Friday, October 17, 2008

Diversify Your Bad Self!

One popular misconception about the music business is that most musicians make their living exclusively from live performances, or exclusively from studio session work. I'm not sure why people tend to make that assumption, but I suppose it may stem from the fact that most people only see and interact with us on stage. In spite of this romantic myth, the reality is that virtually all full time musicians these days earn their income through multiple activities. In fact, I can't think of any players who limit themselves to gigs only, and I know hundreds of successful musicians all over the world!

There certainly must be exceptions to this generalization, but I would argue that even if you can make a good living through gigs alone, you will still be limiting the potential extra income and job security that greater diversification could offer you. Think about it. If you are playing a 4-hour steady gig 5 nights per week, that is still only a 20-hour work week -- why waste your daytime hours? Here is a list of less commonly considered money making ideas for musicians:

  • Doing music clinics at local schools
  • Instrument/equipment rental
  • Rehearsal space rental
  • Teaching music lessons
  • Playing on recording sessions
  • Producing recording sessions
  • Selling time in your home recording studio
  • Live sound engineering
  • DJ work (blasphemy!!!)
  • Licensing original music
  • Selling original CDs or band merchandise
  • Booking other bands
  • Cover band gigs (if you're an original artist)
  • Solo gigs (if you're already in a band)
  • Accompanist work
  • Music copying and arranging
  • Daytime gigs at churches, coffee houses, etc.


There are really countless ways to be compensated for your musical abilities. If you thoroughly researched and explored all of these opportunities, you could keep very busy making a good living, and you would also be better positioned to endure the loss of any one of your gigs. Let's keep our eyes open for unconventional or unexpected gigs, and please post a suggestion here if you think of any that I missed!

2 comments:

Cameron Mizell said...

Doug, I love this post. I think young musicians get the idea that we have to specialize in one area of music and go all out. Anything else is a distraction from the dream. Couldn't be further from the truth.

Of course, even steady gigs take a decent amount of preparation. And preparing for just one show every now and then involves a lot of work. So while musicians are diversifying their income, they also have to learn good organization and use of time.

Thanks for the great ideas!

UnsolicitedAdvice said...

Great article (and subsequently, great elaboration in Cameron's article).