Should Artists Have to Work a 2nd Job?

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Artists Should be Compensated for Their Art

According to DigitalMusicNews.com, Jon Simson, former executive director of SoundExchange, recently warned, “I am very concerned about the apparent disrespect shown by many in our culture to those who pursue artistic endeavors. One recent survey showed a surprising number of Americans who believe that artists should have a second job to support themselves – as they should not expect to be paid for their art!  We must educate the public and eradicate these extremely destructive beliefs.”

CD Baby is, of course, a distribution service. So obviously we feel it is in an artist’s (and our own) best interest to be paid for their music. As the creators of intellectual property, it should be within a copyright holder’s rights to dictate exactly where and how their creation is used. Should they decide to sell a single-song MP3 ONLY on cdbaby.com (and NOT on iTunes or Amazon or anywhere else) for $4000, it is not our place (or yours) to tell them otherwise. Though honestly, we may question their sanity and try to gently suggest an alternate price and convince them that they’re losing sales opportunities by keeping their content off of iTunes and Amazon. But that being said, what they say goes.

But in contrast to this black & white opinion regarding the protections afforded a copyright holder as it relates to the sale, use, and distribution of their work,… live music seems like a somewhat different beast.

The Real Perfect World

I certainly agree that good art should be rewarded. But in a society where EVERYONE can easily create art, should everyone be paid for it? Is there enough money to go around? Should the riches be reserved for the true masters? Who determines who those masters are?

I would love to live in a world where it was a commonly held truth that a decent band should earn a decent wage for playing at your favorite bar down the street. After all, they’re providing a service (at least to the proprietor), same as any other W-2 or 1099 employee. But should the patron have to pay if they don’t like the band? What if the band is having an off-night? How did this band get a gig here in the first place? I’m here for the drinks, not the music!

Maybe if we all, performers AND listeners, conceived of art as a profession (one that requires the development of skills, a deep knowledge of history, a certain level of competency, and a bit of that magic factor: creativity, innovation, inspiration, exploration) instead of a worthwhile self-obsession, we’d live in that perfect world. But just because it is a profession doesn’t mean you necessarily should be earning money right out of the gates. Perhaps music-making should require a certain kind of apprenticeship (what used to be called “paying your dues”) before artists can assume a posture of financial entitlement.

Running full-speed through the gauntlet of a music scene can be exhausting. This crucible of apprenticeship might (might!) weed out the slackers, the unworthy, the untalented, and the ones who are in it for all the wrong reasons. All the while, the decent bands who persevere will keep getting BETTER, rising to that level of appeal and skill where they should get paid.

What You Get is What We Got

Hmmmm. That world described above sounds a bit like the world we live in now, right? Well, partly.

1) The skilled musicians with mass-appeal clearly reap the benefits.

2) The skilled musicians with little appeal have to confront the realities of the Law of Supply and Demand. If mass appeal is your goal, you must change your art to meet their tastes. If you choose to make niche art that is truer to your vision (a vision with little mass-appeal), you will struggle harder to find your target audience. But once you do, you may be able to charge them more for what you offer and command more fan loyalty.

3) The ones with mass-appeal who have little skill… oh boy! Here’s where the real trouble begins.

Get Your Act Together

We once lived in a world where only the best of the best dared step into a recording studio or onto a large stage. (I won’t give away my musical prejudices by naming names). Now (and for the past 50 years) it is possible to make a professional sounding recording without necessarily having the physical, hands-on skills of professional musicianship. In other words, better technology makes up for poorer technique. But, in the realms of live-performance, especially using what the old-fashioned among us might call “real” instruments (sorry, Brian Eno), the same cannot be easily said.

I don’t care how creative, ambitious, emotional, or filled-with-conviction you are as a performer. Live music, to most people’s ears, is still primarily about execution. Well, I should say “passionate execution.” It doesn’t have to be precise. But it has to be transparent and alive in order to transmit the musical message. If you’re singing off key, if your guitar is out of tune, if your rhythm section isn’t tight, if you’ve forgotten lyrics, if you botch a transition, if the performance is lethargic,… all these things will take the listener out of the moment. They will become overly conscious of the listening experience. As soon as that happens, it is tougher to win back their rapt attention. You may have lost them.

Clearly I’m Confused

The listening experience I just described above is what happens to ME when I hear poor musicianship, boring songs, or witness combative or posturing attitudes from performers on stage. But sometimes I feel like I’m in the minority, and that many of my friends are oblivious to what seem like obvious musical weaknesses from a buzz-band they’ve convinced me is the next greatest yesterday’s news. Are the listeners oblivious? Does the audience care? Are they deluding themselves because they feel like they SHOULD appear to enjoy the music (either out of politeness, or according to the prescribed hysteria of such-and-such tastemaker who may have anointed the band as “important”)?

To quote Mugatu from Zoolander, sometimes “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

Have we lost our discerning ears? Are we patting everyone on the back now for simply having the guts to create something (which is a commendable act, I might interject)? Are we a peaked-society, slipping into declining days of aesthetic decadence? Are we too passive-aggressive to call a spade a spade? Does the hipster echo-chamber believe its own hyperbole?

H.E.L.P.

Call me a snob, but I think that sometimes even brilliantly creative bands should stay in the basement a bit longer to practice their great ideas until we don’t have to guess at the intent, until we don’t have to be rubbed raw by bad intonation or sloppiness (unless it’s sloppy on purpose, of course).

Then again, maybe a live performance should work the same as a recording in terms of determining value. if someone chooses to download a song or attend a concert, no matter how good or bad it is, they have made a consumer choice. Shouldn’t they have to pay for it? You don’t get to return an opened Coke can just because you suddenly changed your mind and now want Mountain Dew, do you?

By this point in my rant, you can probably tell I’m just arguing with myself.

So help me out and tell me what you think!

-Chris R. at CD Baby

Sell Your Music on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon MP3 and more!  Click HERE.

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  • I concur. I think there should be an allowance paid to bands that matches every dollar they earn via making music, sliding down a scale until they can support themselves. I also agree that a lot of "it" bands suck ;-p

  • Really enjoyed this article. You make so many poignant comments and it is very articulately written. I have been told many times recently that i am a greedy corporate snob for expecting to be paid for my recordings, and that i should expect them to be downloaded for free and simply be glad that people want them. Aparently this is called promotion, and not theft in this day and age.

  • Artistic careers have pretty well always been portfolio careers tho' in the last century we didn't realise it or call it that. As a Professional musician I began as an Opera singer and end up in a punk band but all the way through that career I taught in schools, worked as a session singer and composer, played cover versions and worked up to 20 unrelated jobs to survive as an artist. Interestingly all of these jobs have been useful in a career as a musician. Cover versions teach you how to write great songs, teaching helps you learn about how music is structured and what quality music is. Different genres widen our expressive base. Working in unrelated business jobs can teach you about business and client relationships. These days I work as an academic with new musicians who are beginning to form their own careers as musicians. Their lives too will clearly be portfolio careers and often within unexpected genres and areas of the industry. Like me they work as teachers and community musicians. They work making Christian music for church or Dance music for clubs. They write songs and build their own networks. The access to digital distribution has made what Clay Shirky calls Cognitive Surplus available to us all and flourishes in a DIY industry that can be sustainable in a financial and a social sense. My research suggests that meaningful engagement with music making has to be personal social and cultural to be sustained. It is the cultural recognition by community that creates the economic stream that provides incomes for musicians. Many of us are satisfied with cultural recognition that is not financial and others are happy with a spilt between income and social value. The industry does not owe us a living because we are artists. What provides an income is when what we do is valued in such a way that enough people are prepared to support our art making by buying our products as an artefact of their relationship with us.

  • I really depends…

    Violent Femmes have mass appeal in a freak magnet sort of way. Unfortunately, most of that appeal now rests on their debut album, though they have very many brilliant songs.

    But when they were busking on the streets of Milwuakee circa 1981, people who knew them would cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. Yet that same busking got them noticed by Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders, and gave them an opening slot that very night. Lucky them, the lyrics were weird and wickedly funny. When everyone else was paying synthesizers, they were obstinately acoustic. It made them memorable.

    You might have mass appeal in one market but not another.

    You may be good at your art, but not great. Yet even great ones had a hard time being noticed. (Muse took years to get signed.) No doubt, if CD Baby had been around in 1997, they would have been on it.

    There is a minute difference between a good song and a great song.

    You might be good but not unique.

    Be unique, be strange, be different, be great, sing the best you can sing, get lessons.

  • A fact is that a musicianship is a learned craft as it is said "in the trades" like a carpenter etc.
    The songwriter is one who creates intellectual inheritable pieces of property.
    The singer sings the songs of the songwriter.
    The recording artist records and sells the recorded product to the consumer. The professional musician who knows his craft & trade can work full time and make a good living to support themselves and even a family.
    It takes education about the difference between various titles like studio musician vs. club performer vs. record artist and more positions within the business.
    Speaking from 35 years of making a fulltime living creating music for the customers & consumers then being in Europe for a few years showed things differently.
    In Europe is where are the Masters were supported by Royal classes to create. Without the wealthy supporting many of our classical pieces would not have been retained for the world today. Today in Europe there is a major respect for artists way beyond what is seen here in the USA enough that they have special medical insurance. Generally people are supportive to support concerts and appearances especially of American Music.
    Then the age factor of any artist in Europe does NOT play a factor but the merit of the artist's work. This is fair because most musicians continue to learn as well as songwriters, singers, and anyone who wants to improve on their craft.
    So having another job while making music is basic ok for those who want to be weekend warriors and not full time professionals. If they are not free to devote their entire thought processes to bookings and contractual agreements whether they make them or a contracted agent then they need a day job for simple income. But everyone needs to be educated about the business of music or just thinking they are deserving their success rate is lower.
    Taking responsibility for the gift of music given by a higher power keeps egos in check with reality. Taking the responsibility for making music for others and not for ones ego will help drive all talent into the future. Remember that all craftsmen are paid for their services in all trades. ANYONE who thinks different doesn't know the business of the music recording industry and will be soon discouraged.
    Don't give up trying learning from others knowing any ant can lift a boulder if they know how to balance it and get help from others going up hill. YOU can do it!:)

  • Brettr

    I think you're forgetting that much (most?) of the most popular music is popular simply because of marketing.

  • You are preaching to the snobby choir, brother.
    I say learn your craft and leave the rock star dreams by the door.

    But one point you didn't address is the discrimination many musicians are treated with regarding having to even obtain a day job.
    As if the very association means one is a failure or that ya just plain suck.
    As if that factor can delineate between the "real musicians" and the hobbyists.

  • Circle Link brings up an excellent point. There is too much discrimination against musicians with a day job. I'm here to tell you it does not make one scrap of difference in someone's chops. Western culture is unique in that we have the concept of "good enough to play for other people". In most other cultures this is not the case. Much of the European classical repertoire CJP refers to was meant to be played by ordinary workaday people. Aristocracy yes, but not "full time pros" as we would define them today.

  • Rob

    Thanks for your thoughts. One thing that really bothers me is when large festivals don't pay the bands but vendors for food, clothing booths, etc charge for their products/services, sometimes at inflated proices.

  • Jeremy

    Thanks for these thoughts! I find them in my own head very often. I think (and hope) the tension of not really knowing all the answers can serve as something useful to us.

    Hmm…

  • Excellent points, all. I find it very troubling that perhaps our concept of "greatness" is starting to plummet to dangerous depths. Everyone CAN paint to some degree, but should they all do it for a living? Everyone CAN record, but does that mean they should enter the ranks of the pros that do it well and as their bread and butter (ideally)? People are exposed to so many things, especially with electronic media that it's just overwhelming; maybe it just ain't so easy to weed out the "good" stuff anymore. Just my 2 cents.

    Also, in other countries, the arts are much more valued and seen more as a craft, a job. There seem to be a great deal more grants and general government funding available for art disciplines. Not so much in the USA. It's disheartening.

  • Nice article, good points. One thing about "coming up the ranks". It used to be the recording industry's job (labels, agents, etc.) to find good talent and cultivate it. They have abandoned that duty to instead create false illusions of what is music and push it to market. Which is probably one reason why they're no longer respected and true music fans will give the independent a chance. It widens the door for musicians a little but it's a lot harder to get traction when you do have to work a full time job to make ends meet.

  • Will

    Artists need to support themselves (ourselves) just like anyone else. I know a number of amazing performing musicians and artists that have unrelated careers.

    I've also met a number of mooches over the years that presented themselves as if the world owed them something just for being so cool and talented.

    A lot of people have to be willing to pay something for it. Or just a few people need to be willing to pay a lot for it. And if they aren't, don't be ugly or rude about it. Make your art. Record your music. Play gigs. Do your thing. Because you like to do it.

    If your big goal was to become rich and/or famous, well … perhaps you chose the wrong line of work.

  • 3) The ones with mass-appeal who have little skill… oh boy! Here’s where the real trouble begins.

    wanna hear proof…. just turn on the radio and listen to MOST of the current artists making it…. most of them suck really bad and lack originality big time.

  • Perhaps this is slightly beside the point (and I believe I've addressed the other points in previous related articles…?), but I'm less concerned about whether my band brings in $5-10/head at the local dive playing catchy, easily-relatable music or super-cerebral, deconstructive meta-art, maybe making more money with the former than the latter, maybe not;
    what does concern me, which is something upon which I think you've touched, is the general "eh… whatever, I don't get it, let's drink" vibe I get when playing the more intense, intensive, "art", super-high-level-of-skill-and-craft music (that I happen to love, and which is mostly what I do & listen to);
    it's not that I think I/it deserve(s) more money or recognition due to the level of craft & experience, it's that the market itself actively shuns a lot of music in an inverse proportion to the amount of skill and craft it does/did require. I could easily say "screw it" and play 2-chord strummy-strum with some off-key emo caterwauling and absolutely FILL these clubs (I've seen it too often), but thrown in something challenging and all you (I) get is dumb stares, and an eventual exodus from the room…. In other words, WHY do we even hone the craft, practice the skills, exept to please ourselves, silently?

  • (sorry – I mean that the market shuns in direct proportion to the amount of skill & craft, that the level of receptivity is an inverse proportion. Oops.)

  • (Ack! Typos! "throw" in something challenging, and "except" ourselves…. Ugh.)

  • Ya,

    Even though writing a song isn't hard work for me,
    bringing each song to life sure as hell is!
    I have written, produced, and performed around 200 original songs, released 2 records,
    and dozens of ''cues''.
    It takes hours, and hours of ''work'' on each song.

    If I could just make minimum wage for all the hours I've put into my ''art'' …..
    Well, maybe my family would finally be proud of me.

  • Jim

    If you are good enough and lucky enough to be able to make a living with your art, AWESOME! If not, get a job while you hammer things out. I think hard work builds character, and character contributes to stronger art. And you may just find that the day job holds more satisfaction than travelling from town to town hawking product.

  • I am a performing artist and I also am the director for a Center for Music Education. All of our faculty are not only performing but they are doing private teaching, are adjunct instructors (read "low pay") at area colleges and universities or in a symphony, a band or are singer/songwriters. These artists are holding two or more jobs with no benefits!

    All of these people have honed their art and do so every day of their lives. Practicing their skills and passing on their musical expertise. They have degrees in their given musical field, some have Masters degrees and a few more are working on their PHD. They have more than paid their dues. In fact, they paid for their musical education, yet somehow these people are "not working" or
    should "get a real job"?

    Then I advise all doctors and lawyers to do the same, "get a real job". Music seems to be the only field I can think of that has professionals treated in such a menial way.

  • Ah, Chris – Great post – I'm feeling ya! I think the listeners are indeed oblivious, but I won't rant on that right now… 😉
    I often have a "second" job, and I've gone through mixed feelings about that over the years. I used to despise that I had to have one, but now, given the current realities of "art", and because my music career is much busier now than when I began over 10 years ago (in PUBLIC – I put in the other 10 plus years to get good first!), I can keep it in perspective.
    Also the skills from the "day job" are transferrable – I work in finance and administration (part-time, and only part of the year I might add), managing data and processes, etc. and man does that ever apply to the new music business! And it's worth it to note that I had to spend 10 years in that business to get what I want and need from it too – so that I can have a nice balance in my life that makes music my focus, but I still get to pay the bills and eat. It's pretty sweet actually…
    And, if the listening audience is becoming unsophisicated – oh well. Not really my concern. I won't stop trying to show them the difference just because they can't hear it! *I* can – and that's what matters.

  • Great read! Not sure I have much to add, but I have certainly noticed that as my band has gotten better (or at least found the audience that 'gets' us), that the income has gone up considerably. Supply and Demand, Capitalism…whatever you want to call it…holds true for download sales, ticket sales, etc… How do you close a sale? Have a product the consumer wants to buy.

  • The claim is that it takes 10,000 hours to master your craft. Those with "day jobs" do not get the required time to master their craft. Unfortunately, unless there is also another element– luck, a rich spouse, generous parents, or an inheritance, most of our artists HAVE to have a day job– hopefully not two.

    I walk this walk every day. The Folks yell at me to get a full time job, and I yell back that I already have some– as a songwriter and as a promoter/marketer/vocalist/touring artist/voice artist/teaching artist/musician/writer/web site designer/etc.etc.etc.etc. And yes, I still do have that "day job" which I resent for every moment it takes me away from my career.

    As far as what ppl should be paid– it really should depend on the value of the musicians. I work with people at the top of their craft, and if I want them to play with my on my gigs– I have to pay them what they're worth. I don't book gigs that are under my limit, unless I can afford to pay out of pocket.

    My city is a tough city — over-inundated with rock and blues, as a jazz artist it's harder to book high paying gigs. Musicians undercut each other all the time– the crappy garage band is willing to play for free, but my musicians command no less than $100 a gig, and that should be low for all that they do.

    Also, there is the rehearsal, the equipment, the sound, the lights (if we bring them) and the travel– a 2 hour gig easily turns into 6 hours, and if a club owner only pays $60 per musician, we are earning $10 an hour for a skilled trade. Can you imagine telling an architect or a lawyer that they'll only get $10 an hour?
    Musicians need to stop undercutting each other, and demand what they're worth or they won't play. Unfortunately, we get beaten out by the "weekend warriors" who are willing to play for little or nothing.
    THIS is the question that's being asked.
    We musicians don't value our own work enough to band together (or join a union) and insist that customers/club owners also value our work.
    The whole "music should be free" idea– which my own mother subscribes to– is hitting us in our own pocketbooks.

  • On reverb nation charts I'm in the top 10,000 artists out of 1,000,000,000. That's the top 1%. Tomorrow night I'm headlining the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park. I still work a day job. Still need to.

    The bottom line is that there is so much new music now it's nearly impossible to come out of the herd and be heard. In fact in Asbury Park, I'd say that there's more musician's than patrons.

    Everybody has a different subjective perception as to what constitutes great music. It's not rational or fair and sadly few listeners care about human musicianship.

    As the Kinks said, "Everybody's In Show Business"..

    Deal with it..

    Colie

  • Rich Gra

    I can see many different viewpoints here having been in the business for over 50 years. I started out as an Artist, Singer/Songwriter, Record Producer, A&R for a Major label, later Promotion/Marketing, etc. with 15 years in NYC, and was resonsible for selling over 20 million records while doing so. I believe that when you have to pay rent, eat, have electricity, heat, etc. it's okay to have a job until that ship comes in. I had my Staff Songwriter's job and on the weekends I'd buss tables at my friends Italian Restaurant while going to Juilliard at night. As long as I was, "on purpose",working toward a Goal, at it everyday, everything seem to fall into place! The more "grateful" I was, the more things aligned with what I was doing and what I wanted to do. I had a room on 69th St. between B'way & Columbus Ave,$15.00 a week, the bathroom in the hallway,I was so busy Creating, Learning,(great teacher, Mr. Widdows)Writing, Recording, that nothing else really bothered me. In essence, I built this train and put it on a track and kept it moving forward, kept it in motion. For me it was, "whatever I had to do to make it I was willing to do!"
    Chick Corea, one of my oldest friends put it this way, (I'm paraphrasing), 'you have to put blinders on, your eye always on the outcome,the goal,eliminate the distractions, know or discover, what do I have to do to get there?' He practiced 8 to 12 hours a day! Best, RMG

  • I once saw a bumper sticker that said, "real musicians have day jobs." This article reminds me of the dilemma behind that statement.
    On one hand, having a day job allows an artist to innovate on his/her own terms, at his/her own pace. Being a real musician doesn't have to mean that one makes a living at it.
    But yes, as a consumer, I am a whole lot pickier about which artists I give my money to. On the same note, I am just as appreciative as an artist of those who will actually pay money for my art or music. Similarly, I have profound admiration for professional musicians whose lives are centered around such a competitive industry. They put so much of themselves on the line.
    This reminds me of another quote I heard. A man who was talking to Andres Segovia said to him, "I would give my life to be able to play like you." Mr. Segovia turns to the man and replies, "that's what I did."

  • Yes, get your live performance together! But I want to state that a live show is not just simply playing everything technically correct. You must learn to engage your audience and create an experience that they will remember. A huge part of the live show is visual. a bunch of bands just stand there. To a non-musician audience (joe blow), a band that just stand there is visually boring and therefore the music seems more boring because of the boring visual. But, don't just move around like idiots (especially if that makes you hit bad chords). instead, just have a plan.

    that's my 2 cents

  • Diana

    Interesting debate.

    I worked for 25 years before starting to earn a living from music at an age when I suspect most people would be giving up. I play in two bands and also do a solo act which is musically comnpletly different to the genre that the band performs in. I have basically played live everything from show tunes to blues country and rock except classical music. I write material and record it and its has had radio play but not sold much. The only way at the moment to make money from music is to gig regularly, unless you are a superstar. A lot of gigs pay very badly but just about enough to keep going in the UK snd Europe.
    Of course if you don't have what people want then you are never going to make it work. If I stayed in my day job I would be earning 5 times as much as I do now!

  • Like any business, you create a product that people want to pay for, provide it to them at a price that allows you to make a profit and that they'll pay – and presto, you're in business. It's pretty simple. I'm tired of musicians whining about this. I really don't think anyone owes anyone a living as an artist. #1 reason – you can be an artist and make money doing other things like teaching, taking writing commissions, etc. Hell, I've passed around my share of appetizers at functions, and I don't think that made me any less of an artist. If anything, it made me a better one. If you really want something, you should be willing to do the hard work to get there.

  • I've been playing gigs in the bars of Manhattan since the early eighties. I am a skilled player. I've played with my bands and solo. I've never made enough money to not have another job. My fans have always loved the music and performances I (we) have created. The music industry has for the most part always ignored me.
    I release my own records. I have three for sale on CD Baby; nobody buys them but they are there and not priced at $4000.00 bucks.
    I always have to laugh when articles talk about setting ticket prices. Guess what? Bars don't sell tickets. It's tips and sometimes something from the bar. Hit or miss. I still am performing at least twice a month here in Hell's Kitchen and having a great time doing it. Any expectations I have held have long ago flew out the window. I simply do my job and do it well. I think being able to quit the day job is on the same par as hitting the lotto. Best of luck everybody.

  • >>Have we lost our discerning ears?

    Yes. Over the nearly fifty years that I've been performing professionally — including 25 years of teaching guitar at Berklee — I've tried to develop a discerning ear. Recently I made the mistake of helping out a friend by playing in the backup band at an open mic, and had to listen to a couple of beginners, who sang and played out of tune, forgot the lyrics and chords to their own tunes — all the things you've mentioned. When I made a comment to my wife (making sure that the performers could not hear me) saying that it was painful to me to listen to this (she agreed — she is not a professional muscian, but she too found it painful), a friend criticized me for being a snob, and informed me that these singers had "sweet" voices. My experience and skill counted for nothing. Having a discerning ear, in the view of many, is a bad thing.

  • ……..it's not even a matter of "should".

    I've been a professional musician for 35 years and I'm one of the best in my field, in Australia. It's never been more difficult than now… surviving.

    "Reality" would determine that "a professional musician" MUST have a "real job" if he is serious about security, about surviving. It's foolish and imaginary to think otherwise. A great many musicians I come into contact with now, some my age, many much younger, have "other jobs". It's not really talked about much, but it's bleedin' obvious that …. you cannot expect to make a living from professional music, ONLY.

    Sam McNally.

  • Stephanie

    I'm a working songwriter/musician. I do it all. Booking, financial work, etc. I also hold a part time job slinging drinks. The part time job actually came second, 7 years after working full time gigging. I get paid less and less every year. I've got great quality stuff, 3 professional albums, and I work like a madman. Yet, doing all this has left me maybe only a few hours a week to actually practice and hone my craft. In fact, I usually try to sleep in those hours.
    I am lost in this business. There is no rest for the weary. I'm poor, sinking all my money into touring and recording and getting nowhere. And now that I have a job there is no time to practice. What's the answer?!?!

  • It's called the Music Business so learn it all!Writing;Recording;Marketing etc…It takes sometime, but nobody's gonna do it for you…Radio, TV, Film, Advertiser's all need music….learn where to look to get your music to the people that can help you make money….Playing live; Be your own Agent,I have for the past 30 something years been able for 95% of the time make a living Playing;Writing;Producing and Selling Merchandise (don't forget that)It's hard work but you can do it.There is no secret formula except selling yourself…Talent yes you need some of that but even then you work at being better.How much, do you want to give away, your ownership? That's the Question.You have to wear a lot of hat's; but you can make a living has a working musician/songwriter/artist/ insert many other thing you may have to do.Stop making excuse's life doesn't care. Get on with it,Be happy and have fun with what you can do with your music.Find your path,follow it and work your ass off; if you want to achieve something. Cheers that's my Rant ( now back to my business at hand Happy New Year)

  • Ataraxia

    Couldn't agree more with Brettr, the little skilled successful artists are in their position because they are an image that a record company can sell, not a sound. And being a record company they have almost limitless opportunity for exposure, advertising and TV/Radio promotion. It's those people that raise arguments like this in the first place and they infuriate me.

    As for the proper musicians and those who have a whole-hearted interest in music, I believe it is the sales and popularity that can judge how much they deserve to be there ie. they have started on their own and have managed to get people to listen and like what they're doing and therefore any money or success they receive is truly earned and thus deserved.

    When success for a band takes off, of course they should get money for it. Making music is far from free, so you can't expect a musician to do so. If they didn't earn money, they would be too busy in some other meaningless job trying to pay for the production/equipment/performance and the standard of the music would decline, which would lead to less success and so begins the downward spiral to nothing.

    I think the people who say musicians shouldn't earn money are mainly irritated by seeing these one hit/album autotuned wonders who drive Lambourghinis and live in mansions. I agree with that, i'd be quite happy to earn enough to keep me away from a second job and close to making music. Anything else is excess which is questionable depending on the artist, very talented artists deserve a lot for their work and I'm happy to contribute to it, but like most other people I don't like the idea of a record label brainwashing the public into mass buying of some mainstream drivel produced by a company with a pretty face stuck on it.

    Let's not mention names but I've heard "J, J, J, J, J, R" far too many times…

  • If you can't pay the bills making music, you need a second job- simple.
    That does make it harder to find creative time, but if you are serious, you'll find it.

    If your music is likeable and available, people will listen, but you may not become rich.

    Too much over-analyzing and catering to a sound will make you contrived. Passion always shines through any performance.

  • I think two key words in your article for this subject are "supply and demand". None of us willingly pay for something unless we want it. And how much we will pay depends on how much we want it or how much pleasure we'll get from it. The monetary value of art is not determined by how much time and work went into producing it anymore than it's determined by the cost of materials used. The monetary value is determined by the one who's considering buying it. It's worth different amounts to different people. So, a musician's challenge is to find people who like their music enough to want to buy it, and then provide a way for them to buy it. So, how will people know if they like your music? They have to hear it. This is where I believe the power of the internet comes in. Through the use of keywords to help people find your music plus sound samples so they'll know if they like it plus .99 download capability so they can easily buy it, a musician who recorded his own CD in his garage can sell music to fans all around the world and start getting checks in the mail without personally handling any of the transactions. I'm doing this right now. I think the hardest part for a musician currently is that people aren't finding their music even if it is online. Keywords are very helpful, but I look forward to there being more sites that will connect us with the music of unknown, unsigned artists that we may like based on having us type in a list of songs that we already love. Based on some sites that are already out there, I believe this is coming.

  • There's too much of an expectation that recognition and success will come about quickly. (Thank you American Idol, America's Got Talent and every reality show that promotes fame for being infamous.)

    Aspiring performers and songwriters should spend a bit less time working the networking intricacies of Facebook, crafting that next clever tweet or even dialing in the latest piece of cool gear. Really learn how to play your instrument. and how to craft a song. These things don't happen quickly, but once you begin to develop some skill and technique in one area it adds to your abilities – and helps you find your own unique "voice" – in the other.

    Then you'll draw listeners because of the music, not just because of the masterful networking and the marketing.

  • Good article. There have to be filters out there in the Web, bottom line. Unless artists want to pay for play or placement. I wish all the big artists would do PSA's for the sake of art, telling the substandard to quit, they are not going to succedd anyway, it helps ALL parties. Just because someone can make a retail quality product and the players have some sort of competence and rhythm doesnt mean they should be making records and crowding the trade. Just because you can doesnt mean you should.

    I tell people at shows…BOTHER with the music you hear…dont let it just run in the background at work or whatever. Thumbs down if you feel so…Fast foward if you feel so, comment if you feel so on Pandora or wherever. It will help weed out the mediocre and below. Hell thumb me down if you feel I suck….its best for everyone in the end. The music industry is too much of a mess (on the web, live music is a little better but still coagulated).

    What if painting started to become glamorous, easy access media, i dont know…just associated with "Cool".. like music and garage music in particular… and everyone started painting. Just because they have the physical tools, time and whatnot to paint…..doesnt make them an artist.

    THUMB IT DOWN!!!

  • A few random thoughts:

    – Piracy, um, "file-sharing" has not only taken away a potential revenue stream for performers, but also, has put non-performing songwriters in a tricky situation. How will they reap the monetary benefits of their work?

    – There are no floodgates now. Every one can make a record at home and upload it to the internet, so what you have now is a glut of music online. And how will anything standout among that morass?

  • (Sorry, but I hit return before completing my thoughts.)
    Whoever can spend on advertising and bribing taste-making blogs will definitely have the edge. Brave new world? Not quite, huh?

    – Many would like to see musicians revert to minstrelsy, feeling that rock stars be taken down a peg and furthermore, music should be free. But the vast majority of working musicians are just that, working musicians and making and recording music isn't free.

    – In today's music blog-fueled landscape, talent and earnestness is held suspect. It's all about being cool and detached, which is why Pitchfork makes and breaks artists. "Tell me what to think!" Ugh.

  • Matt

    Why is it not clear to musicians that the game has changed forever? Expecting music to be a very lucrative business is misguided and no longer a reality. The market is flooded with artists (some talented and some not) who are making and releasing music-this will not change ever from here on out. Arguing over who is genuinely talented and who is a phony will in no way make sure that you get paid for your work; in fact it's ignoring the whole point.

  • Alexis ortega

    Hey people for you to get on to the real music bussines you need to come up with good playing , singing , good ideas ,words ect ,You need to Know that is a real business ,you need to play for real .If you want to be a real prefessional first to all believe in your gift from God and forgett tha job thing ,Get out and play with all you have ,don't let anybody to put you down Amen

  • Wow! That was a mouthful, I don't even know where to start…

    I am a musician, I was trained since I was 9, I even went to college to refine my craft I've paid (and still paying) "dues". I think everyone should.

    Although I don't think that all dues are equal. Some people may take my path and some may go an entirely different route that may be easier. However it goes, to make a living in this industry you must work!

    Artists that I admire are some of the hardest working people on the planet, they rehearse, study, ready etc…just to be the best they can be and they are rewarded well for their diligence.

    I think for a lot of artists coming up they just don't know how to quantify what they are worth in proportion to the amount of work they are willing to do to achieve their dreams of a self sustaining career as an artist. (i don't think I said that right) And that's why we have a lot of "diva/os" running around demanding six figures when what they give to you as the listener is worthy of maybe dinner at Apple Bee's.(sometimes not even that)

    That being said, I think that if you work at your craft and continue to get better you should get paid for what you do and eventually be able to support yourself and a family if you choose. But until everyone see's it my way life will go on as it has always done and we will be looked at as slouches unless we are really earning the big "cheese".

    But that's just what I think…

    You are not a snob Chris, I think you are spot on!

    Cheers,
    Josiah Ruff

    • Chris R. at CD Baby

      Hey Josiah,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And thanks for thinking I'm not a snob.

  • Anthony Holloway

    Artists Should be Compensated for Their Art

    Unfortunately he is probably right. Artist should not expect to get paid because they probably won’t get paid enough to eat, or afford a place to live. Unless they work at it like their life depends on it for a long time, or get lucky. Not that you shouldn’t hope for the best, but definitely plan for the worst.
    In order for someone to buy art they have to be moved by it first. In the case of popular music, it may not have anything to do with the music, but everything to do with idol worship.
    I was a professional musician hobbyist for years. I am probably financially better off now having also chosen to pursue a day job. But music has been a passion since childhood, and I wished at that time I thought playing full time could offer a sustainable lifestyle. Tragically, I feel like I may have missed following my passion.
    Non artists are incapable of empathizing with the long road to the creation of great original works and do not appreciate the cost. It’s like expecting our plutocratic government to care about the needy.

    The Real Perfect World

    Music is in the ear of the beholder. Value is a perception. The perception worth paying for in music is the feeling it delivers. If someone wants to buy crappy music, they should be able to because it may satisfy their craving. However, it’s too bad that there is so much poor performance in many Indie songs (in my opinion) that it makes it hard to find the stuff I would pay for.
    I fear that Indies have given away so much music for free that it has discounted its value. There is a perception that you get what you pay for. The way some retailers improve the perceived value of their product is to increase the price.

    What You Get is What We Got

    Long ago and far away when the record companies vetted musicians, we were fed the cream of the crop, sanitized within an inch of its life. Everything we had to choose from sounded good. Too bad for diversity and all the Indies for sure, and we probably missed out on a lot of potentially good stuff before the Internet. But now there is so much delusion, I don’t know how anyone can get paid for their stuff, except to work at it like your life depends on it. But, that’s what is required with most endeavors.
    I guess I wish I had the support of a record deal and played the kind of music people were listening to. But I don’t like the music most people listen to and don’t want to sell my sole. The plight of the starving artist.

    Get Your Act Together

    I played in a cover band for years that commanded an audience because we worked at it. We didn’t have the best individual talent, but we were tight and chose songs that people wanted to dance to, and they loved it. We got paid standard bar amounts and got good paying private gigs. And I still may have spent more money on music than I made through the years.

    Clearly I’m Confused

    Can I have some of those crazy pills too? I think most people are not sophisticated enough to be as critical about music as musicians are. At a jazz show there is usually a smaller audience of critical listeners (probably mostly musicians) hanging on every note. At a pop show, a drum machine with some noise and a good dancer will captivate the masses

    H.E.L.P.

    There is nothing like the school of hard knocks to hone your skills. I’m sorry I don’t have recordings of those magical nights when I had chops of steel and ideas until the end of time. I guess I should scare the neighbors for a while then prove it on a recording.
    And yes, if financial institutions can sell off a bunch of crappy mortgages and lose their ass. They should not be allowed to extort the citizenry to turn around and do it again. But it’s too bad a person can’t listen to a full length song without stealing it to decide whether or not they want to buy it. Like we used to hear on the radio, and then had to go out and buy the record.

    I hope I’m making sense, my beer goggles are starting to get a little thick.

    Anthony Holloway

    • Chief Kooffreh

      Chief Kooffreh USA MUSIC ARTIST Anthony follow your passion you love music . THE FIRE IS STILL IN TONY like the rest of us here JUST THAT WE HAVE BEEN ABUSED, CONDITIONED to accept that not paying for our musical art as right. Tony times have changed.Our ART reduces stress people listen to all sorts of music. Yes I agree with you that you have to work hard even for your fans but it becomes a burden when you are not paid. I am a CRUSADER that my fellow Artists get paid. When ARTISTS hear my name Chief Kooffreh I want it to be known as the Artist who said all indys must be paid.Pay them their cents or pay them their dollars but don’t play games. Artist have bus fare to pay or Gas to buy. I volunteer at homeless shelter and give little of my music but I can not go and create song for free I DISCOURAGE EVERY ARTIST TO CREATE SONGS TOTALLY FOR GIVING IT FREE . Times have changed you need money for bus fare for Gods sake PAY MY BROTHERS IN MUSICAL ART. I want all Artist world wide to say this MANTRA ” I MUST GET PAID”

      by Chief Kooffreh
      USA MUSIC ARTIST MOST PUBLISHED IN NEW ENGLAND
      VOTING MEMBER OF THE GRAMMY USA

  • Carlin

    Someone once told me, "be good to the music and the music will be good to you." I work two minimum wage jobs, and just raised $1,700 through kickstarter to finish a 5 song demo. Get creative people, do what you love, and for God's sake stay positive because noone should care about your craft more than you!

  • Unfortunately many performers are playing for very little money, or even free, just to get a few gigs under their belt. Then they realize they can't make any money later because there are so many other new bands out there doing the same thing.

    So club owners, etc., have just come to expect it, and in my opinion this has resulted in a degradation of live music in small venues (at least in the Western states). Maybe other areas of the country are different?

    I don't think you necessarily need a day job to support yourself as a musician, but you definitely need to broaden your horizons, i.e. lessons, session gigs, helping out other performers, producing, etc. That said, I personally chose to have a day job 🙂

  • Turtle

    A lot of great points have been made here, one of the most important being that we as musicians are trying to be successful in the music "business" and for independant artists business skills are arguably more important than musicianship. As a friend of mine told me, "Wake up and smell the Capitalism". In modern American culture it is unrealistic to presume that society owes us anything, least of all the means to support ourselves, simply because we have created art for art's sake. That concept has never actually been a part of American culture. Most of us compose, play, produce music based on some level of passion. Whether it is a burning need or just something that we feel is fun to do the vast majority of musicians do start from a common ground of art for art's sake. That has absolutely nothing to do with money.

    If we want to use music as the tool with which we earn an income there are a couple of choices. You can secure a job where the title is songwriter or musician or producer with the corresponding duties of writing songs or performing songs or music production. It doesn't matter if you are a regular full or part time employee or an independant contractor, you are now earning a wage for performing a specific job. Same as any profession. And same as any profession you're education, experience, and skill level should be directly reflected in how much you are paid. Of course there are still no guarantees. How many people do you know with college degrees whose work has nothing to do with their field of study? I know more every time I turn around. Many with law degrees or Phd's.

    The other and perhaps harder choice is to start your own business. Create a product (music) and convince the masses that they want to part with their hard earned money and purchase that product. Selling recordings of music is becoming less viable every day. The younger segment of our population has grown up in a society that has devalued music to the point of entitlement. They have never known a world without unlimited access to free music. The Billboard Top 40 tells the tale. The top 5 sellers are the usual blockbusters with hundreds of thousands or a million plus units moved. Slots 6 through 20 are doing a moderate business and slots 21 to 40 only require numbers in the tens of thousands. Sometimes just ten thousand. Another product you have to offer that more consumers seem to be willing to pay for is the experience of the live performance. Still takes a lot of business saavy to earn a living this way as well. Remember, there isn't a club owner or venue anywhere that is in business to sell your music. You are there to help them sell their other products or services. In a club or restaurant it's alcohol and food. At larger music venues your job is to sell tickets. Period. The venue has a bottom line to be met by selling x number of tickets for x amount of money. The good news is you can get paid if you are good at what you do. Bring a lot of thirsty people into a club and they usually don't mind you getting $5 a person at the door or a percentage of bar sales or both. Sell out a music hall and you will be asked back. Either type of venue will let you sell merchandise. This is where you finally get back around to craftsmanship. Don't just play great songs, put on a great show.

    I know I haven't spun the music industry in a very positive light but to put it in context, I've been playing bass for just shy of 30 years in a number of pro-am touring bands, regional bands, recording projects, etc. And I have no intention of stopping anytime soon. We all have our own definition of success. I think anyone who earns any amount of money in this business deserves respect. If you can turn a profit, that's amazing. If you are a professional musician, meaning that is your job, my hat's off to you.

    To get back to the original question of should artists have to work a second job? Well, that depends on the type of lifestyle you choose to live doesn't it? If you live in a flea infested hovel with several other people and eat Raman noodles 6 days a week that doesn't take nearly as much income as a decent house in a nice neighborhood with a couple of cars in the garage and a studio in the basement. If you earn enough to sustain your chosen lifestyle then no, you don't need a second job. But that holds true for everyone, not just artists.

  • The way I see it, as an artist, yeah, I'm more than happy that people just want to enjoy what I create. I really am.
    However, everyone involved in the process of creating/consuming has voluntarily decided to participate in a capitalist society. Therefor, they should take responsibility for that and pay for what they take. Or, move to 1950s Russia. 🙂
    I think a lot of the de-valuing that's taken place has a lot to do with people's perception of how music is made. The record companies have spent billions on limos, fancy hotels and outfits, to make their artists look successful. They've promoted the image rather than the effort, and, as such, people don't see the countless hours/weeks/years of practice and woodshedding that goes into being an artist. They assume we all wear gold-plated underwear.
    I think more (a lot more) transparency about what goes into making an album would help. I write about the process in my blog (probably going into monotonous detail, but still……) as a way to counter things, and maybe help people appreciate the art again.

  • TR Kelley

    There's a government subsidy for real visionary genius artists in the USA. It's called SSI. It's harder to get than a record deal and just as humiliating and futile.

  • the curse of the starving artist still exist in 2011. We can do better people. I believe we can.

  • I'll add this:
    The music business is f*cking hard work. Most people dont understand this fact. Weather its friends or family or just an aquaintance. As music makers we all have felt this pressure to get a real job, day job etc,. So you succomb to the pressure, real or imagined and in the process you lose out on opportunities that would have presented themselves if you were devoting more time to your music career. But in the big picture, everything stops if you can't pay your bills with one or the other. I say that whatever it takes for one to make music, then thats what needs to be done.

  • People who have not made the effort to support themselves in the arts have no idea how much work it really is, and think we have it easy. Those who seriously devote their lives to writing and playing music should be rewarded accordingly, the way people who excel in other fields are. Unfortunately, we live in a time where people have become incredibly narcissistic and, rather than appreciating and applauding someone else for their achievements, resent anyone who reminds them that they have not done the same.

  • You really captured a lot of the issues, and of course, there being no answer, concluded appropriately, that you are arguing with yourself.
    I've been without a second job for quite some time now… a leap of faith. No, I don't get paid enough from gigs to pay rent – but between all the people who believe in me, there are plenty of couches to stay on in the different cities I play in.
    I think that bars/venues are the ones who can make a difference. If they want their establishment to be consistent about hiring good music, they should pay well, but be discerning in who they hire. I also think that the truly committed and skilled, though they may not rise to "THE TOP", they will still rise. When audiences see/hear something they like, they are full of helpful suggestions for more venues to play at, places to stay.. etc.
    I don't have hugely high hopes, but I do have hope.
    The history of "true artists" has never been one of rich artists. Just a bit of dignity.. that's all we really need.

  • I just think the premise of this discussion, the complaint against an unsupportive public, with unappreciative families and communities, is wrong-headed. The public will support artists who create art that their patrons are sufficiently impressed with to buy at advanced prices. There's no free lunch for the eighty percent of artists who can't do work that good, that powerful, consistently, across many years of a career.

    It's like any other competitive endeavor or enterprise. Produce good work and sell what you can. Make a living at it, or don't. If you can't, then sure, get a job. Day jobs are not dishonorable. I've had lots of them.

    You don't give up living your life as an artist, if it's in your soul. Improve, improve, improve! It's on you to do better and better work. That's the only way to get anywhere.

    Best Wishes,
    da

  • Great article! Call a spade a spade- without some standard in which we can judge the music, it's just random when bands become successful. There definitely are some solid musical criteria in which we can make comparisons and value judgement on the quality of a musical piece.

  • opium

    The music business is about business not about music.
    Musical competence and creative content are not a pre requisite of mass apeal or success.
    The phraze 'supply and demand' used in connection with creating music is informative of how the art form has become dominated by the corporate mindset.

    Individuals cannot compete with corporations. Advertising is dominated by corporations.

    There have been so many ground breaking and original artists over the years, for whose 'product' previously there was no demand for.
    Demand is only saturated when there is a large homogenous glut of similar product.
    People consume what they are given.

  • I think your nostalgia for days past isn't completely accurate, there were always hack bands making it to the big time, they've just been forgotten now. That said, the internet and accessible technology has given virtually everyone a voice to be heard which muddies the waters considerably more nowadays. It's Andy Warhol's predicted future, but coupled with the fact that being famous has become even more of an objective for it's own sake. In the end, this is an incredibly difficult business, and whether you have a day job to survive or manage to make a living at it, if you can say that you create because you don't know how to live any other way, and you appreciate what a gift it is and that it is it's own reward, then you are blessed. I remember reading an interview with Norman Mailer shortly before his death, and he said after all the awards and fame and accolades all that mattered to him was continuing to be able to create. And that I believe is as good as it gets, because many who do make it to the top lose that, especially when their fame starts to slip which it does for most eventually. So let's just all be thankful, to quote Whitman "That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse".

  • SC

    Agree with Jeff S.

    Letting "supply and demand" (i.e. "the market") dictate is a recipe for optimized, bland, non-creative and uninspiring music like the one dominating the airwaves today. Great music, like fine wine, takes TIME. Mozart didn't write his masterpieces during coffee breaks in between rubbing elbows with high society.

    There are other ways to look at the problem. As I see it, the problem is not so much that we don't get paid enough for my services as a composer/musician but rather the discrepancy of having to pay for OTHER goods and services while not getting payed. If we didn't have to pay for housing, food, energy, tools and so on, the problem wouldn't really exists.

    Automation, optimization and digitalization are all good for the purposes they truly have – freeing people of tedious work and conserving our planet. But, and this is important, don't expect the market paradigm to hold anymore.

  • Steve

    I am the guy who learned musicianship on the job, while being paid to play. I've made money with my music, I'm unusual in that case, but all of my colleagues that went to Julliard or Curtis or Berklee tell me that the first thing they say to their students: plan to have a second major or a safety net in terms of surviving. The music industry carries NO guarantees in regards to survival. BUT the good news is that if you are reading this right now… you have the love, talent and good virtues to make music… because life is ALL good when your HEART is in music. Stay positive and happy…. that in itself is contagious.

  • i play in a punk band (late 70s NYC version) and we are not well received locally (raleigh, nc) so we usually have to hit the road to gig. no big deal, but i just want to get paid as much as the truck driver who delivered the beer. we drove just as far – if not further – we unloaded our own equipment & hell we'll even pack it all back up when we're done & hopefully leave your bar in the same shape it was in before we arrived. we play the music for FREE because we love it… but i would like to get paid for all the physical labor that goes along with it. please pay me as much as the beer delivery guy! they think they're doing us a favor giving us gas money… sell merch or die

  • Yes, time for a rant!

    >We once lived in a world where only the best of the best dared step into a recording studio or onto a large stage.

    Oh no, not this again. There have always been crappy bands, and skill was not the only way anyone got into a studio. Their music gets forgotten, so the past looks rosy.

    Here's a band for you to look up: "Tom and Jerry."

    But anyway, the idea that musicians should be able to support a middle class lifestyle by playing music is simply counter to almost all of human history. Mozart came from a good family, was sponsored by European royalty, and still died poor. It's the same for most arts – James Joyce never made enough from his writing while alive; I know many actors who work often, for pay, who have never not held a day job, and no one seems to bat an eye about that in their business. Musicians seem to think they're different because they *have* to be able to tour the country, they *have* to be able to produce a CD, they *have* to practice 12 hours a day (I don't know anyone who does, though, do you? I see an awful lot of musicians on twitter and Facebook, but not many doctors and lawyers – why is that?), they *have* to do all this stuff.

    The 20th century was a freak occurrence, and the people who really made it weren't the musicians anyway, they were the labels, the executives, and the distributors. Now we've entered a time of mass vanity publishing in music, which does not have quite the same stigma that vanity publishing holds in other artistic spheres, like fiction writing. (Journalism went through a brief indie period with blogging and has now settled back into its old gatekeeper paradigm.)

    Some very hard facts:
    1) Here in America we are blessed with an abundance of free time and wealth, allowing a great many people to become artists and a culture that values fame. You are competing against a large number of people who want to be famous and have the time to learn an instrument at least somewhat.
    2) There is no bar to performing in public beyond being able to convince a club or bar owner to book you – and some of them (especially bars) don't listen to the music at all before making a decision. You are competing against a lot of people who can take equal advantage of this shortcoming on the part of the club owners.
    3) Because we value fame so highly, there are lots of people who will play for nothing, give their recordings away, etc. Heck, I'm one of them (I don't want to be famous, but you might have noticed from the length of this post that I and opinionated and operate under the vain and ridiculous assumption that people have any desire to hear what I have to say).

    In other words, we have an overabundance of supply, and the demand is actually in the musicians who want listeners, not in listeners who want musicians!

    -Jon

  • Joe

    I've heard this discussion of "I'm going to play what I like, and it doesn't matter if no one else appreciates it", because it's deemed better than compromising your craft to increase appeal. So why do those same people insist on playing shows? What drives us to play in front of an audience instead of being perfectly content with playing at home, recording, even releasing albums? Why do you insist on setting up shows and playing for an audience if you have no interest in taking into account what people want? And to go along with that, this whole idea of "people don't appreciate the technical skill with which I am playing" – sometimes when you play the most complicated music instead of focusing on some kind of listenability or emotional connection of sorts, it's translated as "look at how awesome I am at the guitar – you should be impressed by me". You can't really be surprised when people don't want to buy your cd. Music is certainly not just about technical prowess, that's only part of songwriting. That's the fun in music vs. other fields – the rules are much more fluid and subjective.

  • Hannah

    As a musician with graduate degrees in engineering, it is interesting to see the perspective of both the artistic and more scientific communities on this type of debate. In college, I'd hear humanities students complain that they don't get enough support (in the form of fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, etc.) and that their work is just as valuable as the science/engineering students. Engineering grad students have a lot more opportunity to get school paid for, and get paid pretty reasonably on top of that, and that's just a result of more money floating around in that industry. In an ideal world, everyone would get paid proportionally to their work input, but that truly is unrealistic and is variable based on the nature of the industry that you are working in. If you aren't making enough money with what you are doing, it's your responsibility to change, not everyone else. It's a creative industry, so it makes sense that it would also require some creative ideas to figure out ways to get paid.

    AND, if you do come across to your fans as someone who is just trying to squeeze every dollar out of them, they will get turned off. One of the most successful bands in my area have a pay whatever you want pricing system (you can literally pay 20 cents and they will smile and be as happy as if you gave them a $20) and they make way more money on T-shirts and concerts from these very loyal, happy fans. And the average amount paid per cd is still close to $10.

  • RM3

    I certainly appreciate this post! It raises a lot of questions and brings many valid points to the forefront. I don't know about anyone else, but it touches upon a lot of points that hit home for me.

  • G.

    I believe we should start with the assumption that art, like any other good or service, should be paid for. You raise a valid point as to how are were to know whether we will like it or not before "trying it" (I assume an allusion to not-so-legal downloading). However, this applies to all goods and services, does it not? We make like steak, but we don't know if we'll like THIS particular steak until we've eaten it, but we trust that restaurant owners higher skilled chefs because they want return customers. Shouldn't we make the same assumption about venue owners and concert promoters?

    But alas, I think it does come down to how much the public values music. If person claims to not be interested enough in music to pay for, that's their choice. But that does not give them a right to download music that was not offered for free. They can and should stick to terrestrial radio and YouTube. In my experience, those who do value music ARE willing to pay for it (although the allure of "free" is a bit too tempting at times), so I warn my fellow musicians, offering free downloads usually attracts more of the former and few of the latter. What proof? Check on the reviews of the free download of the week on iTunes. You would think these consumers paid $1,000 for this song by the level of complaint.

  • Bands have to have second jobs due to venues scalping the bands and charging money at the door, but only giving the bands small change. Venues are the biggest drawback for bands/artists.

    On another note, there are tons of new electronica bands out there who get on stage and sit in front of a laptop and never look at the crowd. This type of band irks me and I feel it is the biggest form of insult to their fans. If I go to a show expecting to see a real "show", and the artist sits in front of a laptop the entire time absorbed in their own world, then I never go back to see them and lose all interest in them. Give the fans a real show, and they will hunger for more.

  • Regarding the loss of the collective discerning ear, yes this has definitely happened. But to my mind, there is something even more horrifying and devastating that has happened—the de-evolution of music itself.

    For some mysterious reason, instead of the quality of songwriting and musicianship in popular music (I'm talking mainly rock and pop here) evolving and getting better and better from the 1970s forward, in what should be a very natural progression, a serious degradation started which picked up speed in the late 80s and really kicked in big time from about 1990 on. Something very damaging happened around that time, I'm not sure what it was. I believe MTV played a major role. But the result has been unmistakable to me: a gradual but obvious decline in the forward progress of music.

    From that time forward to the present, there has been a shocking acceptance of a much lower standard in songwriting. Think back to the 1970s (and if you aren't old enough to do so, then forgive me but you probably don't even know what I'm talking about here). It was an incredibly fertile time for music, and nearly anyone who was signed to a record deal was a stellar songwriter and/or musician (often both) in some obvious way or another. If you weren't, well, you just didn't get signed, but that is what kept the quality high.

    As the author of the article points out, back then, if you weren't among the best, you didn't dare step into studio or onto stage. There was a "natural selection" that took place, a sort of Musical Darwinism that filtered out amateurs and underdeveloped musicians and let only the high quality product through. Today, not only is musical excellence not expected, it's not even something that people look for. They look for image and attitude. The things that were once accoutrements to talent are now substitutes for it. Somewhere along the line, music turned from a craft where essentially, only the people with the magic touch got the chance to be seen and heard, to something where just anyone with an ego, regardless of talent, is allowed a platform and is—astonishingly—seen as somehow equal to the tiny percentage of true artists who actually do have the magic.

  • To hell with that. IF people think that artists shouldn't get paid, STOP PAYING F*CKING $40 TO GO SEE HOLLYWOOD SCHLOCK! Stop buying new Kanye west CDs. STOP PAYING FOR DIRECTV!

    America is the most ass-backwards country in the world when it comes to creativity.

  • @lthrboots: You're wrong. There are plenty of laptop musicians who connect with the crowd. I'm one of them. Watch this to be sure:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B08sUScox5g#t=1m20

    Don't assume that everyone with a laptop is a failure on stage. I've played to huge crowds and given them one of the best shows they've seen, and I play on a laptop.

  • Steve

    Wow… Rizomorph. You raise an important point in pop music today: "the result has been unmistakable to me: a gradual but obvious decline in the forward progress of music". This is due to the fact that BIG MONEY is no longer on the table to nurture and produce musical talent in the same way that it was in the 1970's. The remedy to this dilemma will be time for our culture to adjust to changing financial systems and ideals.

  • Hey Chris,

    I see a lot of sides of this issue. First of all, good post and it's definitely thought-provoking.

    I've been touring and playing for about six years now. Realistically, my live performance is to a point where I put on a solid show every time (whether sick, unhappy, stressed out), I hit the right notes, I have a "look" and a feel to my performance that is consistent. I have a live performance that I feel is worth getting paid for. My recordings are mostly DIY and I am taking the next step to have a solid CD that I feel is worth paying money to record (on my end) and for people to purchase on the other end.

    I'm taking the proactive step to get my recordings up to the level of my live performance. I DO agree with you and I wish that people WOULD do things like practice. Make sure they are singing as well as they can. Make sure their band is up to speed. in the indie-pop world that I'm a part of, there are tons of bands who are hugely popular and it appears (to me) that they can barely sing or play their instruments. I'm not saying that certain people should be denied the right to make music. I'm just saying that I would appreciate it (like you) if people put more work into their performance. And yes, it annoys me when a "hot" headlining band is kind of half-assing their performance and getting paid a lot more than I am just because they happen to be hot in the moment. BUT that's part of life, and I digress.

    There is a glut of supply on the market right now, but I really feel like we're entering an era of bands that will make one, maybe two CDs before they give up and walk away. Success does not happen instantly. It doesn't happen overnight. And, most importantly, it usually doesn't happen when you're in your early 20s!!

    My goal is to be a lifelong musician who makes music for my entire life. So if I'm not making tons of money at it in my late 20s, I'm not going to freak out. Because that wasn't my goal in the first place. My goal is to do this, make beautiful music, for the rest of my life.

    There should be no shame in having a day job but I question the terms of those exact words. I think that many musicians have to do other jobs in order to make the money that's required to release and press and master and record a CD. A lot of people I know do odd jobs or other tasks.

    I don't think anyone with a 40+ hour a week "traditional Day Job" is EVER going to make it as a career musician because you have to be willing to put as much time as humanly possible into your music to have a product that's good enough to be paid for. IN MY OPINION. There's no shame in that though. If you want to release a Christmas album every year just because it's what you want to do, and you work as a middle level marketing manager and have no goals to ever tour… that's totally OK. Do it! Just don't expect to receive the same level of press that an indie band who works their *** off to make a Christmas album. And don't expect anyone but your friends and family to buy it.

    I make tons of sacrifices for my music. I don't even have a place to live right now because I don't work enough hours at my part-time job to do that. I belong to the class of musicians who spend a lot of time touring because it's how we make money. I also question musicians who want fame and money but don't want to actually be working hard playing music. It's HARD WORK, just as hard as an engineering job or a management job at a company. Good musicians work every bit as hard as a manual laborer and require the same skill level of a talented surgeon. Are we going to be paid for that? Who knows.

    I think another level of responsibility lies with the artist TO ASK TO BE PAID. If you don't ask to be paid, you're not going to get paid. i do agree that you have to give away free downloads/music in this day and age in order to be heard. But if you're going to play a show where you're not getting a door cover, and you're not willing to pass the hat around and say something like, "Hey, it would really be great if anyone wants to donate a few bucks for gas money or for our performance tonight. Your support helps us get to the next town, etc," then you don't deserve to be paid. And if you're not willing to walk up to the doorman/bouncer and insist on getting your fair share from the door, then you also don't deserve to be paid.

    Musicians need to put more of a focus on getting paid. We're working just as hard as everyone else. It's not necessarily a societal problem. start with what you can change and are in control of: YOUR BEHAVIOR and CHOICES if you want to get paid. Start asking for a guarantee from bars and see what they say. Start selling your CDs and BELIEVING that you deserve to get paid from it. Start practicing your *** off and performing like you're being paid to be there. Start asking people for donations at a show and feeling confident that you're providing a service that people want.

    And then see what happens. Who knows.

  • There is little difference in starting a band or a business. You must convince the public that you have a valuable product or service. It usually takes years to make a profit and you are constantly at risk of collapse. Until you "make it" or in other words, you're paying the bills. Businesses always need a grip cash to start, usually in the form of a bank loan. For promising bands, the bank used to be a label. If you believe in your product/music, you'll need to accept the idea of running at a deficit and borrowing money. Most businesses fail as do most bands.

    Many communities offer subsidies for start-up businesses and some progressive ones even offer government or private charity subsidies for artists. The artists and businesses who turn a profit are the ones who work at it every day and rarely have time for a second job. My advice: Get your chops together and dive in with full commitment. The happier you make your customers, the happier they will be to give you money.

  • marrrtin

    Don't go to lame shows. Leave if U do.

  • IQ

    I'm an artist like a painter is an artist. I want to make my art(a recording) and sell it. I don't want to be an entertainer. I wish there was a way to get around that. I don't want to do shows. Why don't we demand that painters get up in front of an audience and paint the picture again(with less quality of course) all over the world? You are at a mall. You hear a good song that pleases your ears. You see a painting that looks beautiful. But you demand to see the song maker on stage. The song maker needs to make flyers and be a people person(which the best artists rarely were).

  • Welcome to 2011 !!!

    Music teaches people to listen. Music teaches people how to express themselves. Music teaches people how to play and work together. This brings people together; creates community, communication, cooperation, and understanding.

    If you are doing music on any level, you are doing a good thing. Step by step, if you do it well, people will pay you.
    If you work hard and passionately, more people will take notice and your game will expand.

    Thank you.

  • OK I saw Image and Attitude,Play for FREE or Give your music away,Ask for money???,Artist getting Paid,Paying Your Dues and Do it your self(DIY).Here is my TWO Cents…If YOU put out your Own Music in this day and age It will become a 24/7 JOB and You Won't Get Paid for all the hard work you do.And if you work a full time Job then you really can't Tour so you have to play in your own back yard so to say.And Now a Days if you put music on the Web it will soooooner or later become a Free download.I've been at this forever (one of the people that really played in the 70's).Played a lot of Clubs and had my music mentioned in a lot of music Magazines.I also have 45's,Ep's,Lp's,a Tape,CD's and downloads.But it all comes back to one Thing. Making Music is a Business.But remember if you put any thing out it will be there long after you Die.Just ask Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.But if you play a Club there is a chance that the people may get so drunk they won't even remember you the next DAY.

  • The title was should artists have to work a 2nd job. In fact an artist is a craftsman. I don't know any craftsman who does not work 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on jobs but in the same line of work. Music is a learned craft in a trade.
    The trade is music. The craftsman is the musician. Talent is shown within the trade.
    The abilities or levels of craftsmanship run within that field just as the trades; Amateur, novice – journeyman right up to Masters, etc.

    It actually doesn't require the written degrees as it would working in the fields like mechanics but it is a hands on training often through experience itself.
    This hands on is proven in making a good living using the TALENT that was given whether it is in sales, organizational clerical, cleaning, and other forms of work.
    If there is true talent the artist can do what is necessary to continue honing their craft while working it daily. This is a hard life and yet one that the world would be sad without it's presence within it. It is the arts.
    Respect for the sacrifice of the artist sharing his talents is what many have no real concept of understanding because those that complain the loudest may not have a talent in the same field of work. Some are wish desperately that they did but that is from ignorance more than a knowledge base.
    Remember a craft when done well looks easy to accomplish until someone without the talent tries to do the same ends in frustration.
    The balance in all this notability is the acceptance, understanding, and emotional support by educated cultures of society.
    One more thing, artist must know that the day worker has a different perspective and may never understand the addiction of the craft. An artist must respect their talent that was given to truly turn around and give away (share) to and with others with being paid for their service. Musicianship is simply a paid service. You have bad plumbers and carpenters just like bad musicians. The weekend warriors who have day jobs and do not rely on making music to pay bills is only harming those that practice their craft to make house & car payments. The ones that profit by that action are the management who get cheap or free labor…does this sound like some other trades we all know? Each talent given to everyone requires acceptance and responsibility. Accepting that your income is not the reason to make music but the responsibility is to be paid for the service of performing it. Again this is only an opinion based on full time musicianship for over 40 years & making a good living. I looked at it as MY responsibility and not relying on others to do it for me. Good luck!

  • Tom

    The Real World
    While it's interesting and can be educational to look backwards in time from a composer and musician's perspective, that's not the way fans or an audience think. I'm a fan of music history and every generation seems to think that their generation’s music was the best. I'm sure that Bach would consider Glenn Miller’s music to be a significant downgrade. Glenn Miller would think Led Zeppelin to be a musical failure. And Robert Plant may believe that Katy Perry can’t sing without autotune or perform live without backing tracks and a slew of Martin MAC 2000's chasing her across the stage.

    What happened?
    Classical music (Bach), once very popular, is now a niche both in recordings and live performances. Instead, audiences flock to see a Katy Perry show at the local Big Business Dome.

    Musicians are also competing with all of the entertainment available online and in people's homes. Video games. Cable TV. YouTube. Farmville.

    The barrier to entry for musicians is now very low thanks to technology and the distribution channel known as the WWW. As a result, there are now more people than ever making music in conventional and unconventional ways throughout the world. And their recordings are available to almost everyone for almost no fee.

    We can't control any of this. It's progress. The golden age of music.

    The basics constraints are straight forward:
    –Each of us has only 24 hours available per day for living, work, and entertainment. Time is now our biggest constraint.
    –We only have a certain amount of money to spend on food, shelter, a bunch of other things, beer and entertainment.
    –There's almost more music available than we'll ever be able to listen to in our lives.
    –The gatekeepers to musical taste are gone with the possible exception of financing and live performance spaces (venues). And financing is becoming less of an issue because the cost to record, sell and advertise music has significantly declined. Good riddens!

    As musicians who want to spend our lives making music, what do we do?
    –Actively find your niche and own it.
    –Ignore the last traditional gatekeeper, venues, and do an end-run. Why perform at a traditional music venue? Join together with other live musicians and design a show that you would pay your very hard earned money to experience. Rent your own hall or conference room in a hotel. Play in your fan's homes. Now you have control over every aspect of the cost structure, advertising and performance of your event. And it needs to be an "event" or there's no reason to get off of our collective couches and travel to just another show.

    If you want to eat, learn from rappers
    Music sales make up a small portion of rapper’s net profit—in general, they’re good business people. Ancillary products make up the majority (clothes, drinks, stickers). Have a profitable product available for sale that covers every person’s price range. $1. $5. $10. $50. $500.

    Think in big numbers
    Once you're beyond family, friends and a small group of fans (0-350 people) who support you by buying your products, including attending your live events, you'll need fans. A lot more fans. Here's the assumptions and math.
    Annual gross salary wanted: $50,000
    Conversion rate of fans to sales: 0.1%

    Results:
    –Sell an average of $1 items and you need 50 million fans: (Gross salary/conversion rate*average gross sale). Specifically: ($50,000/0.001*$1=50 million)
    –Sell an average of $10 items and this drops to 5 million fans.
    –Increase your conversion rate to 1% and sell an average of $5 items and you now need only 1 million fans.
    Five million fans is not an extraordinarily large number. There's 300 million awaiting you in the U.S. alone. Billions throughout the world. All just a click away.

    Can this be accomplished?
    How many Facebook and Myspace pages do you know about that say something like "Let’s get to 1 million people to support the color orange?"

    It takes time and not much money to succeed once. Succeeding over your lifetime requires musical skills, practice, creativity and the ability to write and perform music that your niche audience loves–the historically important stuff.

    What's your plan?

    • Vivian Clement

      Thanks Tom for your very insightful, business-like comment. I agree with everything you said. You can find loyal fans who will support your music, but you have to think like a business person and get a strategy model that works.

      Vivian Clement
      http://www.femalemusicianonline.com
      http://www.vivianclement.com

  • I can't throw a brick without hitting some scenester in a band. And that brick usually hits some asshole that thinks they can mooch off people thinking their music is going to get them famous.

    Get Real.

    If teachers with doctorate degrees are having problems, Joe Schmoe Rocker isn't going to make it.

    What separates the roses from the manure is drive. A shitty band can get money if they work for every fan, email, and ear-hole. And then, they have to be marketers, salespeople, and web designers.

    What the hell? You think getting drunk in tight pants gets you points? The only musicians that make it are the ones that write the music and then GO FOR IT. If you're whining about not getting famous, you probably still wouldn't be famous in the 80s. Even those rock stars are working in construction now.

    Yes. You'll need a second job. To get rid of that second job, you'll need to HUSTLE. Get smart. Game the system. Do something NEW. Do more than just one thing.

    It sucks. But it's not just musicians. It's EVERYONE.

    But now you have the interwebs. The interwebs allows you to not need a label that will take over 90% of your royalties. Put on your business hat and stop crying.

  • The Frederick Acoustic Music Enterprise is trying to tackle this problem with a three-pronged approach. First is to educate performers about performing. Yoou are not just "singing a song." You are trying to give an audience and experience, to leave them feeling different from when they came in. Practicing your craft is only half – the other half is learning how to work with an audience, learning how to make your performance an experience. The second prong is for the venue operator and staff. They also need to see music and the musicians as an integrtal part of what they do – for they also are trying to give their guests and "experience." Music cannot just be tacked on to the venue. When it becomes integrated into the venue's character, then it becomes another commodity worth paying for – like a good chef, or good staff. And the third prong is the audience. I think that a lot of people are looking for an experience. To borrow from Cheers – "sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name." They need to know that there is a price for that experience and it is worth paying for. We are so inundated with mediocre music that it is difficult sometimes to wade through the mediocrity and find the real gems. It is something we all need to understand and deal with.

  • I know quite a few people who started small businesses while holding another job. Doctors, lawyers, architects, shop owners, painters, dress makers, fashion designers, sculptors, market gardeners, computer whiz people, A&R men, DJs, you name it people have done it. Why would anyone think that a musician has some other special right – some inflated idea that they are any different than anyone else with a vision to do something.
    Success in any field has certain requirements – some people get luckier breaks than others. I personally think that I am entitled to win the lottery .. but I want somebody else to buy the ticket for me.

    Paul Clements

  • I'm a female rap artist and I have always kept a day job. I even got a degree so I can earn more money to invest in my music and still live the life I wanted. I struggle every now and then with wondering would I be further along in my career had I just followed my music endeavors. Maybe. But the way things look for most artists they'll end up having to get a day job eventually if their career doesn't last past the first album (and many don't). Besides, I see wannabee rap dudes sleeping on their mother's couches still dreaming about record deals at 30 when they could have gotten a day job and found another way to capitalize off their talents. I think working a day job makes you appreciate receiving monetary rewards for your art so much more and keeps you grounded. In that regard I feel much further ahead.

  • Breeze9

    I like the subject of this article — the quote from Jon Simson is endearing, if not uncanny given that the non-profit he left had a huge hiccup in actually paying royalties to its own artists — but I like the words he used just the same. I agree that we as a society need to make sure that artists are paid for their work. In the same vein, artists need to also make sure they get compensated for their work and put an adequate price on it accordingly.

    As an artist attempting to become a working artist, I think any artist who either hasn't made it yet or will never make it (as in the case of a hobbyist)does, in fact, need to work a second job. Hands down. The only way to rightfully get to the top of the heap is to put some work into it.

    Gone are the days of a talent scout sweeping you up, taking you under their wing, doing all the work for you and making you into a star. This article appears on a DIY-themed website, after all — so go do something!

  • This really is the eternal question – ya really just want to jam – but if it isn't right – no one really gives a damn – so get it right, make me care, make me want to pay.
    jc

  • Yeah it is great when we get paid for our music but let get real, it is not our main source for income. Live Performances are we 99 % of us make our money.Even if you are signed to a major label you are only going to make about $ 45,000.00 for 1 million copies of CD sales. For those of you have your calculators out that works out to 4.5 cents per song.
    Am I worry about someone paying me for my recording music as an independent NO because money talks and as long as you are wasting time and effort on a half a cent you are missing out on the huge money by performing live.
    Want to your band perform on stage and have a killer show?

  • The talent is 99 percent the song. Doesnt matter if you devote 100 hrs a week to it or 1 hour……a great great song is a great great song. Musicianship falls in there by default but its totally secondary(for the composer, a studio musician is a different story). If you have a great live show that displays that the great song you have composed makes you emotional and makes you (the performer) move….then another revenue stream to you…. but some dont or cant do both.

    I will say it to the ends of the earth, Filters filters filters at a minimal minimal price,. it would work. I bet 90+ percent of "bands" or "acts" on Facebook/Myspace do not even have a valid CD to sell. PSA's from the big big acts would benefit too, they are losing more revenue than we are.

    It is too easy for Weekend jammers and music hobbyists to assemble what they themselves think is a real music act. They can do anything that a legitimate artist can do all the way up to sticking that CD up on the internet store shelf. They have DIY recording, CDR, all kinds of software, need nominal cash, and then the likes of CDbaby (which is a pro-con situation here).make FILTERS damn it!! And that is where the internet shopper has to weed thru.

  • Then there was the musician who took a second job as an actor and wound up waiting tables.

  • In our day job, we work out being able to include our music. See a new promo which features our music. The song is available as a free download on ilike.
    The joys of self-employment.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwsqN-BgtU8

    create it, be it, live it!

  • I like this article, and especially the comments it has evoked (I haven't read them all yet, I confess). I am one of those musicians developing (slowly) a niche market, so it is taking time. It's taken time to even know that I'm not on the mass-appeal bandwagon. It's hard to know when you're a maverick songwriter, because it's like contemplating the sound of one hand clapping. All I know is, when I play a gig and it's not a paid gig other than tips, people throw money at me (tips, CD's). I take that as an encouragement. I have never thought I could make a living as a songwriter – for one thing, I don't pitch my songs, I sing them myself. For another, I do it to make myself feel better. Being creative in the best way I know how, songwriting, is something that just makes my world a better place (and listeners too, I think). So I do it for the love. When money comes, it's a gift. However, I would like to make more money at this now, as I've lost my day-job a year ago, and I'm living on a limited fixed income which will soon end. So my goose is cooked, if I don't get a job, I guess. The problem is, I'm not that young, so working full-time (which is what I must do to pay all my bills) gets in the way of finding alot of good musical opportunities, and networking, because it takes time and energy to work (after an 11-hour day of work, I'm not good for much of anything, not even practicing). So it's really a tough call. I put a great deal of energy into writing and practicing my music, as well as contemplating where I'm going with all this and trying to create a workable vision. All of this takes an enormous amount of time and obsession.

    Kevin Trawick says:
    January 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I’ll add this:
    The music business is f*cking hard work. Most people dont understand this fact. Weather its friends or family or just an aquaintance. As music makers we all have felt this pressure to get a real job, day job etc,. So you succomb to the pressure, real or imagined and in the process you lose out on opportunities that would have presented themselves if you were devoting more time to your music career. But in the big picture, everything stops if you can’t pay your bills with one or the other. I say that whatever it takes for one to make music, then thats what needs to be done.

  • I've read a lot of the comments, not all of them, but I think I get the gist:

    Thank you for this. As an independent artist/guitarist/vocalist, I am constantly questioning whether or not I'm doing the right thing by dedicating my life to music. After reading this and all the comments, I realize that I'm in good company.

    I think that as musical people, we are probably going to have the greatest criticisms of the music industry because it's where we spend most of our time. But we must remember that the majority of entrepreneurs fail in every industry. The success rate in any personal endeavor is terribly skewed toward a select few while everyone else just gets by. I personally believe that art is one of the only places where the "proof is in the pudding". Anybody with a digital flip cam and garage band can make a music video, but only those who work at their craft will still be making music in 10 years. Marketing and a solid business plan ain't all it takes. You're only as good as your next show. Yet Monsanto gets to destroy the planet and remain profitable.

    Stay up musicians! You produce goodness!

  • We live in very difficult economic days.When the money flowed it was easily possible to go to the music store or the union, check the want ads, audition and score a full time gig playing six nights a week,every Holiday Inn in the country had a lounge with a full time band.Most live music venues only can afford to pay entertainment on the weekends.And they see it as a good thing when a band,which may not be quite ready yet will play for draft beer instead of the 400 bucks your band charges and then drive the customers out of the club because they do not sound good and are playing way to loud.So the club owner goes for a dj and a karoke bar.Six months later you are back at the club for 400 bucks playing for the new owner.I did a lot of roadwork 14 years of it from one end of the country to the other.When I lived in Nashville I was very rarely in Nashville,I was OTR with acts "Direct from Nashville." Thank GOD I was with good people and reputable agents and because we were out of nashville we were respected.I am not going to get in a van and drive 22 hours with a bunch of flakes and get to Kansas City to find we are double booked.What is the great dishonor of having a second job providing gainful employment? It may be full time emplyoyment even yet if you are really an artist it is your second job.And you are a person that prefers to stand on their own two feet.This is a cold and cruel world man,rejection is the norm.One is wise to have a back-up plan,it is a heartbreaking thing to have to pawn your gibson knowing you will never see it again.

  • Peace and blessings,

    I am a christian hip hop artist / music producer who has a nine to five and my perspective on getting paid for your art of music is this: Selling any tope of products takes customers. Point blank. With that being said, there are literally MILLIONS EVEN BILLIONS of people that we can never ever conceive that are looking for new music everyday… the problem is that Marketing to those people takes TIME…… how much is hard to say, but one thing is for sure, to make music your "sole source of income" is "limiting the artist" because for one "networking" means going into different areas to meet different people to expose different things (those different things being your music). Again, to solely do music for money is like using a computer for just "typing". A computer has numerous functions and capabilities, so why should a person limit themselves to just making a living off of music,Perfect example, I not only write and produce my own music, but I also own my own recording label, do web graphics design, all of those things are multi skills that benefit me in the long run and make my ability to move my music in different ways. So dont limit yourselves to the gifts you are blessed with to use cause you will only short change yourselves..

  • I think if you want to make a career of music, then you need to write what people want to hear. If you want to make a hobby of music, then you can write whatever you like. Now I don't mean that every song you create has to be bubblegum music, because that's simply not true. Fans are your bread and butter so keep them happy. If your fans want you to write song's about death and destruction, oblige them. If your fans want you to rap over twangy folk rock, then write twangy folk rock raps. If you get too preachy and high and mighty about your artistic expression, then keep your day job and let music be your hobby. And again, don't get all up in arms because you want people to respect your art. If you can find those fans who will love your music, then great! But in the mean time, cater to your current fans while you look. Give them a good product and they will buy it. My music is for me, which is why I still have a day job. But I'm working on writing music that is more competitive in today's arena. Check it out.

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  • Jim

    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/amoghsymphony

    I suggest buying this CD. It falls into the "niche" market. No compromise at all for anyone except those in the band.
    I have a job, better than any music job I've ever had. It makes music that much more enjoyable.

  • Paul Marangoni

    Drew, I think you may have missed the point. What we're talking about here is the concept that many people don't think they should have to pay for music, and that artists shouldn't expect to be compensated for their art. Your statement that "you need to write what people want to hear" is beyond ridiculous really. Most true artists create art because they HAVE to, not because they want to satisfy others. Besides, if it were truly possible to give people exactly what they want, it would be that much easier to create a hit song, wouldn't it?

    The world needs less "artists" who merely pander to the masses and create contrived "art" soley for the purposes of accolades. We need more artists willing to take chances and push the boundaries of their art. Perhaps the experimentation needs to be gradual, lest the artist alienate the listener, but the world has too many "derivatives" as it is.

    There's always risk with art (or there should be). There should be no risk with its sale though. Those who distribute art illegally need to be brought to justice, and obtaining and purchasing art needs to be made as simple as possible.

  • Such a touchy issue.
    Chris R started a great point about the live music aspect. I think if you can BRING IT live, and you have strong songs, (both of which take a lot of time and work) you will be heard over time.
    But this s#%t is not for the weak. It is painful.

    Let's not get too cocky though, and assume that we deserve to be paid all this money for doing what we do. Supply & demand. Making $$ is not usually an honorable pursuit.

    One of my personal goals as an artist and performer is to eventually get to that place where I'm fully in the moment, and don't care what people think. I think THAT is where true greatness happens. It will attract people that get it.

    (at least that's what I have to believe)

    Now go get a damn job, hippies.

  • Steven

    Paul, I think the problem really isn't that people think music should be free. There are certain people who will always steal music, but for the most part, if it is easy to pay for, most people will pay (except in Asia).

    The real issue is that there are too many artists who think that just because they make music, people must be stealing it because they are not getting paid. The simpler reason is that is because nobody likes the music.

    I know from my own personal experience that 98% of all independent music out there–I do not like. I have no intention of buying it because I do not like it, and I sure as hell wouldn't steal something I don't like.

    What Drew is basically saying is that if you write music that nobody likes, you will not be successful. It has nothing to do with people thinking that it should be free. If I opened a restaurant and nobody likes the food, I'm going to fail. It isn't because my local grocery store likes to give out free samples of food so now nobody thinks they should pay for food.

  • Steven nailed it. I like to compare artists to baseball players. Only the very best baseball players can make a living at it. The rest realize pretty quickly that they will never get paid to play, so they give up and move on.

    There are no minor leagues for musicians, so most are never told explicitly "you are not that good." True, it is probably harder than ever to make money playing music, but the very best still do okay. I know several musicians who can't figure out why they can't make money doing what they love. Just because I love to play golf doesn't mean I deserve to make a living at it. If you can't make money at it, accept that music is your hobby and not your profession. Find a job with health benefits…

  • Jay

    Get a job, hippie, indeed. I've made a living from music for 18 years. After my last royalty check, I've decided that I will get a "real job" for the first time in my life. You kids can figure this shit out, I'm done.

  • It sure feels good to see so many different point of views on what may SEEM to be such a SIMPLE topic! 1) Should Artists work a Day Job? I say that's relative. If you dont want to work a job and just wanna focus on creating your art…HAVE AT IT! Just be prepared to Struggle even HARDER then the rest of the Working Class World!! Ah-Hah-hah! However, many of the Greats were working "Day Jobs" until they got a Record Deal! But how realistic is that in 2011? 2)Should artists be compensated for their Art? Absolutely, especially if it's available for sale. Trust me, someone will buy it! The question is How Many WILL buy it? If its GREAT ART..Many will buy! If it SUCKS…uhh..maybe a few close friends. The music business however, has made DRASTIC CHANGES in the past few years. Kids dont buy CD's anymore… but ADULTS do! Why? GROWN FOLKS dont know how to DOWNLOAD!! My 16 year old niece told me she wanted an
    "i-tunes" card for her birthday. So for twenty bucks she can buy 100-200 complete songs?! Her mother / my sister wanted The Beatles CD Box set for her B-day $699.00!! From Major Artsists!? WTF! Our mother wanted an LP (VINYL) of Stevie Wonder "Talking Book" for her B-Day. (Moms' loves her WAX and has a functioning Clean turntable and system!!) My neice never heard of an "LP". My mother cant spell "i-tunes" Again its all relative, in 2004 Inner city kids used to buy more Bootleg CD's because there were more Solicitors on the city streets. Surburban yuppie larvae Downloaded more because they had constent Internet access. NOW…7 years later every teenager, Urban or Sub-Urban, downloads from Pirate Music Websites all the music they can pronounce totally-absolutely-free!!! The Major Labels have become CD Wharehouses because no one wants to buy CD's anymore. My son sells his music on Flash drives $3 – $5 for the whole album!
    3) If a band plays a Bar or Club should they be compensated? If they SUCK?..Well if they are Normally good and just having a bad night,YES! If they never had a GOOD night, HELL NO!!! Go back and practice practice practice!!! But this is all just my personal reality! So again I say "Its Relative" because "Life Is Relative" (incidently thats the title of our next album available on CD Baby soon! Ah-Hah-Haahh! MAY GOD BLESS US ALL for being so dedicated to Art!!!

  • There is a difference between making a living playing music, and making a living from your art. I play cover music for a living, but I also write and record. Oddly enough the cover music pays for the art, whether people buy the record or not. A lot of times that affords me the ability to give music away at will, rather than just be subject to people ripping me off.

    I would love to be able to make a living playing my own music, rather than having to play "Brown Eyed Girl" for the thousandth time. But I'd rather use my talents to pay the bills than waste them digging ditches while my art suffers altogether.

    That being said, unless you've made a lot of headway gathering a following on youtube, a la Pomplamoose, then you'll HAVE to go out and play live and schlep CD's. It's just a fact. In the past artists who got signed made their real money touring, and selling merch. Guess what? It's never changed. Record labels will always require huge sums of money from their artists, and artists will always have to suffer somewhat for their art.

    We also have to put the "suffering" into perspective. I've been playing music since I was a little kid, so when I found out I could make money doing it by playing other peoples music, I was there! That goes for working in the studio as well. I never really felt like I was suffering. I know that if I had taken the other road and refused to do what others thought was "uncool" or "not real" I would have suffered to the point where I would've started working at Wal-Mart, or something miserable like that. What I think is kinda funny is that the "real" artists have ended up doing covers to get street cred anyway.

    So if you are a capable musician, go do some cover music in a bar to pay the bills, and have your other projects on the side until it's flipped and you can use your talents to further yourself without having to let them go to waste just because you think you have to suffer for your art.

  • JD

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One of your guests said on the podcast that if it's good and it's out there, people will find it. You need to do it because you love to do it. Just get a job and don't ever stop. Or don't, and hustle. Either way, use the odds stacked against you as inspiration to get better. Execution has far less to do with it than the songs being good. Miles Davis soloing over bad material is going to sound like a hack. If your songs don't stand up when stripped to their basic chords and melodies, find a writer to collaborate with whose do, or learn to write.

  • I once heard that art is something that you do for yourself. Craft is something that you do for others. I agree that those who take their craft seriously and treat it like a profession will reap monetary rewards. Art can be rewarded as well, but it still has to have an audience that will appreciate it enough to pay for it. I mainly do "craft" in covers and keep the audience in mind when writing.

    And yes, I do believe that an artist should be compensated for quality work. Just because tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people illegally download music, doesn't mean that it is right or acceptable.

  • I definitely think there's an overall lack of appreciation for the effort that goes into becoming a "talented" musician. Hours of study, practice, and frequent isolation that goes into perfecting your craft. And it never ends… there's always more to learn. I think that many people who go to college and get a degree in their field of choice will not spend half the effort that the hard working musician will spend to get to the point where they can eek out a living playing music and keeping their chops up.

    I only say this because I've gone both routes and I can honestly compare them and tell you, music is a hard road, as are visual art, writing, and other forms of artistic expression, but they should be no less deserved of reward.

  • bj

    Even there are many ways to do the music today, I still think that the musicworld is the same as always. You can promote your self on the net, produce the music on your own – but still, the hole world listen to Rihanna:-) ( which is okay) So of course if you are not connected to a recordcompany, and you are the digital semiartist, then it's important having a job beside the music.

  • This article hits so close to home.

    I too play in a cover band. I also DJ & host karaoke as my money-making job.

    But I also write & record my own music (which I promote while DJ'ing).

    It has never really felt like work because I love what I do, but I still hold on to the dream that someday my ORIGINAL music will break into the mainstream and cover bands everywhere will be covering my songs.

    I'll keep persevering until THAT reality kicks in.

    Thanks for such an enlightening article. I intend to send it to all my non-musician friends so that they better understand the "business" behind the "art". Maybe then, they'll be more apt to buy the music than to expect it for free or burn copies for their friends.

  • Wow. Thanks for this article…suddenly I don't feel so alone.
    I agree Chris, especially about the opening a can of coke thing.
    If I pay for a crappy meal, I call it a loss and don't go back to the restaurant…if I walked out without paying (equate this to downloading for free) it's still stealing, and doesn't diminish the fact that the cook had to work to put the crappy meal together.
    I miss the days when you could trust that the musicians actually put old fashioned blood sweat and tears into their craft instead of using protools and stuff to make the recordings sound better. Live music is where the truth is told…so why should those of us who have worked on our songs, worked our stage show, rehearsed our butts off, why should we get paid almost nothing for our art?
    It's crap. Ask those people who think we don't deserve to be paid for our art if they would do their own job for nothing. I think not! Bottom line, I think those of us who work hard and pay our dues and make sure our stage show and songs are in order, should be compensated for it…but the posers… on the other hand there are crappy doctors, and they still get paid, too, so really, we musicians and artists should have more respect, good or bad. Cause this world would be lame without music and artwork.

  • Should amateur artists have to work a 2nd job? Yes. Should the professional artists have to work a 2nd job? Not necessarily.

    Nowadays, everyone that owns a computer can create (?) music. But what about the quality of that music? Most of the times the quality is extremely bad. Because that music was made by people that are not talented/composers/professionals. If you are a pro, you have to get paid for your music. If you are an amateur, you will soon realize that you will never get paid. Just because you love to push two buttons on a software program in order to create (?) music, it doesn’t mean that you deserve to make a living at it.

    If your music is beautiful, sooner or later people will find it. But people won't find it just because you have a myspace/facebook page or an official website. People will find it because of your hard promotional work. Record your music, and then… Promote it. Promote it. Promote it everywhere; online and offline.

    Everything has changed today. The music world is completely different now. You don't need a record deal anymore. The internet is a spectacular gift; and it is huger and more powerful than any company on earth. Use it!

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  • Music Has a Right to

    pro musicians shouldn't, but have to, and it's due to illegal, unpaid downloading. and the world will have less "good" music for it.

    promote all you want, but the weird thing is, the more time you put into getting on the radar (and it will take you 30-40 hours a week, for years), the less reward-for-effort. you'll see your paid-for units going up a little; you'll see your torrented ones go up exponentially. you'll see your youtube views go up by the tens of thousands, but your sales by virtually nothing…

    no excuse now not to buy a song. it's so cheap, everything is available. i just read that 25% of phone apps are only ever used once– so clearly people are willing to spend a buck on something they might not like. why not music? because they can get it for free.

    the argument that if you're good enough you'll make it is bogus. a lot of amateurs in many fields (art, music, sport, teaching, carpentry, etc.) were able to get to the next level because there was financial support that enabled them to work full time on their craft (sales, sponsors, paid work in their field, patrons, etc.)

    no one is asking for a free ride… except the illegal downloaders.

  • I can't tell you how many times I've told friends that I have 3 jobs and they say, "What's your third job?" And I say, "I'm a singer-songwriter." (duuuuu.)I think people truly don't get that even if you're not a household name that there are people out there who work as musicians. Money is not the indicator of your vocational choice. Your time and effort and love for what you do are the indication of your choice.

    I've been plugging away for over almost 15 years. And just when I decide to relegate my choice to hobby status, I always seem to change my mind. My third job is the one that I love.

  • One man's trash is another man's treasure as far as what has commercial value. I think if consumers are willing to pay God Bless the product. Take Bob Dylan as an example even in his hey day he was endlessly criticized for his voice but in my opinion he had a strong voice even if you didn't like the tone or Pavarotti what a great voice even if you don't like opera. Your article dose make me want to raise my level of performance critically and commercially.
    I think it's up to the individual.
    Thanks,

  • I feel that is so true one can reach new heights if you have a side legal hustle or a 9-2-5 to support your dreams, that way if you don't have people amongst you that believe in your music abilities greatly; you can always learn and utilize the tools that could bring your music to the forefront,but if your hoping some one picks you up and sponser you are setting your self up for failure despise the free lunch.

  • I'm a musician and a struggling artist. And as I read this article the other day, whilst stressing on how I was going to pay my rent this month or even keep my internet connection on long enough to respond to this post….I couldn't help but feel frustrated by what seemed to be a majorly overlooked factor in the whole "art vs. commerce" argument.

    You seem to assume that we as striving artists really have all the control over our ability to make a livelihood out of our art.

    Even with the opportunities that technology and the internet has brought to independent and unsigned artists, it's still a fight to whoever can get the most publicity. And at the end of the day, in our society at least, publicity and fame win! Sure a culmination of talent and skill can contribute, but they're seldom ever what drive the sales in music. Both for the music consumers and music profiteers. (Sure Justin Beiber played guitar at the Grammys to show that he had a modicum of musical skill – but that damn sure wasn't what got him to the Grammys correct?) And with huge record labels and entertainment conglomerates still holding all the cards in the industry, they don't want anyone thinking that an artist can widen their audience without their help. So they have to convince the public that only famous "artists" count. And the ones who aren't obviously don't deserve it….so why even try listening to their music? (i.e. Pat B.'s brilliant comment: "There are no minor leagues for musicians…" – Thanks Pat! I guess he might think that Esperanza Spalding is in the "minor leagues"with her 30,000 CD sales last year – but that would be a damn good year for most of the rest of us musicians!)

    At the end of the day, the entertainment industry has cheapened and devalued the art that many of us work hard to make, and makes it that much harder for us to make money from performing because that isn't worth anything to anyone anymore, even when the music is good! Why should they, the general public pay, when we're not a rock star already? And how do they know you're a rock star unless you've been sponsored by Target or perform at the Superbowl?

    Because there's no such thing as a musician middle class in our society, no one honors or respects those musicians who simply set out to make a decent living at what they love and are most skilled at. In other professions it's perfectly acceptable to aim for a median income in your field and still be considered successful. (You don't have to become Donald Trump in order to make a great living in real estate…) Yet, the implication I get from many of these kinds of articles is: if my music isn't wildly popular or appealing to the masses, I must not be ambitious enough and/or talented enough to "make it". Much in the way that our overall economy is rigged to weaken the middle-class in this country, the individual industries look to do the same.

    Over the past 15 years I've worked for club owners who pay less and less because they can get a cheap amateur band to play for free. I've worked for greedy wedding band leaders who with little musical talent can make up towards $2-$3000 a gig because they can convince rich people to hire them for their weddings and then they hire the rest of the band for whom they pay a penance to "make" the music for them. I've had people comment jealously that they wish they could just "do what they love" as if my music is a hobby that I just lucked out on getting paid for. Even though I've recorded 2 albums independently, my family & friends would sooner see me go and audition for "X Factor" than simply buy a CD from me – because they're are leaving it to someone else to make me famous…

    Sorry for the bitterness, but I'm tired of these trivial discussions about the music business when there are those of us out here who have proven that we are dedicated, committed and deserving of music careers, but are still having a hard time due to circumstances outside of our control!

  • Had real jobs for 14 years. Had music related jobs for 14 years after that. Have been a full time artist for nearly 2 years now. And its hard out there, but it would break my heart to have to go back.

  • Sonja

    First, big thumbs up for Michele Thomas' post. You speak from my soul girl!
    I've been a struggling artist myself since I was 14. I never aimed for a regular work but thanks to my Mum I finished law school besides my musical adventures. When I got 25 two years ago I started to feel a need for some security in my life (my parents were struggling self-employed for many years too) and I had reached some dead point in my music life.

    So I started to work a regular desk job at a law firm and well, no denials, it IS damn hard to get up at 5 am, come home at 6 pm and still have the energy to work on your music career. But on the other hand, I feel such a big freedom: For the very first time in my life, I only depend on myself, I can live a sufficient life on my own, AND I can sponsor my musical adventures, being my own record company 🙂 NO more depending on greedy managers, egomanic producers or betraying venue owners.

    I may be constantly tired but I feel that I can do a lot more for my music now than back then. For me, it's not the amount of time that counts, but the quality of effort you put into your project. Better to pay one promotional spin to several hundred radio stations with a well-produced CD than trying to email everybdoy personally for HOURS and HOURS with some crappy demo-recording because you just couldn't afford the mastering.

  • The Money

    While we're talking wishful sugar, maybe it might help to ask yourself, "who's your daddy"?

    1) There are the large advances offered to very young and highly marketable mass appeal acts and artists courtesy of the majors who can pick and choose any unknown or shopped group and squander development and promotion dollars to put them into debt on the promise of fame and riches. Corporate daddy.

    2) There's the killer inde act with supreme musical talent, tons of style, mad tour schedule and a jaw dropping live show that combines tribes of enablers, social networking savvy, and a merchandising model that is so bleeding edge that they know how to hip it without you even knowing. Tribe daddy.

    3) There's the even more killer solo artist who's live show is so amazing, music so creative and song writing so unique and beguiling that every time he or she rolls into town the shows are sold out before you even knew they were on sale. In fact, you're probably not even aware of this artist who's backed by a tiny team of uber skilled devotes who'd, given the choice would do all the heavy lifting for nothing. Genius daddy.

    So, who's your daddy? Corporate, tribe or genius?

    If you can't see him here, you either need a miracle publishing deal from a freak viral youtube break or get comfy with the idea that not all art needs to be conspicuous, monetized or fame worthy, which for my money, ain't such a bitter truth.

  • Well, ya gotta allow for a reality check….I rolled by a local place after some time away – and there's a guy standing next to a laptop, singing along with trax. The next week, another venue – a guy playing guitar with full trax. Repeat ad infinitum. These folks have squeezed some of us into fewer and fewer gigs. I sing and play guitar, and get wonderful feedback, but can't get into some places because it's not full enough. A solo player now has to have a looper, beatbox or tracks to compete.

    I do work a day job, because for now there is not enough work for me as a solo. I have CDs, but they are different than the things I must play live. People want to buy what they hear onstage. I also sing jazz, and get raves on my technique and range, but jazz clubs in my area are (very)few. In addition, many jazz groups are instrumentally based, and have to keep lean to work; the singer can be the first one lopped off to save overhead.

    To pay for my next project of originals, I have to make money. I play as often as I can, but with clubs changing hands (and managers changing moods), ADs and FBs getting fired or promoted, malls shifting managment, seasonal drop-off (FL), city budgets sliced (holiday gig bye-bye), and various other real-life situations, I gotta do what I can otherwise. Nothing wrong with diversification, but I'm sad that I can't make music full-time right now.

  • Chief Kooffreh

    One man's meat is another mans poison . My suggestion is whether you are Lady GaGa or ordinary musician Joe. DO THE BEST JOB.Dedication is the first line of winning. IT IS NOT ABOUT releasing one cd in A YEAR.You will not succeed .RELEASE A TON , RELEASE MANY , RELEASE THE GOOD , THE BAD AND THE UGLY someone out there wants it but show professionalism the best you can.
    HYPE
    Today it is about hype . It is not about music . GIVE YOUR SONGS PROVOCATIVE TITLES. I have a song called "SHE WILL CUT YOUR BALLS OFF" or PIMP YOUR PUSSY CAT . Bring in shocking Videos .My streaming is alot because i follow these PRINCIPLES and my down load is average.TODAY MUSIC IS SHOCKING THE FANS AND PUBLIC. Be strange and be ready to be weird. I recorded OUR LORDS PRAYER but the video is a mixture EVIL ON EARTH mass graves of evils done by mankind , beheadings and victimes of war mixed with our savior JESUS CHRIST try to say no. Shocking.
    SHOCK THE FANS AND PUBLIC
    REMEMBER YOUR SONG WILL LAST FOR 500 YEARS LONGER THAN MANY TV STARS LIKE LARRY KING WHO AFTER THEY LEAVE THE TV. your children children will still hear your voice. COME FROM THAT ANGLE SHOW LOVE
    SHOCK THE FANS AND PUBLIC THAT IS MY ADICE AS THE MOST PUBLISHED RECORED ARTIST IN THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS , CONNECTICUT, RHODE ISLAND ,NEW JERSEY 75 ALBUMS 1500 TRACKS on itunes/napster etc

    • The G Man

      Nobody has ever heard of you. Writing grammatically incorrect gibberish with poor spelling and in all capital letters does not exactly reinforce that you are an educated music professional.

      Most writers are not interested shocking audiences with provocative song titles or grotesque imagery — that is most definitely not what today’s music is about. Write from your heart, write about things that are important to you, and avoid cliches. Don’t merely follow trends…trends are exactly that. By the time you release a track, people could be on to the next “big thing” already. Study music theory and form, and see how loosely adhering to form but tweaking it slightly keeps songs sounding fresh while at the same time being familiar to your audience. Don’t just imitate, innovate.

      And last, if you have a lot of people telling you your songs are poorly written, sloppily performed or poorly recorded, they probably are. There is no accounting for taste; you are never going to convince someone who doesn’t like your music that they are wrong…even if you shout at them in all caps!

      • Chief Kooffreh

        Mr G MAN I DO NOT ARGUE WITH MY FANS. We are not here to write English for a grade . If this was English class then you will be convinced of my abilities and shocked perhaps about your grade compared to my high grade. This is not English class . This is about bring a product called music to the market. Rhapsody featured me as genius. I am not singing for myself . It is a wrong business strategy. I GO WITH WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT. There is nothing wrong with singing from the heart wait till when millions of people do not listen to your heart THEN YOU START COMPLAINING. G Man the world has changed and you refused to change. You will never see Lady Gaga singing from the heart to please herself. SHE SPREADS HER LEGS THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO SEE AND BURN DOWN THE BED IN BAD ROMANCE THAT IS WHAT THE WORLD WANTS TO SEE THAT IS WHY SHE GET PAID BIG BUCKS. If that is not shocking then what is shocking?.
        I did not become the most recorded published Artist in New England of the United States and a voting member of the Grammy USA and my download and streaming is like a booklet by singing for myself absolutely NO. I give the people/market what they want follow my advice Mr G Man .This is my latest Album 82ND Album. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chiefkooffreh22

        Chief Kooffreh
        THE USA MUSIC ARTIST

  • If a piece of music is for sale good or bad,it's your
    choice to buy it or not. Being a musician requires
    more than any day job ever will!

    Another isssue that needs to be addressed is royalty
    payments.Cdbaby pays very quickly, and I think that
    the partner companies should pay just as quickly.
    You don't wait 3 months for a paycheck from a job.
    There's no excuse for the wait,if the money has been
    made from the sale of your music,especially a download,
    you should get it within a week. The songs show up on the
    sites faster,so the payments should be faster as well.

    This way a second job wouldn't be needed. Musicians should be able to play music full time. We provide a valuable sevice,
    a reason to live!

  • yogi-one

    In my case, I have to play music I’m feeling. If I can’t relate to what I’m playing, neither can the audience.
    In my case, that cuts out the mass-appeal because I’m not feeling a lot of pop music. You have to trust that there are people out there who want to hear what you are feeling, and that you can find them. Just look at all the different genres – there’s an audience for each of them!

    Yes, it takes a lot of work, and playing small venues frequently, and being out there meeting people, even when you are sick of people and would really rather stay home and play video games. Some guy that heard me in a small dive hooked me up with a juicy corporate gig – if I didn’t take the small gig, I would not have got the big one. Some lady that sees me in a cafe calls me for a big fat wedding gig – you never know who you will meet on the gig, so you have to stay out there.

    But the work is for nil if the audience is not feeling your vision for the music. That has to be in place.

    And you can’t lie to yourself about what your vision for the music is.

  • Artists that are signed with Amazon get paid in 2 weeks, so why does it take
    3 months to show up on our cdbaby reports? The bills don”t wait,why should we?

    Persistence is the key to success. Not all successful artist are great,some sound
    like their in a drunking rage. Quality takes a lot more persistence to get through.

    Imagine what it would be like if musicians stopped sharing their music with
    the public. It wouldn’t be much of a world to live in. There’s an audience for
    all kinds of music,we have to find them. Your real fans will support your
    efforts. If you have a passion to create music,Don’t Give Up!

  • I’m offering a free download on my my space page,It make a great
    ringtone.

  • Are you referring to Amazon's physical CD sales or MP3 sales? If you're talking about digital distribution, Amazon reports sales and pays us according to the schedule and parameters stipulated in our contract with them. As soon as they tell us what has sold and send us the money, we pass it on to you.

  • Zaa404

    Chief Kooffreh I am highly educated but none of my education gave me the fame worldwide as my music. I DO NOT PLAY FOR FREE. I give a few cds out for free and videos . I constantly ask Youtube to add advertisement . I am on the waiting list. I DISCOURAGE MUSICIANS TO GIVE MUSIC FOR FREE. There is no free lunch. I explain that to ARTISTS all the time . One musician argued with me why he should get paid ? He said that Artist who give their music for free are better in performance that is contrary to my principles that is to me a stupid Idea. Pay me my cents or dollars or no deals. If I put my songs for free millions will download it but I will be very miserable. I also believe in volume WHY SHOULD YOU MAKE SALES WHEN YOU HAVE NO PRODUCT. YOU ARE NOT A STAR SO 10 ALBUMS WILL NOT CUT IT. PRODUCE VOLUMES 20 ALBUM MINIMUM.

    I am “Chief Kooffreh” the most published recorded Artist in the history of the State of Massachusetts, Rhode islands and connecticut 75 albums 1600 tracks 45 videos PUBLISHED IN ALMOST ALL WEBSITES MONETIZED

    Follow the trend produce the shocking ,ugly, pretty, shock your fans “SHE WILL CUT YOUR BALLS OFF ” is one of my titles . be ready to be abused by Fans and put down by the critics but be consistent an try to do the best job. Get a day time job because many people including the chinese will steal your music but consider it advert, FOLLOW THE TREND you can not make money kiss or singing to yourself FOLLOW THE TREND

    • For being highly educated, it seems at the very least that you never had to learn proper grammar.

      If you could step out of your own thought process for just a second, you might recognize that for some of us, bringing joy to others without their having to pay for it, rather than making us miserable, makes us quite happy. You also might recognize that opinions other than your own aren’t inherently “stupid”.

      I also feel like it needs to be pointed out that a lot of people not in the music industry need two jobs to survive. It’s a bit unrealistic to presume that we should necessarily receive preferential treatment, at best because the work some of us are doing is compulsive. Do you see people with OCD fuming that they should be paid a living wage for counting ceiling tiles and turning doorknobs over and over? Do weight-lifters demand they be paid for what they do? Personally, I support Socialism, particularly given the Information Age in which we currently live, but as long as we do live in a Capitalist society, we all have to work to survive, at whatever rate of pay we can.

    • The G Man

      I have a sinking suspicion that your music is like your writing — frantic, meandering and without structure or cadence. Anyone who has released 75 albums and 1600 tracks better have done it over a 25 or 30 year period. Anything else smacks of “throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Most people value quality over quantity, and most musicians do not write songs only for the money. They write them because they feel they have something to say, and think that it will connect with their audience. Lennon & McCartney only wrote about 180 songs over about a 10-year period. Your “20 album minimum” is hilarious. The Beatles only released 12 studio albums from 1962 to 1970. People are still buying them and raving about their impact 40+ years after the writing partnership that produced the bulk of the material dissolved. What will people be saying about your music — if anything at all — in 40 years?

  • $15005357

    It’s about setting standards for yourself, and for your group. If it is all just for fun and the group doesn’t care about money, that’s one thing. But if everyone in the group is committed to excellence in all areas of the music (especially live performance), then yes, set the standard for yourself and don’t play for free. I am a professional freelance musician, and I am always paid for my work.

    Watch some documentaries about Frank Zappa and his band.

    I also think it’s best not to compare yourself to popular artists who make a lot of money. It could be because they are great performers, but it could also be because they are good-looking and met the right person at the right time and had a really good producer to make their terrible singing sound good. Who knows, right?

  • The G Man

    Incidentally, do all of those 1600 tracks use that same, tired, pre-programmed drum pattern as the music samples on your Rhapsody page? They all sound exactly the same to me…

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  • Chief Kooffreh

    I will never enter into argument with a FAN. Rhapsody actually called me A GENIUS. I am now a voting member of the Grammy.

    • Jtrocksinger

      Rhapsody did not CALL you a Genius. Genius is a playlist organizing feature in iTunes. And it’s “the Grammy Awards”

  • Chief Kooffreh

    I love my FANS from your repeated postings . It means you pay attention to my telling Artists you have to be paid. Yes I still believe that Artists are miniature corporations as an Artist you should do your best try to satisfy your clients but at the end of the day YOU HAVE TO PAY THE BUS FARE HOME OR BUY GAS FOR YOUR CAR . The Chinese already stolen your songs as the do mine. Many websites have already given it for free. What you do is give a little for free then monitize your albums. Do volunteer work if you like , I was the one who stood up for gays with the song STOP BEATING GAYS Then followed by Lady GaGa with born this way. We are NOT GAY but we stood up for human rights for gays to keep their jobs. The Gay community love me . The US government stopped firing gays. You can volunteer but when it comes to being paid I am the first to say PAY MY FELLOW ARTIST FRIENDS GIVE THEM THEIR CENTS OR GIVE THEM THEIR DOLLAR .

    I RESPECT THE OLDER ARTISTS LIKE KING ELVIS 178 ALBUMS MICHAEL JACKSON ETC.
    TODAY SOME LITTLE GUY WITH 3 ALBUMS WITH MTV BEING THE OIL MACHINE NO CATALOGUE .IT IS NOT ABOUT SONGS MR G MAN YOU KNOW IT.
    The Beatles are not G Man . The Beatles or lady Gaga are well oiled machines. Mr G man I am sure that you understand go for 20 Albums. At the standing now I am the Most recorded and published ARTIST in the North East of the United States (many states) 82 Albums 1650 TRACKS 52 VIDEOS and a voting member of the Grammy Check out my new Album AMERICAN GIRL http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chiefkooffreh22

  • Chief Kooffreh

    I am Chief Kooffreh and I do not argue with FANS. I am a voting member of the Grammy USA.which is a pride and honor to Cdbaby. Mr Maya Zimmerman I used the word Stupid in a nice way. THAT I WANT ARTISTS TO BE PAID. NOT PAYING ARTIST IS A STUPID IDEA.I STAND ON WHAT I SAID.
    I learn from the ORIGINAL BOSS of Cdbaby" fame without some money is like having a new car WITHOUT KEYS you remember our old boss who started Cdbaby" Follow his theory. At our level the Chinese already stolen my songs . I give a little and then I must be paid. PLEASE DO NO WASTE TIME PAY MY ARTIST FRIENDS pay my man G MAN do not waste his time. These are hard times . Pay Mr G Man for his talent for reducing your stress with his songs. Mr G MAN must enjoy a cup of coffee so pay him just like you pay your doctor .You like him give him some cents. You hear me America Please help us by paying us America ,Europe etc . We love you so pay us so we can continue to bring yu nice sound. Check out my new Album AMERICAN GIRL http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chiefkooffreh22

  • Chief Kooffreh

    Chief Kooffreh USA MUSIC ARTIST Robbie Alan I like it that you give the Ringtone for free but have you ever considered in future changing it to paid or making a parity one free/ one paid. I AM A CRUSADER that we Artist get paid. What will happen is the Chinese take that your free ring-tone copy it and put a price on I AM BEING HONEST MR ALAN you have to be paid God bless you.

  • Chief Kooffreh

    Chief Kooffreh USA MUSIC ARTIST a voting member of the Grammy USA and I am proud to be a cdbaby Artist. The most recorded and published Artist in New England many states of the UNITED STATES. I am also a CRUSADER that Artist even my critics get paid for their Art because there is no free lunch . Do not create songs with intention that you dont get paid. Do Volunteer work but when it coes to your Art Music create it with intention to get paid. I WANT MILLIONS OF ARTISTS TO REPEAT AFTER ME "I MUST GET PAID" as a man thinks so shall it happen. I know that history we have been cheated , or art stolen , abused and we had been conditioned to NOT GET PAID but it will change because our music help reduce stress and times have changed . I want all indy Artists Worldwide to always know me CHIEF KOOFFREH for saying that Artist MUST BE PAID Please repeat after me "I MUST GET PAID " Never create music with the idea of giving it totally free . Give little free and do volunteer work but always make sure that YOU ARE PAID EVEN IN CENTS that is how serious it is. Please repeat after me" I MUST GET PAID" All Artist say it . If you see a struggling Artist buy him coffee if you have extra.Dont just pass him by remember you are an Artist too. Again remember this new idea and MANTRA "I MUST GET PAID" worldwide every indy Artist. My new Album AMERICAN GIRL http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chiefkooffreh22

  • I'm done making music at this point but I'd like to offer my music that I've made for free download, I figure that it's better served than sitting on my server. I'll be posting it on PirateBay within the next week, please look for Ivy Mic and download "Redemption". You'll have a clearer idea of why I'm poor at the very least! Thanks for listening!

  • Trylar

    Bottom line is, if you are a musician looking to earn sustainable income from the art you create, you have to stop thinking like an artist and start thinking like an entrepreneur. There are lots of artists who create music that *could* be commercially viable, but they lack any business plan or direction. As far as I go, that just means fewer acts competing for my target audience. By no means does the increased competition for output and an audience mean that the music industry is "broken"! One doesn't need to reinvent one's art, one needs to reinvent one's business approach.

  • Darixa01

    Now I really feel depressed…

  • Awwww. I recommend: Olive Garden salad, a 2-hour hike in nature, playing music with friends, a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, a good night's sleep. The sun also rises.

  • if artists could expect to get paid a living wage for making their art, we’d all be artists.

    The idea that i could make a living from music is a dream i don’t believe i will ever make into a reality. How could it work? It can only work that way for a fraction of a percentage of artists.

  • Yeah. The supply side of the equation would be a bit… fat.

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  • This year Rad is looking to avaiod the dreaded w-2 and base more on the 1099 selfemployment…I have a buch of things bounceing around from Massage therapist to Photography but my main stay is music…I already put out a cd of music called Shotz of flava you can find on this site that did and doing pretty well…and am looking to return this summer with another cd and possibly a tour..on my own!!

  • Indiecds

    What do you call a musician without a girlfriend?

    Homeless.

  • Cleangingtree

    You are dead on, Chris. I find more and more the decline in talent as I listen to the bands of today that bore me to death. Few have the talent of the old bands who practiced till the cows came home and then debuted on stage to our delight. I have spent 40 years working on my music and are finally comfortable with sharing it with the public. By the way, a friend of mine just started up with you guys and I was impressed with his site. I do believe I will go with you when I put my album together. Cleansingtree

  • Canary Burton

    It used to be, in Europe, the artist got a stipend, nothing but the bare minimum, but adequate for BUILDING his/her craft. I don’t know if it’s still true. I’ve had jobs, always non creative jobs in order not to interfere with my music, but jobs. Conversely, the most money I’ve ever made was from music. Playing in restaurants was astounding to me. Back then $100 a night plus tips was way more than my day job. Also commissions I’ve had, those that came out of the blue because someone heard one of my pieces somewhere, have been greatefully funded.. None of this was wast enough for me to stop working, however.
    There were times when I resenting having to go to work, or found myself falling asleep at the keyboard IN PUBLIC!!! But anymore, I just accept working, knowing it’s also something to keep my mind occupied, therefore alive.

  • Themightygreegor

    Maybe I’m just pragmatic, but I don’t really see the point in bitching about the free downloading thing. That seems to me to be an extension of the old synths are putting string players out of work like. Drum machines as well. Remember the big hoo-haw in the 70s over the RIAA and cassettes? We can record albums and share the tapes around! Well…yeah. Technology has been putting people out of work of a very long time. It’s never been easy to make a living as an artist. Ever. Times are changing, of course, as always, but there’s really no point in whining about it. Do what you can. Write for TV or whatever media. Play covers. Do session work. Whatever. If you can’t or it’s just too much work? Get a day gig. That’s not really so different from the “old days” is it? Really?

  • Jim Tye

    I agree with both Michele, and Trylar. If you are just a true artist it would be best to get some one that has the marketing skills to help you get the word out. I have been doing this for 20 some odd years and have spent more money than I have made at it. The only reason I have done so, is because I truly love what I do. Whether I make it or not is a moot point. But I will keep trying none the less. I am approaching this from small bossiness perspective. You got to spend a lot of money before you can make any money. And marketing/promotion/advertising is one of the biggest expenses any company will ever have.
    And Chris, I agree with you as well. You got to be down for the show. Never a second chance to make a first impression. Peace out.

  • Musicians have a few things working against them that others don’t. First, there is no danger that greeters and checkers who want “exposure” are going to volunteer to work for free at WalMart. It’s against the law to have people working for less than minimum wage, so even less danger of that ever happening. On the same subject, nobody goes to Sears and says, “Hey, I really need that chainsaw, and that nice pneumatic set of impact, extensions, and universal sockets, I just opened my little business, hows about helping me out”, but nobody has any problem doing that to musicians, SO, as long as there are those guys who will offer their services for free – no matter how inferior, the ones who are trying to make a living will always have to compete with that. Second, in the day job sector, generally the business owners will try to hire the best person for the job, not the case in the music business. With club and restaurant owners, one band or artist is the same as the next, and whoever is willing to work the cheapest will almost always get the gig. Next, if you want to be a doctor, a scientist, a lawyer, or other highly skilled person, there is a formula – certain high school courses, set amount of years in college, then internship, and then you’ve arrived. Sometimes butt kissing, and having gone to high school with the right person, or being related to the right person might get a slacker or no talent a place at the table, but for the most part, it’s pretty straight up. With the music, it’s a well kept secret what to do, where to go, and who to make connections with if you want to get out of the bar level of the business. In other words, where were Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and 98% of country artists who have been cranked out since the early 90s “discovered” – hint, it wasn’t in Nashville.

    You know what I really hate, is the snots, the ultra conservative parrots, and the Pop Psychology Crowd, who come out with, “Oh, if you’re FAILING”, then YOU are living the consequences of YOUR decisions”. What a bunch of flaming B.S. Any artist worth his salt is going to be in the process of honing his skills, learning things, making connections, finding useful information, and whatever other things he sees fit. The less fortunate, the ones who started out with talent, then worked at it, did all the right things, took risks, and generally just went for it, and didn’t get their shot, they get to listen to these uppity numbkulls talk down their noses at everybody else. Most of those types grossly exaggerate their “accomplishments” in order to further their self serving agenda.

    And this ain’t the half of it 😀 .

  • Rboyer4

    Why does every internet promoter CD baby included. Takes anybody’s music even if they know they want sell more that 0 copies FOR THE MONEY I know you are not the judge but come-on dont take their money you know it want sell. Now if resposable people would judge the music before asking them some money and telling them the truth I would appreciate that much more. What I’m going to do his try to get my music on the interne radio but choose the serious one’s who want take nothing but the best even if its Indie

  • I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. CD Baby was started as a company that would open distribution channels to EVERY musician, regardless of their fame, stature, nationality, gender, genre, or what we thought of the music. We don't have any interest in being critical gatekeepers.

  • involution in music only shows the degeneration of the world in every aspect… it's sad but real

  • I agree with Trylar! We as artists have to stop using the "starving artist" excuse. We have to learn to think outside the box…And if we TRULY believe in what we do, we can't just sit and wait for someone to "discover" us. Living your dream means that your dream became a reality because of your hard work, dedication, and focus. If there is a market for chocolate covered roaches, then there IS a market for YOUR music…you just have to be creative in finding them.

  • Katey

    Great article, thanks Chris. Have you read "Starving The Artist"?

    • I haven't. Book? Article? I'll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • zaa404

    I am Chief Kooffreh the most recorded amd published Artist in the North East of the United States 90 albums 1700 tracks 82 videos and I am a voting member of the Grammy. Take my advice very seriously because it will improve your musical life.
    YOU ARE A MUSIC ARTIST NOT A MUSICIAN ( CHANGE)
    Fame without money is like having a brand new car without keys. I advise Music Artists that you are a miniature corporation therefore act like one. I am an advocate of pay for the music mentality . Every thing is expensive and if a Music Artist with his talent can make you happy then pay him . Pay him large or pay him in cents but keep paying because nothing is free anymore.

    The computer has changed music which means you can make a song in the morning before 6 pm the whole world have it.That is powerful.

    DO NOT MAKE MUSIC FOR YOURSELF . MAKE IT FOR MASS MARKET
    YOU ARE A MINIATURE CORP. REMEMBER!
    I enjoy my music but I do not make music for myself. I make music for the world and the public is going to hell in a haste . Why don’t I give them the ready made hell. It is hard to sell what people do not want. Give the world what they want ,and they will think of you as a genius. Rhapsody featured me as genius based on my principles.

    Lady Gaga , Beatles and Jay-Z can sing trash people will buy it because many times it has nothing to do with good music . It has more to do with the hype and the machine behind the hype.

    CHANGE YOUR THINKING THE WORLD HAS CHANGED

    I am asking you to give away 10 % of your music but 90 % you must deliberately monitize it, demand payment by any means. Even check that Cdbaby is paying you. No fooling around because you need to pay your bus fare home or buy gas to drive your car home.

    I AM VERY POPULAR IN SCANDINAVIA (MANY COUNTRIES)
    I think of my song as programming the public. I think of my song as programming the world .if the programming does not work change little things. Title, format , tamper with lyrics etc and relaunch. RETOOL IT AND RELAUNCH

    Without publicity and hype there is really no art to know which track will sell well. there are songs I wanted to trash my music engineers tell me don’t do that. They turn out to be right. Everything is for consumption . Someone out there loves it. One mans meat is another mans poison.

    Even though my streaming is like a booklet and my download is average . It takes cdbaby 2- 3 weeks to send all my streaming to me I am worried I do not understand. I thought that they have a faster system.

    SECOND JOB
    Yes you will need a second job because we are not being paid. The old boy network has taken a different format and comes in different disguises. Chinese also steal that your free music music and sell it 20 English pounds or $30 go figure it. check the internet and you will follow my thinking process as a religion.

    • Yeah…

      Wow… I’m sorry, I had problems reading this with all the bullshit in the way…
      74 followers on Twitter… (Y)

  • chief kooffreh

    Chief Kooffreh USA MUSIC ARTIST Rboyer4 it is not nice to blame those companies who accepts all music . When the tire hits the road there is really no art to know which music will sell well worldwide. One mans meat is another man's poison . The music that sell in volumes has hype machine behind it

  • My name is Tony I’m 32 years old and this is some of what I have learned from trying to make a living on my own music since my first band years ago and I still have a 2nd job and I have not given up.

    Making and selling your music is like starting a business:

    Making money as an aritst in reality is really no different than making money in any other vocation. The problem is, many artists don’t recognize the fact that what they’re are in effect trying to do is start a business with their music; and starting a business in any area is time-consuming and requires investing. Usually monetary results don’t come until years after it’s conception, and many times the person who starts the business does need another form of income to get it off the ground.

    Live performances provide a service:

    As a live entertainer, musicians should be paid, regardless if they’re playing original music or cover music. However; its up to the venue owner to decide on what type of performance they’re looking for. The problem is there are too many artists out there willing to play for free, so many venue owners/managers take advantage of that regardless of whether this free band has any credentials or talent for that matter. There is a whole article on this on CDbaby you can read that I agree with.

    If a consumer wants your product, they should buy it, not steal it:

    As many of you stated previously, hours and hours of work go into recording our music and if someone wants it, they should pay for it. Just like renting/buying a movie or any other product for that matter. But also, just spending hours and hours on a recording doesn’t justify that you should make money from it. If nobody wants to hear it then work on a new song.

    Don’t expect to sell anything without the proper marketing:

    You could have the best song in the world but if no one knows where to hear it, or that it even exists, you won’t be able to sell it without the proper marketing, promotion, and publicity. This goes back to the starting your own business mentality. If i spent years and years formulating a recipe and making the best-tasting candy bar, should I get paid for it? Sure, if I can find a way to mass produce it and make the public aware of it. Also keep in mind that sometimes even crappy products sell with amazing marketing.

    Bottom line is, the Do-it-yourself approach to selling music takes years of time, effort, energy, and investing:

    If you can’t do it on your own then get a record label to sign you. Easy, right?

  • IRISHROVER.ORG

    Music INDUSTRY is based on profits. Its all about what sells well – and what sells well is what goes by the taste of ignorant worldwide masses. The fact that something sells out well doesn't make that something a real music art. Talking about the floods of modern days' TV 'music' idols and poseurs backed by managerial scums of music industry, mass media journalistic whores, corporate and financial elites and political system in power that welcomes ignorance, repression and instant 'culture' that doesn't speak or sing against the very system. Then the whole serving of this cultural terorism, packed in a shiny pink outfit, is ultimately beeing sold to the ignorant worldwide masses who embrace it dearly. Many a real music artists on the other hand are struggling to make a living from their art – not because their art is not good enough, but because the corrupted world we live in doesn't give art & freedom a chance, let alone the equal opportunity for all. The world we live is driven not by heart, humanity, freedom or art but by interest, power and greed. No surprise the quai-cultural bullshit has become humanity's mainstream.

  • Jackgrassel

    If you need a non-music job to “fall back on”, that’s just what you will wind up doing. Being a musician is an occupation that should support a person as well as any other occupation. Playing shows for free or to “get exposure” insure that you will keep playing shows for free. And when you decide to charge for your services, all the venues you played in for free will get someone else to play for free. To make money, you must make money for the venue. Then other venues will seek you out because they make money from your shows. Then you can charge a flat fee and get it.

  • The great Dick Dale once told me when I asked him for advice as a musician: "Learn a trade and buy some land." Still working on the land part, but I did learn carpentry, electrical, and some plumbing so now I can fix/remodel almost anything in a house. At night I am free to play gigs several nights a week. This is the jungle, no free rides. You gotta hustle every day if you want to get paid. I learned to play in multiple environments: roadhouse bars, fine dining, country clubs, festivals; solo and with multiple bands. I am now making several hundred dollars a week by being versatile. Tonight got paid $175 (plus food and drinks) and got $111 in tips playing at an upscale restaurant (you gotta love when someone throws a 50 in the bucket). Tomorrow is a roadhouse bar, Friday a country club, Saturday a chain bar/restaurant. Total take for the week will be over $1000. I have learned a couple hundred songs from oldies to new, Latin, Brazilian, Gipsy Kings, calypso…so now I can read a crowd and play what they want to hear. I slip in some original tunes and sell a couple CDs. I used to think when I was a guitarist in a large band that we should get picked up by a label or management and have support to make our music. Now, I am glad that I had to bust my ass to learn so many songs, and hustle my skills, my game has improved tenfold and now I am in demand. It has helped my songwriting immensely too by learning so many classic songs. If you want to be profitable, try it. Until then, keep your day job, or do as Dick says and learn a trade so you can work and be flexible.

  • Jtrocksinger

    All my life I had this argument with my mother. She’d tell me I needed to look for a job.

    I’d tell her, “I already have a job.”

    “What job?” she’d reply.

    “I’m a musician.”

    “It’s not making you any money,” she countered.

    “Not yet, but that doesn’t make it less of a JOB.”

    Despite my belief that “making it” requires 100% complete undistracted commitment, I caved to my Mother’s demands and tried to balance her wishes with mine. I spent years giving 50% to my music, and 50% to preparing for a non-musical “money-making” career, then trying to pursue both at once.

    End result? Failed in both. Now, I’m at a crossroads: broke, jobless, on the brink of disaster, and debating between throwing myself 100% into my art (just going for it), or 100% into finding a money job. The debate is killing me because I KNOW it’s all about the commitment, but those darned daily needs keep demanding payment…

    Music IS a profession. So is art, writing, dancing, acting, designing (fashion, interiors, houses, whatever). If an accountant isn’t expected to pursue his profession AND have a second job to pay the bills, then neither should a professional creative.

    Of course, it’s important to treat the profession like the business it is, not as an excuse to stay up all night partying. A lot of musicians haven’t caught on to that bit yet.

  • bash m

    Chris, when someone expresses their belief that something is wrong with how things are, and that things should be different, an IDEAL; uh….youuu don’t like, shut it down because you, personally, can’t seem to mastermind the socioeconomic logistics of how this might become a reality after 3 seconds of thinking about it. When someone feels that something is WRONG with the way things are… YOU DON’T NEGATE A PROBLEM SOMEONE SEES IN THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW THE SOLUTION…
    Chris, maybe you’re a hardline pragmatist or something, but; some people BELIEVE in things, things like world peace, or ending poverty… is this strange to you? When someone says “No child should go hungry.” Do you just run and say “LOLZ YA BUT DUH HOW, SO NOPE, THEY GO HUNGRYZ!” ??

  • String Bender

    I am in the same situation. It’s like looking in the mirror. I was wondering how you have made out since you posted this about 3 years ago.

  • String Bender

    I am in the same situation. It’s like looking in the mirror. I was wondering how you have made out since you posted this about 3 years ago.