For most musicians who decide to make music a career, we know the struggle of building a consistent income for ourselves and our family is a very tough task. Some weeks you have money to burn and the next month you’re struggling. It’s hard to know where to start, as most artists experience difficulty going from “Joe” to “Pro”. Maybe some don’t expect the work load or the hectic schedule that comes with being in a successful performing band. Not all musicians can make the Billboard charts or tour sold out shows all over the world playing their own original music. Although that is the dream, it is a harsh reality out there for some of us musicians who see that path as the only one in the music business.
First, let’s start with the idea of NOT keeping all your eggs in one basket. As much as we all love performing, there isn’t room for all of us to gig all the time. Hoping that a posh lounge gig is gonna be your bread and butter is the for sure way to stay in the “weekend warrior” category. What happens when that gig falls out or the establishment goes out of business? YOU go out of business. Diversification of your capabilities is my answer to you all wanting to make it in this industry. Think outside the Stage and ask yourself: What jobs are there behind the scenes of any event/gig? Event planner, sound/lighting technicians, or just a general laborer carrying speakers. Another perspective we could look at is what jobs are there behind creating and assisting other musicians, professional or aspiring? Private teachers, instrument repair or even sales. Even if some of the jobs described doesn’t keep your instrument in your hand at least you are still tied into the industry you LOVE. There is a lot to learn that can help you become a better performing musician by exploring these other areas of the business. The proper mentality is to stay as busy as you can within the industry even if the gigs you land aren’t on a stage. It can be feast or famine in this industry and I choose to eat!
When I first got into music, after a year of playing I was bugging my local stores to hire me as an employee. About two years into playing the guitar I had improved my chops and became quite the gearhead, I finally got hired as help at a local music shop. I did that during the week and gigged on the weekends. I also got into some repair and setup work while working at the music shop. It’s how I saved up money to go to music school in California. While in Los Angeles, one of my friends had a similarly brilliant idea. He attended music school, worked at Guitar Center, while also sharpening his skills as a Luthier (guitar builder/repair technician). He knew it was important to be diverse, but he had the right mind to keep it within the music industry. This way you are able to explore your passion and develop enthusiasm for other areas related to being a musician. He ended up going on world tours with famous Rock Stars, setting up guitars. From there he got into stage work and setting up the sound equipment. He eventually opened for the main act a bunch of times while out on tour! Say, “YES!” to those opportunities that are presented and you never know what can develop.
Being successful in this industry aligns with the mindset of successful people across all fields. Number one your work ethic will get you far. Your willingness to dive right in and learn on the job if necessary. Number two, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. We wanna drink from many wells, so when one is dry we have other wells to choose from which will ultimately keep us going in this free-lance based industry. Finally, we want to cultivate our skills and refine them so when we are presented with opportunities we can go after them with confidence knowing that the work has been put in. As the saying goes, “Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.” And never forget why you are in the music industry, because you LOVE it! Keep the passion alive!