[Harp-L] Re: Reality Check

2 cents from Alex:

I'm thoroughly watching the threads in Harp-L and I find this topic quite interesting - thanks Iceman for triggering the discussion - and more than that, I think that all practical answers to the question raised are a must to learn/be aware of for the current musicians or for the soon-to-become or for the thinking-to-become musicians/artists. In addition to what Steve Baker said, I'd like to suggest ...

(1) reading the book by David Liebman "Self Portrait of the Jazz Artist", ISBN-10: 3892210136
ISBN-13: 9783892210139

(2) reading the message by Tom Ball that he sent some 1 and a half yr. ago - I hope Tom woudn't mind if I repost his revious message to the group, which is up to the point BTW. Here it is:  


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, too.  :)

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 publicize it.

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',

Tom Ball
Santa Babs
Harp-L is sponsored by SPAH, http://www.spah.org 

This e-mail message may contain confidential and/or privileged material. 
Delivery of this message to any person other than the intended recipient(s) does not in any way waive privilege or confidentiality. 
The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to whom or which it is addressed. 
Unauthorized use, disclosure or copying is strictly prohibited. 
The sender accepts no liability for the proper transmission of this communication or for any delay in its receipt.

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.