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How 10 Musicians Make Good Livings In Today’s Music Industry

We hear so much doom and gloom today from people screaming that the music industry is dying and there’s no money in music. I asked a few friends (and a some Twitter acquaintances) who make good (sure, subjective) livings with their music and how they do it. I specifically did not ask those currently on a label to showcase how DIYers can do it. These guys (and gals) are making it work! The biggest takeaway is that there is no one way to succeed. All of these musicians figured out what worked (and what didn’t). They adapted and figured out how they could use their talents to make a living. It’s not all a straight line trajectory from A to B. If you take one thing from this, it should be that it IS possible to make a living as a musician: you just have to get crafty, be smart, and above all, work your ass off!

(Some of their “words of wisdom” are long, but I left them that way because I felt they are the most important parts of this piece. Read them. You’ll learn something new from every one of these incredible musicians.)

Ron Pope

ron_pope_promo

I had the pleasure to support Ron on a 9 week 60 date US tour in the Spring of 2011. What a ride! He is an insanely talented singer/songwriter/guitarist. His fans are HARDCORE. At the time, he had recently left his label and wanted to tour and we had been friends for a couple years so I offered to book the tour. Since then he has been conquering the world and touring all the time. He’s one of the artists that blew up during the Myspace era. He was always in the top 3 “unsigned acts” on those Myspace charts. Remember those? No tricks. No fake numbers. Just true, honest music that resonates with a lot of people.

**To all the Spotify haters out there – note that as a DIY artist making over $100K a year, Ron’s 2nd biggest income source is from Spotify.

Where do you currently reside?
Brooklyn, NY

Hometown?
Marietta, GA

Age?
30

How long has music been your primary source of income?
About six years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years) $20,000-35,000, $35,000-50,000, $50,000-75,000, $100,000+?
$100,000+

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music:
From most to least, my top five:
iTunes
Spotify
Sound Exchange royalties
Show income (when I’m touring)
and syncs.

BMI royalties pop in there some quarters, depending on what kind of licenses I’ve had come up. I also sell t-shirts, CDs, vinyl, sweatshirts, handwritten lyrics, posters, bracelets, and other things on my website (and at shows). There is some of my sheet music on Musicnotes.com so they pay quarterly. Finally, I get some songwriting royalties for my work with other artists.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
I do not currently have a record deal or a pub deal. I did have a record deal with Universal Republic; they released two singles for me in 2009 and I got out of my deal in early 2010.

What is your “main project?”
My main project is my solo project. I also have a band called The District with my best friends from college, but that, I do for fun.

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income? Anything and everything.
I make it a point to do everything that’s readily available. Register all the songs with BMI, make sure Sound Exchange knows you’re there, check that the music is available for sale and streaming on all the sites that people use…all of that.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
I use the internet to interact directly with my fans; that’s obviously a big difference between what you could do before social networking. I built my career by interacting with my fans online; my online followers turned into a real show-going, honest to goodness worldwide following.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
Nothing else; just music.

Here’s your sounding board! Tell people how someone can make a living in music. You’ve made it work! Please explain how. Tell as much (or as little) of your story as you’d like or just give some wise words to live by.
Your best bet early in your career is to learn how to be self sufficient. Produce your own records, write your own songs, have a clear cut vision of who you are and what you want to become. Also, run your business. Don’t be afraid to step out and represent yourself. Be willing to work hard and grow your project; some people get lucky and find talented, hard working advocates who want to assist them. That doesn’t happen for everyone, so often, it’ll be up to you to handle what needs to be handled.

http://www.RonPopeMusic.com
Pre-order his new album Calling Off The Dogs:
Everywhere but UK/Ireland
UK/Ireland

 

Gabriel Douglas (The 4onthefloor)

gabriel_douglas

Gabe and I lived together for 3 years in a musicians house of 6 dudes in Minneapolis. We had a rehearsal space in the basement where we all traded off nights to rehearse (priority based on whose show was coming up the quickest of course). I remember when Gabe quit his day job at Apple to concentrate on building his music career full-time. He is one of the hardest (and smartest) working musicians I know. His band The 4onthefloor, in a very short time, has risen to be THE BIGGEST band in Minnesota. I’m not exaggerating. They sell out the legendary 1600 capacity First Avenue (of Purple Rain fame) multiple times a year. Call up your cousin in Minnesota and ask her if she knows The 4onthefloor. She will.

Where do you currently reside?
LynLake of Uptown in Minneapolis, MN

Hometown?
Stephen, MN

Age?
30

How long has music been the primary source of income?
5 years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
$50,000-75,000

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music
Touring / live shows [and merch] are definitely my primary sources. [Merch] actually is the difference on a lot of tours of being in the red or being in the black. Many times when doing a support slot, you are banking on the fans, larger audience of the headliner, picking up stuff after seeing you for the 1st time.
+Double Your Income… No Really

Publishing is becoming a larger slice of the pie (They have the new Duck Dynasty theme song), but it is inconsistent & unmanageable. I look at all of that as bonuses – and the bonuses have aggressively been bigger as of late.

Have you ever had shows where the guarantee/door was light but you made up for it in tshirts, vinyl, or general merch sales?
Many many many times.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
I have self-released everything I have recorded. Publishing (Licensing) we go through a company called In the Groove out of Minneapolis.
We have never signed to a record deal.
We have had a publishing deal since the 4onthefloor’s first LP in 2011, “4×4”.

What is your “main project?”
Flagship is the 4onthefloor.

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income? Anything and everything.
Silverback Colony is an alt-country collective that is my secondary gig.

Orca Colony is a downtempo outfit that Alex Steele (from Night Phoenix) & myself started. We’ve actually made great leaps in sound & outreach in the past year.

I play solo a lot as well. It’s nice to strip down songs, play songs I admire, & play new songs out this way.

I keep a music / lifestyle blog called … And Unmapped Chambers of Hearts. It doesn’t bring in much money yet, but I’m keeping my journalistic skills up & it helps to put music I like on the map for others to find easily.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
In the beginning, I used it quite extensively to find similar bands in other markets & to network.
To easily get my product & songs out and be listenable & easily bought ( or just listened to. ) BEING EASILY ACCESSED IS HUGE.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
I’ve started a record label, Double Asterisk Group, that doubles as a creative consulting firm.
We help out with design projects, tours, & songwriting for many artists across the nation.

Words To Live By?
If you want to play music, PLAY MUSIC.
If you want to make a living out of it, MAKE A LIVING OUT OF IT.
The person who is sitting on your hands IS YOU.
Boil down your monthly spending to the very basics, know how much it takes for you to live where you live.
Find out how to make enough money to make that work.
Or move.
KEEP MOVING.
So much time is lost being stagnant.

Always be on time.
Be communicating.
Be networking. Don’t have a sales pitch for every music industry person you meet. Have a welcoming hand-shake, ears ready to listen, & be genuine.
Be warm. There’s enough coldness in the world.
GO TO SHOWS.
Having a Colbie Caillat plan is not a realistic one. Indulge in your scene. Go see national acts you’ve never heard of.
I constantly meet people who are energetic about music, but haven’t been to a musical performance in over a month. THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE if you want to keep growing as a performer & growing an audience.
Life is not to fear, life is to enjoy.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, revel in it.

MAKE QUALITY MERCH. Nobody will wear a Hanes Heavy T. Nobody wants a jewel case that is easily broken. Let people be your billboards & your champions.  Pay for quality. A shirt that you made money on that sits on the bottom of a closet is a waste to both you & the consumer. The profit margins are less on quality shirts but you sell more.

www.4otf.com
www.twitter.com/doubleasterisk
www.twitter.com/gabrieldouglas

 

Gabriel Mann (The Rescues)

Gabriel-Mann

I met Gabriel in the Summer of 2010 when I supported a few The Rescues shows. It was their first national tour and I joined them for the Midwest run. He remains to be one of my favorite people. He has such a great heart and an infectious, positive energy. His main gig (now) is scoring music for TV shows and is currently working on (yes, simultaneously) Modern Family – ABC, Trophy Wife – ABC, Star-Crossed – CW, Friends With Better Lives – CBS, Rectify – Sundance Channel, Twisted – ABC Family, The Exes – TVLand. He doesn’t sleep.

Where do you currently reside?
Los Angeles.

Hometown?
San Antonio, Texas.

Age?
40.

How long has music been your primary source of income?
Since I graduated from college in 1995.

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
100K+

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music:
Scoring.  My main gig at this point is writing music for television shows.  This particular year it’s gotten very busy, I’m working on many shows at the same time.  I get an occasional sync here and there with The Rescues, I do an occasional vocal session here and there, but the lion’s share of my income comes from writing music for hire.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
I have an admin deal as a solo artist, The Rescues have their own admin deal, and we (The Rescues) had a major label record deal for a couple years as well.  No longer.

What is your “main project?”
I don’t really have a main show that I work on, though my most high profile show is Modern Family.

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income? Anything and everything.
I write songs and score for Mattel (Barbie, Hot Wheels), theme songs and score for every major network and lots of not as major ones.  I sing on commercials, tv shows and movies.  I play live shows as a solo artist (veeeery occasionally) and with The Rescues.  I am in a yoga/massage/chillout band with a friend from college, Vive – we have a couple records and amazingly people buy them.  I engineer, produce, mix, edit, all things involved with making music, though usually I’m working on my own stuff for whatever project it may be.  For a long time we rented out the studio I work in and I earned a little that way, but at this point I’m here all the time so it’s not really for rent anymore.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
Externally I mainly use it as a place to have a website, and as a place to send out notes to the universe about whatever I happen to be working on or whatever live event I’d like to invite people to.  Internally I am currently uploading 33 minutes of score to a dropbox where the music editor will retrieve it, assemble it into a protools file and prep it for the mix stage (where they mix the dialogue, sfx, and music together).  It’s most useful for me as a means of communication and delivery of files.  Don’t know how we all survived before.  Spent a lot of money on messengers.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
All of my income is from music, and it always has been.

What’s Your Story? How Have you Made It Work? Words To Live By?

I wanted to be a rock star, which of course is what all young burgeoning musicians want.  But I was a very practical person, probably inherited from my parents (both doctors).  I didn’t want to starve, and, probably to the detriment of my solo career and the careers of bands I’ve been in, I was unwilling to get in a bus for a year and play coffee houses, come what may.  I just wanted to make music and make a living doing it, and I always thought it was too big of a risk to pursue music in only one way (like the rock star way).  So I started working for TV composers.  The third one I worked for, as an assistant, was David Schwartz, and he became a mentor to me.  But I bailed, cuz I decided TV composing was lame and working for somebody was lame and I needed to be a rock star.  Worked as an engineer/producer/mixer, made my own albums, toured, got married, had a baby, came back and wanted to earn a better living than I had before.  David called and wanted me to help write some songs for Arrested Development (the show, not the band).  I was all in, we worked late and long and it was a great time and led to more work with him on other shows and eventually a show of my own.  Around the same time I got my own first show under my own name, The Rescues got a record deal.

The reason I bring all that up is just to say that I wanted to do everything (engineer, mix, produce, write, record, sing, play live, tour, song, score, video games, tv, movies, etc).  I still want to do everything, and I am still pursuing most things, though I’ve become more focused on writing music for media.  By wanting to do everything, and by being reasonably capable in many genres of music, and by knowing how to engineer and mix and produce and sing and play and basically do lots of stuff, I was able to make myself useful to lots of different people in lots of different ways.  And when you are useful, you can make a living.  I did studio wiring (this is one area in which I am useless), organized cables behind racks, removed wires from troughs, disassembled a 24 track machine, produced dozens of a cappella albums, produced dozens of bands, mixed a ton of records, sang on all kinds of sessions, played keys at tons of shows, toured the world as a sideman, solo act, and with a band.  And somewhere in there figured out how to write songs and score in virtually every style of music.  I’m no good at jazz.  But I can pretty much do anything else people need, and I thrive on variety.  I love going from one project to another, it turns on my brain, keeps me fresh, keeps the music fresh.  I also met a ton of wonderful people.  All kinds of musicians, many of whom I work with today.

The other aspect of wanting to do everything is never saying no.  I pretty much never said no, until about 5 years ago, when suddenly both of my paths (the logical one that wanted to make a living, and the one that wanted a big fancy record deal) started to bear fruit at the same time.  Not saying no, not pigeon-holing myself as one or the other thing within the world of music, I believe has served me very well.  I work on dramas and comedies, I write rock music and orchestral music and everything in between, I write songs and score and TV themes and I play live shows and sing on sessions and it’s all great.  I love it all, and I feel very lucky that I kinda figured out the not-saying-no thing intuitively.  If someone had told me to say yes to every gig and every possibility, I’d've probably run the other way, thinking that I had to focus on one thing in order to get anywhere.  But I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.  Focusing on everything means you learn how to do everything.  The challenge, I suppose, is to be as good as you can be at all of those things, and to not let the quality of your work slip in any realm.
+Just Say YES

And the other challenge is raising a family and having kids and a normal life and finding time to read and participate in the community as a citizen of the world.  Which I also do.  I am working late tonight, but 6 nights out of 7 I am home for dinner, and 3 weekends out of 4 I am there the whole time, reffing soccer games and doing other weekendy stuff.  I have found that preserving this time with family, and for myself, is critical to keeping my brain alive.

www.gabrielmann.com
www.therescues.com

Dane Schmidt (Jamestown Story)

Dane-Schmidt-Studio-Promo-Pic-Big

I don’t know Dane personally, but I’ve known of Jamestown Story for years. Also hailing from Minneapolis, we were working the scene around the same time – however from completely different angles. I was building the live scene and Dane was building the internet scene. I don’t think we’ve actually ever met in person (have we Dane?), but have connected thanks to Twitter. . . ohhh the internet.

Where do you currently reside?
Nashville, TN

Hometown?
Duluth/Minneapolis, MN

Age?
28

How long has music been the primary source of income?
7 years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
My income varies from year to year but it typically stays in the $50k-$75k range.

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music
iTunes and TV/Film syncs & royalties.
I used to tour quite a bit but got burnt out on it so now I rarely play shows – iTunes sales and TV syncs have been my main source of income for the past 4-5 years.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal?
Nope – I was in a band called Sing It Loud in 2007 that had a deal with Epitaph, but I left the band shortly after we signed to continue doing my own thing.

What is your “main project?”
It has been Jamestown Story for the last 7 years but I’ve recently started a publishing & licensing company called WEVOLVE that I’m concentrating on full time, as well as pitching songs to artists and running our recording studio.

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income? Anything and everything.
I license other artists music to TV & Film, manage our recording studio as well as my brother who’s a producer/engineer, and setup work-for-hire projects for other writers. I’m also in the process of developing a program for artists that calculates song royalties owed to co-writers, which I’m really excited about. Being an artist who pays royalties to co-writers every month, this program will make the process 100x easier for them to calculate what they owe and automatically pay

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
The internet is what’s made it possible for me to have a career haha.
Back in 2004, I put my first album up on Purevolume.com at a time when the site was extremely popular. I was lucky enough to have quite a few people take a liking to my music and within a couple years I had millions of plays on both Purevolume & Myspace, which gave me the opportunity to tour full-time. Myspace was also the reason I met many of my licensing contacts, as well as other folks who have helped & supported me along the way. To sum up, I wouldn’t be doing what I do if it wasn’t for the internet.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
I play poker part-time which brings in some extra income but that’s just for fun.

www.jamestownstory.com
www.twitter.com/jamestownstory
www.soundcloud.com/jamestownstory
www.wevolveinc.com (Music production, publishing, & licensing)
www.fantasylandnashville.com (Our recording studio in Nashville)

 

Yael Meyer

yael_meyer

I known Yael from the LA singer/songwriter scene. We did a quirky little YouTube cover video together (when she was very pregnant) and have done various events around town together. She is also an incredibly hard worker – I’ve seen this first hand. She (and her husband) have built her career to support a family of 4!

Where do you currently reside?
Between LA and Chile. Currently touring so for the time being we are traveling.

Hometown?
Chile and LA.

Age?
32

How long has music been the primary source of income?
About 7 years.

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music
Sync, Publishing/Royalties, Gigs/Touring, Sales (CDs, Digital), Private Events/Sponsorships

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
I have my own independent record label established in the USA and Chile, and 2 publishing companies both in the USA. All of it is run by my husband/manager/partner and I with the help of a strong and solid team we have been building over many years who handle some areas of sync and licensing, radio promo, PR and other strategic alliances with brands and booking in different parts of the world.

I have never been signed to a label as it has never been the avenue we strongly pursued. We are open to the idea of partnering with a bigger label, but we never believed that a record deal was the only way. I have sub-publishing/publishing admin agreements with companies in Europe and South America to cover these territories and make sure royalties are collected, cue sheets turned in and songs registered, though ASCAP does an excellent job at all of this regardless.

What is your “main project?”
My solo career as a recording and touring artist, singer and songwriter and the label we are developing and growing.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
I use it for: Reaching out to blogs and internet radio stations. Using social media to stay connected with fans. Sending out a monthly newsletter to fans and subscribers. Sharing video clips and other content on youtube and vimeo. Distributing music digitally all over the world and on all major platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Grooveshark, Shazam etc). Making sure it is available to people all over the world. To learn/study/discover new trends and stay current in the industry/market and to connect with industry and other artists around the globe. Creating new business opportunities and new partnerships and relationships.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
Nothing. This is pretty much it for me :)

http://yaelmeyermusic.com
http://facebook.com/yaelmeyermusic
http://twitter.com/yaelmusic

Nicholas Jacobson-Larson

nick_jacobson-larson

I’ve known Nick for many many years. We met as freshman at the University of Minnesota. He transferred to Berklee and I transferred to the music school of life. Nick used to play guitar for my full band shows. He’s a badmothafucka on the guitar. We reconnected when he moved to LA a couple years ago. He is an incredibly talented composer and musician and has worked alongside HUGE composers (like Michael Giacchino). Similar to Gabriel Mann, Nick showcases a completely different side of the industry for musicians to make a living with their talents.

Where do you currently reside?
LA

Hometown?
Anoka, Minnesota

Age?
28

How long has music been your primary source of income?
10 years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
$35,000-50,000

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music?
My main income sources are creative fees from film scores and concert commissions. Next is orchestrating, score preparation and conducting, followed by royalties and secondary markets payments from the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
Nope/nope.

What is your “main project?”
Writing film scores and concert music.

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income? Anything and everything.
In the past couple of years I’ve started producing/arranging rock/pop records for a few artists. I also write music for commercials.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
I’ve used Kickstarter to raise money for projects I’m working on, and Facebook and my website to keep clients apprised of what I’m up to.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
All of my income is music-based.

Words to live by?
1. Seek out mentors to learn from. I’ve gained so much valuable insight about music and the business from accomplished composers whose work I respect enormously.

2. Work harder than everyone else. I know it’s such a cliche to say this, but it’s just true. There’s no substitute for hard work.

3. But I think the single most important thing to do is to just try to be a nice person. It sounds cheesy, but if you treat people well, you’re going to be rewarded with a lot more opportunities than if you treat people like crap, and more importantly, you’re going to be happy with yourself as a person.

http://njlmusic.com

This spring I’ll be contributing concert orchestrations to Star Trek Into Darkness – Live in Concert at Royal Albert Hall in London

I’m in the process of producing an R&B ep for singer/songwriter Jon Aanestad

I recently wrote the score for the documentary Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

Rebecca De La Torre

rebecca_de_la_torre

Where do you currently reside?
Tempe, Arizona (Phoenix metro area)

Hometown?
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Age?  
35

How long has music been your primary source of income?
7.5 years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year
the past 5 years)?
$100k+

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music?
I make the most money from my gigs, hands down.  I speak Spanish and can do Spanish music as well.  I would say at this point that Spanish gigs account for 20-25% of my income, as defined here:

38%: public gigs (resorts, casinos, music venues, etc)
30%: weddings & private events/parties
18%: church services, funerals, choir rehearsals
7%: CD sales (I don’t have any merchandise *yet*)
4%: Arrangements and commissioned compositions
2%: recording others’ music in my studio (studio engineering)
1%: teaching & other (iTunes, Spotify, etc)

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
NO

What is your “main project?”
Right now it’s a Christian CD I’m releasing in January, with English and Spanish versions of the same songs.  After that it will be my next secular CD.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your
music career?
I mainly use the internet and social media for building up my community of fans, promoting my gigs, and advertising for private events.  I have also sold albums online but I’m still trying to figure all that out.  I sell albums at my live shows all the time, though.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
We have a rental property (a condo) that brings in a small amount each month. (i.e. around 1% but I didn’t count that in my breakout above
since it wasn’t music income, and it’s SO small; just an investment)

Tell people how someone can make a living in music. Tell as much (or as little) of your story as you’d like or just give some wise words to live by.
I left a lucrative engineering career with a large defense contractor to be a full-time musician.  But I had a plan one my way out, and although I left a 6-figure salary, I still made about $40k my first year as a musician because I set a BUDGET and had a PLAN that I stuck to.

There is SO much good information out there that has helped me to educate myself on how to build and run a business.  ALL good business principles should be applied to a music business.  I find it interesting that only recently have I seen a more pronounced community movement trying to convince artists that their music is a business and should be handled as such.  Coming from Corporate America (specifically the military industrial complex), I had some idea about how a successful business operates. But I still had to learn the ins and
outs and every day dealings on my own, and I turned to books and online resources to supplement my knowledge.

I have made more mistakes than I care to share, even this past year.  But I learn from each mistake, evaluate it (my partner and I call it a
“post-mortem” discussion), and determine how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

I have no debt besides my mortgage and I NEVER buy something I don’t have cash for.  This is SO crucial to being a successful business
person.  I DID used to have debt, but I paid it off BEFORE leaving engineering – so I’ve made that mistake, too.

Everyone has his own unique path that must be forged out of hard work and perseverance.  Only a few get crazy lucky breaks.  The rest of us have to work at it.  ANY of us can look at someone else and make excuses saying “oh well she had this help” or whatever advantage.  We all have advantages and disadvantages.  We all have to leverage our advantages and make up for our shortcomings.

I remember in 10th grade having some music students from the local university (in this case, the University of Alabama) speak to us about having a career in music.  One of the students said “if you can do anything besides music for a living and be happy, then do that.  ONLY do music if that is your passion, because it is just that hard” – now I don’t know if she got that from someone else or invented it herself, but that has stuck with me all these 20 years.  And that very idea is why I LEFT engineering – because I was miserable in that field even though I was very good at it, and I KNEW that if I could just make about $50k a year as a musician, I would be so much happier, and I would consider myself successful.

Some people think that you need supportive parents to develop the talents required to be a musician.  I will tell yo this: my parents supported me to an extent.  My mom wanted me to be a church musician but my dad told me when I was about 8 years old or so that he didn’t think I could “make it” as a singer, and when I left engineering so many years later he was astonished, frustrated, confused, and definitely not supportive.  Now, I do not want to bring him any shame because now he is definitely my biggest fan and has asked repeatedly for forgiveness (which I have said isn’t even necessary because he was just being practical), but I want any other aspiring professional musician out there to know that parental support is NOT AT ALL required.  As a matter of fact, my main instrument (besides voice) is the piano, and I have only been playing 11 years – starting well after
I was “out of the house”.  That means that I had only been playing 3 1/2 years when I left engineering to do it full-time.  WORK HARD and BELIEVE in yourself.

Making a living as a musician is very challenging, but it is possible, and it is the BEST life if that is really where your passion lies. NEVER GIVE UP.

http://www.rebeccadelatorre.com
http://www.rebeccadelatorreband.com
http://twitter.com/topkittykat
http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaDeLaTorreMusic

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Paul Matthew Moore

paul

Hometown?
Palo Alto, CA

Age?
43

How long has music been your primary source of income?
22 years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
50-75k

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music
#1 accompanying ballet and modern dance classes

#2 Indy film scoring and residuals

#3 other composing commissions. Usually dance scores.

#4 freelance recording sessions. Usually rock/pop singer songwriters. Sometimes other stuff. For example, I played all that Piano and keyboards on Tim Hewer’s new release “Virgins” which is on Spin Magazine’s top 50 list

#5 performance show income.
For example on November 16 I sang with the Kronos Quartet at the moore theater in a piece that called for 5 singers. I was paid $1000 for that.
I also toured for almost 2 years with the Dayna Hanson company. She payed $20/hour for rehearsals and about $1000 for each run of the show. The show ran 3-5 nights in each city. During the creation of the show we rehearsed 40 hours per week.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
No

What is your “main project?”
Free lance composer musician.

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income?
I teach a little. About 2-3 hours per week. I’ve made cell phone ring tones (yuk). My top 5 include everything.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
I have not had any non music jobs since I graduated from UCSB with a music composition degree in 1993

Words To Live By
Practice and study. Know how to read and improvise. Be as versatile as possible. Stay humble and positive. Be of service to others who can pay you everyday. Don’t get into the habit of working for free.

www.paulmatthewmoore.com
http://twitter.com/composermusic
soundcloud.com/paul-matthew-moore

 

Mike Vial

mike_vial

Where do you currently reside?
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Hometown?
I grew up in Metro Detroit. I attended WMU in Kalamazoo.

Age?
32

How long has music been the primary source of income?
About three years.

I did music part time while I was a teacher from 2003-2010. In 2010-2011 I picked up speed, and I’ve done 200+ gigs a year since I quit teaching.

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
$20,000-35,000. I’m close to being next bracket this year, but waiting out holiday season to finish accounting.

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music?
Show income is my bread and butter. I make most of my money doing cover gigs in bars and restaurants, and performing original shows at festivals and clubs.
The biggest show I got to do this year was Common Ground Music Festivals in Lansing, MI with BNL and Ben Folds as the headliners.

Second source is playing private parties and house concerts. When playing nicer bars and restaurants, these opportunities are offered from patrons. One year, I played at the former coach of the Red Wing’s house party to celebrate his new coaching job.

Third is merchandise sales. When doing cover gigs, merch sales aren’t as large as original shows (but that tip jar helps).

For original shows, merch sales are essential. Honestly, I don’t move a lot of T-shirt sales, yet, and I’m working on my presentation of this more from the microphone (especially considering Ari’s tips).

Fourth is iTunes and minor streaming revenue. I have experienced a dip with streaming payouts gaining traction.

Fifth is session work. Michigan isn’t like Nashville or LA, but I do get work from studios occasionally.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
No. I did have a sync licensing deal and I was in a few music libraries, but I didn’t have any successful placements, yet.

What is your “main project?”
I perform mostly solo under my name: Mike Vial

At times I perform with a band that features David Mosher (incredible Michigan multi-instrumentalist!)

What other avenues do you pursue musically that brings in income? |
I was teaching guitar lessons (7-10 students is my perfect number) before I moved to Ann Arbor. I’m considering adding that to my schedule next year.

I also host a weekly open mic/showcase night at the Mash Bar in Ann Arbor, MI on Wednesdays.

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?

I love IndieontheMove.com. That site has been dream come true for booking tours.

I’ve used Noisetrade.com to increase my email list and offer music for free downloads. I made the front page of the top downloads list in December 2011 and March 2013.

I’m a long time user of CDBaby for online distribution. I handle all merch sales myself with Bandcamp.com.

I create and maintain my entire website with WordPress.org, and I write often on my blog.

I have used Sonicbids, and I was selected for a fun Folk Alliance showcase, but I don’t use Sonicbids anymore. I was an early adopter to Concertsinyourhome.com, but I don’t use that anymore, either.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
This year, my wife (full-time writer/freelance journalist) and I were hired to give a guest lecture at my alma mater, Western Michigan University for Direct Encounter with the Arts, which was an incredible experience. I’m really interested in doing more of these types of events.

Doing workshops (songwriting, guitar, etc.) are a really great way to make money on the road, too. I’ve led a few songwriting workshops at Michigan festivals, and I’m considering finding more opportunities for that in 2014.

www.mikevial.com
mikevial.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/mikevialmusic
www.twitter.com/mikevial

 

Dan Collins

dan_collins

Where do you currently reside?
Chicago, IL

Hometown?
Waunakee (Madison), WI

Age?
23

How long has music been your primary source of income?
3 years

About how much did you make from music last year (or your best year the past 5 years)?
$35,000-50,000

What are the top 5 income sources you make from music?
1. (50%) Teaching a private studio of 14 students
2. (25%) Church pianist
3. (15%) Jobbing/cover bands
4. (5%) Scoring/composing
5. (5%) CD sales, other misc.

Do you have a record deal or publishing deal? Have you ever?
No. No.

What is your “main project?”
My piano-driven power trio, Nonpronto

What other avenues do you pursue musically that bring in income? Anything and everything.
- Freelance recording
- Contracted marketing
- Musical gigs
- Session work

How have you used the internet/new music industry to help with your music career?
Most of the money I have earned can be linked back to connections I’ve made via Craigslist, or other emails-initiated relationships.  There are so many pools of musicians and creators waiting to be dipped into, so I start most of that on the ‘net.  When I meet another musician in person, I stay in touch with them online and reach out when opportunities arise.  They do the same in return, creating the mutually beneficial relationship that creative people seek.

What else do you do (non-musically) that brings in income?
Nothing.

Words of wisdom:
Become multifaceted!  I think being a jack-of-all-trades and master of one or two is entirely possible and a great route today.  I’ve prospered big time from going to school for jazz and learning how to sing on my own.  Also, I’ve never relied on graphic designers, recording engineers, booking managers, etc. to get all of that essential work done because I’ve invested my time to learn each of those things.  I also like to think that the road to truly doing what you want as a musician is the same road as in other professions- put the hard work in early on, do some things you don’t want to do but know you should, and find more success down the road… at least that’s how I imagine it playing out :)

www.nonpronto.com
www.dancollinsandapiano.com

 

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based DIY musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

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Comments (139)
  1. Anonymous

    You forgot a musician who invented his own business model and now makes a thousand times more than these losers:

    DANIEL EK!

    At least I think he’s a musician (he does love to pose with a guitar).


    Reply
    1. FarePlay

      Well, this pretty much confirms the position that working musician is a part time job. At one time, recorded music sales would have been 50% or more of a musicians income, but as a result of piracy, single downloads which have been heavily promoted in campaigns to discredit the value of digital album downloads and cd sales; you know that one. “Albums/CDs are a rip off because you are paying for one good song”.

      And more recently, streaming services like Spotify.

      Plus, all of these musicians appear to be solo artists, not bands; yes try splitting that $50k four ways. Actually, Ari, thanks for proving our point. Sadly, this really isn’t very encouraging AT ALL. Just imagine, at one time, these guys would have been able to double their income through CD sales at $10 each.

      Will Buckley
      Sent from my iPhone


      Reply
      1. Paul Matthew Moore

        I think it is important for us to note that at one time (not much more than 100 years ago) there was NO recorded music income. Those were the best of times for music and musicians in my humble opinion.
        There is no substitute for live performance and there never will be.


        Reply
        1. FarePlay

          Interesting response. Yes Paul 100 years ago things were very different, but I believe this discussion is about surviving as a musician in today’s digital economy.

          To your point, if there is one, not all music is created to be playd live and not all live performances are as good as the recordings. We could talk about theater vs film as well, but I digress.


          Reply
          1. Paul Matthew Moore

            I totally agree with you FarePlay. I actually do listen to and make a lot of electronic music. I love film, computers, and the Internet etc. And of course I enjoy the benefits of electricity even though I romanticize about the days before it. I just felt the need to complicate the calculus of this whole discussion. But I guess what I meant to say to anonymous is “stop whining”.


            Reply
            1. FarePlay

              Paul, thank you for your comment. Here’s where I’m coming from and whining isn’t my objective. The music industry, which until the past few years, has shaped, or rather failed to shape, the discussion about musicians and songwriters in the face of digital distribution. Unfortunately, they have relied almost exclusively on the courts to respond.

              What has been lacking is a marketing campaign that underscores and reinforces the value of music, allowing the tech industry and pro-pirate / freedom of speech faction to influence the public’s attitude toward the purchase of pre-recorded music, which is continually fraught with self-serving messaging about the demise of the sale of pre-recorded music. This is “devaluation” is further reinforced by streaming services, whose focus is on free as opposed to services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. that are paid only services.

              Most pro-artist advocates believe that for great music to survive, the only solution is supporting the sale of recorded music. While there will always be great music created, it is diminishing. How many bands can go into a professional recording studio and pay $50k to record if there is no possibility for a return on this relatively modest investment? And why should the creative community underwrite the cost for the very content that fuels the interest in the internet in the first place?


              Reply
              1. Lisa

                Hmm, these are really great points. Do you have some other ideas as to what might help to start turning this around? Something that artists themselves could start implementing rather than us trying to force our audience and consumers to change their downloading habits (which has been proving to be a losing battle). I like your idea of the marketing campaign, but it sounds like a whole lot of companies and people would need to push this message home (and come up with a clever way of doing it).

                My band is at the marketing stage – about 15k was dropped just to record our 5 song EP and after marketing expenses, the total cost would be close to 30k and we’re still nowhere near recouping those costs yet. Will be interesting to see what our royalties are (our radio promotions team got us playing on over 30k radio stations) but if we don’t wanna go broke and wanna keep creating quality music, we’re wracking as many brains as we can to come up with ways to stay in the game. It’s hard though.


                Reply
                1. FarePlay

                  Hi Lisa, yes I am working on what I believe can be a unifying pro-artist online event on 2-27-2014. While the website is live, the official announcement of the event and website will take place in early January, 2014. Please enter your info on our contact page so that we can connect. http://fareplay.org/

                  You should be able to Yahoo FarePlay and find the various links as well.

                  You are making valuable contributions to the conversations here and would value your input.

                  My Bio? I’m not a musician, but my connection with music is both passionate and extensive. I started listening to and attending concerts in 1965, yes I grew up during the most exciting and prolific time for music in the history of contemporary music. From 1965 to 1972 I was active in the music scene in NYC and Boston and from 1972 to 2004 I lived in the SanFrancisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, where I worked in the music business from 1972-1984.

                  My experience in the music business is almost as extensive as the number of artists I have had the great fortune of seeing live.

                  I am not anti-technology, only of those who abuse it to marginalize artists and aggressively re-direct the money artists deserve to be earning for their work.

                  Will Buckley, Founder / President FarePlay


                  Reply
                  1. Lisa

                    Sounds like you’re trying to pioneer a new movement – that’s brave and totally awesome.
                    Thank you for sharing your background, I always appreciate it when people do that coz it gives a bit of insight as to where opinions are rooted, leaving room for some understanding (for those who can be bothered of course). And I’ve connected to your site – interesting stuff :)

                    Wow, you have so much experience! And you’re obviously passionate about music and ensuring musicians and musicpreneurs alike are treated and compensated fairly – it does suck that it’s not the norm. A lot of us are shooting ourselves (and the rest of us) in the foot too though, by undercutting, accepting mediocre deals, not being educated enough re: better industry practices and a bunch of other things. I’m from a small country so the effects are easier to see, I have no idea what it’s like everywhere else.


                    Reply
                2. GGG

                  Disclaimer: You may be a total veteran musician and have this shit worked out, and if so, please excuse my presumptuousness here.

                  But the number one thing is to make sure you know how to handle your money correctly. And/or make sure you have an experienced and connected manager who will make sure it’s not wasted. I have no idea what band you are in and how big you are, but $30K is a lot of money to be throwing around, especially for an EP. If you haven’t recouped that in the past and since it doesn’t seem like a level of money you’re used to, I’m going to presume you aren’t particularly well-known (feel free to completely prove me wrong, by the way).

                  For example, getting 30K stations through radio promo (assuming they’re actually playing your song) probably means you hired a pretty decent radio person and that is a big chunk of that $15K for marketing. Is there other marketing going on? Do you have a PR team? Are you touring? Was spending that much on radio promo the best thing to do to sell something that I’m assuming costs no more than $5?

                  I’ve been victim to, and seen, bands/artists get ripped off too many times. The amount of smoke that gets blown up my ass talking to PR people, is unbelievable. So it’s just good to have someone in charge who’s been around the block, has been fucked over at some point and learned their lesson, etc. Unless it’s a friend you trust more than your own mother, you really don’t want a green manager if you can help it. And you really don’t want to throw around that kind of money if you are naive yourself.


                  Reply
                  1. cjhoffmn

                    +1,000


                    Reply
                  2. Ben

                    There are all kinds of scams in the music industry designed to feed off people during the production stages.

                    I got ripped off in LA once. We went to a large studio to do a recording of a J-pop (Japanese pop) single that we were going to approach Japanese labels with. A few industry people recommended a very good singer who was active around town and was ethnically Japanese. Upon arriving at the studio, she asked for her considerably large cash payment and then proceeded to sing the worst Japanese you could ever possibly hear. She could only speak English!!! We were 100% mislead by her and her entourage, core industry people, since the beginning of negotiations!

                    All she wanted to do was pull a “hit and run,” not giving a shit about our significant loss because we just had to throw away the whole project. Britney could have sang better Japanese!!!


                    Reply
    2. vistor

      if the inference of this story is that somehow the internet is helping these people it’s largely false. The 10 examples in the article are more/less the same type of people doing the same kind of gigs they did OUTSIDE OF the record industry both before and after the internet.

      Playing keys in church, or giving music lessons, or playing in wedding/cover bands, or getting some money from music libraries for cue placements… none of that has changed with the internet.

      But what has changed is the ability to make a living, making music as a dedicated artist or band WITHOUT having to do those things above. Again, the bottom line here is not that something has been added that didn’t exist before, it’s that something that existed before has been taken away and nothing NEW has been presented to take it’s place.

      I applaud anyone and everyone who can and does make a living, making music and I like to see more people doing it professionally, not less – but the numbers just do not support that…


      Reply
      1. Jake

        What has been taken away? Only a handful of artists in the past have made money off of records in the past. Digital doom is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The only people getting hurt are the record companies who have been raping musicians for years. Payback MOFOS!


        Reply
    3. Justice

      I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind you of what a scumbag you are. I would choose a bunch of “losers” over a digital vampire any day!


      Reply
  2. Minneapolis Musician

    The big takeaway from this is: none of these people is a household name. Yet…much of the discussion on this and other forums, is mostly about how to be a star.

    But becoming a musical STAR is about as easy as being a sports star in the NBA or NFL.

    So if you love music and are willing to work hard, you can do it. But don;t expect to be famous. That’s an entirely different thing.

    But that is what many people really start out to do. And that is really what is the implied promise from most of the PR firms and “artist support firms” who advertise on these forums.

    http://www.reverbnation.com/GlennGalen


    Reply
    1. Minneapolis Musician

      PS. I am impressed with all of these people, and that they make it work, by working hard and being realistic.


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        “I am impressed with all of these people”

        Unfortunately, they’re not relevant.

        Music sales are down by 50% since 1999 because of two reasons:

        1) Piracy.
        2) Streaming.

        Nothing else matters.


        Reply
        1. Minneapolis Musician

          I think they are relevant.

          They make their living doing what they love. Playing music.

          What’s not relevant about that?


          Reply
          1. Anonymous

            “What’s not relevant about that?”

            That it’s a fairy tale, of course.

            Llike I said, music is down by 50%. So far. In the real world. And Pirates & streamers do their best to kill the rest while you celebrate a couple of wedding singers, or whatever it is that they do.


            Reply
            1. Minneapolis Musician

              Anonymous,

              What’s wrong with being a wedding singer, or singing for corporate events?

              See? You only value fame from the masses, it seems, as being valid.


              Reply
              1. Anonymous

                “What’s wrong with being a wedding singer, or singing for corporate events?”

                You identify yourself yourself as a musician — not as an artist, or a composer, or a songwriter — so I get your question. And I understand why you may feel intimidated by some of these discussions.

                But fact is that the wedding singer, the session musician and the piano teacher have three important things in common:

                They all have fulfilling jobs, they make lots of people happy and they don’t contribute in any way at all to the evolution of music.

                For the third time: Music was cut down by 50% because of piracy and streaming since 1999 and will be cut down by 50 more within a foreseeable future, unless we change the situation.

                Exactly who do you think will be financing the next culture defining masterpieces in that climate?


                Reply
                1. GGG

                  Get off your high horse, jesus. Just because you can’t make money selling your shit pop songs anymore doesn’t mean nobody else should be able to. Your comments on here make your stance in arguments over the last year or so make so much more sense. You’re incredibly bitter and jealous.


                  Reply
                  1. Anonymous

                    You’re hallucinating, GGG. Try to address the facts.


                    Reply
                    1. GGG

                      Ok, fact is that this list of people make’s what is considered “middle class income” in America. In a lot of cases, a lot more. So what’s the problem? Who cares if they are known or not? Think anyone besides Dave Matthews Band fans can name the other guys in Dave Matthews Band? They aren’t household names either but they make a shitload of money playing music.


                2. Anonymous

                  This statement is absolutely ridiculous:

                  “They all have fulfilling jobs, they make lots of people happy and they don’t contribute in any way at all to the evolution of music.”

                  At this stage in the evolution of rock/pop music, there has been little or no evolution of any kind for quite sometime (decades even). So on that metric, the line separating a wedding singer or piano teacher from a major label rock/pop star is so small that it’s mostly meaningless.

                  This is part of the problem. We have tons of great old music that is easily available, and in many ways, we don’t really need a lot more new music, especially when most of it adds so little that is new or innovative. Nevertheless, tons and tons of new music keeps getting made.

                  I sometimes do this thought experiment in my head: If they banned all new recorded music starting in 2014, would most people even notice, other than people trying to make a living producing new music. And would these people even be harmed (or would the black market for new recorded music end up being more lucrative than the current market)?

                  To the extent that major labels were ever the site of aesthetic innovation, they have very rarely played that role over the last 30 years. Instead, they have co-opted innovations from the indie label sector and used their money, promotional, and distribution apparatus to amplify pre-existing movements.

                  I don’t care what you do in music. If you can make a living that suits you, you are a success in my book and you are contributing to the evolution of music. Things like wedding singing, teaching, session work, etc. are often the experiences that help aspiring rock stars learn the skills that help them break through of the global stage (See David Lee Roth’s comments on this subject). Moreover, maybe your contribution to the evolution of music is teaching a kid who goes on to revolutionize a genre. Everybody has their role to play. So why demean the people who plays these roles?

                  The attitude expressed in the quote above is mostly the sort of BS that insecure people tell themselves to try and justify their existence.

                  The stories in the article underscore what I have known for decades now: There have always been unde- the-radar, cottage industry type situations for musicians who are resourceful. Usually, these don’t have a lottery payout that is as large as becoming a rock star, but many people manage to cobble together a pretty good living doing this sort of stuff. If they are fulfilled by it, who can argue with that.

                  The vast majority of people who make a living in playing music do it in this sector and sphere. It was that way in 1980 and it’s still that way in 2013. The more people who are real about this fact, the better off everyone will be.

                  Moreover, if Ari had been writing this article 6-7 years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis could easily have been two of the people he interviewed. Now they have obviously taken things up to a whole other level. Most people will never get to where they are now. But to presume that nobody can is ridiculous, and to put down people who are using their skills to try and support themselves is even worse.


                  Reply
                  1. Mike

                    “The attitude expressed in the quote above is mostly the sort of BS that insecure people tell themselves to try and justify their existence.”

                    You hit the nail on the head. Probably made that very LA-ish hipster wannabe musician commenter cry with that line! LOL


                    Reply
                  2. Bill

                    Total BS about the teachers not making a contribution.

                    If it weren’t for an 80 year old musician giving lessons in a very small storage room of a music store in Upstate NY a long time ago, I probably would have never made it to Carnegie Hall, played on recordings for artists, played internationally, etc.

                    Might be time to start looking for some mental help. Seriously. I think you been in a conversation with the “me” and the “I” for way too long which has fueled your delusions about music as well as the industry. Granted, people steal music and streaming companies are raping artists. But somehow you don’t realize that only a handful of artists in the past ever saw any money come in from record sales. People with industry clout who dared to take a stand for artists soon found their asses on the street. Yes, there were actually some people among the vampires who CARED.

                    PS- Music doesn’t evolve for the SAKE OF EVOLVING. You need to break out of that VH1-music-documentary-LA-hipster-douche state of mind.


                    Reply
                3. john h

                  first off, I am all behind these peopl emaking a living making music, second, you say that these people ……..I believe you said,”wedding singers, and piano teachers dont help further music………….” piano teachers help get people started in music…………wtf?


                  Reply
            2. Jake

              Don’t worry because you wouldn’t have made a dime even if music sales were perfectly in tact. There are only a handful of major artists who have made any money from record sales.


              Reply
          2. GGG

            Because it flies in the face of everything Anonymous and others bitch about constantly on here. Instead of just admitting his/her songwriting is the thing that’s irrelevant these days and their career is shit, they come on here and tell everyone else “YOU CAN’T DO IT THAT WAY!” Definition of a bitter, washed up “musician.”


            Reply
            1. Anonymous

              GGG, nobody cares that unpopular acts can’t make it. They never could. Why should they?

              The problem arises when popular acts can’t make it.


              Reply
              1. GGG

                Ok, and you’re trying to argue Bieber and Perry and GaGa and One Direction etc are hard up for cash? You’re not even making a remotely coherent argument.

                Not to mention, this is a spinoff of the whole is there a middle class musician debate.

                Give it up. Find a new career, stop trying to ruin everyone else’s.


                Reply
                1. Anonymous

                  Again GGG, everything seems to be black or white to you.

                  But there are so many nuances in the real world. Again, look at the upper 2-300 acts: You’re right that Top 10 performers and A List writing teams won’t see many red lights along the way. But take a few steps down the ladder, and things change dramatically.

                  And the result?

                  Major projects — projects that could have changed music history — will never be heard. Thanks to Spotify and the Pirate Bay.


                  Reply
                  1. GGG

                    That’s not the argument here. If you want to bring that up, then let’s take it all the way, and you can go take in every homeless child and starving person because you never know if they might be a musical genius.

                    The argument this article is written to show is the exact opposite of what you’re arguing. That you DON’T actually have to be one of those top 300 artists to make a living. To be rich? Sure, but you can obviously be some guy none of us have ever heard of and make $100K+ doing it. I’m sure many people would LOVE to have those careers.


                    Reply
                    1. Anonymous

                      Again, you and Ari are confusing people who don’t suffer from piracy and streaming with those who do:

                      Music creators are destroyed by pirates, wedding singers don’t feel a thing…

                      So everything’s just fine & dandy in Ari’s little world — while the music industry goes to hell.


                    2. Versus

                      “Music creators are destroyed by pirates, wedding singers don’t feel a thing…”

                      I have to agree with you there. DJs also don’t feel a thing, and many are without the ethics to pay for the music that is the lifeblood of their own careers, and thereby increase their own profit margins.


                    3. Bill

                      Anonymous doesn’t realize that the only people who really made any significant money throughout history from recordings were the record companies. Insiders has said this time and time again. Those are the only people who are “suffering.” There will always be a need for popular live music and recordings, the only difference being that people have to pay for the former.


                  2. Jake

                    Damn, Son. Rationalization is a bitch.


                    Reply
                2. Andy Mason

                  Hard to see how anyone could be unhappy about this article. These are all inspirational musicians making a living doing what they love. I quit my job 7 years ago as a High School teacher to become a full-time musician. It took me those seven years, but this year I made more than a teachers salary…..nearly $35,000….and I love what I do. Thanks for a great article Ari. http://www.andymasonmusic.org


                  Reply
              2. Bill

                From the tone of your post, you seem to be associating yourself with the “popular” acts. However, that is not for you to determine. That is the job of the public.


                Reply
            2. @MelodyUnplugged

              Sounds like somebody is bitter because they didn’t make it. Difference is, If you Didn’t make it…You stopped trying. A real artist does it for the love and passion for it. Making money on it later is an added bonus. I am a musician who never made it, so I started a wildy popular blog, Have a radio show, and also am a spokes person and interviewer for different companies. I started doing these to get my foot in the door. If my followers do not take to my music when I release the new stuff…Maybe it’s because my music just isn’t that good….and I can accept that WITHOUT being cynical or bitter because THAT’S the reality of it. Every musician thinks their music is pure GOLD when in lots of cases It isn’t. Tortured soul you are.


              Reply
              1. Nina V

                Hey @MelodyUnplugged – do you have a link to your blog etc? I’m rather curios now thanks ;-)


                Reply
              2. GGG

                Are you calling me a tortured soul, or did you mean to reply to someone else?


                Reply
                1. Bill

                  She was replying to your “friend.” It sure is a complicated reply framework they setup here.


                  Reply
              3. Bill

                Exactly. I can all be fixed when they decide to be honest with themselves. Getting industry attention is a whole different matter, but at least have your shit together when someone does happen to listen.

                It is delusional to consider one’s music superior to all others. Even if it happens to be superior to 99% of what’s out there, you still have to take that 1% into account. No matter how painful it may be, being honest with yourself will result in improvements. This “Anonymous” dude makes all these bold comments in a cheap attempt to elevate himself above everyone else here. What utter blindness. He has no idea who is here. I think a safer approach would be to over estimate people by default and then feel a bit relieved when you realize that they really aren’t all that.

                I hate to say it, but many of today’s “musicians” (owners of Garage Band) seem to be more concerned with the glam and the perks. Base level souls they are. It reminds me of some of the bands who cannot wait to finish the show so they can enjoy celebrating themselves along with the bimbos who show up and treat them likes gods for a day. LOL


                Reply
            3. Mike

              Some people have a sense of entitlement. These people are normally the ones who have not been in the trenches and really have no idea what music is about. They are more about the parties after the show and impressing bimbos, telling them about the amazing feats they have accomplished.


              Reply
        2. Lisa

          It sounds like you’re talking about original music specifically. I don’t think that was Ari’s intent for this particular article. I am a musician as well as a music creator. I love the fact that it’s possible to earn a good living doing something I’m passionate about – music. There’s a lot of stigma stating otherwise and I’d much rather have THAT than a normal, unappreciative 9 to 5 job that I HATE.

          Streaming and pirating – I agree it’s problem but it’s human nature unfortunately. Look at our governments – there are whole justice systems in place to monitor, track down and punish criminals. Has been for thousands of years and there’s no end in sight. My point being, people are gonna do, what they wanna do, despite the consequences. It’s the same in every industry.

          The way I see it, these DIYers (and countless others) are choosing to find their own way through the bull crap. They already recognise the pitfalls but are succeeding because they refuse to lie down and surrender to the downturn. I like that their successes shine a light on what’s possible. I choose to find a light for myself :)

          Thanks again for the awesomeness Ari!


          Reply
          1. FarePlay

            Lisa, are you Ari’s official cheerleader?


            Reply
            1. Lisa

              Unofficial is probably more accurate :) There are a few people who open my mind to possibility – Ariel Hyatt, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, Electric Kiwi and yes, Ari as well as others. I like to thank and share anyone who does this for me and I do so with no apologies ♥


              Reply
        3. lroosemusic

          No true Scotsman
          From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”).

          ______________________________________

          “No true musician would earn a living that way!”

          I think most of the artists who frequent this site would love to be able to make a comfortable living from performing their art and probably wouldn’t consider the money less worthwhile because someone on a message board doesn’t think its the right way to earn it.


          Reply
  3. hippydog

    Heres my idea for an alternate title ;-)

    “If the New boss is worse then the Old boss..
    Maybe learn to be your OWN BOSS!”

    Excellent article Ari!


    Reply
    1. Lisa

      Ooh – them’s some fighting words and an awesome thing to strive for! I like that :)


      Reply
  4. vistor

    this pretty much sums it up…

    What are the top 5 income sources you make from music?
    1. (50%) Teaching a private studio of 14 students
    2. (25%) Church pianist
    3. (15%) Jobbing/cover bands
    —-
    4. (5%) Scoring/composing
    5. (5%) CD sales, other misc.

    hmmmm…


    Reply
    1. Mark

      That’s one person…. did you happen to look at the other people featured in the article?


      Reply
    2. Dan Collins

      Sure, it sums it up well for a 23 year-old that has been out of school for a year and a half. This might also accurately represent some older demographics, but I don’t think there’s much room for complaint either way. It’s work, and I get to be a musician (to whatever extent)… what more can I ask for? I certainly have bigger aspirations than these, but I’m making a living playing music. (Trying not to sound defensive, but definitely am, haha.)


      Reply
      1. Minneapolis Musician

        I think visitor’s comment is an example of what I alluded to in my first comment to this article: that most of these discussion are about how to be a *star*, a well-paid, renowned artists with a large following of fans waiting for their next release.

        But that’s about wanting to be famous. A different thing. That is primarily a lottery.

        If a person wants to be a fine carpenter, they don’t expect to be a famous household name. They just want to earn a decent living doing work that they love to do.

        That’s more what these people above are like, to my way of thinking.


        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          “most of these discussion are about how to be a *star*, a well-paid, renowned artists”

          No, they’re not.

          They’re about whether music should continue to be an art form that makes history and defines culture, or it should be reduced to a service function.


          Reply
          1. Minneapolis Musician

            Anonymous,

            Don’t you think that 99.999% of all the music made in the past has been a service function?

            The Internet seemed to promise that we could all become famous.

            Unfortunately, 20 million other musicians had the same idea.

            And the same access.


            Reply
            1. Anonymous

              Could you try to get past your obsession with fame, and instead address the fact — the only important fact — that the music we all love is cut down by 50% so far and will be cut down to zero, unless we kill the two factors that cut it down to begin with: streaming and mainstream theft?


              Reply
              1. Minneapolis Musician

                Anonymous,

                The market is what it is. You have no power to make streaming companies share more of the profit. There are MILLIONS of other artists competing with you to display their art to listeners. If you refuse to stream your music, someone else will.

                You cannot change that. And that is primarily why it’s hard to make a living selling your recorded tracks to the masses, or even trying to play live at a decent wage.

                Supply and demand. That’s all it is.

                LOTS of supply of “good-enough” music for the listeners out there. They don’t demand great art. The recording tools make it quite straight forward to make good-enough music to keep them happy.


                Reply
                1. Anonymous

                  “The market is what it is”
                  The good news is that you couldn’t be more wrong:

                  Artists have huge amounts of power today. During the past year or two we finally discovered the internet. Yes, it took some time, but we’re getting there now. Go ask Pandora. Spotify’s next. Never forget these two facts: 1) Artists don’t need streaming. 2) Streaming companies die at once without artists.

                  “There are MILLIONS of other artists competing with you to display their art to listeners”
                  I never, ever think like that.

                  “You cannot change that”
                  Yes, I can! But not without you and your friends.


                  Reply
                  1. Minneapolis Musician

                    Anonymous,

                    So, lay out your scenario. How does it work that you shut down streaming? I mean step by step. What’s the time frame?

                    Is this basically a worldwide boycott by songwriters and recording artists, then?

                    Remember that the streaming companies are teamed up with the legacy record labels, who have many millions of songs in their back catalog to stream. Many of those songs are really fine music that people like to hear. And there are many artists who seem to be more than willing to stream their tunes.


                    Reply
                    1. Anonymous

                      “Is this basically a worldwide boycott by songwriters and recording artists, then?”

                      Yes!

                      “Remember that the streaming companies are teamed up with the legacy record labels, who have many millions of songs in their back catalog to stream”

                      It goes without saying that you can’t boycott streaming unless you own the rights. But we all know what labels feel about profit maximization, and everybody’s busy these days trying to figure out exactly what they can learn from Mrs. Carter and Ms. Swift.

                      That goes for yesterday’s streaming-happy artists, too. It took a year or two for most to realize that they don’t make money from Spotify; that streaming doesn’t prevent piracy, and that streaming does cannibalize sales. But now they know.

                      As for steps and time frame: I hope streaming of new music will be history in two years from now, and I’m sure it’s gone within five. We’ll see all kinds of experiments, starting with general windowing and culminating in boycotts, including experimental removal of old content. Anti-streaming sentiments grow very fast these days, partly triggered by Pandora’s and Spotify’s own condescending ‘explanations’ and I think the critical mass may be reached very soon.


                2. Versus

                  “Supply and demand. That’s all it is.”

                  No, the market is what we make it. We as a society have the power to decide about market controls, incentives, disincentives, subsidies, penalties, minimum and maximum wages, etc. The free market alone is one of the cruelest and most heartless monsters ever created. It must be tamed or it just slaughters.


                  Reply
                  1. Minneapolis Musician

                    I disagree. The market is what people want to buy.

                    You can entice them, try to convince them.

                    But they decide if they want to buy your music.


                    Reply
          2. GGG

            So you’re only allowed to make money on music if you’re the next Beatles or Dylan? You’re a joke, man.


            Reply
            1. Anonymous

              You’re pretty black & white, GGG.

              But yes, I primarily care about the, say, 200 most influental acts on the planet. Give me one good reason why I should care about the rest. And yes, it’s a problem for everybody who loves music if these 200 acts begin to face problems when they seek financing for their projects.


              Reply
              1. GGG

                YOU DON’T HAVE TO CARE ABOUT THEM!! That’s the whole point! You have to be trolling at this point, you can’t possibly be this dumb. I’m not sitting here, and Ari didn’t write this article, to try to say Gabriel Mann is some musical genius changing the face of music. Nobody has to think that. But here is a no-name person who clears 6 figures making music! That’s what matters.

                I mean, seriously. Your argument day in and day out is that there is no middle class musician. You bitch and bitch about how a regular joe can’t make money playing music anymore. Ari lays out clear cut examples and you go change the debate to, “oh, these people don’t count because they aren’t the most influential person in music!” Do you really not understand how stupid you sound?


                Reply
                1. Anonymous

                  GGG, we have two discussions here that really need to be separated.

                  You and Ari talk about wedding singers, church choirs, piano teachers, etc.

                  I talk about music creators.

                  When I said that the first kind doesn’t contribute to the evolution of music, it wasn’t meant as an insult. I merely stated a fact. I love these people from the bottom of my heart, but that doesn’t make them music creators.

                  And music as such suffers tremendously from piracy and streaming these years because music creators are ripped off.

                  Please tell me you understand why music creators — composers, writers, mixers and arrangers to some degree — suffer from piracy and streaming, while wedding singers, church choirs and piano teachers don’t…


                  Reply
              2. Anonymous

                Dear anonymous, (afraid to reveal your real name)
                J.S. Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were servants and not in the top 200 acts of their time. They were not popular. Neither were Henry Cowell, Charles Ives or Duke Ellington. In fact most of the greatest history making musical Mavericks were virtually unknown to the general public. And that includes many of the amazing genius Pulitzer prize-winning composers of today. It seems like your economic model seeks to insult and discourage these genius artists. You have to be careful with your words because some of the things you say turn just about everyone against you and will make it difficult for you to rally supporters. I feel that your tone is wrong in every way. I understand that you’re bitter about streaming music because it’s no fun to be paid only .000001 cents when someone listens to a song. What I really think is that you should get on board with my anti-electricity position. This would solve many of the problems you are suffering from.
                Also here is a relevant story:

                http://boingboing.net/2013/12/24/iron-maiden-makes-millions-by.html

                Paul


                Reply
                1. Jake

                  I’m sure a fragile soul like Bach would have wrapped it up due to some hipster’s lame comments.


                  Reply
          3. Paul Matthew Moore

            In my opinion all music work is a service function. All art and entertainment is a service to a community. There’s nothing wrong with that. J.S. Bach was a servant; a humble church organist, composer and teacher. Hopefully we all serve. That does not ever diminish the value of our work. I know this discussion is mostly about popular music but it is important to note that a lot of aesthetic movements in popular music originate in unpopular music where they make little or no money for the brave geniuses who conceive and share them. Some of my heroes from the past century have had to support themselves and their families through other means than radio play. The list is very long and includes Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, and the Grateful Dead. Without composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen there would be no Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record as we know it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a music teacher, was always in debt and he died broke. I am so thankful that he didn’t give up due to his struggle compared with the sensational success and popularity of his contemporaries such as Lord Byron. Art is a serious challenge. There will always be pirates. Back in the days before recording music was pirated by copying the score by hand. It’s all just part of the game. Don’t give up. Keep hope alive! I am so thankful for the abundance.


            Reply
      2. Jay Bowcott

        Dan, you’re doing it right man. I have found a gig in my hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta where I get to play for 4 hours half covers and half originals and make what an average person would make in a week.. In one night. We can make good money, you just have to look for it. I personally love what I do and appreciate the point in my career that I am at right now. If I were full time touring and famous I would be under a lot more pressure than I am right now. I will let that happen at some point, if I have to, but for now I am enjoying recording with all the free time I have and selling my music, and gigging on the weekends. It’s a wonderful life. You gotta make the best out of being a musician in these times, it’s always been about the music! We just gotta keep making it.

        I’m 26 and am a full time musician in the process of building a great studio in my basement. From time to time I will supplement my income with a serving job here or there but for the most part I make about 30 000 a year from gigging on weekends. And this is my surplus after spending shitloads on gas money driving around the massive monster country I live in. But all that driving time gives me a lot of listening time.. You learn a lot listening to endless music on the 45 hour drive across Canada.

        Keep it real Dan! I’ll check out your tunes. My website is http://www.jaybowcott.com if yah wanna hear mine.


        Reply
        1. Lisa

          Just listened to ‘Lucky Sometimes’ – I instantly ‘saw’ your song playing as the soundtrack for a road trip, kinda Thelma and Louise styles and yay for earning great income on a part time basis :)


          Reply
        2. Dan Collins

          Thank you, man. Glad we can agree on that.


          Reply
  5. Minneapolis Musician

    Nobody is making a living sitting in their studio all day and uploading recordings on the Internet to sell. That seems to be true.

    But that is only one way of trying to earn a living making music.


    Reply
    1. jamestownstory

      I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you on this one sir – this is precisely what I do.


      Reply
      1. Minneapolis Musician

        jamestownstory,

        Define “a living”.

        This blog article was about earning enough for a middle-class life style. Enough to help support a family? afford health insurance (over the years I have seen benefit shows held to raise donation money for musicians who have no health insurance and had an accident or a hospitalization).


        Reply
        1. Minneapolis Musician

          OK, strike that. I see you were one of the musicians featured above who outlined your earnings.


          Reply
  6. Kiko Jones

    I’m happy for those folks, but except for one example none of them really explain how they got to where they are. Also, some musicians might want to have a day job as opposed to 6 little music jobs that barely get you there. But, in this particular instance, if you’d rather hustle than have a day job, God bless.


    Reply
  7. Kiko Jones

    PS: I once had a lengthy conversation with a fellow musician friend whose aspirations (rock star) were different than mine (worker bee musician). “Your goal is harder to reach than mine, since it’s even more difficult to establish a network than to become a rock star.” “How so?”, I asked. “That doesn’t make sense”.
    “Listen”, he said, “to become a rock star I need one lucky break. You need half a dozen lucky breaks and they all have to be constant. Yes, my break is a huge one. But that’s all I need: one. You, meanwhile, have to establish a network in which people are constantly requiring your services as a singer/guitarist/producer/songwriter and solo artist. That seems more of a hard slog than my goal.” I often wondered if he was right. He just might have been.


    Reply
    1. Linder B

      So did your friend become a rock star? ….Didn’t think so.


      Reply
    2. Lisa

      Your friend really thinks that? Well, I wish them well then. That ‘one big break’ usually comes with the baggage of years of hard work, slaps in the face, band member fights/walk outs, budget problems, marketing costs as well as all the good stuff. Just do a bunch of research on the big name acts.

      I actually chuckled a little. Here’s to hard work!


      Reply
    3. hippydog

      If your entire livelihood and future happiness is dependant purely on luck, you’re (he) going to be disappointed ;-)

      The “hustle” of day to day is pretty normal for anyone who is self employed..

      heres the thing..
      ever heard that if you do a job you love you will never “work” a day in your life?
      its actually true..
      ya, some of the stuff is BS like networking or the paperwork side of it, but if approached right even that can be interesting..


      Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Bullshit on some of these incomes. For sure..Nobody is making any money on Spotify.


    Reply
    1. Ari Herstand

      Just FYI none of these artists had any incentive to lie to me. They didn’t even have to fill out the survey (I had a couple artists turn down the request because they didn’t feel comfortable revealing all of this information).

      Open Spotify… GASP… and type in Ron Pope. Note that his top song has over 20 million plays. He’s making some dough there. To my calculations – his top song on Spotify with 20 million plays (x $.007) has earned him over $140,000 in a couple years. This doesn’t even count the other songs – all in the millions.

      Just because you haven’t heard of these artists doesn’t mean they aren’t proving you wrong.


      Reply
      1. Jonathan Segel

        $0.007? Last I heard it was more like $0.0004 per stream, which would bag him $8000.


        Reply
        1. Ari Herstand

          “• An artist’s royalty rate

          Recently, these variables have led to an average “per stream” payout to rights holders of between $0.006 and $0.0084. This combines activity across our tiers of service. The effective average “per stream” payout generated by our Premium subscribers is considerably higher.”

          -from http://spotifyartists.com


          Reply
        2. Ari Herstand

          ” • An artist’s royalty rate

          Recently, these variables have led to an average “per stream” payout to rights holders of between $0.006 and $0.0084. This combines activity across our tiers of service. The effective average “per stream” payout generated by our Premium subscribers is considerably higher.”

          - http://spotifyartists.com


          Reply
    2. Andy Mason

      I make money on Spotify.


      Reply
      1. Andy Mason

        And I will be happy to show you my tax return.


        Reply
        1. Andy Mason

          Oh, and my music is as artistic and creative as anyone else’s….. including yours…..who are you to say what is art and what isn’t?


          Reply
          1. Paul Resnikoff

            Andy,

            I’ll definitely publish these returns. Send it to us, news@ digitalmusicnews.com.


            Reply
            1. Andy Mason

              You’re on, Paul.


              Reply
  9. Lisa

    This is for Anonymous who’s been commenting above. Thought you’d find this interesting:
    http://www.citeworld.com/consumerization/22803/iron-maiden-musicmetric

    It’s an article about Iron Maiden finding out where a majority of people were torrenting their music (there’s a new analytics program that helped them do it). Basic gist is, instead of lawyering up and suing everyone, they travelled to that country and toured the crap out of it – resulting in record fan engagement, sales and sold out concerts. Way to use your powers for awesomeness Iron Maiden! Another example of ingenuity triumphing :)


    Reply
      1. cjhoffmn

        Sorry – wrong link was in my cache. Next reply has the right one :)


        Reply
  10. Rowland from Holland

    Hi Ari,
    Love the article! there is a lot of inspiration and motivation in it!
    Thank you for that!
    How ever i do agree with the streaming subject not working in favor of music creators.
    But than again being a music creator is a wide and variable subject as this blog is showing us. The “top 200″ famous, groundbreaking acts of today, are the working middle class of tomorrow. Every musician knows that once you’ve got your lucky break, you’ll have a good ride, but it will most certainly end. You can’t take the high road for the rest of your proffesional life, so even after the “hit”, you still have to work to pay the rent etc.
    Even though the major labels will be able to launch groundbreaking acts, it will cost them more money and less profit to really state a new household name. Lady Gaga anyone? Most of the money today is flowing into and coming from the EDM dj’s, they have a good run. But as we saw and experience it in the 80′ies following the 70′ies disco frenzy, this to will end as creativity is a continous cycle of inventing and re inventing.
    When i was young, we taped records we borrowed from friends, rdio etc. That was pirating in the 80′ies and in the 90′ies there was even a big court case by a famous country star, who was appealing against the sale of used cd’s because digital music would never lost, so he thought was losing money on it.
    What i think of the streaming platforms is that all the kids that use 4g cellphones don’t have the money to buy a data bundle big enough to stream the music they want. So on that part i won’t be profitable in the long run.
    All of my guitar students below the age of 25 have never paid for music, they grow up thinking it is free.
    However what i tend to believe is if you really write a great song, people still will be willing to pay for it.
    In the end, just before your last breath, it’s not about the money you have made, it’s about the love you shared playing music, writing songs and giving it your your all to make that one song memorable.

    Thank for sharing!


    Reply
  11. Allison

    Just a head’s up, in the Paul Matthew Moore interview he mentions an album be played on – the artist’s name is TIM HECKER not Hewer.


    Reply
    1. Paul Matthew Moore

      Thanks Allison! :)


      Reply
  12. Sleep for dreaming

    This was insightful! I’ve only ever heard bad things from reading
    that spotify is a terrible income for the individual artist.


    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    Funny how you only talk about ‘income’ instead of ‘profit,’ thereby making this article entirely useless.


    Reply
  14. RIck Ellis

    Wow Anonymous, lots of passive-aggressive behavior here.

    You know what else is different from 1999? In 1999 there was no real digital sales, and no effective way to buy a single. Music was available almost entirely via CD and the price was essentially fixed by the labels to prevent discounting. It was an unnatural situation and one that was never going to last.

    In fact, I would argue that the period from the late 1960s to the mid 1990s was in itself a fluke. There were just a number of factors that made for a business model that worked real well. But once things started unraveling (radio and label consolidation, technology, piracy, changes in distribution), things were never going to stay the same. That having been said, it’s also easy to remember that even at the top of the star pyramid, the money went out as fast as it came in. I just finished reading Linda Ronstadt’s autobiography, where she mentioned that it took her nearly eight years as a solo artist to completely pay back her label for the money they advanced during the three Stone Poneys albums. She tells one story of being excited about finally having a #1 single, because it meant she could buy a washer and not have to take her clothes to the laundry.

    You can be unhappy about streaming and argue that artists don’t make enough money. But it isn’t going to go away, even if Pandora and Spotify close up shop tomorrow. It’s a fact of life and consumers are as accustomed to streaming music as they are streaming TV or movies. Wishing that this or that would go away or that the business could go back to the way it used to be just isn’t a rational attitude.


    Reply
    1. Lisa

      Woh really? Now I want to read Linda Ronstadt’s autobiography too ♥


      Reply
  15. Jaynee

    Wow! I found several helpful tips in this article and am inspired to continue pursuing my dream of working full time as a musician. I play devotional/yoga/chill music and accompany myself with crystal bowls. I have not been successful on any traditional “club circuit” way but find am steadily building a following playing shows at yoga studios and also sharing with others via teaching workshops. What I take from this article is to think outside the box and know that it is possible to earn a living, but it may not be the one that you think you would be earning.


    Reply
    1. Andy Mason

      It is possible Jaynee!…..if I can do it you can too!


      Reply
    2. Lisa

      Awesomeness Jaynee – do you have a website where I can check out your stuff? I LOVE the peace of crystal bowls and never even thought of the possibility of them being used as part of a ‘gig’, sounds really interesting ♥


      Reply
  16. Luke

    I like this article, it reveals much of what is right and much of what is wrong with the music industry today.

    The fact of being able to reach a potential worldwide audience of millions is the best aspect of the “new industry”. I also happen to think that streaming sites are a very positive thing in general, with one major exception.

    They obviously don’t pay enough.

    We all know this. It simply should not require 20 million plays of a song (which is a truly exceptional number btw) to earn to $100,000+, that’s laughable. Compare that to terrestrial radio. I’m from Canada; our major rights-housing and royalties-collecting organization, SOCAN, pays $0.25 per play from non-audited radio stations throughout the country, but triples that payout to $.075 per play for audited stations (those that report rotation directly to SOCAN, quarterly). These numbers are backed by legislation (within Canada and Canadian corporations) that entitles the owners of the copyrights to these sums based on their SOCAN membership (which is for life, and is free to boot).

    The streaming industry is not providing decent royalties to the creators of their primary content, even at so-called “Premium” rates http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2013/11/26/spotifypremiumadsupported. The industry has been extremely sketchy in providing an explanation.

    Maybe it’s time for streaming to go through a metamorphosis wherein they render service for free to end users but have blanket inclusion of advertising (by region and nationally) within playlists. If it’s true that streaming services can only afford these microscopic payouts because they host a vast majority of “free users” then there must be a counterbalance to compensate creators. Obviously, this is why terrestrial radio is so littered with ads, but in the real world it pays a fair royalty. People think radio is free, it’s not. You pay with your ears – listening to ad content. That’s the trade off, but everybody gets paid.

    Perhaps conversely, but within the context of the same scenario, if users are able opt for a “for-a-fee but ad-free” streaming service, the artist would be entitled to negotiate for a guaranteed minimum number of streams (per month, per quarter etc), but at a reduced royalty rate. This might potentially ensure that the “ad free” service isn’t exorbitantly expensive for the end user.

    Just some thoughts.


    Reply
    1. Minneapolis Musician

      Spotify, as with any business, will always pay the smallest amount they possible can for the “raw materials” they sell to the public for a profit.

      If the tracks available for them to stream had disappeared at these current reimbursement levels, they would have raised what they pay until they had enough tracks available again.

      Just think on that. Because, it describes the reality of it all.

      Payments for streaming will keep falling if more and more “good-enough” tracks become available from the rights owners.

      And if the number of tracks dries up, they will raise the price they are willing to pay.

      Glenn
      http://www.reverbnation.com/GlennGalen


      Reply
  17. Tom

    Many thanks for the survey, Ari. It seems to me that there is no definitive answer to any of this, and that all sides of this discussion are valid. I’ve been a professional musician since 1964 and as a matter of fact, have made my living soley as a musician. I’ve weathered all kinds of trends, both good and bad, with some surprising results. In the 70s, when every pundit was describing Disco as the death of live music( DJs, etc.) I was able to pay for my first house playing saxophone on disco albums and jingles. Of course, that trend eventually sank like a stone and “New Wave”started, which never used saxophone, so I had to change course again, learning to use the new digital technology which saved my bacon.
    Over the last 50 years I’ve seen my yearly income go from Kraft dinner lows to several hundred grand back to Walmart greeter status with the various tide shifts that are inherent in the modern music biz. I’ve played on some big time albums and concerts and also lowlife weddings where the groom and the best man get into a fistfight.
    I guess my point is that even though I think piracy basically stinks and artists should get paid for their work, that particular boat has sailed and rather than bemoan the fact, it’s probably a better idea to learn to work with it. My hat is off to the folks in the survey who have been able to pursue a living in music…it’s a ridiculously great way to make a living.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Tom, you are a wise man.


      Reply
    2. Lisa

      Wow – the perspective you have after so long in the industry is inspiring, thank you for sharing Tom!


      Reply
    3. jamestownstory

      Well played Tom – pretty impressive & inspiring you’ve made a living solely from music for so long. Keep it up man and good luck to you in the future!


      Reply
  18. Sami Serrag

    Interesting article Ari. Seems consulting other musicians is a frequent new income source for many old label people and DIY musicians. Like Ari who is a hustler and I hope his time on the blog makes him some music related money. Certainly can’t hurt.
    I have a day job as a salesman and make a modest living at that and pursue creating new music in my home studio and share it for free online. Music income = Zero dollars, time and equipment invested = lots and lots of dollars. Result = Either I’m a musical failure OR I write music cause I have/want to and occasionally I write a great song. Not many people hear it, but it happened anyway. Like a tree falling in the forest. Not a lot of people heard it but it happened and I was there and it felt great. And that is called artistic satisfaction which is not a way to make a living financially from music, but it is a way to make myself happy. Success is in the eye of the beholder. Be careful not to let lack of financial success in music ruin the artistic process and joy of the sharing your talent with your self and who ever else you can get to take a listen. In the end, success didn’t keep Cobain happy or alive. Artistic satisfaction and simple living was what he lost when he got all that money and fame. Lots of other successful musical nightmares out there too. Something to think about. Enjoy the process of creating and forget the rat race/lottery of trying to get rich and famous! Anyways, that’s my .00002 cents. lol


    Reply
    1. Sami Serrag

      BTW, I meant hustler as a compliment as in not lazy. Not the other meaning. I appreciate Ari’s blog. Just to clarify.


      Reply
    2. Lisa

      True that Sami – sometimes it’s too easy to lose sight of the artistic satisfaction when problems are building up and seemingly conspiring against you. I think that’s why I love these types of blogs, there’s a kind of unspoken camaraderie AND a community of various artist experiences and advice to draw on. I’m pretty grateful to be a musician actually – just wish my business/marketing mind was as switched on as my ability to sing/play lol ♥


      Reply
  19. Paul Matthew Moore

    I am speaking to two statements put forward these comments: #1 that if you are a not in the top 200 gross packs of this year, or if you are earning money as a music teacher, wedding band, church musician etc. you are not making “music” but merely performing a service and therefore not relevant to the music “industry”. #2 that streaming and copying will kill music.
    In my opinion all music work is a service function. All art and entertainment is a service to a community. There’s nothing wrong with that. J.S. Bach was a servant; a humble church organist, composer and teacher. We all serve. That does not necessarily diminish the value of our work. I know this discussion is mostly about popular music but it is important to note that a lot of aesthetic movements in popular music originate in unpopular music where they make little or no money for the brave geniuses who share them. Some of my heroes from the past century have had to support themselves and their families through other means than radio play. The list is very long and includes Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, and the Grateful Dead. Without composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen there would be no Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record as we know it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a music teacher, was always in debt and he died broke. I am so thankful that he didn’t give up due to his struggle compared with the sensational success and popularity of his contemporaries such as Lord Byron. Art is a serious challenge. There will always be pirates. Back in the days before recording music was pirated by copying the score by hand. It’s all just part of the game. Don’t give up. Keep hope alive! I am so thankful for the abundance.


    Reply
  20. Ron Pope

    Hey Guys,
    I decided to jump in here because I was checking out the article and noticed all these comments. So much of this discussion centers around how impossible it is to survive as a content creator. Have I turned myself into a household name? Absolutely not. I have, however, been lucky enough to be able to make a good living while only recording and promoting my own music (no more session work, music lessons, outside jobs, etc). I make a living making my music on my terms. Just to be clear, I make the majority of my income from recorded music. I sell records and songs, stream songs, sell cds and vinyl via my website and at shows, and then, outside of that, I also license music for film and tv, tour all over the world, sell t-shirts and other merch, etc…the stuff you’d expect a recording artist to do to make money. All I’m saying is, it’s absolutely possible to make a good living as a content creator…you just need to find an audience for your music, do hard, focused work promoting it, and have a little luck. Will it happen for every talented person who applies him/herself? Of course not, but that didn’t happen before the internet either. It is possible…no, it will not happen for everyone and it is not easy…but it is possible. It happened for me, so I know it’s a real possibility. Just wanted to share my two cents.
    -Rp


    Reply
    1. GGG

      But Anonymous doesn’t know who you are and you haven’t altered the course of pop culture like Bob Dylan so clearly you don’t count. Duh.


      Reply
    2. Lisa

      Thank you for your 2 cents Ron, yours and everyone else’s story gives me hope. I had teenage students who were fanatical about your music (they’d heard it on their favourite t.v. shows) and seeing them so excited does wonders for my spirit, coz it’s just as easy to walk around the corner and see a student who’s down and giving up. That’s the side of music I love xx


      Reply
    3. cjhoffmn

      Ron – thanks for sharing – your opinion is very much on point, and I think extremely interesting for the discussion. I think that’s the biggest key in this discussion. Building 140K FB followers, and millions of plays on Spotify is really impressive – doing it with just the profits from your sales and concerts etc is incredible.

      Curious if you’d share more about how you did that. Was there a moment where you did something that “went viral?” Was there a marketing campaign you ran that was particularly successful? Your central message seems completely right to me – work hard to create, work hard to sell and be willing to do what’s needed to promote. Be a business. That all seems right, and again, very impressive.

      I’m just curious if you can spell out some things that happened for you that up and comers can think about as potential goals to make things happen for themselves!


      Reply
  21. John D. Scott

    One thing that will never go away is all the interest in singing with young people today. There are new shows about singing, better than American Idol, and I see a very strong interest in Musical Theater in the young people here in the Bay Area. I agree with Anonymous that things are hard on the financial side. But I make a great living as a singing instructor, and love the work. Having a great vocal sound is critical to any performer, and I love seeing the changes in a performer when they have the power to sing their guts out without losing their voice. Music is as alive as ever.


    Reply
  22. Royce White

    Excellent thoughts and nice input – even the folks who appear angry, have a good point to make, just wrapped in the wrong clothes. The article by Ari, and hundreds of other articles I’ve read out there, are there SEARCHING and sometimes POINTING the way for modern musicians to get by the problems of the (new) music business today to achieve the victory they want. For the past 75 years the stock market has fluctuated wildly, with depressions and recessions, no matter what party was in office, president or congress… sometimes with all democrats or all republicans or differing parties across both, the market went both ways – so it wasn’t based on any party. Sometimes the USA looked like is was on the verge of imploding, other times it was wildly successful. The decade of the 1990s was the most profitable in history. The first decade of the 2000′s saw a significant decline in a lot of that wealth. All kinds of things have come over those 75 years, wars, recessions, terror, old ways die, new ways come in, but MARKETING goes on. Tons of restrictions come but we survive and find a way to THRIVE…. and so it will be in the new music model – despite streaming and other negative things. We will find a way around it or through it. Did you know that 90%+ of new music is discovered on terrestrial radio, not the internet? The number has dropped 5% in the past three years, and hopefully it’s speed of decline will increase! Why? Because the gatekeepers control who gets played on radio, not on the internet, so they control your career and who gets to be on radio. That’s changing more and more. So how do you take advantage of that and empower your career?

    What is your definition of success? I mentor musicians and business leaders to success with clients throughout the world – and they all have one thing in common. Their definition of success, good coaching, and mentorship drives them on, but their understanding of how to thrive in the market and “doing the homework” makes them successful – to their definition. It is an enormous amount of work. You’re not going to get to number one by working 40 hours a week. Maybe number 1,001. Or maybe a smaller definition. Nobody in any business gets to the top by working 40 hours a week – and it is harder when there are specific, defined gatekeepers, like in the music industry. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it to number one… or Number 10… or number 100… or anywhere you desire.

    You have to start with setting a real, achievable goal. You can’t get where you want to go without talent, hard work, and the knowledge to get you there – or the knowledge to get someone to help you get there. If you cannot see your goal, you cannot hit it. If you can’t sing well or play an instrument well, you’re not going to get to your goal any time soon. Second, if you don’t have specific action items to get you there, the goal does you no good – it’s just a nice dream. Third, you have to act like a business. Why? Because you are. And every musician that leads his band (or self) is an entrepreneur. You may hate that concept being an artist, but it’s a fact. Maybe a cold, hard one, but if you don’t embrace that one fact, you’re never going to get traction.

    Who do you think is sitting around all day thinking how to make you successful?? Nobody – but you. Even the labels make you do most of the work. You have to be very high up in the food chain as a band at a label for them to be pouring into you. So whether you’re an indie or signed, you still have to do a majority of the work. Being undercapitalized (lack of money to run your business) and not knowing what to concentrate on in your business is the reason most businesses fail – they work IN their businesses instead of ON their business.

    There are lots of good bands out there – and lots of good songs. And many of them have songs just as good as things that have hit number one. Most of the good bands out there sound better than U2 when they first started, so why aren’t they making it? Ahhhh, that is the $64,000 question (old game show).

    Every band that is NOT making it, has one, and usually more, good reasons why they are not.

    - No specific goal
    - No specific action items
    - Not enough talent (yet?)
    - No mentorship and no one to hold them accountable to achieve their goals
    - No, or little business understanding
    - No marketing ability (good marketing practice is the least understood thing in business)
    - No capitalization (money to help you market!)
    - The Label is not doing what they need to help them make it – or worse, holding them back!
    - No work ethic to push them to the next level.

    I am on the team of the number one Leadership expert in the world, John C. Maxwell, author of 75+ books on growth and leadership, I work with the beautiful people of third world countries, I work with CEOs and execs from many types of industry, musicians, the arts, sciences, management, real estate, government, military, marketing, etc. The industries have their differences, BUT THE PEOPLE are all the same! Their desires are the same! Their hopes! Their abilities all vary, but they dream alike… I see people go from where they are to where they want to be. I see them get “unstuck” almost daily. The problem is “we don’t know what we don’t know” and we don’t know how to get there! Or as my dad used to say, “the hardest part of getting started, is getting started.” We just don’t know exactly.

    Ari is scratching the surface here, but he is scratching!! He does care about the music industry. If you stir the pot, you get things mixing! I studied jazz (music performance) and marketing in college and have worked full time in music performance, and music / non-music related businesses. I was the CEO for a large CD manufacturing company for 23 years – talk about watching an industry change!

    Despite many (and sometimes all) odds, many people make it to the top – but it’s not by accident. There is a formula. Two of my children are full-time musicians. One just starting, and one for the past 12 years. The older was signed with the number one label in the industry and we’ve learned the secrets to music industry success through success and failure! We’ve learned to fail forward – as in all business. His band became an overnight youtube/internet sensation and helped catapult them on they’re journey. And we’re applying those things to his career as well as the one just getting started. It’s been a wild ride and a wilder one to come.

    So yes, Virginia, it can be and it IS being done. Whether you want to make $35,000 a year, have a small house in the country, or make a million dollars a year and have several houses around the world, it can be done. IF you have (or can get) the talent and learn the proper tools of marketing, leadership, and business. During the depression of the 1930s (one of the worst economic times), there were some who started businesses and made some very good money. And during the 1990′s (one of the best economic times), there were many who lost money! In both cases, the reasons are mostly the same – those that failed didn’t do the homework nor follow good business/marketing/leadership practices and those that succeeded, DID the homework and followed good business/marketing/leadership practices. No football receiver got to the Pros by only spending an hour a day catching a football or by only doing 100 sit-ups a day. Show me your daily schedule planner and your checkbook (bank statement) and I’ll tell you where you’re going to end up. What, don’t keep either? You don’t even need to show me – I can tell you with a high degree of accuracy now – unless you change that. Tell me what you really, really, really want, and I can show you how to get there. But if you don’t have a clear picture of what you want and how to get it, you’re just running in circles. The world responds well to clarity. It’s time to set your goals, then your action items, set your schedule and your budget, get the knowledge you don’t have (you read, you lead) and then start achieving your dream. Oh, and one thing more – without this you won’t achieve the other things for more that a month, and therefore fail to achieve your dream – an accountability partner – someone to keep you on target.

    The journey to number one, or anywhere, doesn’t happen overnight – it happens one day at a time and filling that day with the things you need to make the accumulation of those days, get you to the top. You don’t start with a 50 million dollar business – you start at the first dollar. You don’t start at the top of a ladder, you start at the bottom. But by building strength, momentum, and ability, you climb to where you want to stop – the view might be great for you at the third rung of that ladder and you settle there. Or you may want to keep climbing for a higher view. And for some of you, you won’t accept any view less than the highest. To each his/her own. Don’t let the naysayers drag you down. YOU decide where to stop. For all of history, businesses have been starting, some fail, some succeed. Most fail through lack of knowledge and lack of tenacity. Get what you need to be successful. You are a business – it’s about the business of music – learn how to thrive performing your music full time. Then do it. Knock out the limiting belief. Do it.


    Reply
  23. jp

    Jeesh did the point being made in this article get completely twisted. Obviously there are factors that could be clarified but some people playing music or consider themselves artists NEVER see the first and most important thing about their artisty, they cannot find simple enjoyment and peace nor appreciate the fact that they are blessed to be able to have a creative outlet for expression! Until these folks that are after a career let alone god forbid, FAME, they will chase their own tails and will never find folks that want to work with them. I keep this to myself but after every writing or rehearsal session with my band, i walk away very thankful as that could be my last time being able to do what i love the most, making music with others. I find that until this concept is second nature, you have a mountain to climb before realizing anything close to success. Just my experience anyhow. Hapoy nrw year to all of you.

    Josh


    Reply
  24. Kess

    “**To all the Spotify haters out there – note that as a DIY artist making over $100K a year, Ron’s 2nd biggest income source is from Spotify.”

    At fractions of a cent payments per song, where some artists selling millions make a $1200 check in a quarter, how?


    Reply
  25. Anonymous

    Well I’m pleased to hear these guys are managing to make an income from their music. Good for them. whether that is sufficient to make a life is another matter…but that is all debate.

    But what concerns me is I took a listen to their musics… sadly none of it was to my taste. Are the only guys who can survive singer-songwriter and alt-pop type? Is is possible to make a profitable music using more than a singer-songwriter or small pop group? Think Motown, Memphis Horns, MFSB, TSOP, tunes arranged and composed by experienced arrangers and orchestrators.
    .


    Reply
  26. cjhoffmn

    To my mind there’s a mix up of message going on. I think Ari’s live looping act is cool. I like performers, always have. I have been one, and grew up the son of one. However, Ari’s come-out article was that Thom Yorke was wrong about complaining about Spotify and the state of the record industry. This article was a follow up to some of the discussion generated there.

    8 out of these 10 are primarily making their living from performing or music services – mostly relatively local. That has always been a viable way to live as a musician. Ranging from local stars (like my dad used to be) to occasional gig players (like I used to be), to buskers, part writers, session players etc.. Getting by scoring / arranging / part writing / session record is and always has been available to musicians, many of whom hoped one day to make it in the recorded music business because then you hit scale, and made lots more money from the sale of your albums / tracks.

    This discussion, to my mind is more about that – the recorded music business. Ron Pope and Jamestown appear to be the only two of these artists that seems to be making his living primarily from that path. I would love to hear more about how they built their followings and make money from their digital sales. Ron has 140K + FB fans Jamestown as +27K That’s impressive and awesome. They probably have some great ideas that deserve to be heard.

    I have absolutely nothing against any of these artists and think 10/10 are relevant if the question was “How to be a musician?” But its not. 8/10 aren’t what Thom Yorke is talking about – but 2/10 appear to be. Love to hear more about those 2!


    Reply
  27. Stereo L.

    Interesting article. I know Gabriel Mann from a while back, and agree with his assessment that he works incredibly hard; I’m the same way and have been able to make a very great living out of music for the past twelve years.

    I, too, wanted to be a rock star and then got into scoring for television when I was working as an assistant mix engineer at a post-production house (a job that I had in order to make money while I became a rock star). I’ve done a lot of major network jobs, etc., since then — and a lot of them involve songs. I understand that not just anyone can do this, similar to how not just anyone can be a rock star. But there are more than a few ways to make a living in music if you’ve got the talent and drive (you really do need both). One can sit around and complain about piracy/Spotify/etc., or one can fine other ways to make money from doing what you love. However, to make a living from music takes a LOT of work, and you NEED to be good at what you do.

    The money I’ve been making from scoring, etc., allowed me the freedom and the funds to do songwriting and producing, which I also have made/make great income from. I also play as a drummer for some great shows and sessions here and there.

    My opinion is that if some people who have the ability to do other things musically (such as scoring, etc.) can get out of the “ROCK STAR ONLY!” frame of mind, which for most is a path that leads to little, then there are other worlds that allow you to have an amazing musical life. I might never play in a stadium in front of 20,000 people (well, ya know know, I suppose), but as soon as I let that go as my focus, other musical avenues opened up wide.


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  28. cjhoffmn

    Ill be right there!


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  29. andrea

    That’s great these guys are making money, but honestly their product is (and I’m sure they’d say this too) nothing extraordinary. They’re excellent businesspeople marketing a product that has been tried and true. Which is great! But not helpful for the actual discussion of artist-musicians who aren’t businesspeople making a living. Sure you have to be on top of your finances to do what you can, but I would much rather my favorite bands spend their time making the stuff they want to make than stuff that’s designed to put into ads. I think everyone would benefit much more from a discussion of how to get bands/other recording artists the revenue due to them from the actual amount of people enjoying their product. I’m not sure why everyone accepts or agrees it’s ok to steal their music. That wouldn’t fly in literally any other industry.


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  30. Mike Donovan

    Thanks Ari for an inspiring article. As a professional drummer, I can relate to so much of this. I was very fortunate to be able to play some high profile gigs for a while that paid well but as most of us know, consistency is where the real challenge lies. You can be making 50K one year and be standing in the unemployment line the next. After a while, I searched for something that was still music-related but with a more reliable income. In 1999, I opened up an online retail gift shop called Drum Bum (http://www.DrumBum.com) and it changed my life. Because it was still aligned with my passion, I enjoyed the journey of building that business as much as I did playing music. I’ve gone on to build other stores as I love the gift business. Our latest is BuyGifts.com (http://www.BuyGifts.com). This new career has not only allowed me to still play music if I wish but keeps me home with my children which is something that’s very important to me.

    I spent some time with a career counselor back in 1997. He gave me some tests and helped me focus in on my strengths and my skill set. It really helped and that’s one of the things that led me to starting Drum Bum. I often advise students and younger musicians to do the same. We can sometimes get so caught up in perfecting our instrument that we’re blinded by the need to see the full picture. Sometimes it helps to find someone to help you dial it in.

    I enjoyed not only the interview of the musicians in the article but also the comments. There were a lot of good points that were made. My favorite is Royce White’s comments. He really hones in on the fact that musicians/bands so often need a plan. I can’t tell you the amount of bands I was in through the last 40 years that had none of that. When I was young, I was foolish to believe that if the band had seasoned musicians, we had the potential to hit it big. But that rarely happens. As Royce points out, there has to be knowledge of business, marketing, a plan of action, leadership, and so on. This goes for not only bands but individual musicians as well. And you have to revisit that plan of action frequently because you’ll occasionally lose focus.

    Anyway, one of the main points that I wanted to make is that, I used to think that nothing would make me happy but playing music for a living. I had no idea that I could also have so much fulfillment in doing something else music-related. I guess part of that fulfillment is because I own it but nonetheless, it makes the point (and supports the intent of the article) that there are other options underneath that musical umbrella. We can’t change the fact that musicians aren’t paid like doctors for live performance but we can change our mindset to a more optimistic one, realizing that there are so many other things you can do, that will still make you happy in music. You have something that a lot of people that aren’t musicians don’t have. You were blessed with amazing CREATIVITY. That creativity is an incredible blessing and it’s your advantage. Seize that advantage like a football and run with it! Acquire the optimism and drive that Royce refers to. Make a plan of action and as he stated, get what you need to be successful and then… do it!

    P.S. Andrea, I hear you. Something needs to be done to get artists paid for when their music is heard. I don’t have the answers for this but we must keep fighting the fight.


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  31. Randy Gabbard

    I am not a full time musician, but I work in the periphery of the industry in Nashville. Actually I’m home right now cause I caught the damn flu, or I wouldn’t have had the chance to read this entire set of posts. Damn people, this is amazing. I admit I’m an oldster, who is not steeped in the interweb. There is so much information here, and of course the opinions. Whoa baby, but nonetheless, it is quite the eye opener that the folks who are being discussed are also part of the discussion. How cool is that? I am totally impressed with the capabilities of the digital media to have that happen. And no, that sure as hell wouldn’t have happened ten years ago. I am pleased as I can be to find this discussion. I have a whole list of names that I feel obliged to check out and I will most decidedly be more in touch with Digital Music News. And of course I am an aspiring musician/performer, have been for forty years. So no, I’m not a lucky punk. But I am very blessed to see that you don’t have to be Lady Gaga (or whatever other mainstream “Star”) to be alive and well in the music business. I don’t support myself with music, but I do support myself with the music industry. I repair gear for the touring and session guys here in town. Even very talented folks will break shit. And in answer to some of the comments made here, I don’t think that invalidates my music or aspirations. I don’t claim to be Dvorak or Robert Johnson, but I don’t have to be. I make music people seem to like and that’s enough for me. I’d love to be able to monetarily dedicate more of my time and energy to making music, but we do what we can. If we find a way to have the industry be more equitable in the payouts, that would be great. But I’m not gonna hold my breath. Having said that if anyone out there in Digi-Land has a viable way to bring pressure to bear on the powers that be, please let me know how to help………………………..Randy,


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  32. Darryl Gray

    I’m a little late to the discussion here, but I happened to come across this blog & post last night and had a great time reading it and it’s comments. Whether or not theses musicians are “your thing” there is no denying that, if you take a listen, they know their craft well and have a good work ethic / business sense. I cannot put enough emphasis on the fact that you must brush up on business and marketing skills to become self employed, which is what musicians are. The alternative is work with a great trusted team, but that of course is an extra cost.

    Anonymous comes off a tad bitter, I think I am grasping some of his views against streaming though, Ron Pope has had 20 million plays on Spotify, netting him “$140,000 in a couple years.” Which is really really good, but it is a shame because, think of it from another angle. Lets say for sake of argument that 20 million listens equates to an audience of 500,000 that have a repeat listen and like what they hear. If then half as much were motivated to but a single of Ron’s from iTunes / Amazon then that’s $250,000 straight to the artist and a high ranking single to boot. Even after the cut from the outlets and taxes that’s better than streaming. Although we cannot stop streaming, I think it’s a place for an artists back catalogue. Of course in all, it’s a mix as highlighted above there needs to be various sources of income to get enough money in the bank from music.
    NOTE: I do not know Ron’s strategy but I feel it is a fair point for aspiring musicians thinking about streaming.

    I have been a guitarist and percussionist in a various bands but my fall back was always my career which did see me out of music for a while whilst I did the work and got the promotion, as pointed out, as well as great business sense you must also have some luck and put a lot of work into finding your audience. I know many a great band, that with all the will in the world and lots of consistent work that just didn’t make it. Or alternatively made it but for various reasons it did not sustain. Music is extremely hard, and here in the UK where the country is smaller the gigging circuit is always full so it can be hard to get paid shows and sell merch. My more successful musical friends are a blend of writing, gigging and teaching.

    In terms of earnings to the dollar, whatever I do $70,000 per annum is always going to reach my bank because I am fortunate to have a decent job and I put the work in. You could argue that there is a possibility had I put that much work into music I could be at a similar level of earnings in something I adore. I often think about it. However my parents were musicians as well as their friends and it just always seemed too big a gamble, I have seen some peaks and some serious lows from the community of musicians I grew up with!

    Whatever you do, enjoy it, but banking on it will always be a gamble so always have a Plan B, I am coming back to music but the last decade has taught me some lessons on what I want to do and how I wan to do it. A mix of teaching and writing for the sake of art I guess. I wish all aspiring musicians the best of luck and the opportunity to make something out of it.


    Reply
  33. Randy

    Throughout history musicians didn’t make much money. The last century was the anomaly, caused by a peculiar set of circumstances, and only a few did well (and very well at that). Things are retiring to normal. Make music because you love it, because you have to.

    http://www.UndergroundMusic.fm


    Reply
  34. Tim

    Piracy and music streaming are wrecking the music industry for the artists that have their music on those various products/services. Not the indie musicians who post their music on Bandcamp or some other music site and promote it themselves. And the big name artists don’t even lose a lot of money anyways, after all most of them are millionaires or billionaires.


    Reply

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