”, to which your response was “if your argument is that it’s not, in fact, possible to make $50k as a trained musician… I don’t know what to tell you. How do you think musicians do make a living?” Do you see the problem there? You didn’t read ALL of the words. Yes, you are correct, it is possible for a trained (and untrained, for that matter) musician to make a living, and quite a few do. When I “ripped apart” (which I intended as an exaggerated term) your list of four possible ways to make money, I was attempting to illustrate that those methods would be a bit of a stretch for someone wishing to play their OWN music. Your ideas for making money are spectacular with a certain skill set (and not necessarily trained or even greatly skilled) and certain aspirations. But I would not advise a person that wants to have a successful rock band to do those things. Your diatribe describing the fall of the record industry is spot on, but a person like Chris (and there are many) wants to make SOMETHING, ANYTHING with their music eventually, which is what spawned his website in the first place. It looks to me like he is giving all of himself. He’s letting all the ideas flow forth, basically thinking out loud, and if there’s some he/we can use, great. There is some desperation there, but he is trying very hard to make something work for himself.

    When Chris wrote “How does a musician make money? Honestly, I don’t know for certain”, he was letting everyone know where he stands: He’s just a dude trying to figure it out. I feel for the guy because he projects quite a bit of vulnerability in this one article, which is why I thought your response to it was unnecessarily aggressive.

    I suppose the title of Chris’s article was the genesis of your frustration with what followed. I agree that it was misleading, but not intentionally so. Chris has written a lot of articles, and I don’t see any other titles that are as misleading as this ONE. None of them reek of a guy with the agenda to pose as “expert”. He screwed up one title, so what? You want us to take into consideration the whole intention and content of your website when interpreting your article, so why didn’t you do the same for him in the first place? Also, why didn’t you just let him know directly that you felt his title and/or article was full of bad info? He’s clearly an easy-going guy, if his comments on your article are any indication. I don’t believe he intended his ideas to be taken as anything resembling a “career model”, as you put it.

    I realize this is a bit long, but it represents the thoughts I’ve had on the subject over the past few days. Feel free to trim or scrap it.

    • Alright man, you make some good points. I was probably too hard on Chris. I wish the guy all the best with his career and his blog.

      I like your description of the two musician types. I also think of it as a blue collar career, I think that’s a great way to describe it.

      As for background gigs, I used to play them a lot. I don’t think we have anything about them on the site right now. Feel free to email me if you want to chat about it – dave [at] musicianwages.com.

  20. You know the main reason I see musicians exoeriencing problems with their income is they really don’t treat it like a business. I was in a pub when one band memeber said he wasn’t really interested in playing what the audience wanted to hear, or earning a good booking fee from a wedding – he wanted to play what he liked. So another band member said, “That sounds more like a hobby, you’re obviously not in the music business.” That is the basic problem. Being a working musician is being in business. Even Leonardo Di Vinci had to get paid to eat. You think he always painted what he alone liked?

  21. The problem with most musicians I meet is they really have no route to market for what they do. And this discussion is pretty much like that as well. I started back into pro playing and teaching after giving up a business career 10 years ago – the last five years had been doing workshops for Directors in How to Use the Internet. My colleagues in this project had some very simple tools and questions they would ask Boards of Directors. Strangely I’ve found them to be exactly the same questions and diagnostics tools any of us as pro msucians should be using to develop our income. Here’s a version of our workshop philosophies translated to the music business.

    1. Fact – The best qualified, the best performer, the best CV, the best looking people most often, don’t get the job. You know that’s true – look around and you can see idiots in high places every day.
    2. Fact – If you behave like a victim of life… you know what – people treat you that way. Generally they don’t help you because they have their own agenda, and you’re not on it.
    3. Fact – If you prostitute yourself by doing anything for someone who can help you up the ladder, when will it stop? They’ll always be another who says they can help if you can just do this… You can chose not to behave like that. You’ll not get any respect ‘sleeping’ your way to the top – and you may hate yourself in the end.
    4. Fact – It’s all about relationships. IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. Get it? You may not like it but we all operate like that. No relationship – no gig. It’s either a long lasting relationship; there before the audition. Or you need to develop it as fast as you can. ‘Relationship’ will always trump all other aspects of getting the gig.
    5 Fact – WIFM – the ‘What’s in it for me’ factor looms large in everything. If the person you want the gig from can’t see what’s in it for them, you don’t get the gig. This is the main point of opening your mouth at an audition – tell them what they personally get from taking you on. Their agenda is everything – yours is nothing in this conversation. Nobody cares that you are ambitious and hardworking and talented – they are intersted in what you can do for their agenda – personal AND commercial.
    6 Fact – Commercial Agenda – you must match what they need to do business-wise – this is the obvious money stuffand the basic requirements.
    7 Fact – Personal Agendas are 10x more powerful that the current gig opportunity (which will look like the Commercial Agenda). We’ll all do almost anything to fulfil our personal agenda and so will those you are auditioning for. The bass player that knows the personal agenda, has a way to fulfil it, and has the relationship wins the gig.

    Remember the person with the relationship will always out bid, trump, beat, any other hand. Of course you need to be able to do the job, but the relationship aspect will always win.

    Do you remember in Jerry Maguire the agent Dickie Fox saying, “This business is all about relationships. No relationship – no business.”? That is absolutely true. In business I worked with thousands of Presidents and Vice Presidents of organisations – they all agreed with this point. It’s a fact in business and I’d guess it’s fact in the music business as well. You want to work differently? I think that’s what’s called a hobby.

  22. Rand says:

    I’d like to first thank David and his co-contributers for having such an outstanding website, service and platform for people to learn from and voice their opinions. It takes a great deal of time, energy and goodwill to organize and monitor it all and it’s the best I’ve seen anywhere.

    Face it; we’ve all been bitten by The Muse at some point in life which is why we’re so passionate about music and our roles within it. Despite the expected friction, there’s plenty of excellent points of view and advice here from all corners of this particular debate. From my own experience, my fellow musicians below sum it up succinctly very well:

    David

    I get so tired of that “selling your soul” crap. If you don’t want to play gigs that pay actual money, then don’t complain when you don’t make money playing gigs.

    I just hustled and worked my way up the ladder and changed geography when I had to. And now I have this career that I really love.

    Cameron

    In reality, THAT is the job. We don’t get paid for the two hours of music we play, we get paid for the 10 years of practice that went into it.

    The better you are, the more you can do, the more gigs you can take, the more people you’ll play with, and the more gigs you’ll be offered.

    Tim

    You have to be good. really good, at music, not rock music, not jazz music, not country music, but music.

    It really helps to take lessons or go to school, but those things are not required. all that is required is that you are a good player and that you seek out work. In most cities, it’s there.

    Chris

    Facts 1 through 7

    Touche’;-)

    And if I may add that even now more than ever, being exceptionally good and versatile at your craft is only part of the equation in comparison to the previous long gone ‘golden age’ we’re still foolishly and stubbornly yearning for to return. The motto we should now have tattooed on our eyelids is: Adapt or perish brothers and sisters.

    The new business model dictates one must combine this with a daring and true spirit of entrepreneurship plus willingness to risk failure occasionally (because we learn more from failure than success, re: how NOT to do it that way again – at least that’s the theory;-).

    Time honored maxims such as a never-ending desire to learn (because we’ll never know it all and there’s always someone as good as, worse than or better than you somewhere) dedication, committment, professionalism, reliability, mutual respect and common courtesy, self-respect = confidence, social skills, ethics and most importantly persistence are absolutely essential ingredients one should also add to their skill-set and practice on a daily basis as well as their instrument of choice.

    None of these qualities in and of themselves are guarantees of the worldly success one may crave, but by cultivating them you will succeed as a human being first and foremost in comparison to most, and they will definitely help you in more ways than you realize now.

    Again, none of this ‘business talk’ means one must sell their soul to succeed. But if one wants to do what they love best plus make a living at it somehow, balance is a necessity and a certain amount of compromise is inevitable eventually along your individual journey towards it. Even The Beatles started out with cover songs and god-bless-’em for what they achieved and gave us.

    So just remember during those moments of doubt that we always ‘play’ music and never ‘work’ it. Where’s the fun in that? Like the ad says, ‘Just do it.’ Because as soon as you sacrifice your love and enjoyment of The Muse and are in it just for the money, that’s the time you truly lose your soul as a musician.

    Wishing everyone the success they first earn and then deserve…

  23. Yes I agree with all you say Rand. Tha basics are the bsics though and if you are a full time musician you need to eat, house and warm yourself – so you have to do something that someone’s going to pay for.

    The big first question is “What business do you think you are in?” The answer isn’t I’m in the music business, and it isn’t I play an instrument or I’m a musician, and it isn’t I teach. Audiences and students don’t buy those activities. Telling you right off would be too easy – work at it first.

  24. The first thing you need to work out is “What business are you really in?” In other words, what is it that people are really buying from you? What is it that people need that they’ll still need many years from now – a sustainable need that you can fill with your core talents and ‘products’?

    I did this work with countless companies over ten year ago when I was in business and the only guys who answered this question immediately was Kodak. They could define that they are in the ‘Memories Business’. When you buy one of their products, like a camera, you aren’t buying a camera, you are buying what it can do for you – capture those magic moments in your life – capture memories forever. Is that a sustainable need, will we all want to keep our memories alive in ten or twenty year in the future? Of course we will – and Kodak will be there to help you do that. That mean filling that need is a sustainable, long-term business opportunity.

    As a musician – we play instuments, sing songs, kit out venues with lots of speakers and amps, do we maintainence on the kit and practice a lot. But those are what we do, that’s not what the audience wants and needs. Those things are like the camera to Kodak – its what we make and sell – it’s not what the buyer needed or wanted – the ‘product’ is just on the route to creating and sustaining memories. Our playing, instruments and equipment, our hours of practice and study are just on the route to what an audience or a student really wants and needs.

    Understanding this idea of the audience wanting more than just listening to your music is fundemental to understanding why some artists become popular and others struggle forever.

    The same is true of those who are successful teachers and those who seem to always be losing their students and searching for new ones.

    In both cases you need to figure out what the ‘customer’ wants to buy from you to deliver what they really want – their inner agenda. For a student you can be part of their dream to become a popular and excellent musician, For an audience you can be that night’s fulfillment of a need to feel sad, happy, warm – a deep emotional engagement. (Music is the most powerful of all the arts.)

    Working this first question out is fundemental to succeeding as a musician. But you need to do the working out yourself – that way you ‘own’ the results of your thinking and researching. Unless you own the ideas and the inspiring possibilities, you’ll not make the changes or improvements.

  25. zontar says:

    Church services as income?
    Really?

    Where I come from people volunteer their service as a musician.
    Some are strict amateurs, some also teach or play on the side too, but that seems so mercenary.

    • contrabasso76 says:

      In the past I’ve done church services for income as well as for free.

      Mercenary? Absolutely. :) If your goal is simply to make as quality of a living as possible from performing/teaching without being an “employee,” it is definitely the only way to go. I was in a band for 7 1/2 years. Weddings, corporate parties, etc. I couldn’t take any gigs that conflicted with that band. Eventually (for numerous reasons), I left. Funny thing happened after that. I started gigging! lol

      • Contrabasso – yes you are right. You only get paid if you charge a fee. There’s so many gigs out there that we are expected to do for free it just isn’t funny. When did you last here of someone going into an office and working the day for free because it will show others what a good worker you are. I never did another free gig after someone chewed the band out for not putting in an effort and wearing Tux’s – er we’re a rock band! Let me see… you paid $30 to be here and you’ll be here for 4 hours. We’ll be here for 7 hours of our time and brought $25,000 of equipment. So you gave $25 and the band gave $1000. I don’t do free anywhere, anytime, anymore, after that one. Office workers don’t do free so neither do I.

        • J. Vega says:

          Amen. I used to get calls all the time for (free) gigs with “exposure”. I finally told these folks, “you can die from exposure”. Anytime somebody plays for free, that person undercuts the value of other musicians who are trying to make a living as players, period. I’ve even turned down low-ball work. Venue owners know there are plenty of amateur/hobby/fun players out there, and they don’t really care what the quality of the product (music) is, long as it’s cheap.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      I REALLY feel the need to chime in here, since this is frustrating logic I, as well as many working musicians, are forced to defend ourselves with.

      First of all, this article might be of interest to you:

      http://www.musicianwages.com/forums/topic/do-you-have-to-be-religious-to-take-a-church-gig

      Aside from that, this website is for working musicians. We are professional musicians that use music, in whatever avenue of music we chose, to put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

      Because some people have decided to offer their tithes through music, it seems to many people that they have set the standard that all musicians should. However, through this logic, a plumber would come through a church, and offer his tithe through a new toilet. Now, parishioners believe that all plumbers should build church bathrooms for free, as well. What about painters? Why do THEY think they should have to be paid to paint the church, too?

      Musicians that play for free at a church are offering of a tithe. They do it of their own choice, and that’s cool. But sneering at a musician that chooses to get paid instead is like glaring at the person who chooses not to put money in the basket. You have no idea of their financial situation, and they may need every penny they can get.

      After all that is said, I have always used these arguments:

      1.) Other professions don’t offer their services to churches for free.
      2.) The pastor doesn’t preach for free.
      3.) God is just as interested in seeing me able to eat and pay rent as I am! And professional musicians are definitely worthy of their wages!

  26. 40 lessons x $20 = $800 a week for 40 weeks = $32000
    30 gigs at $100 = $3000
    15 weddings at $250 = $ 3750
    Holiday Workshops/Summer schools 4 x $500 = $2000

    That’s a total of $40,750. Now you can add CD band sales and a bit of off the wall busking, whatever, but pretty soon you realise why so mnay people are teaching. I’ts hard work but it’s a staedy foundation income to develop your other ideas. The most lessons I ever did was about 12 a day for a while – really tiring but keep that hit rate up for a year, exend your lesson avaialbility to an average of 44 weeks – do lessons in the school holiday more – and you are at 44x$20×60= $31680 – good luck with that one, I couldn’t do that, but maybe you can.

  27. Woops! 44x60x20= $52,800

  28. mikaellewis says:

    Where did the ridiculous notion that it’s somehow ignoble to play covers come from? Surely every player that’s ever picked up an instrument did so because he/she heard someone else play and was moved by it. What player has not spent countless hours trying to learn, mimic and copy their heroes? So how in the world can covering those great songs of the past be somehow shameful. Ridiculous!

  29. Tom Strahle says:

    One tip that I found works for growing your teaching business is to offer a free lesson for anyone who brings you a new student. Once the new student has taken their fourth lesson you give the freebie to your existing student. Even better, get someone who isn’t taking lessons to bring you a new student and give them a free lesson. Chances are they will start taking at that point.

    Another tip is to give away free lessons at a silent auction charity type thing. Someone wins lessons with you for cheap, the charity makes some coin and you’ve got a potential new student.

    I live in a nice area where I can get $70 per hour lesson, though I started at 40, then 50, and so on. Never would I raise fees on existing students only new ones. Attrition would take care of the cheaper students.

    In the late 70′s and early 80′s I had 40 half hour lessons per week. That was at a store, they paid me show or no show, and took a cut of every lesson.

    Now I don’t teach at all because I’m doing so much session work and writing and gigging. But teaching kept me in the game. Paid my bills. And the young kids helped me stay current.

  30. Yes, everything you say is what I have experienced Tom – good comments. Worth remembering how much a student is worth over a year of lessons – say 40x what they pay weekly if you take out holiday periods. (I don’t work the school holidays because it hugely messes up the dairy and you end up ‘staying in’ to do a leasson or two because most of the students are away.) I’ve actuallu got students who nave been with me over 7 years! They are pretty good now, but it show how important it is to make the lessons enjoyable – something they look forward to. I do no more than 50 a week as that’s my tops before I get jaded, but 60 would be my recommended absolute limit. 60x $20 is $1200 a week for say 40 weeks = $48,000. Pretty close to $50k. You need to reduce the lesson numbers according to how much gigging you do. Don’t end up trying to do 60 lessons AND gigging 3 times a week – that would be like a 75 hour week! I’ve only fallen asleep twice in a lesson – I wouldn’t recommend it as a demomstration of how enthused you are at your students playing. Definately something your student would remember forever. (So if you want to be talked about long after you’re dead falling asleep will do it!)

    However I can tell you that dong a load of lessons will screw with your technique, speed, and repetoire. You’ll learn scales, arpeggios and the basics like crazy. but no higher level playing. So you’ll have to strike a balance between lessons, practice and gigging. You can’t launch a career of great playing off the back of doing 60 lessons a week. And you can’t practice five hours a day AND do huge numbers of lessons unless you have the constitution of an ox. This has been my problem – no time to practice/gig and doing a lot of lessons. However if I go back and do some business consultancy I can earn 4 times what a lesson pays per hour – so I get more time to practice – but then I feel like a part time player because I’m doing business stuff. Choices, choices!

    Who said being a musician was easy anyway!?

  31. David says:

    Hi David ~

    Thanks for the helpful article. I’m having a hard time sympathizing with the complaints — you didn’t give a highly detailed, step-by-step tutorial, but I feel that you delivered on the promise of the title nonetheless because you laid out a plausible game-plan for making $50k a year.

    For me, though, the challenge is a bit higher. I come from a teaching background, and though I enjoyed teaching, I decided that I wanted to earn a living performing as a musician, as opposed to teaching. There’s certainly no shame in teaching, but if 60%+ of your income is from teaching, then saying your job = “professional musician” is kind of like a literature professor who writes on the side calling him/herself an “author”. While it’s certainly true in some sense, it’s not really the whole truth.

    • dh says:

      One could say “music teacher”, “semi-professional musician”, “part-time musician”, or any such more specific description, but I think it gets to be a bit absurd trying to grasp at the just-right label. I think a person should be honest, but I wouldn’t get too nit-picky. I think the reality for a lot of musicians is that the numbers within the various income categories fluctuate. There are times when playing gigs is my primary income source. It’s not always the case, but it happens.

      Did David emphasize his “professional musician” status somewhere? I don’t see it. Regardless, believe me, he’s a professional musician.

  32. I’ve met quite a few top musicians who have CD albums, appear on TV, and tour. But every one of them teaches as well. They all rely on multiple income sources because as one goes up and another comes down. It’s about survival rather than pride in portraying a single role.

    You can call yourself anything you like – and after a few years you really don’t care what you call yourself OR what others call you.

    BTW – if you tell your motor insurance company you only tour and you are a full time gigging musician you might wish you’d been a bit more modest in your title. Most of my income comes from teaching, but I do have business motor insurance because I travel to most lesson venues. But I’d expect that insurance to double if I was a full time gigger. Same as being an actor or a bar owner – high premiums because it’s a high risk role.

  33. JPH says:

    This is a really cool topic! For the past 5 years I’ve been trying to make a living as a solo guitarist, singer/songwriter. One thing that I think anyone who has tried this will agree on is, IT TAKES WORK.

    I play electric & acoustic guitar but early on I found that in the cities I perform in the quickest way to make decent money is to go solo…

    I’d like to share some things exclusively from MY EXPERIENCE. I’ve been a guitarist for over 25 years. I’ve been performing for money for nearly 5yrs.
    Of the past 5 years, I’ve averaged between 60 & 100 gigs yearly. My best year (income from gigs) was under $20,000.00. That was with 81 gigs. I worked hard for that & although it didn’t amount to a lot of money, I’m very proud of what I earned & accomplished.

    I also teach private guitar lessons & so far, the best yearly income I’ve seen from that has been between $5,000.00 & $6,000.00.

    I do think that it’s completely possible to make $50,000.00 or more as an independent musician. Deciding when & how are up to you. You have to honestly ask yourself “What do I want out of being a musician”. That answer can be very different for each musician.

    There are those who will play any type of gig in any type of venue. Even if it means they have to play music they don’t always like. These types will make it their goal to please the crowd & earn money in the process. If that means performing a set list of 100% cover songs then so be it.

    There are the songwriter types who have a STRONG devotion to being who they are & must express it through creating & performing original music. They don’t find happiness in the art of being a “mockingbird”. These types will soon find that they prefer venues that cater to songwriters more so than bars & clubs filled with indifferent listeners. From my view, Songwriters are more interested in earning a true fan base than they are in compromising their artistic vision to please a false fan base. When I say “false” I mean fans that like you based on what they “think” you are but not based on what you “really” are.

    There are those who do a little or a lot of both of the above mentioned.

    I’ve done both, & I enjoy playing cover songs by my influences. However, when performing, I’m happiest when I’m playing my original music.

    Now onto venues. I’ve played clubs, bars, restaurants, self promoted concerts, private parties, & festivals for anything from $100.00 to $700.00 per gig. With several hundred live shows under my belt I’m finding that I’m starting to be VERY selective of the venues I work with.

    I’ve grown very tired of bar gigs filled with various types of patrons. Here’s why:

    As a solo performer I seldom & almost NEVER have a cover charge at my shows. I target venues that don’t do a cover charge. I like venues that make their money off of drink & food sales & pay a set rate to the musician. Simply because that puts the risk on the venue instead of the performer. It’s business.

    There are always the same groups of patrons from my perspective.

    “The fans”, the “potential fans”, the “Jack-A#@ types who come in groups of 3 or more losers that want to get drunk & start trouble”, the “ever loyal bar stool tennants”, & the “hey there’s a bunch of cars there, let’s stop & see what’s going on – patrons”. All of this adds up to creating the crowd of people at a bar or club gig.

    The problem I have with it is this.
    I’ve had fans who are regulars at my shows approach me & say things like:
    “It’s good to see & hear you again, but we won’t come back to this venue because of the drunk loudmouths who won’t stop talking over the music”.

    I’ve had various comments like that & it bothers me. It’s frustrating to know that I have fans who are there to see me but they can’t enjoy the experience to the fullest because of the atmosphere in the venue.

    Comments like that make me realize that even though there’s money in club gigs, they are not the best gigs for everyone. The lack of a cover charge permits any & all to enter. That means there will be a mix of people who are there FOR THE MUSIC & people who are NOT.

    It’s times like that when I conjure up another type of “musician”. The one who works a day job to supplement his/her income so he/she can be very selective of the types of gigs that they do. These types often only perform live 2 or 3 times per month. Maybe even less, but when they do, they charge money & they draw a crowd of FANS who want to actually HEAR & enjoy the music.

    For 3 out of the past 5 years, I’ve payed my bills exclusively by playing guitar. I’ve often said that a bad gig is still better than a day job. Now, I’m seeing things differently. There are some really bad gigs out there with really dumba#@ patrons & venue managers who don’t appreciate or respect talent. I realize from the managers perspective, it’s business just like I said it is for me. However, there should always be a mutual respect. If I find that it isn’t there, I won’t do business with the venue.

    Furthermore, I’m a family man. I’m married with children. I enjoy spending time with them. For those reasons, touring doesn’t appeal to me. So from my point of view I think it’s logical for a musician (with wants or needs similar to mine) to get a “day job”. A day job that I can live with, one that I don’t HATE doing could in some ways, add more freedom to gigging. It takes the financial pressure away from gigging. I could do gigs that I want to do. I wouldn’t have to do gigs because I HAD to.

    I’ve experienced 1st hand what it’s like doing gigs in venues that I didn’t want to be in but I did it to pay bills. Those types of gigs, aren’t fun. I don’t care what anyone says, even a “WORKING” musician should enjoy what he/she is doing. The minute that gigging feels like a crappy job, it’s time to take a good look at one or all of the things listed below.

    The places you’re performing in.
    The people you’re performing for.
    The type of music you’re playing.
    The people you’re playing it with.

    I’m passionate about music. To me, it is purely artistic expression. There will be those who are with me & those who are against me. I believe that music should never be a competition. It is for the artist to enjoy & for the listeners to decide whether or not they enjoy it. Some will like it, some won’t. That’s the point of fans. They like you for what you’re doing, the message you’re sharing, the music you’re creating.

    When a musician is more interested in pleasing EVERYONE by performing what he/she thinks the audience wants to hear they lose or turn their back on what (to me) is most important. Be yourself above all else, you’ll earn fans. Your fans will come back for more, the rest can go elsewhere.

    On the positive side, I’ve also experienced 1st hand what it’s like to do a gig where the crowd chants my name & calls out requests for original songs. Those are the gigs that we as artists yearn for. Choosing a path to have more gigs like that & less of the “bad” ones is up to each of us.

    These thoughts & comments I’ve shared are ALL based on my real life experiences as a gigging solo artist. Hopefully some of it will help some of you along the way.

    • This is a VERY valuable comment – thanks so much for sharing!

    • This is so true. There are so many people I do not hire. When doing my hiring process the first gate is that I ask the teacher to send 3 items as separate files.

      1. Cover Letter
      2. Resume
      3. List Of Reference

      If they cannot do this simple task, they do not make it to the next stage of the hiring process. I shows they cannot follow simple instructions and will likely not be a good fit for me of my company.

  34. Actually that’s kind of a lot of work. Why not just teach group lessons. Get 50 student in 10 groups of 5 people at $100 a month. That’s 10 hours of teaching and your make $5000 a month or $60,000 a year for a lot less work.

    I know many guitar teachers who make well over $100,000 a year teaching less than 20 hours a week. They do group lessons. That’s really where the money is.

  35. Travis says:

    A couple tips I haven’t noticed here that have helped me supplement my income playing music is running an open mic for a bar for a while to get your foot in the door there. Hosting open mics here and there has lead to weekly gigs at every place I have done them. Once you have proven your ability and stage presence and shown yourself to be reliable, on time, etc, it’s easy to talk the bar owners in to a weekly gig. A bit of work up front, but it’s usually fun and gets you free drinks, food, etc…

  36. kb says:

    Hi

    Just found this thread (dont ask me how…:) and suprisingly the rules are no different in the US than it is here in Norway. The basics are…:
    You have to be good!! You have to know a few different music styles, and it helps a lot if you can read charts and take gigs on short notice. It also helps a lot if you can offer something that not everyone else is doing, supply and demand again:)

    In my case I`m a pretty average pro keys player. Not a genius but good enough to make a full time living out of it. One of my biggest advantage is that I do almost every gig with a Hammond and a Leslie and most keys player dont do that anymore. But I use the new very flexibel and easy to move Hammonds. Not much more trouble than bringing a Nord, but it sounds a lot better. Most pro bands and artists now that, but if they want a real hammond rock`n roll player for gig our tour, theres only a hand full of people to call around here. Supply and demand (and the skills to actually to the gigs offcourse) !

    Another issue is to behave professional when you`ve managed to get a gig. Always be prepared. Know your stuff and have your charts organized. Always be on time and make sure your equipment is working!! If you get a gig with the rolling stones, you don`t wanna tell Mick you`ll be back soon because you have to run off to some local shop to get a new capo or tube or signalcable or something…..
    Beeing a rock star seeing your guitarist standing on his knees trying to get his 15 pedals working during the show is not cool!

    These few points are my experiences as a long time pro here in Europe. I know a lot of keys players playing a lot better than me, having a much fewer gigs than me and earning a much less than me. At first it is all about the skills, but at some point it`s not about the skills anymore but about beeing able to handle the jobs you get in a professional way, no matter if you`ve been hired by som local Deep Purple tribute or Mick Jagger himself…. ;)

  37. Wow – this thread seems to go on and on. (And that suggestes it should be a website as an ongoning blog.) The selection of ideas and observations are great and anyone trying to earn a living playing music would do well to pay attention to everything that has been said. Its all here in this thread.

    What is very interesting, is that from all that’s here, we can calculate what we would earn and how to do the work – teaching, sessions, band work, writing, etc.. The basic fundemental guys is finding the customers – you neeed to find people who are going to pay you regularly for what you do. That means talking to a lot of folks FACE TO FACE. I say that because I come across so many musician that try to do that part of the job through agents, websites, mailers, phone calls, and even writing letters. Nothing works like meeting someone face to face, talking through what you can do for them (see my other comments above some time ago) and if possible arrange that talks so you can show them – tale a tiny amp and instrument and show them your styles and what its like when you play – if you can’t do that make a CD that has short 10 second peices that will allow you to play the bits and then talk about them. This whole process needs to be snappy and not a lengthy demo – practice with a friend and record it – what sounds snappy to you won’t sound that way when you play it back. Practice thesee calls befo you make them. If the person you are talking to can’t book you, you need to talk to the guy who can. If they don’t like what you do, get them to point you to a couple of people who will. You are on a treasure hunt for bookings that pay well, ones that give you repeat bookings.

    Work on building up a following. If you have 5000 people who love your music, you probably have a potential business right there – if they spend $10 each with you you have your $50,000 – that could be a couple of $6 CDs that make you $5 margin, it could be stuff they buy from your website, it could be tickets for your concerts. Certainly you’ll get more bookings if there’s 5000 fans following your gigs.

    Here’s your mission-
    1. Approach all the bookers in a ten mile radius in the country and three miles in a town – that’s hotels, clubs, pubs, diners, cafes, theatres, wedding planners, wedding venues, agents, and tell them what you can do for them and how you will meet their needs and requirements. In other words over the next few months everyone in a circle of twenty miles across if you are in the country and 3 miles across in a town, will know about you and what you do. Limit your acivity zone until you have exhausted all the contacts in that zone – then expand then zone. (Travelling costs money and time – why travel if you don’t have to.)
    2. Don’t produce a load of CDs and hand outs until you have called on at least ten people. You’ll then know exactly what you need to do theses calls. With your new stuff do another twenty calls and then review – some things will have been OK and others need modifying. Misson 2 is about having the right tools with you on each call.
    3. Build a network. Coolect email and phone numbers everywhere – from your old contacts, your new contacts, your old fans and building the fan base at every new gig. These are your audience for everything you’ll want to do on your website, YouTube and Facebook. Sign up to some way to build a mailing list and send it out in a managed way – don’t span your fans and contacts, but offer helpful emails that focus on what they want not your need to publicise everything you do – your aim is to build a relationship not being a bloody pain in the arse.
    4. Build a website is quite a way out in the agenda – you don’t need one until you are up and running. You need to be playing and getting paid – you are not a social network expert or website builder – you’ll do these later but they are not on the early critical path to success ( no matter how much people who sell these things tell you they are – their agenda isn’t yours.)
    5. Build relationships everywhere. If you want to know what it is that makes most musicians successful, building realtionships is up there as the first or second fundamental. If you are the one any only in your style you might be able to get away with being ‘difficult’, but there are only one or two of those people in each style of music – everyone else has to become brilliant at getting along with others. Try reading “Just Listen” by Marc Goulston or “What got you here, won’t get you there” by Marshall Goldsmith.

    Done! If you can identify your market, know how to talk to lots of people who book, build up a lesson practice, know what to hand people so they better understand what you do, and let them know you will be in touch, and how they can contact you; well you’re done!

  38. Krystal says:

    The best way to make 50,000$ a year as a musician is to write and compose songs that could sell. Instead of being only a musician, simply become a songwriter as well. This way you get to use your instrumental talents, I mean come on, what song doesn’t need a melody or harmony. You guys already have the gift of melody, all you have to do is bring lyrics to the table. Plus you can write songs in your spear time. If just one song becomes a hit, that could turn into residual income, depending on how popular the song becomes and granted you don’t sell all your rights to the song.

    • Clearly there are many combinations of jobs musicians can do to make a decent living. The article offers some very pragmatic advice, but obviously there are other combinations of work that could achieve the same thing, including residual income from songwriting. Getting one song to be a hit, however, is a very difficult job.

  39. kwhilborn says:

    Think the author underestimates what some buskers make. This topic should be left for people who know $1000 tax free money every week is not a pipe dream.

    • I know some musicians that busk in the NYC subway as part of the “Music Under New York” program. They’re allowed to perform in prime locations at ideal times of the day, and can make a lot of money, but it’s just one gig and not enough to make a living on busking alone. Similarly, I know many more musicians that make far less busking. In my experience, musicians that can make $1000/week busking on a consistent basis are few and far between.

  40. Rich says:

    I’m surprised that no-one mentioned about creating income online with their musical talents.

    There’s a bunch of “unknown” musicians making good money by selling all sorts of music products like online lessons, webinars, coaching, “how to” products ect.

    Might be another option to add to the multiple stream of income concept.

    Rich

  41. Gregory says:

    Great insight here, learned much.question?
    Taught myself over the years to play piano
    had desire to sing & have since age 5
    stuck on singing Oldies/bigband/classic country/40′s thru 80′s songs I can sound very much like original artists (learned this thru online karoake sites with comment sections) is there a market for this I’m reasonably sure I come close to being the ‘ “full basket” translated makes a nice apearance, etc..moved to Ny recently
    would I be buffoon or Hmm listen to that.
    Appreciate any & all Thanks

  42. Dave Curtis says:

    All very good stuff, Dave. Thank you for the 411. This may have been talked about here already but if it hasn’t Here goes.
    Another way to bring in some money is to get to know studio owners who are getting clients. If one has good tracking skills and have the ability to track one or more instruments and arrange that’s a real plus. People who make records still need talent and if one attaches value to what they do and they do it well there’s a good chance that someone who’s making their
    record will see at least some of that value and so a work opportunity can happen.
    Just my 2.

  43. You can EASILY make $30,000 a year busking. You can make even more if you have your own products to sell. I could easily make $100/day (a should mention a day is like 3 hours) busking. So it you did it twice a day during the most busy commuting periods you could net $200/day for 6 hours of work. Not bad.

    Not only that, I teach Voice lessons and guitar lessons in Boston. I net about $100/hr. This will vary depending on where and you teach and what you teach. Voice tends to be higher than guitar. But if you teach group lessons, it’s easy to make $200+/ hr.

    So making $50,000 as a musician as actually pretty easy. I would shoot more for $100,000/year.

  44. Ron says:

    I went to a venue where I listened to a talented guitar player along with his daughter who played mandolin and sang. They were selling Martin Guitars and also their own cds.

  45. Casey Parks says:

    While this article did seem somewhat primitive in nature regarding the experience of a musicians on these topics, perhaps more embarrassing are the rebuttals. Anytime you pull out profanity to insult what you think of as someone’s lack of intelligence and experience, please understand that you’re making yourself look bad, and you aren’t giving a very solid argument if you need to bash someone like that. The major thing I’m noticing here is that we’re discussing equity in the music industry, yet I haven’t seen a single post on this thread that mentioned the things that you should really be regarding if you wish to make music/artistry your career. It’s upsetting that, as a community, the people here as a whole have disregarded what’s most important in terms of gaining leverage and making a living playing music.

    If you enter the industry separating business and an overall sense of entrepreneurship from your artistry, you’ve already failed. Along with this comes the basics of capturing attention from the masses. We need to understand that the music industry is a consumer-based market, therefore we have to take the consumer into consideration, and likewise, an artist must identify their niche market and target audience. Not everyone is going to love you, this is something you have to realize.

    Another important aspect has to do with your image as a artist, and your professionalism. If you can’t take your music seriously enough to take your songs to a credible producer in a commercial studio and spend a couple grand on producing a record, you won’t be making much money, and especially in long-term. If you can’t then work and save enough money to hire a publisict to push your record to the outlets it needs to gain exposure, yol neva get there. This is just basic reasoning regarding the market.

    Hire professionals. Have a sense for image and what your story is as an artist. Record a record, hire a designer to take care of your merch designs and cover art, etc. Plan a tour, hire a manager/tour manager/booking agent to represent you professionally. You have to spend some money to make money. This is what we call “overhead” in business, and the goal is to generate a profit over what the initial cost for the product was so that you then break even, in which case you would be a successful artist.

    Once all these things are in place, people will be taking you more seriously as a artist. Appear professional, and never gig if you aren’t prepared. If an artist is somewhat talented, and follows these guidelines I’ve laid out, you’ll see immediate success, and it will continue to grow.

    The last and perhaps most important thing: don’t neglect outlets that you can use to generate sales/fans for free. Twitter, Facebook, instagram, any internet radio like pandora or Spotify. These are powerful marketing outlets in the form of social networks just waiting for you to take advantage of what you can do to spread your name/brand and music. Just about every piece of media people get their hands on nowadays is digital. Realize that.

    Also, yes records don’t sell as well as they did 30 years ago. Singles do though. We’re operating in a single driven industry. Learn how to release a single effectively, and it can have a huge impact on your career. Hope this was helpful!

    Casey Parks (Love Brooklyn)

    662-415-3877

  46. Boyan says:

    That’s the money you”ll do before taxes.
    The concept is there and it’s simple, however, add more stuff, because Uncle Sam will take a cut and that 50k is really 35k.

    Some countries don’t tax artists up to a certain reasonable amount, but the US is not like that.

  47. Brant says:

    That’s some great advice. I’ve taken the path of growing my own business and there are several aspects to it these days. It DOES take a lot of work and time. The point about teaching group lessons is a great one!

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