Collin County Songwriters Association

Think globally, rock locally

A 3-part series – How do we make money now?

A few months ago I was talking to an introverted musician who said there are only two ways to make money in music: performing and teaching. Man did this guy not get it. There must be a gazillion ways, a gazillion styles and twice that many market segments. But you sure do have to think out of the box.

Were you playing any paid gigs last year? For me it was going great until about November. The holidays cratered the market. Clubs had a third fewer slots open, and the more established players in their rotations got the fewer gigs left. It didn’t get any better in December when the holidays made it pretty rotten, but then there were some parties to make up for it—not so bad if you wanted to chase it.

Then came January. January is usually slow, but this one was ridiculous. The sports bars all but went into fetal position with the dual competition of the Superbowl run up and the disastrous economy.

To keep things going, I had promised my venues that I’d cut back my prices for the slow part of the winter. Some of them didn’t even want to take that, but I have been working steadily anyway. Still, I have a feeling that higher rates may not be coming back for quite sometime.

Personally, I’m going to keep playing so I’m an established roster player when the economy starts to recover. Several years maybe, but I refuse to let my chops wither.

So what else can we do? I’ll be discussing some in my next few posts.

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Comment by Ryan Michael Galloway on March 8, 2009 at 1:46pm

What a great comment--thanks! The fact that a lot of people might copy your approach is the age-old challenge that everyone has if they have a project or service to sell. On the other hand, it's a big market with a lot of approaches. I'm thinking there's room for a lot of different ones.

In my humble opinion, degrees and certs are rarely important. A few notable exceptions would be a medical degree for doctor, or a music degree if you want to teach somewhere that requires it. In my day-gig world, the magic bullet is the PMP for project managers. But if what you're really getting educated for is the knowledge, then yeah it is a great time to get more educated. I've been thinking about becoming a better sight reader, myself--although I've never seen a guitar chart in a studio. Chart readers for piano and horns are in greater demand, from what I've run into.

As for a finite number of gigs, not sure about that. I'll talk about a BUNCH of them in my next couple of posts.

Stay tuned.
Comment by Michael on March 8, 2009 at 10:41am
I'm not gigging right now, so I can't comment on the current climate out there. But I have spent a lot of time thinking about alternative ways to make a living in music. And you're right, there are lots of other ways besides teaching and performing. However, the problem is that everyone is out there brainstorming right now. And even if you come up with a unique angle, there's no guarantee that it won't be copied in a couple of months. Harmony Central has some forums where they talk about this stuff a lot. I recommend also checking those out now and then for new ideas. Good stuff.

I'm in a unique position at this point to take a break from the market and just work on my technical skills. Last semester, I enrolled in the music program at CCCC. I could not believe how affordable it is. And almost all the teachers are North Texas grads and really know their stuff.

I'm now working on the assumption that it pays to be as skilled as possible as a musician. There are a finite number of gigs for musicians. If you can make yourself marketable in a wide variety of styles and situations, you are naturally going to work more. And the more you work and the more you excel, the better the pay will get. That is why I am now learning to read music. It's only going to help me find more work later in my career.


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