RE: [Harp-L] Reality Check/long
- To: "'michael rubin'" <michaelrubinharmonica@xxxxxxxxx>, <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Subject: RE: [Harp-L] Reality Check/long
- From: "Bradford Trainham" <bradford.trainham@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2008 20:18:47 -0600
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Tomorrow a different story?
Na!! I'll be there!! Same old story!!
From: harp-l-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx [mailto:harp-l-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
Of michael rubin
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 6:51 PM
Subject: [Harp-L] Reality Check/long
Okay, I have always maintained that it is a problem with our culture that it
is taboo that we do not discuss our money and how we make it, so I will try
and lay my career on the table.
I have been playing harp 23 years. I have only once made a living purely
from performing. In 1998 I got the call to be the harmonica player in the
pit of the preBroadway and Broadway productions of The Civil War, written by
the guy who wrote Jekkyl and Hyde and The Scarlett Pimpernell. All in all
the experience lasted a year. I made around $1500 per week, but had two
months unemployment between the Houston and New Haven preBroadway versions
of the show and had to move a total of 11 times getting from Austin to the
preshow cities to New York and back to Austin. Plus, in case you haven't
heard, New York is expensive.
It did become clear to me that the New York union is very strong and if one
could spend five years in New York making Broadway money union gigs, one
could live very comfortably on a pension for the rest of one's life.
Other than Broadway, I have had two serious bands that have come close to
providing a living. They actually would have provided a living, but my
philosophy has always been that if I have time off, I need to find a way to
earn money during that time off, so I would find other jobs both music
related and not to supplement my income. Both of these bands performed an
average of 5 to 8 shows a week. One band remained in Austin, the other
toured all around Texas. I have been in bands that have toured the Southern
states. Contrary to popular belief, I see touring as mostly a good way to
lose money. It can be very fun, however.
What I have been doing since 2000 is relying on private music lessons as the
bulk of my income. For a long time I have been charging $35 per hour. Come
January 1st, I will raise my rates to $40 per hour.
If you are my student and you are reading this but have been coming to me
for under one year, your rate will remain $35 until a year has passed,
unless you can afford the rate change with no hardship.
I see this rate as very inexpensive. My theory is people need weekly
lessons to progress. If I keep my prices low, they will come weekly.
They will learn, they will see the value of the lessons and keep coming. If
they come weekly, ultimately the money adds up.
I teach around 20 students per week. At least 10 students have been with me
more than a year. At least 5 have been with me for over 3 years. I love my
students and consider them my friends.
As Larry said, sometimes students start lessons and quit after only a few
lessons. I am so grateful for these students. I would happily accept many
of them. My philosophy says that these students are paying me money as
well, even if only $35 to $100. A few of those every month really adds up.
I also teach at the University of Texas Informal Classes. This is an
evening class that anyone can enroll in. The class runs 6 times a year. It
is a 4 session class, with each session being 2 hours. UT pays me $160 per
class ($20 per hour), which I am very grateful for.
Sometimes the class is cancelled due to poor enrollment, then I receive no
pay. It normally has anywhere from 4 to 25 students. I cannot figure out
why the huge disparity in student numbers, but it seems to alternate from
class to class. UT provides a great opportunity to meet private students.
Each UT class student is required to purchase my book. Throughout the years
I have sold my book to many a student. It is a 74 page Kinko's copied book
that talks about all of the basic techniques including overblowing and talks
about some basic theory. For $20 I'll send it to you, that includes
shipping. Go the the paypal button on the lessons page of my wbesite.
I also have a CD of my music. I mostly am a sideman at gigs and I do not
think it is appropriate to sell my CDs if it is not my gig, so CD sales are
slow, just a few a month. When it came out it sold much quicker. For $15
including shipping, I can be yours. $20 gets you both.
I record around 2 sessions a month. Although I quote $75 per song, I am a
softie for my friends and in Austin, I have a lot of musical friends. The
rate becomes anywhere from free to the $75.
I am a regular member of 3 bands. I also get hired regularly as a sideman
for shows where I am not a member. I seem to gig an average of
3 shows per week. Austin shows pay nothing. I can expect $30 per show, am
satisfied with $30 to $75 and I am blown away at anything higher than $75.
In general, Austin shows are 1 hour in length, it is rare when I play 2
sets. However, I get there early for sound check, leave late for getting
paid and I carry a big bassman. Still, every little bit adds up.
I teach at harmonica conventions such as Jason Ricci's Rocking in the
Rockies, Jon Gindick's Harmonica Jam Camp, The Kerrville Folk Festival's
Harmonica Workshop, SPAH,etc. Some of these pay for my hotel room, which I
am grateful for, and some pay me a nice sum of money. I'll leave that
amount between me and the conventions. But these situations also create
great opportunities to sell my book, CD and meet new students. I have many
I am working on a harmonica instruction DVD that is in a standstill.
Someone doing the next step for me is doing it for free, and is therefore
taking more time than I would like. At this point, the DVD just costs me
money. Hopefully it will be out by August in time for SPAH and will
accomplish helping lots of people to learn more about harp in a fun way and
help me make a living thru sales.
I have been in the Austin Independent School District substitute teacher
system since 2000. In order to remain in the system, I must sub 5 days per
semester. I choose to stay in the system because you never know when music
will not provide. Also, if you want to buy a house or car it is easier to
explain to sellers from that yes, I do have a job,call this phone number to
verify it than to explain that I am a professional harmonica player.
Also, like I said earlier, if I have time off, for example a day with no
students until 4pm, I cannot stay at home and practice or laze around when
there is possible money to be made. This semester I have subbed 12 days. I
love teaching and kids, so it is usually fun for me. As you probably know,
sometimes kids behave poorly for a sub. I am pretty good at not letting it
I pay for great health insurance coverage with dental and optical. I also
pay for collision insurance on my car. My health insurance comes from my
wife's job. I pay $160 a month for great coverage.
If she were to get laid off I would go to HAMM, a musician's insurance that
covers dentals and 80% of catastrophic health issues. They pay for the
majority of doctor's visits and prescriptions at a very low copay based on
income. Apparrently they do not cover spouses, which I do not like. We
would have to search for good coverage for her. There is a separate
musician's insurance for mental health care called Sims that not only covers
spouses but friends. The copay is $20.
Of course, one must consider what money is going out. I have credit
card debt, electricity, food, fun, rent, etc. The bills always seem to get
paid on time, I always feel broke. Who knows what would happen in an
emergency? Hopefully we do not have to find out.
My theory has always been, make some money every day and it adds up.
Also, every year I intend to give myself a raise. I set a goal and
I always seem to make it. Is the economy hurting me right now? If
you looked at the last 4 months, I would be way ahead of my goal, so it
seems not to be affecting me right now, of course tomorrow is possibly a
Harp-L is sponsored by SPAH, http://www.spah.org Harp-L@xxxxxxxxxx
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