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The different paths of a “working” musician

November 4, 2013

It’s often assumed that because you play an instrument or sing, you should be out performing in public. That’s how you are going to make your money, right? But not so fast…the average part time performer makes below the poverty level, and most of these are musicians knocking out covers. Touring bands often lose money or make very token income.

There are other ways to make money as a musician and some of the more lucrative ones do not even involve playing for a live audience. Consider:

*Writing songs for other artists

*Creating music videos

*Acting solely as a recording artist

*Selling your recordings to be played as TV or movie soundtracks

*Novelty acts (like Flight of the Conchords or Weird Al)

Bret and Jermaine - the library tours...

Bret and Jermaine – the library tours…

Of course, with any of these options you still have the opportunity to play in public or tour to some extent. But what if live performance was the last item on the bucket list? How would that change your orientation to your craft?

For instance, touring can burn out a lot of would-be acts. Beyond the financial toll is the physical and mental one. Life on the road can be brutal. Making profit often simply means cutting costs (like crashing at a fan’s house…at every stop). At a bare minimum, a band should at least have quality recordings or other vehicles to promote before even thinking of leaving town.

If more emphasis is on the recording process, you will also be able to tell if you have a quality product to offer right from the get-go. You can even pre-test the marketplace before hoisting sail. But most important, you will then have something tangible to sell. Combine this with some thoughtful merch and you’ll have an actual storefront.

You may also decide to play out very infrequently, capitalizing on the buzz factor that occurs when you finally do make a rare appearance. Your band could play very select events or high visibility festivals without worrying about compensation, since you’re already making far more as a recording artist. Think about last year’s compensation playing out…and then think about what you want this next year to bring.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 5, 2013 1:10 am

    This is an astute article. As a 42-year gigging veteran, I can tell you that at one time we didn’t have to question whether it was worth it to go out and gig. 2-3 gigs paid your monthly rent, one gig paid your car payment, one paid utilities. Gigs were booked a week’s worth at a time, not a set at a time. Most gigging pros I know will agree that gig pay has not risen in 30 years.

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