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Getting Paid For Music - Part Two

August 22, 2012


 I felt I needed to expand on the making money part of the music business. It's too big a topic to simply leave it at what I'd left off on so here goes…


I make things sound pretty cut and dry at times, but it's always more complicated than that. As many of you know I supplement my income through teaching. It's always something I've been quite good at and I enjoy the interaction with the students as well. However, me and the structured, political, government-funded way don't mesh so well. My sister is a teacher and honestly I don't know how she deals with the drama of the whole thing without throttling a random stranger on a regular basis (and for that I give her a TON of credit). Myself, I wouldn't have the patience for it and so I teach at home and out of one of my favourite shops here in Mississauga (a shout out to my bro's at the Guitar World, YO!)


Teaching music is a good living if you can teach regularly enough and consistently keep the students, but it's just one of a few areas where I make my living from. Over the years I've heard a lot of musicians say they can't 'lower themselves to teach', 'they hate having students who don't practice', or my personal favourite, 'its a waste of time'.… Ok then. Well, how else do you supplement your income then? I've played musicals, crappy bar gigs, written instructional papers, contributed to magazines (although not paid yet), played in a few cover bands, done studio work, and played outdoor festivals. NOTHING is below me as a musician. If I can teach music, perform, or record music in some way and get paid for it then I'm happy to do it. If you're thinking about taking a job as a Starbucks barista to cover the bills that's fine, but I highly, HIGHLY suggest investigating your options as a musician first before doing otherwise. Lots of people in various arts end up changing careers after they take a day job because of the tempting stability. Some are ok with this and others end up regretting it. If you think you're the latter then find your strong points in the music business first.


Never say 'I don't want to do that gig'. It ends up being the death of you in the future. 'I don't want to do that gig' becomes 'I'm not going to call him for this gig' from the person asking in the future. As I've said before, if there's a direct conflict with your schedule or you simply don't think you can play the gig from a technical / stylistic / ability point of view that's one thing, but openly turning down a gig can take you from being a first call guy to a 50th call guy or, worse yet, NO call guy. You're a contemporary experimental jazz sax player? Awesome. I love it! But, don't turn down the R&B cover band that calls looking for a player, don't say no to the pit band looking for another horn sub, and never snub your nose at the band camp calling about your availability. The players you envy or taking the jobs you want are likely ALSO playing these gigs. Unless you're the second coming of Coltrane (and let's be honest here. You might look like him, but probably aren't him) then turning down work will be the death of you.


If you're looking for work then look no farther than your every day life. As you go through your daily routine listen and think about all the places you hear music being played. Bars, television, radio commercials and spot, elevators, movies, cell phone rings, video games, greeting cards! The list is endless and filled with opportunity. Someone, somewhere, wrote and arranged the music you're hearing. Even if you can't play the music you can arrange or write it and fund your ability to play or record in the process.


As I stated in my last blog, networking is crucially important to getting gigs and sustaining your career. Having a current list of people to connect with and call up for a show puts you in demand. If you can put together a show yourself and make a few bucks with some buds then now you look like a band leader (even if you're not typically). Other musicians are always prospecting new work and begin asking if there's any availability in the future and vice versa. If you go to a show and dig the band then talk to the band leader and get their name, number, Facebook profile! Connect with them in a memorable way so the next time you come out maybe they ask you to play or if someone is sick and can't do the gig maybe they call you. Putting yourself in the appropriate place at the right time is an art. A finely tuned skill that I'm still working on. The best networkers are always at the after party you wish you could be at or shaking hands with the idles you keep throughout your life. Figuring out the trick to this kind of success can be a very valuable tool, but it starts with meeting people and making yourself available to be met.


Bottom line is this. If you want to make a go at this thing called the "music business of music", never, ever, ever, give up.

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