Recently I was talking with one of my readers, she gave the idea of creating a post addressing the pros and cons of being a musician, I liked her Idea that’s why I decided to research and write about the topic. I want to thank you, Amanda, I wish you the best!
These are the pros and cons of being a musician (note I have added a couple of important topics):
- Financial Risk
- Variety and Adventure
- Cyclical Work Patterns
- Living on the Road
- Big Social Circle & On-Stage Persona
- Doing What You Love
- Free Drinks and Food
- Cool Coworkers
- Attractive Lovers
- Free Travel
- Passive Income or Residual Income
- The Opportunity of Fame
Before we start I want to say that I know a lot about today’s subject since I was introduced in the world of music when I was 13, besides my father was a full-time musician, or as he would call it “an entertainer”. He played in several bands and had a minimum of one and a maximum of five gigs per week. Also, I personally know a lot of full time and part-time musicians.
I must say there are indeed pros and cons of being a musician, but a lot of the facts listed below are subjective. Your character, personal experiences, and standards will all contribute in your view of seeing these facts as positive or negative. However, I will begin this article with a topic I view as a major con; the rest of the article is free for interpretation.
In this article, I also talk about 4 residual Income opportunities, 6 sources of income for musicians, and how to change the way you feel and achieve more of what you want as a musician!
1) Con: Financial Risk
We are all familiar with the stereotypical image of the starving musician. The tired-looking guy or girl that plays something between classical music and jazz which you find late at night playing at small bars for a few dollars and a couple of free drinks.
A long time ago, I made myself a promise; I decided that I would never become “that” type of musician.
Study shows that pro singers and musicians earn an average of $37 per hour but musicians are more in financial risk than employees, the reason is that musicians generally don’t work 40 hours a week (typically they get 2-3 gis per week) plus they have to arrange their own insurance and income tax.
Furthermore, only a small percentage (about 1-2%) gains millionaire status and lives like a rockstar. The artist you see on TV are the tip of the iceberg but contrast this number to the number of successful businesses in the US, and you will discover that being a musician or a business owner isn’t that different. Let’s expand that thought.
A recent study shows that 30% of new businesses fail during the first 2 years, 50% fail during the first 5 years, and lastly, 60% will fail during the first 10 years. I talk about these numbers because I know a lot of people are fast on criticizing musicians but not business owners, the truth is that there is a high risk involved in both professions. However, no matter what you decide to do, I believe you should always treat yourself as a business, after all, whether we like it or not we are all into the persuasion game.
Later on, we will talk about different ways to make money but in the meantime, if you want to know how much cash you can make from a music-single please have a look at my article: How much money does a platinum single make. You will be shocked by the results.
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2) Musicians Pro or Con: Variety and Adventure
Being a musician is one of the most adventurous lifestyles you can choose, depending on your personality, you may experience this as a dream or a nightmare.
You could be in a different city each day, performing at unique venues in front of all types of audiences. For example, on Friday you could play at a festival, on Saturday at the local club and Sunday at a high-class wedding! It really depends on the type of act and style of music that you perform, but trust me, there is an audience for almost every genre.
Keep in mind that If you create original songs and you make it big you’ll be introduced to a whole new world. Going live in front of 1000 people will seem rather small compared to stadiums stumped with fans, and instead of visiting a different city each day you will probably be in a different country every few days.
Don’t worry; it won’t be necessary to work all year long, and this brings us to our next subject.
3) Musicians Pro or Con: Cyclical Work Patterns
One of the advantages of being a musician is that If you play your cards right, you can have a lot of free time in your hands. This is possible due to cyclical work patterns.
In order to achieve the perfect balance, you will have to work really hard for some time (usually a few months) and then take a couple of months off.
This lifestyle may not be for everyone since there is no consistency or a real routine present. During your working period, you won’t be seeing your family and friends a lot, that’s something to keep in mind. But the positive side is that you also get a few months off, which is an excellent opportunity to make up for the working time.
4) Musicians Pro or Con: Living on the Road
Living on the road can be extremely fun or a nightmare. You may be traveling by bus or by plane, staying in motels or luxury hotels, eating at cool restaurants or grabbing a bite on the road.
The meaning you’ll attach to all this depends on your age, preferences, and where you are in your career atm. That said traveling by bus and staying in motels can be really fun, especially if you’re adventurous by nature and have cool bandmates!
If you don’t wish to leave your family behind you can always arrange for them to travel with you. However, you will have to calculate how much the cost will be and make sure to ask your spouse if she/he is up to living in a bus together with you and your bandmates for a couple of months 🙂 .
5) Musicians Pro or Con: Big Social Circle & On-Stage Persona
The following may surprise you, but a lot of musicians are introvert by nature. Many of us may appear very confident when performing on stage, but tat more often than not is simply a persona, a mask for the general public if you may.
Take, for example, Michael Jackson or Prince, they both had incredible on-stage performances, projecting confidence, self-control, and mastery; you could feel their charisma affecting you at all times.
But offstage they were both incredibly shy, with fellow musicians even reporting that Prince would sometimes avoid eye contact when not in the studio or on stage.
If you are an introvert DON’T, let that stop you, instead use the trait of shyness in your advantage. One example could be creating a cloud of mystery around you and your live acts. In turn, this strategy could compete with any of the overly extroverted musicians!
Try being social off stage
When you are offstage trying to be as social as possible by engaging with your fans at every turn. There’s only one rule for you to remember and that is: always try to be kind and enjoyable while being around fans and general people you meet.
In the music industry, there is a saying, “It’s not the most talented that make it to the top; rather it’s the ones that have a pleasant personality and are fun to be around.”
Let’s go back to Prince for a moment which was known for his unwillingness to share personal information about his life while being interviewed.
Even Dick Clark claimed that Prince was one of the most difficult artists he had ever had on the show (American Bandstand).
Early on, Prince’s behavior would raise concerns if he would ever “make it” in the “music game” since he was so unwilling to play along. Well, we all know how his obsession with privacy turned him into this mythological creature the media became obsessed with. Nevertheless, Prince was, is, and will always remain, a true artist!
6) Musicians Pro: Doing What You Love
This is probably one of the most important pros, not only for musicians but for every professional. Doing what you love, AND getting paid for it is priceless. Take a moment and think about how many people you know that are complaining on a daily basis about their job? I know I feel grateful and blessed that I have the opportunity to make money from my passion.
If you are not yet earning sufficient income from your music, don’t quit your job just yet. Many of us are brought up to believe that JOB is the acronym of “Just Over Broke,” while it may be true that income generated by working for someone else is highly taxed, you also need to pay your bills and fund your dreams.
That’s why if you have a day job, try to increase your income by taking up more shifts or aiming for that bonus. Your goal should be to get more cash and save 40% of your total income, before taxes.
If you save consistently after a while, you’ll have a small fortune which you can now invest in yourself and in your music business.
Please, avoid all unnecessary purchases; it’s easy to think just because you’ve raised your income that you can afford to spend more money on silly things. The reality is that you can’t…
If you want to avoid temptations, try the following strategy:
Open a second account and use it for all the extra income that you receive.
Out of mind out of sight, if you have money laying around in your pocket or bank account trust me you will find a way to spend it. When that summer sale, Valentine, Christmas, or birthday arrives, you will tell yourself a dozen of excuses on why you should spend your extra cash.
Don’t fall into this trap because if you fail all your hard work would be for nothing. That would be a shame!
If you are looking to purchase studio gear I have created a free list with all the essential equipment you may need.
I must warn you that I haven’t included the most expensive gear rather I’ve listed the ones that I believe will benefit professional development as well as your pocket!
Visit now my Recommended Gear page and discover everything you need to create outstanding studio recordings and perform live as a pro!
QUIT ROBBING YOURSELF!
12 Music Income Strategies That Help You
Master Your FInancial World!
7) Musicians Pro: Free Drinks and Food
They say, the second currency of a musician is alcohol, it is customary for musicians to receive free drinks and food from the venue they’re playing in. Sometimes when at the early stages, musicians may get paid only with free drinks this, of course, is early on within the transition from amateur to professional performer.
8) Musicians Pro: Cool Coworkers
This is probably one of my favorite benefits. You see I am a true music lover; I look up to so many artists admiring their skills, professionalism, and charisma that only the idea of being in the same room with them excites me!
Imagine if you could work with Quincy Jones or Justin Timberlake, of course, this kind of people are not easy to reach, but if you continue to climb the ladder of success you might end up somewhere near these great individuals.
I must note that even if you’re at the beginning stages of your career, you will get to work with a lot of interesting artists and you never know what connections they have. Always be polite, and if you play your cards right and you just might open the golden door of fame and success 🙂 .
9) Musicians Pro: More Attractive Lovers
I’m sure you have heard before that women tend to find musicians more attractive compared to the rest of men; this is a phenomenon known as “The musician effect.”
A few years back, a study was conducted from the University of Sussex that attempted to explain why musicians appear more attractive than nonmusicians. About 1500 women with an average of 28 years agreed to participate in the study.
Conditions were simple; they only accept that women that were currently not breastfeeding, not using hormonal contraception and were not pregnant.
The study revealed that women in their fertile phases are more attractive to musicians that could create complex melodies. This is due to the subconscious belief that creating complex music can be an indication of advanced cognitive abilities. As a result, women may receive these genetic benefits for their offspring’s.
However, the study showed this rule applies only to musicians and not visual artists (sorry painters).
What’s interesting is that Charles Darwin was the first to claim that music helps sexual courtship, and this is the first scientific proof to that claim.
10) Musicians Pro: Free Travel
Traveling for free is one of the cool benefits you get as a musician. When you start to get known, and you manage to build an adequate fan base, you will most definitely get invited for gigs that are in other states or countries.
Often the organizer will take care of all costs such as traveling, leisure, and accommodations and if they don’t simply calculate what your expenses will be and include that into the final price.
11) Musicians Pro: Passive Income or Residual Income
In a nutshell, Passive income is the income you receive after the work is completed, while this is an exciting idea; most “passive income sources” aren’t passive at all. Just because you created a song or an ebook that generates income for the following years does not make it passive.
A better way of describing these income sources is through the term Residual Income. A residual income is the amount of NET income you get after the deduction of all personal debts and when all expenses have been paid.
Take a moment and think about the following scenario, an artist (let’s say you) just released two singles that are topping the charts and earns him a daily income, which eventually through live shows and future releases turn him into a millionaire.
At this point, everyone might say that the songs he created are a source of passive income. Wrong. What most people fail to recognize is that the artist has put countless hours into his craft, and has spent thousands of dollars on education, free shows, equipment, and leisure. And only when these expenses are paid, and all debt is deducted you can call that income passive.
Nevertheless, no matter how you want to call it, there are some outstanding opportunities for you to create residual income.
Residual Income Opportunity 1: Royalties
You can earn royalties if you are a music producer, songwriter, instrumentalist, a composer, a rapper, or a singer.
Let’s first explain what royalties exactly are. Music royalties are payments that the copyright holders receive for the use of the intellectual property, some of the most popular types of royalties include: public performance, mechanical, synchronization and print royalties.
If you want to receive royalties, one of the first things that you need to do is to register yourself with a royalty collection company.
By doing so, the company will help you receive royalties every time you or someone else performs your songs to the public. For example that could be in a club, on a TV show, on the radio, etc.
Of course, the platform or place that will reproduce your music is going to dictate the amount of income you will receive. I imagine that a big radio station will yield you more cash compared to a small local radio station.
Keep in mind that as you grow as an artist, and your songs are featured in more than one countries, you may need more than one royalty collection companies.
If you are from the US, I’d suggest you work with BMI (click on the link to visit their website), and if you’re from the UK try PRS (click on the link to visit their website). They are both used widely and have excellent track records.
If you’re interested in learning more about royalties and how they work you can read the following post: “How can a music producer make money.” In this article, I explain A LOT about royalties, how they work, also how many you need to make minimum wage just from streaming services alone! Click here now to visit the article and find out everything you need to know about royalties!
Let’s now continue with the rest of our income ways.
Residual Income Opportunity 2: Direct Music Sales
Direct music sales are sales that are generated through digital downloads and physical CD’s you can sell on your website and through social media.
Research shows that physical and digital downloads continue to decline, just in the first half of 2019 physical and digital album sales dropped almost 18% (that’s 51.6 million). Compare that to the 27.8% increase or 334 BILLION streams just for the first six months of this year, and you’ll understand the substantial difference between the two.
Nevertheless, direct music sales remain a source of income; if you fail to utilize it properly, you’re leaving money on the table. First of all, if you’re just starting out, I’d recommend you focus only on digital downloads, but if you have the funds print between 100-150 CD’s which you can sell at your website and as merchandise at your live shows.
Depending on your location, there are several companies that can make CDs for you for an affordable price. A service I’m familiar with is CDBaby (Click on the link to visit their page). They offer the option for you to choose from 3 types of album covers and take care of the whole process for as low as $ 179!
Residual Income Opportunity 3: Games, Tv, & Film
Do you play video games? Even if you don’t, you should know that the gaming industry is one of the largest and most profitable ones, generating $135 billion in 2018 alone. What’s great about games is that they all need music!
You can profit from this gigantic industry by licensing your music specifically for games, and I would also suggest tapping into the TV, advertising, and film industry.
I must warn you; that this is a very crowded area with multiple musicians and composers competing for the best spots. But if you get your foot in the door, you will most likely keep it open if you have quality material to license.
The way licensing music for games works is: When you license a song, you (the copyright owner) receive compensation for the use of that particular song, this can mean featuring in a commercial spot, a TV show, a serie or even in a computer game as the main soundtrack.
The more popular the medium, the more royalties you will get, there are a lot of companies but you can try out pumpaudio.com or harryfox.com.
I must mention that both companies require no submission fees and they don’t offer exclusive contracts which means that you’re free to use other sites for further licensing your music. Also at pump audio, you receive 35% of profits, and at Rumblefish you get 50% of profits.
QUIT ROBBING YOURSELF!
12 Music Income Strategies That Help You
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6 Sources of Income for Musicians
Above we already started exploring the different available income options. We focused more on residual income streams, lets now talk about the remaining options we have.
Sources of Income 1: Teaching Music to Others
if you are a musician for as long as I am, you may have forgotten that for 99% of the population playing a musical instrument (or being an artist) is something they look up to.
I remember when I started learning the guitar around the age of 13, I thought it was absolutely awesome and very cool. Now, after 16 years, I often still forget that playing an instrument is a fantastic skill that I should be grateful for every day.
I know that there are many people who would love to master a musical instrument, whether that’s is a guitar, piano, or their voice.
One of my best friends Nikolaos is a music teacher, he recently told me that there is a very high demand and there are a lot of people that are eager to learn the guitar.
If you are afraid of teaching someone, don’t be. I still remember the first weeks when Nikolas was starting out; he was terrified. But through his perseverance and great character, he managed very quickly to rise as one of the top guitar teachers in the Hague.
If you do decide to pursue a teaching career, I suggest you focus on beginners or intermediate players since they don’t know very basic concepts. These are two groups you’ll find easy to teach with minimum preparation.
Sources of Income 2: Create a Music Course
I will probably write a whole new article on the subject of how to create a music course if you are interested leave a comment below or send me a message through our contact form.
Courses are great, you spend a couple of weeks putting everything together, update it periodically and BOOM you just created a long term residual income!
A couple of things to consider before creating your course are:
a) Study your competition
First of all, you must inform yourself about what your competition is doing and decide if you can create something better. If you can only then you should proceed, beware if you’re planning of recycling someone else’s method of teaching you probably fail.
b) Figure out what you know
If you don’t have a photographic memory, you most likely have forgotten some of the accumulated knowledge you possess. Write down one list the topics you remember very well and in a second list all the topics you believe you’ll have to refresh.
c) Decide on hosting.
Video hosting is still very expensive, If you create a course and decide to sell it from your website, you will need a company that offers fast streaming to multiple accounts simultaneously.
There are some free options, but they all have certain restrictions (small upload size, low streaming rates, etc.) If you want to make use of their premium features, be prepared to pay a monthly or yearly fee.
One of the most popular options is Vimeo (click on the link to visit their page), where u can start for as low as $6 per month billed yearly) or Youtube (click on the link to visit their page). Youtube is, of course, free, but I wouldn’t suggest it. There is a significant change your videos might get copied something that isn’t that quickly done with Vimeo.
There is always the option of going with services such as Udemy, Lynda or Coursera (click on the links to visit their websites). All three are excellent choices if you wish to avoid custom hosting and upload your course on a platform that takes care of everything for you. Both Udemy and Coursera offer their courses for a rate that is set by the course creator. Lynda, however, grants you access to all of its lessons for a fixed monthly fee.
At Coursera, you also have the option to list a course for free. Use this technique of listing an introductory course for $0 as a way of familiarizing your audience with your material eventually up-selling them on your premium products.
Sources of Income 3: Live Gigs
If you’re only focusing on songwriting or composing the following option may not be applicable to your situation, but paid live gigs is a great source of income!
There are two types of music performers:
a) the ones that perform songs of other artists
b) the ones that perform original songs
In my opinion, both are considered entertainers since entertaining the audience is their primary job of an artist. Let’s now explore the two groups.
At first, It’s easier for the first group to get better money. This is because they play songs that people are familiar with, they have a great on-stage show, and they perform the songs professionally.
As you may have guessed, the second group will find it more difficult to demand the same amount of money since their songs are still unknown to the general public. After a while though, if they manage to expand their fan base, their demand will rise and as a result, so will their income.
Even if you are a DJ and you are well-known in your city, you may ask for $2000 per night. Play two gigs per week, and you will end up with $16.000 per month before taxes.
Sources of Income 4: Writing Songs for Artists
Considering you have a talent for writing songs, becoming a full-time songwriter can be a great source of income. Consider that top songwriter and producer Max Martin charges about $100.000 if not more per song, this is obviously the top of the food chain but nevertheless it demonstrates the growth potential that exists.
There are a lot of great songwriters and producers working behind the scenes which you may never have heard before, just to mention a few: Timbaland, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Pharrell Williams, Shellback, Savan Kotecha, Benny Blanco, JKash, Mike Will Made-it, Steve Mac and Jack Antonoff.
If you’re just starting out as a songwriter or producer, you may have to start low, about $60-$120 for a song, but if you create quality work you should definitely raise your price. Between $400-$1200 for a song is a good guideline.
Try out services such as Soundbetter, Fiverr, or Upwork to promote your services and get clients. Alternatively, you can build a custom website and create a showreel to showcase your work. If you want more clients, try hitting artists up on social such as Instagram or Snapchat. Create a short well-written introduction, but please don’t be spammy. Respect the fact that you have access to someone’s account I don’t try to strong-arm them in working with you.
Sources of Income 5: Become a Session Musician/Supporting Performer
With the exception, DJs live gigs is not a one-man show. Every performing artist needs other musicians to support him when playing live.
Some are looking for session musicians to perform a couple of live shows or a small tour, and others seek a more permanent solution.
For these types of work its typical to get paid between $150 and $300 per show, but often excluding studio time. Studio time is time spent in the studio with the bandmates practicing the songs that are about to be performed live.
Don’t underestimate this phase of the work since these sessions can become quite lengthy and take up much of your personal time.
As mentioned above, others are looking for a more permanent solution. In this case, you essentially become an extension of their band and you may or may not be asked to participate in each live show; this depends on the needs of the band. If you become a regular, you may be asked to split costs together with the rest of the band, but this would, of course, imply equal rights and equal payments.
One thing I forgot to mention is that you should feel confident about keeping your ego in check. Musicians are known for their prominent personalities and attention-grabbing tendencies. While this rule may not apply to everyone, it is certainly not uncommon to encounter jealousy and contempt from other musicians if they realize they are not in the spotlight.
However, don’t let this put you off since it’s impossible to control other people’s emotions. Just be sure you don’t become “that” person.
Sources of Income 6: Merchandise
Recently, a couple of friends, my girlfriend and I went to a Metallica concert in Amsterdam.
Before the show, a friend of mine went off to the merchandise section to buy a Metallica T-shirt, but a few minutes later he came back empty-handed telling me that there was no way on earth that he would pay 100 bucks for a short that he could order online for $20.
When he told me that, I sat with him for a while observing the mad volumes, people were buying Metallica’s merch like crazy, especially if it was a family with young children. I believe they made about $800-$1000 every 15 minutes!
Of course, chances you making the same amount of revenue are low, but you can easily get an extra $500 per gig from merchandise alone.
The trick is to include multiple products such as CDs, LPs, T-shirts, posters, hats, and jewelry. Try creating different prizes to serve all types of clients. If someone is willing to spend $5 or $100 you should have a product within that price range.
12) Musicians Pro: The Opportunity of Fame
There is a greek proverb about money and fame that goes like this: fame may have been hated by many, yet money by none. “
If you had to choose between money or fame, what would you choose?
Andy Warhol famously predicted that everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame, I recently read an interview where celebrities stated that fame is one of the most dangerous drugs also saying that a lot of famous people mistake attention for love.
There are a lot of reality shows that promise to fulfill their dream and make them famous or grant them at least with a few minutes of screen time.
But fame has a lot of benefits. It can open doors that previously were shut, and it can bring you in touch with people that before you had no way of contacting. Fame can also greatly benefit you financially if you can take advantage of your popularity and make investments to aid your economic growth.
I wouldn’t say no to fame! I would embrace it, enjoy it, and take advantage of my situation but I would also try to remain down to earth and remember all the things that really fulfill me and truly matter to me, such as my family and loved ones!
How to Change the Way You Feel and Achieve More of What You Want as a Musician
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article there are indeed pros and cons of being a musician, but something that may appeal to you may repel the person sitting next to you; this has to do with our personal experiences, our background, and of course our six human needs… Allow me to elaborate.
According to superstar life coach Tony Robbins, humans are governed by six human needs; these needs are universal and are present at all times. The astonishing part is that every human value one or two of the needs more than the rest, ultimately influencing all our decisions in life.
Imagine for a moment how a person’s decisions can greatly differ if he has certainty listed as his No1 need compared to someone that has uncertainty/surprise as his top need.
You see this all the time, some people are adventurous-driven, traveling the world (uncertainty/surprise) not ever calling one place home and others prefer a quiet, steady life (certainty) still living in the same town they were born. Both decisions are right but only for the right person.
Here Is a List of All Six Human Needs
- Certainty (The need for safety stability and comfort)
- Uncertainty/surprise (The need for challenges surprises, adventure, and change)
- Significance (The need for pride, feeling special, wanted, important)
- Love/connection (The need for attachment, approval, feeling loved by others)
- Growth (The need for development, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually)
- Contribution (The need to give back to the world, give beyond ourselves, as a parent, a friend, a community leader)
Since each person is unique, every one of us has different ways of fulfilling our needs. Also, as mentioned above, we all value each needs more or less, ultimately deciding subconsciously on a hierarchy of the six needs that influences our decisions in life.
My point is that most of the pros and cons listed in this article are subjective. Life on the road may put a smile on your face or make you cringe, performing in front of thousands of people may make you feel excited or anxious. There is no right or wrong answer here, just what feels right for you.
This Is How You Can Change How You Feel
One way of changing the way you feel about a particular task or situation is by understanding how to meet your primary need through that specific situation.
For example, if performing in front of a large audience scares you, and if you know that your primary need is the fifth one, -“love” try to imagine how much love you’ll receive from your fans on stage and forget the fear of the unknown. You can also focus on the love you give your audience by allowing them to connect with your music in a unique way through your performance.
However, for this technique to work, you need to know your primary need. If you are interested you take the (free) six human needs test from Tony Robbins, click here to visit his page. Send me a message. If you do take the test, I will enjoy hearing all about it! PS he recently changed the name of the quiz in Driving force.
QUIT ROBBING YOURSELF!
12 Music Income Strategies That Help You
Master Your FInancial World!
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I must warn you that I haven’t included the most expensive gear, what I have done instead is I have listed the equipment I believe will benefit your professional development as well as your pocket the most! 🙂
Visit now my Recommended Gear page and discover everything you need to create outstanding studio recordings and perform live like a pro!
Thank you for reading the article, I hope you enjoyed it.
See you around!