Every musician’s first dream is to make a living by playing their music. Unfortunately, that dream is not a reality for the vast majority of musicians, who end up getting a day job to support themselves and their craft. If you’re trying to make a living playing music, know that it’s not an impossible task, it just requires quite a bit of work.
Here are three tips for musicians that want to make a living at their craft.
1. Treat your music career as you’d treat any other full time job. I can’t emphasize this enough. Begin by working regular hours. Wake up at a regular time, work until you’ve made enough money to pay the bills, and go to bed. Just because you’re trying to make a living playing music, don’t use that as an excuse to get wasted every night and act like a dumb college kid. Set goals, and expect to work quite a bit to reach those goals. This is especially true for bands; if you’re trying to go full time, then you need everyone in the band to be a full time employee, getting shows, promoting albums, selling CDs, etc, or it’s not going to work.
2. Keep records. Once again, you must start thinking of your independent band or solo project as a small, private business; if you’re going to succeed in making a living, you’re going to have to start abiding by business rules. Keep a record of every show you play, with information about merchandise sold, pay from the venue, and approximate attendance. Write down what you do to promote each show, so that you can go back to your records later and see what works. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of venue names, phone numbers, addresses, and the last time you’d played, so that you know when to call again to book another show. You’ll stay more organized and have a better idea of what money is coming to you, and what you need to do to get more of it.
3. Supplement your income if you can. Your goal is to make a living by playing music. Do whatever you can to make that happen; if you’re proficient on your instrument, give lessons, or write jingles, or play shows that won’t do anything for your career (like small, day-hour lunch gigs) to make money. If you’ve got to be in a wedding band to make ends meet, don’t worry; you’ll make contacts and find ways to do what you really want to do with your music, and you’ll pay the bills in the meantime.
Do you make a living playing music? Post any tips that you have in our comments section below.