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Three Intelligent Ways to Make a Living as a Musician

Three Intelligent Ways to Make a Living as a Musician

A Guest Post by Think Like A Label

We here at Think Like a Label are firm believers in education and encouraging artists like you to use your musical talents to create useful careers that will support you for most of your lives.  There is a difference between being a musician and being in a band.  Here are some practical and intelligent ways to get you started on a path to creating a healthy and financially supportive music career for yourself. This article is written by our amazing new assistant editor, Chris Parsons.  If you have any questions for him, his contact info is on the staff page of this site.  We’re here for you!

By today’s standards, it is easy to be a struggling musician; unfortunately selling music isn’t where the money can be made nowadays, but rather performing live, and for large audiences, is found to emphasize success (especially monetarily). But there are definitely ways for you to exploit your talents and hardworking ethic so that you can get by, by doing exactly what you love. Big ingredients for catching these opportunities will be exactly that: a love for music and the ability to network. Consider the abilities accumulated over the years as a musician and three opportunities to explore come to mind almost right away; becoming a session player (whether it’s gigging or in the studio), offering music lessons (instrument and/or theory), and maybe even looking into instrument repair. Did we think of the same ones? These certainly aren’t the only three ways, but let’s see what it takes for each of these possibilities to become reality.

Becoming a session musician: If you just love to play music, all the time, and aren’t picky about what you’re playing on or who you’re playing with, consider sessioning for various projects. One good tool that connects a lot of artists (especially musicians) is where you will find a slew of classifieds calling out for various musicians for a variety of styles. Also check out physical classifieds if you grab a newspaper or spot a bulletin board at your local music store. Sessioning can include both live gigging or laying down tracks in the studio.

Live performance can cover a lot of opportunities whether it be joining up with some Mummers or getting on-board with a cover or tribute band. These examples lend themselves to being booked at weddings, bars, parties, and even community events. You might not always be able to find the kind of music you love to play (that’s for your own time, with your own band) but there’s plenty of groups looking for fresh members. Also, the more instruments you play, the more opportunities will make themselves available.

Studio sessioning might be tougher to find classifieds for. Consider calling a local studio and leaving your information in case they ever need someone with your experience and musicianship. Also be sure to make yourself available to your friends and acquaintances, since they might also be interested in your particular sound. It might be helpful to compile a short playlist of various tracks you’ve had the pleasure of playing on so that you are able to present your sound to someone more unfamiliar with your work, such as the casual acquaintance or recording studio; this will act as your ‘resume’ for your accumulated musical experiences to-date.

Offering music lessons: The first two caveats of this field would have to be: “patience required” and “master your craft.” A musician is never finished learning as long as they never finish playing. But, if and when you feel you have achieved a mastery of your particular instrument(s), you might consider making your services available to intermediate and beginners looking for instruction and guidance. (Classifieds are a great place to look, once again). I highlight a certain level of mastery only because it seems unreasonable for a beginner or intermediate player to take on a student of the same level. Patience is certainly required as well. Some people are natural teachers, and some of us are just natural performers. You might know your instrument really well for your standards, but can you breakdown the instrument and the theory on a level such that a fresh mind to music may easily and fully understand? Can you stay focused and not get frustrated when someone doesn’t understand something the first time? These are all things to consider if you are thinking of giving lessons, so that sessions go smoothly. Contact the local schools’ band directors and have them save your information for any students looking to grow and develop musically. Word-of-mouth can also be a useful networking tool; after you have taken on one or two students, you may ask to use them as a referral for prospective students looking for lessons, and they might also recommend your services if they liked your instruction. If you have mastered your craft and withhold the patience of Yoda, giving music lessons can prove quite profitable.

Instrument repairs: This final example of an opportunity to make money as a musician takes a little more time and a little more patience than the others suggested. This is a craft dedicated to nimble fingers and cluttered “offices.” I once asked a repairwoman if they took on apprentices, and she declined my interest because the insurance to protect themselves in case of an apprentice’s accident with any equipment was too much to hold their interest. I was certainly disappointed, but not all places are the same. Perhaps inquire at your local musical instrument store; they know all the good repairmen and might even keep one locked in their basement. If this field holds your interest, always ask a lot of questions! Maybe even consider trying to repair your instrument on your own (online tutorial guidance may also be recommended), before opting to see a specialist straightaway. These people truly love their work deeper than their love of music and withhold the instruments as art-tools which, when fully maintained, possess the ability to produce infinite sounds of beauty.

What other ways to make money as a musician did you think of? Did any of these ideas catch your interest or spark a brainstorm? I bet if you’re a true musician, you’ve already been involved in at least one of these amazing opportunities. Not only do they make living as a musician seem more possible and worthwhile, but the amount of networking involved is intense (which is good!). This will have you meeting lots of interesting people and paving the way for prospective collaborations. Musicians share their work and their wealth; we are all a family looking out for each other, doing what we love. So get out there, and make yourself a living!

Think Like A Label is a music resource for independent musicians and music industry professionals who want to succeed in the music business. Think Like a Label includes diverse content formats like video blogs, ebooks, and exclusive interviews in music industry professionals and musicians.


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