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Thread: Making a living out of music

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2002

    Making a living out of music

    Im nearing the end of my first diploma course (focuses on lighting, music, bands etc) and I can either leave or do another 2 years for a better qualification. Im 18 now so I should really be focuses on something with solid career prospects (my grades weren't great in school, about average). What are the chances of making a living out of music? Im not sure whether to continue or look into another field like computers. Ive been using pcs since I was 12 so I know alot about them already where as ive only been playing guitar for 2 years (doing well though).

    I've still got a while to decide but I just wondered what you guys think about earning a living out of music.

  2. #2
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Hi Dawson,

    these are some good questions. Well, let me tell you about my experiences. I am earning my living as a musician and have been doing so for quite a few years by now.
    I quit school and went to work to earn enough mone to attend the GIT. I had been playing about 8 years by then.
    Ever since I graduated, I have been a professional musician. The thing is: I am doing several things at the same time to earn enough, which means I am teaching, doing some studio work, some "hired gun"-jobs ( rental musician ), workshops / seminars etc.
    My experience is ( and that might depend on where you are, and might also have something to do with luck ) that if you REALLY want it and try 100 %, you will be able to make it.
    I dunno if you should attempt to rely on that all the way after playing for two years, but maybe you could try to get a job that is in the music biz ( record company ? studio ? guitar shop ? )...
    Or maybe you should try to do something else, a regular job, until you are prepared to do the music-thing 100%
    It gets tougher once you have wife & kids, because by then you wanna support them and that means you really have to make enough money to do so, which sometimes might be tough.
    If you wanna earn your living with music, you really should work hard to be able to do so, you should make a concept regarding what youīre gonna be doing. You might have to do some jobs you donīt really like ( i.e. Top40-stuff or something ).
    It is critical, but I think it is worth a try and I just experienced that it is possible. Itīs tough sometimes, and sometimes it aint got much to do with the illusions I had when I was a kid ( the rockstar-thing ), but most of the time, I am content and happy with what I am doing, even though I might not make millions or have a regular income that I can rely on every month, like if Iīd i.e. be a carpenter or something.
    To sum this up: Last weekend I was playing live in Denmark, and before the show I was talking to a lady about being a professional musician. She didnt seem to be too impressed by the whole concept and said something like "I couldnīt deal with those insecurities and inregularities..." She didnt seem to understand why anyone would do something like that voluntarily.
    Well, then she was in the crowd when we played, she caught the whole vibe of playing on stage, getting cheered at, playing from the heart, communicating with the other musicians on stage and all that... you know what I mean.
    I walked up to her afterwards and said "Do you see now why weīre still into it ?!?" And she smiled and said "Yes, definitely"...
    Nuff said
    Just my opinion

  3. #3
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    One more thing Iīd like to add...
    What keeps me going is the fun in making music, the pleasure I get out of playing and developing, still practising and learning each and every day, teaching etc.
    And it would be fun too even if I wouldnt do it as a "hobby", something on the weekends or so.
    To get paid for it is an extra bonus, and I am grateful for this every day. So even though it gets though or discouraging at times, I always have that to be happy about and to keep me going, and I always am happy to pick up the guitar and play, working on new stuff, practising etc.
    So even though not everyone can make a job out of it, it still is something very special to be a musician, part-time or full-time.

    I could go on about this for quite a bit, but I better stop rambling now. Just thought Iīd add those thoughts.
    Warm regards

  4. #4
    IbreatheMusic Author Alan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    New Jersey - USA
    Hey, Dawson

    18, eh?

    I've been making a living via my passion for music for over 30 years now.

    One must first be dedicated beyond belief to attempt such a crazy notion as "making a living" from music! You must *want* it more than anything else in this world ... or you'll never be willing to do what it takes.

    I've made a lot of money performing all-original songs as a solo folk artist (life is much easier without a band) ... but along the way, I've had to wear a thousand other hats to survive.

    I've earned money as a songwriter, as a studio guitarist, as a studio vocalist ... I've managed music publishing companies in Nashville, where I also worked as a songplugger ... and I created Nashville's first music-industry telephone directory, called the Nashville Red Book.

    I also recieve quarterly payments from BMI for royalties on my songs getting played on television networks, radio, etc.

    I also, aside from music, do graphic art (ads, logos, web designs, etc.) to fill in some of the gaps.

    My point is, the more talents you acquire, the more comfortable you'll be pursuing your musical interests -- it's more than likely that you will have to do three *other* things while trying to support the *one* thing you really want.

    The *one* thing I've always wanted was to be signed as a recording artist and become known as a singer-songwriter. Unfortunately, the conditions that come attached to such wonderful opportunities are not acceptable to me (things that include selling your soul) ... I've turned down offers from many major labels ... including my "dream label," Elektra Records ... and it hurts me that it had to be that way, but I'm one who believes that a good reputation as a man with integrity and true dedication is more important than a fat bank account or the ability to brag about being signed to a label like Elektra (Columbia ... now SONI).

    Nonetheless, I've had a grand life ... I've made a lot of friends, traveled to a lot of places, lived like a king at times, and I've met some of the world's most famous people. I have friends that go back 30 years in the industry, and when my name comes up in any of those professional-circles the report that goes with it is one to be proud of.

    What more is there to life? To live out your dream, achieve your goal as an artist (which really means never - my goal is to keep growing!), be recognized and admired by your peers ... money is secondary to all those things (as necessary as it is) because it usually gets in the way of all those things.

    Money must be a focus ... there's no question about that ... but it should never be the primary focus of your goals. I've always believed in pursuing my goals for their own sake and that the money would follow ... and that has truly been the case.

    You have a path ... you're on it!
    Just keep following your nose and giving every opportunity that comes your way the best you've got.

    That's my .02
    Alan Horvath
    Hidden Content
    Acoustic Rock ... for real.

  5. #5
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    I completely agree to Alan regarding the point about developing many talents....
    The "romantic" image of a professional musician might be the on eof a guitar hero who sells a million records with his debut and then spends all day net to the pool with a bunch of girls.
    But that is pretty unrealistic IMHO, and nothing you should count on.
    I am doing lots of different things ( as posted above ), like teaching, playing live, conducting workshops, writing songs for others etc., and it works that way.
    And I think it is fun to learn something new ( like i.e. how to prepare and conduct a workshop or something ) and add it to your variety of abilities and talents that you can offer...
    Many dream of that "big hit", major label deal, endorsement deal ( I could write a whole other article about the latter ), but letīs be realistic... only a small perentage of us get there, and with them, it isnt always as great as it looks like for the listener / fan...
    I enjoy making a living with music, and I learned that it is nice to dream sometimes, but it will feel like a disappointment when you start to get uptight about gaining a big goal like this, and that will eventually take away the fun...
    Just my opinion...
    Loved your post, Alan, lots of truth in there !
    Warm regards

  6. #6
    I, voyager DracWell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Uppsala, Sweden
    This was really interesting to read =)

    What I'm thinking about for myself is to mainly write music and get it out (cd's, performances etc)... But then again I want a distance to that. I thought about beeing producer, but I've gotten a bit turned off that 'cause of a friend that couldn't write music any longer, nor record his own stuff since all he was hearing was these drum takes for 2weeks. *lol* What I'm planning is to first start a record company for just my band and see how that works out, that might grow and make me/us able to sign more bands and so on. What I on the other hand would love to work with is in a Guitar Shop. And I can agree, I too, still have, those big rockstar dreams. But in todays world (esp. for my genre, metal) it's not realistical. And I want to do other stuff on the side. Working with a recordcompany seems to be a nice distance to you own music. If you get what I'm meaning. You still work with music, but not in the same way. It's more administrive stuff. But hey, I'm young (20) and I got my hole life in front of me, so who knows? My GOAL is just to write music and express myself and let other ppl experience it through records and shows.

    I might even study "pedagogik" (sedish word) to be able to work as a teacher. That seems pretty fun. To teach other ppl what you know. I love that =) Learning (not just music) and to learn others.

    Oh well. So much to say, but so little words to say it


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