WVa Bob writes:
---For my part, I teach school to make a living; I certainly don'tincome form music? Anybody willing to say?
on music to do more than supplement my income. Earlier in this
somebody opined that very few on this list actually made their
music...just wondering: how many of you do make at least the bulk
Well, I suppose I can plead guilty to that. For whatever reasons --
primarily a profound lack of ability to do anything else -- I've
played music for a living for nearly 40 years. At a workshop
recently I was asked how a working musician can make ends meet,
which prompted me to think of a key word: diversification.
Young players -- ie players in their late teens and twenties -- are
generally so happy to be actually playing music for a living --
touring, gigging, meeting people -- that money really isn't the
main consideration. Not yet, anyway. A player that age probably
hasn't bitten off a mortgage payment or begun a family, so crashing
on people's floors, a diet of Taco Bell and 7-nights-a-week in bars
are not only tolerable but actually rather exciting. But we DO all
get older and personally I found that a revenue stream 100% derived
from gigs can be dicey. What if you get the flu? What if a club
goes belly-up? What if you need insurance? There had to be a better
way.... So a few decades ago I looked around at other more
successful players in my genre and noticed something: they all had
other music-oriented sources of income, in addition to gigs. The
key seemed to be in diversity.
I feel somewhat pretentious offering unsolicited advice here --
nobody really asked me -- but if there's one thing I can suggest to
a young player it would be to diversify and create additional
musical revenue streams. How? Ahhhh... let me count the ways. <g>
1) CDs. Yes, to an extent the Record Business is dead. But CDs,
even with truncated sales compared to yesteryear, can still be a
small source of income. The more CDs you can get out there -- all
of them theoretically earning small royalties -- the better.
2) Write songs and keep your publishing. Start your own publishing
company and register it with BMI or ASCAP. Again, a small revenue
stream, whether they ever get covered or not. And if they get
covered by somebody big: ching, ching, ching. :)
3) Record as a sideman on other folk's records. Make yourself
available. Do every session offered. When you play a new studio,
discretely drop off a business card with the engineer -- it might
lead to another session down the road.
4) Commercials for radio and TV. These pay residuals every time the
commercial airs. Film music too, if you can get it.
5) Teach. Take on an occasional student.
6) Double. If you can find the time to learn another instrument in
addition to harp, your income will jump exponentially. And don't be
afraid to sing -- even the froggiest voice can be developed and/or
have charm (witness a couple of my heroes in John Prine and Dylan.)
7) Books. Sure there are already over 100 harmonica oriented titles
available, but so what? Ever notice how many different kinds of
peanut butter are on the Safeway shelf? Everyone has a different
point of view and your's might be the one that resonates with a lot
of folks. Books are like CDs -- the more you have in print -- all
earning small royalties -- the better.
8) Have no shame. If the gig pays, take it -- even if it's a
wedding or a Bar Mitzvah or something else you consider "beneath
your dignity." Take it anyway. Their money's green. No need to
worry that you're "embarrassing yourself" if another musician sees
you -- hell, if they're a pro, they're playing gigs like that,
9) Assuming it's a cause you believe in, play the big benefit
shows even if they don't pay at all. Not only will you feel better
about yourself, but it's amazing how many good (ie good paying)
gigs can sprout from such exposure.
10) Keep your overhead low. If you truly want to be a working
musician, chances are you can't afford that boat, that trip to
Tahiti or that cocaine habit.
11) Take advantage of today's technology. These days, with
ProTools, it's possible to overdub a part on somebody's CD with a
simple exchange of Emails. With Skype you can give an hour lesson
over the phone for free. Set up a web site and don't be afraid to
12) Never give up your dream -- you only live once (I think?) and
you don't want to be an old geezer in a nursing home looking back
on your life with a lot of "shouldda, wouldda, coulddas."
Now then. Apologies for the pedantic schoolmarm attitude of this
post. I honestly don't mean to sound like a lecturer but I thought
I'd pass along a few things that have enabled me to do what it is I
love all my life. Thanks for the opportunity.
Best wishes to all and keep harpin',
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