The musician’s double life: making money from music

I’ve been working with musicians for quite a while, and it’s no secret that making money from music alone is huge undertaking because we all know that revenue streams are hard to come by. In many cases, I’ve observed how many musicians often have a double life that they’re trying to deal with. I’d like to share how this is often an aspect of being an artist that can be misinterpreted by the artist him/herself.

I’ll start with my own background.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in anything art related. In the early 80’s, I convinced my dad to rent a camera so I could direct my own movies with my friends. We made cowboy movies and later on, in high school, I was really interested in theatre. When I was in college I was getting more serious about theatre but to secure my future, I decided to go in Social Science and Psychology.

This is the case for many people I work with: they live the double life of having another job because making music won’t pay the bills. I often see people who believe that because they do music, they should be able to automatically make a living from it, but making a living from music takes a long, long time. I find that if you want to live off music, it’s better not to do it full time for a while. There are multiple benefits in avoiding music as a full-time job, even though that might be your dream. Let me explain:

You may run in a creative burnout. This is something I explained in a past post and it becomes a problem when pursuing music full-time. If music is really important and fun for you, turning it into a job will completely change how you approach it. You’ll have to put aside a good part of your creativity to find ways to monetize it, and then you’re sort of stuck again in that you’re not making music full time. One thing I realized when I made this jump is, for the quantity of music you need to make to gather enough money to make a living, you need to not only make tons, but you’ll need to reinvent yourself every year. If you don’t want to saturate your market, it is recommended not to release more than 3 times a year. So then, yeah, you need to DJ or perform, and then, again, you’ll spend you time dealing with all the business aspects of that, plus dealing with a very competitive live music market.

TIP: Living off music full time is possible if you have a very solid basis and money saved up beforehand.

You need money for your studio. It’s no secret, electronic music is probably the most expensive music to create. Technology keeps evolving, as well as sound, plus computers quickly become old so you’ll have to allow yourself a budget for constant research and investment. If you count on hacked software to provide you with this solution, you’ll likely have to deal with the loss of your productions at some point because something goes wrong.

Some of the best ideas don’t come up in studio. How many times have you been washing dishes or on a walk, and then have a really amazing idea for a song? Taking distance from what you do is one of the best, most valuable ways to see your craft from a different angle. In my post about Non-Linear Production, I suggested taking many breaks and days off. Working on other things (like a blog), gives my brain a break to regenerate and come up with new ideas for making new songs.

Convert your other abilities into something creative. Every side-skill you have can be used in relation to your music or art hobby. This is one thing I approach in coaching, where I see how a person can combine both music skills and non-music skills. For instance, someone in finance can help other musicians making budgets or find ways they ignore to generate financial income. All you need to do is to see where you can contribute to your community and to surround yourself with other artists – a good way to be immersed into your music world.

What’s mostly important to realize however, is how many artists have this feeling that they’re in the “wrong place” when they’re not in the studio working on music. Some of the people I have worked with were working in schools, IT, restaurants, design, architecture, networking, or writing to name a few. The area where your more traditional career skills overlap with making music is a great place to start thinking about how you can make money from music.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *