“Musician Advice” Articles

NYC busker arrested for playing music (lawfully) in a subway station

October 21, 2014{ No Comments }

Over the weekend, Andrew Kalleen was arrested for singing and strumming his guitar in a subway station despite the fact that the New York transit authority allows artistic performances (and the collection of tips) in such locations.

And the whole incident was caught on camera, including the moment when Kalleen cited to the police officer the section of the MTA rule that gave him grounds to stand there and keep singing.

Section 1050.6c of the MTA’s “Rules of Conduct” says:

Except as expressly permitted in this subdivision, no person shall engage in any nontransit uses upon any facility or conveyance. Nontransit uses are noncommercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation. The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations.

So why the arrest? Read more »

How to make your music career profitable: 10 business rules for DIY artists

October 20, 2014{ No Comments }

shutterstock 200574287 How to make your music career profitable: 10 business rules for DIY artistsBe SMART and treat your ART like a small business

[This article was written by guest contributor Sean Kinney, an award-winning entertainer and filmmaker. His company 1 Stooge Entertainment offers creative consulting to companies and individuals looking to take their brand to the next level.]

Most people hear terms like “the Film business” or “the Music business,” and they only focus on the first part. To be successful in business, any business, you need to be business savvy. If you want to be a working artist, you need to be as smart as any business person in a meeting, or at least smart enough to hire the smartest person in the room.

If you started any other type of business without an accountant or an attorney to guide you, you would be looked at as crazy; however, in the world of art, you are looked at as crazy if you start with them. This is a big disconnect, and you should approach your artistic career from a more logical point of view. Many great artists have lost it all on bad business decisions. The most successful artists have their most successful ventures after they have worked out the business of their art, and put everything in place before their next opportunity. Unfortunately, most starting or “indie” artists try to make a push with only their art, and the business part can be a crushing blow, causing them to feel burned out. Read more »

A Guide to Getting Gigs (Part 2 of 3): How to Look for Gigs

October 15, 2014{ No Comments }

How to Look for Gigs 650x311 A Guide to Getting Gigs (Part 2 of 3): How to Look for Gigs

[This article was written by guest contributor 

This is the second of a three-part article (in case you haven’t yet, check out the first part What to Do Before Looking for Gigs).

As discussed in the first part, before you start looking for gigs you should:

* have your music available in a digital format

* have an active online presence (with a website, email list and social media)

* build a fanbase and connect with other people in music

* think about what you want to achieve with your shows and your “touring preferences

Once you have done all this, it is time to start looking for gigs. Now you have to decide whether you want to carry out the actual gig search yourself or you want to outsource it to a booking agent.

This article focuses on the first option: getting gigs as a Do-It-Yourself musician.

How to Look for Gigs Offline

Read more »

You’re NEVER too old to make it in music

October 14, 2014{ 10 Comments }

shutterstock 103648034 Youre NEVER too old to make it in musicWhy your age doesn’t have to hold you back in the independent music world

Youth has always been a component of popular music culture: Sinatra, Elvis, The Beatles, Madonna, Britney Spears, One Direction, Lorde — they all got their start well before the big THREE-O. And some of them were still in their teens!

But if youth is a prerequisite for success in the pop music business, well we’ve gotten used to plenty of exceptions to that rule throughout the years.

Celebrated songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams, and Mary Gauthier didn’t really break through until their 30′s or 40′s. Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Sharon Jones, Peaches, Thelonius Monk… the list goes on and on. Plenty of artists didn’t find their true voice, or record their best songs, or start to build a loyal following until the September of their years, to quote Ol’ Blue Eyes.

And these days, with the powers of home recording, web marketing, affordable video production, and global music distribution at your fingertips, you have just as much a chance to make money from your music at age 55 as you would at age 15. Read more »

This songwriter used his iPhone’s Autocomplete to write lyrics

October 14, 2014{ No Comments }

Jonathan Mann wrote 2000 songs in 2000 days. Talk about prolific. After writing that many songs, though, Jonathan was probably tired of having to do all the creative heavy lifting.

Enter the iPhone: portable telephone, TV, web browser, GPS, recording device, and now… lyrical collaborator. Check out the video for Jonathan Mann’s “iOS Autocomplete Song” above.

The song is clearly supposed to be fun and funny, but it does have the occasional deep accident of meaning too. This method of lyric writing isn’t too far from the cut-up technique occasionally used by David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Thom Yorke, and others. Read more »

You’re a musician… but is it a HOBBY or a “REAL JOB?”

October 13, 2014{ 8 Comments }

shutterstock 150444227 Youre a musician... but is it a HOBBY or a REAL JOB? New IRS tax rules may benefit independent musicians

[This article was written by entertainment attorney and indie artist Christiane Cargill Kinney. You can follow her on Twitter for more helpful indie-artist tips.]

As independent musicians, there are many times when we have to work second jobs to make ends meet, and after you factor in the costs of recording, manufacturing, marketing, touring, and other legitimate business expenses, not to mention sharing any profits you may receive with your co-authors, managers, agents, labels and distributors, the fact remains: independent music does not always turn a profit.

When tax time rolls around every year, many of us receive the same lecture from our accountants: “You need to start showing a profit, or the IRS may consider this a ‘hobby’ and not a ‘real job.’” If you haven’t heard this lecture in the past, you should probably get a new accountant. However, for those of you who have heard it, your reaction may be the same as mine. Read more »

What it takes to be a successful musician and entrepreneur: advice from Grimes

October 10, 2014{ 4 Comments }

Grimes original 433x650 What it takes to be a successful musician and entrepreneur: advice from GrimesGrimes, the experimental pop singer (and creator of one of my favorite synth-bass grooves EVER), did an interview for Rookie Yearbook Three, edited by Tavi Gevinson, where she talks about what it takes to be a successful artist and entrepreneur in today’s music industry.

Portions of the interview are excerpted in Elle:

Something I didn’t realize when I started making music was that any entrepreneurial endeavor involves hiring people, creating a company, and becoming a businessperson. So, while you may know me as a musician, in practice I am also a boss… This is simultaneously very cool and very stressful. I’m definitely not the best or most experienced boss. I’m also a young, female boss, which can present a very particular set of practical and emotional challenges.

Grimes then shares some tips for musicians that are learning how to “be in charge.” You can read the full interview in Rookie Yearbook Three (on sale October 21st, but available for pre-order now). For a sneak-peak, check out the excerpts below.

Tips from Grimes on how to be a successful artist and entrepreneur:

• You will never hear more people tell you that you’re wrong than when you’re succeeding. After my album Visions came out, I spent a really long time freaking out because people were telling me that in order to take “the next step” in my career, I would have to become a much better “musician,” that I’d need a backing band, etc. I now realize that (a) none of those people have music careers, and (b) I wasted a lot of time trying to do things I was told were “important for every professional musician” to do, without realizing that as a fan, I am far more interested in things that I’ve never seen before. The point is, listening to haters is pointless. People are judgmental about everything—often because they feel threatened. Ignore them. I think this applies to any business or creative thing, because tomorrow’s world will not look like today’s. Doing something different is probably better than doing the same things that other people do. Read more »

Networking for musicians: advice from a professional sideman

October 10, 2014{ 1 Comment }

Untitled Networking for musicians: advice from a professional sideman[This article was written by Lemar Guillary, an LA-based trombonist who has performed with artists such as Robin Thicke, Jennifer Hudson, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.]

Sociology of Musicians

A person is not merely a single subject distinguished from all the others. It is especially a being to which is attributed a relative autonomy in relation to the environment with which it is most immediately in contact. – Émile Durkheim[1]

It is imperative that a new musician looking to work his or her way up the ladder in the commercial pop music industry understands his or her role as it pertains to the group which he is campaigning to be a member of.

Identifying the behaviors of a social group is a skill set that is pivotal in your development. I will explore social, body language, and mentality theories to help sharpen the skills you need to be a successful networking musician. Read more »

How to play a successful – and profitable! – virtual show

October 9, 2014{ 1 Comment }

Screen shot 2014 10 09 at 6.56.09 AM 1 How to play a successful – and profitable! – virtual show

[This article is a guest post written by Matt Thomas of Concert Window.]

Whether you’re an emerging artist or a seasoned professional, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of online resources out there these days, all claiming to be the best way to either engage with your fan base, reach new audiences, or make money. The virtual concert is a relatively new concept, but one that is growing rapidly and is proving hugely successful on every level.

A virtual concert is basically a show you broadcast online, allowing people to tune in from anywhere by mobile device or computer. It’s as easy as opening up your laptop and performing from your own home. Music fans around the globe can tune into the live show, pay for tickets, give tips, buy merch and chat with you, all in real time. Best thing about it is you only need to get dressed from the waist up.. . . . we’re joking…. No really, please cover up!

Below is a guide to help you create the best experience for fans and cash in at the same time! To skip the guide and jump straight in CLICK HERE.


Broadcasting a live show on the Internet might sound like the biggest undertaking you have ever faced, and you may be thinking you will need to hire a team of pros equipped with cameras the size of Belgium. Truth is, broadcasting a live show doesn’t need to be that difficult. You’re encouraged to use the simplest setup you can. In the video below, Concert Window addresses how to go about setting up a broadcast using a USB microphone and an external webcam. This enables you to capture high quality audio and video without the hassle of plugging in lots of equipment. Read more »

How setting limits in the studio can lead to creative success

October 8, 2014{ 2 Comments }

shutterstock 153925208 300x300 How setting limits in the studio can lead to creative success5 ways to improve your recordings by setting limitations in the studio

In a creative space, endless options can drive us crazy.

This is especially true in the studio, where expectations run high and budgetary and time restraints amp up the pressure.  In this environment a limitation can be the very thing that keeps you sane.

Ever seen The Five Obstructions? It’s a great film, and a great illustration of how arbitrary obstacles can help us focus and push beyond our habitual moves.

If you’re about to head into the recording studio, consider some of these creative limitations:

1) Set a maximum track-count before the session begins — It’s not uncommon these days for Pro Tools sessions to have 100 tracks. Sure, if you’re Dr. Luke recording the next #1 single for Katy Perry, go for it. But if you’re squeezing in recording time on the weekends, do you really want to have to sift through all those tracks every time you open your session? Read more »