Jumping off the Edge - Committing to Becoming a Full-Time Musician

Discussion in 'General Music Discussion' started by Vyn, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. Dayn

    Dayn SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,824
    Likes Received:
    887
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    From my own legal experience, you need to consider it from a business perspective and how you'll be making your money. Gigs? Session work? Lessons? Transcription? How will you finance albums? What royalty schemes? What shares will you get from bands? Albums? Will you look into other things like mixing, producing? How much intellectual property will you develop and how will you monetise it? Sell it, licence it? Who to and for what purposes and how? Will you create music and sell it traditionally? Fund it through crowdsourcing? Will you try your hand at making music gear and selling it? And do you have the connections and resources to make any of it happen?

    And how much time will you devote to work that pays upfront, versus creating a body of material for passive revenue such as royalties etc?

    There's a lot you could do, but no guarantees of success in any of it. You'll need to treat your passion as a business - how that affects you, none of us can say, but it's something to consider. I personally could never make music my business.
     
  2. ArtDecade

    ArtDecade John Bohlinger's Dank Stash

    Messages:
    5,824
    Likes Received:
    4,716
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2009
    Location:
    Boggo Road
    Nah, man. I'm gonna see a million faces and rawk them all.

    [​IMG]
     
    couverdure likes this.
  3. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

    Messages:
    4,290
    Likes Received:
    1,286
    Joined:
    May 4, 2006
    Location:
    Auburn, Washington
    It's rarely financially sustainable.
    As busy as I was touring the west coast, it wasn't remotely financially supportive.
    I have friends who are still touring (& no, I won't name drop) but despite their grammy nominations in years past, are still working day gigs when they are home from tour. I have one friend who works locally in a Harley Davidson dealership when he isn't on tour, and I make more money that him working in a call center. It is extremely difficult to make a living on it in a way that is long term minded with any degree of sustainability.
     
    AxeHappy and budda like this.
  4. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire pointy purveyor

    Messages:
    17,548
    Likes Received:
    20,290
    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    MN
    something something snarky joke about edging
     
    Purelojik likes this.
  5. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

    Messages:
    5,196
    Likes Received:
    2,544
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Location:
    Worcester, MA
    I'm too much of a chicken to go without a consistent paycheck, but OP, if you're comfortable with that (you are, right?, that's probably the first barrier.

    Beyond that, I guess it's important to identify the goal. Is it to try to "make it"? Is it to eke-out the equivalent of a (lower) middle-class wage by grinding a series of ancillary gigs that are music-related so you can call yourself a "working musician"? Is it to just "give it a shot"?

    Someone I know just quit their steady job to be a musician full-time and it is not going well at all. It feels like it's an anathema for a musician to tell another to not quit their day job, but... fuck- it's better to be smart than bold and better to be realistic than talented sometimes.
     
  6. dreamspace

    dreamspace SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    39
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2019
    Also, some notes on touring:

    1) Playing in / with a signed band / artist helps IMO. If there's one thing labels are good for, it's the offloading of marketing and logistics. That alone can be a full-time job, especially if you're planning on doing a longer stretch. Going on tours, even the smallest, requires a lot of planning and groundwork. Be sure to pick out the right venues for your music, even if it means doing the research yourself.

    2) Get ready to travel as cheap as humanly possible. Transport, housing, food, you name it...everything is getting more expensive , but people aren't that willing to pay more for tickets. Some bands are charging the same that they did 15 years ago, while everything else is 50% more expensive.

    If your band doesn't have any manager that does it for you, you need to keep track of all expenses. "Winging it" is a recipe for disaster...remember, you'll be paying taxes too.

    3) Lots of gigs will be lackluster, even at decent venues. Make sure you have air-tight agreements with the owners, on how you get paid. So many horror stories of bands expecting $2000, only to get paid $500 b/c shitty ticket sales. Keep a record of scumbag owners that stiff bands.

    4) Save up money for tours. Yeah this sounds obvious, but far too many times I've met bands / artists that went on tours broke, and completely relied on allowance from their managers, or getting paid instantly.

    5) Stay sober and clean. Health and professionalism aside, it's juts terribly expensive.

    If you go on with professional bands / artists, then a lot of this will be take care of for you. If it's an amateur act, expect to do most of the heavy lifting yourself.

    Going to your neighbor town (or even flying across the country) for 1-2 gigs is usually no problem, and something most can do. Going on a 5-10 gig tour will start to show the difficulties of logistics...20-25 gig tour almost always end up with some colossal fuck-ups, and tire most people.

    As others have mentioned, gigging money alone is rarely enough for a living. Hell, sometimes you'll be losing money.

    I wouldn't go on any extended tours unless I had a solid following - so you also need to do a lot of marketing and self-promotion on social media, that's just the way business works these days. It may come off as a bit tacky and contrived, but it's part of the game.
     
    LeoLmX, couverdure and Lemonbaby like this.
  7. Bloody_Inferno

    Bloody_Inferno Silence is Violence

    Messages:
    12,896
    Likes Received:
    4,873
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Being a full time musician in this day and age doesn't necessarily doing just one job (let alone one that allows you to play music). You'll need to think of other avenues to at least keep a steady income. Think of it as a stream of temp/on call jobs.

    Music related jobs like doing journalism for magazines and street press like Mixdown (review gear, albums, interview artists etc.) is what a lot of AU musos tend to do while staying in the field. You also get to demo some sweet gear. It doesn't have to be in magazines too, you can do clips on YouTube a la Brett Kingman.

    Apply for an internship/casual/temp job for record labels or recording/backline studios. That way you're constantly exposed to anything music related. The latter is good if you want to dip your toes in sound engineering (because there's always one in 5 musicians that want to). You get an extra job being the sound guy to small local gigs, then expand from that. My friend/co-producer does this and also gets commission jobs from Mushroom Records too. I remember he did a small Jet reunion live gig and how that job paid for his home studio dead room. If sound is not your forte, there's lighting too.

    Take up session work. You'll need to have an open mind and expand your horizons for this one obviously, but if you enjoy the music, then there's more opportunities for you. I remember getting a call from my co-producer to play bass in a country session. Learned an album's worth of songs in a week and did the session in 2 days. I thought that was the end of it, but he liked my job so much I became part of his live band. Being a multi instrumentalist, I played guitar, keys and did some vocal production in his second album. I ended up doing some bass session work with another prog band as well, the second album (released later this year) had me being involved even more on the production side. That said, you also have to learn how to put up with different kinds of musos as well as learning how to say no to jobs you don't feel that's right for you. To add to that:

    Learn another instrument to a point of being able to get by. For guitarists, bass is the first natural choice. Drums and keys to some extend depending on your time, patience and budget. Vocals definitely included, as a lot of bands in general want to hang on to someone who generally knows how to sing or scream without ripping ruining their throat.

    Have a business mindset. That goes without saying. Keep an eye on your finances, invoice every job you're commissioned, have a good accountant, keep receipts for tax filing etc.

    Regarding session/sound work and such, be prepared for all to stop at some point and have a contingency plan. My said country sessions ended abruptly after he was going through personal issues for a year. I had to do something else, thankfully that freed my time to work on my second album and another 2 bands. He recently called me again and wants me to both play and co-produce an instrumental album, so it worked out in the end.

    Be prepared to relocate. If you're really being serious you'd want to go somewhere where the music and said jobs is really thriving. Melbourne is a good place to start.

    With all of the above, it can be easy to get sidetracked to lose focus on what you really want to do in the long run. But use said above to fuel and perpetuate your own stuff is a good mindset.
     
  8. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

    Messages:
    28,208
    Likes Received:
    10,584
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Earth
    Worth repeating:

    If you cant budget, you're already screwed. Everything else aside, if you cant do that then you are already behind in any branch of musician employment. This is because pay will be low until you gain traction.

    What is your current hustle, and realistically how well are you doing?
     
    Veldar likes this.
  9. cip 123

    cip 123 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    2,753
    Likes Received:
    2,492
    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2013
    Location:
    Scotland
    To make a career in music you need about 5 different jobs. If one falls off you better replace it quick.

    You'll need to teach, you'll need to take cover band gigs, wedding band gigs in which you'll play the same 500+ songs over and over. You'll be very lucky to get a stable job at a school where you'll basically teach valuable musical skills and lie about there being careers in music for the kids for the rest of the time. You'll have to fight to find sessions, and you'll have to teach some more. You won't make any money on your original music, even if you start hitting it big.

    Keep the job you do and teach on the weekends or days off, you'll have a stable income and some tax free cash in you back pocket from teaching.
     
  10. Given To Fly

    Given To Fly SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    4,070
    Likes Received:
    268
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    My moment was when a teacher articulated what I had been subconsciously thinking. It was the first time I realized there were other people who thought the same way I did. It was surreal but reassuring if I am totally honest. I think that is what you meant by “moment.”
     
  11. xCaptainx

    xCaptainx Dr Djodson

    Messages:
    2,071
    Likes Received:
    542
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2010
    Location:
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Do you have family/parents you can mooch off rent free for a year or so?

    Blunt question to ask, but you're in Australia, your tour cycle in metal will be extremely limited and you're going to need to be at the stature of Prom Queen, Parkway Drive (Killing with a smile era) and Northlane (post Adrian) to survive in the 'real worl' with rent, bills, eating anything other than catering.

    It sounds like you're very early in the journey, it'll be quite a few years before any venture into doing originals would be profitable so just treat it like a serious hobby and use your leave for now.

    If your focus is straight $ then go down the cover route. Most I know do 30 hour weeks with covers as well as their 9-5, and for many doing well in the pub circuit it's bringing in just as much as their day job, if not more.

    If you expect that from originals, you might as well buy a lotto ticket at the same time.
     
  12. dreamspace

    dreamspace SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    39
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2019
    Also, before you start anything serious, try building up a following on social media. Youtube, Instagram, etc. are great platforms for bedroom-musicians. The production quality to cost ratio is amazing these days, and anyone can at least appear to be professionals with a couple of grand in equipment. Key is quality and consistency, but there's tons of discussions on this kind of stuff (marketing, production, etc.)

    As mentioned above, a career in music today is mostly about multiple streams of income.
     
  13. bulb

    bulb SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    6,214
    Likes Received:
    8,376
    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Location:
    Washington DC
    My advice would be to get a job or follow a career that makes you enough money to where you can afford to lose the money you will lose being a musician.

    Fun fact: Periphery income doesn’t even cover my taxes. It’s something I do for fun. I just have fun with it.

    My advice is to just have fun with it.
     
    AxeHappy, bracky, couverdure and 6 others like this.
  14. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

    Messages:
    28,208
    Likes Received:
    10,584
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Earth
    Also the Bill Murray (improv) method: be in the moment and go where it takes you.
     
  15. iamaom

    iamaom SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    464
    Likes Received:
    746
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Location:
    Washington
    If you want a music related career but not as hand-to-mouth as being an actual musician you could always try being a luthier, I've heard people will pay you up front and you don't even have to build any guitars!
     
  16. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

    Messages:
    28,208
    Likes Received:
    10,584
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Earth
    This is factually true.
     
  17. Veldar

    Veldar Is Post-Thrash?

    Messages:
    1,305
    Likes Received:
    169
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    Location:
    Somewhere
    TBH I skipped over the text:

    Basically as a musician it's taken me 5 years of a career (16 - 21) as a bassist to get to a point where I can 'just' survive off music. I do live in Asutralia but honestly from what my teacher (who studied with the famous bassist John Patitucci) says it takes 10 years to have the contacts/reputation to live off it as a job. I work a lot of different gigs, everything from country to Death metal, seriously if you want to do it you'll need to be versatile.

    Some quick notes

    - I haven't touched youtube, it seems like you need to dedicate your life to making it work.
    - Your pay will be different week to week sometimes it's $800 other times it's $0, try and get in the habit of saving money
    - Find a regular teaching job, lessons can go anywhere from $20 - $40 for half an hour, sounds silly but it really helps

    I've ran out of things to add, but feel free to ask questions
     
  18. Veldar

    Veldar Is Post-Thrash?

    Messages:
    1,305
    Likes Received:
    169
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    Location:
    Somewhere
    That's why you don't have three guitarists in your band
     
  19. bulb

    bulb SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    6,214
    Likes Received:
    8,376
    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Except that I do, and it has worked wonderfully, so...
     
    bracky and ThePhilosopher like this.
  20. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Shameless Contrarian Contributor

    Messages:
    2,588
    Likes Received:
    2,086
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Location:
    Chico, CA
    Misha, to clarify- when you mention "Periphery income," you mean income directly from the band itself, right? Like album sales, merch, etc?
    You're still "in the music industry" full time, right? Or are you still 'working a day job' as well?

    It was my impression that the income from Periphery, GGD, Horizon, etc, all of your projects "in the music scene," totaled up to be enough to support a comfortable living at the level they are now. If you still have to work a "day job" outside of music as well on top of all of that...then A, how the hell do you have time to breathe, and B, I really need to re-evaluate my thoughts on how things work in music because it's even more dire than I thought :lol:
     

Share This Page