Maybe you’ve been using music as a way to get through the pandemic—you wouldn’t be the only one. When the pandemic first took hold, I started getting an unusually high number of requests for mixing and mastering. I saw about 25% more work than I would have in the similar time years before. At some point, my work load doubled. Mainly because everyone is making music right now that there are less things to do.
One question that I’ve encountered multiple times keeps coming up—is there a way to turn my hobby, what I love doing, into something that can be my day job? Can you really make a living as an artist? Many of us chase the idea of finishing a song, releasing an album, and seeing out there online with other artists we love. There must be some money coming back from that which would support me day-to-day, right?
Sorry, but the truth is money that comes back from sales, streaming and other exposure is really low.
So how can one make money then and making a living from a passion?
I fumbled upon an interesting article based on a study that you’ll find more happiness if you chase your purpose rather than your passion. It’s also quite known that making your passion a job can also kill it. I’ve been a musician full-time, run a label and tour…I can tell you that if you find yourself making a bad investment, it can completely scrap your career that you’ve been building for a decade. It hasn’t happened to me, but I did see a scene I was relying on, die out after a long stretch of golden years. What followed that genre wasn’t inspiring to me, and I never felt like jumping on the bandwagon like most of my peers did. Instead, I went low profile for a while, got some random jobs that could pay the bills and with some distance, I can see that I learned a lot from doing something else than just making music all day. You can lose perspective of yourself, of your direction, of your initial vision.
Maybe you’ve already seen or read about it in this blog, but I started 2020 with a challenge of making one track per week for the entire year. I thought initially it could be a good way of attracting people to what I do while learning more about production, revise/reinvent my own method and of course, hatch a bunch of tracks to release, eventually. That experience really brought me back to circa 2006-2008, when I was producing madly and had a lot of releases. Some people had been saying they wanted me to do techno like back then, but I felt that what was said then didn’t need to be said again, and wanted to bring something new to the table.
Adding this challenge alongside my daily work almost burnt me out, which is a really bad thing to happen if you’re an artist. With that in mind, I started dosing my music making and other insights came to me:
- How to efficiently do I know my tools to do exactly what I need to be doing.
- How to quickly spot obstacles and know the technique(s) to overcome them.
- Know my limits, both creative, personal energy, and also technically.
- Try to identify things I don’t know and not overlook them.
- Remain humble.
- Know what I love doing and/vs what I do best.
Just looking back at the last few weeks, there are a few things that became clear also—if you start doing something in order to get attention, you’ll get tired of it quite fast, especially if the reaction doesn’t meet your expectations. In my case, I quickly saw (I had foreseen it!) that after the 8th week, people didn’t really care anymore about the music posted. I sort of stopped posting and decided to share to a handful of people who I knew would listen. Eventually, I started making music for myself alone and even stopped uploading them on Weeklybeats, the website of the challenge. What’s pretty fascinating is to look at the first 8 tracks and what I do now and it’s completely different. Stuff I do for myself is purely experimental, either incredibly weird or very repetitive as I made some sonic moments for my loft, to be played on my Sonos.
How is this bringing me closer to my purpose or to my passion?
It’s not a secret that I found my passion many years back when I discovered I’m pretty solid teacher. Now it pays off. To teach, you need to know your craft inside out and be able to explain it properly. So exploring different techniques and reverse engineering music that I and others love is a way to teach people who want to know. This is why our coaching group is precious; we are collectively trying to understand certain techniques. What’s amazing about music is, you can understand a technique, teach it to 10 people and all of them will apply it in their own way, which will make 10 different results. The funny thing though, is that 50% will not like not being able to do what others can already do; which is a topic I work a lot in coaching: control.
Anyway, if what you do best might not be music-related, is there some hope? Well, maybe more than you think, if you have a bit of imagination. Here are a few other types of work that are more relate to music that you might think:
- If you’re good at writing, you can work with artists on their bios, press kits, song descriptions, online presence and so on.
- Graphic design is often a skill musician have. You have no idea how many designers are also musicians and in a world where image is crucial, you could really find work in the music industry for sure.
- Web skills? There are so many aspects that you can tackle that as well.
- Gear skills? If you have electronic based skills, maybe you can help assemble gear such as modular who come in kits and need assembling.
- Networking is your thing? You have no idea how we need people that can connect people all together or create bridges between parts who need one another.
You might be thinking that musicians have no money to pay anyone, so how can that generate anything? If you’re really good at something, people will want to pay. Maybe not much at first but if you do a great job, it eventually it gets noticed. When I started this site and full time services, it started slow and I did a lot of free work (or highly discounted). I took a lot of time to build relationships with clients, and eventually happy clients referred in others. It became my purpose to make sure my clients can grow at what they do, both with the music making but also as artists that can shine in their community.
This is why I took a bunch of people under my wing with the idea to push them as if they were me. What can I do for this person that can make a difference in their career? Is it teaching them something? Is it connecting them with promoters or labels?
That’s when I understood that another skill I personally had is networking and establishing contacts. I’m a natural social butterfly at events and that is something that can pay off on the long run, especially in what I do.
The pandemic affecting events is making it really difficult to not only make that happen effectively, but also for the global inspiration to make music. Being in isolation confronts you to make music based on memories without having much (or any) of a chance to test it on a crowd…forcing you to do what you love and to simply be patient.