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Lesson 88: Making a Living as a Musician

What You Can and Should Do as a Musician

  • Perform
  • Lead an ensemble
  • Practice
  • Learn to play a lot of different instruments and in a lot of different genres/ styles
  • Compose/ write songs/ arrange for your own use
  • Compose/ write songs/ arrange for others
  • Produce and record music
  • Make records and music for distribution on the Internet
  • Be available for gigs with others
  • Work as a session musician
  • Work as a theatre musician
  • Collaborate with visual artists
  • Study
  • Market yourself and your products
  • Sell your products - CDs, T-shirts and so on
  • Teach - playing, ensemble playing, music theory, composition/ arranging, notation and so on
  • Give lectures
  • Give workshops
  • Go to concerts and festivals
  • Go to seminars and exhibitions
  • Work on establishing and maintaining contacts/ personal relations
  • Work on your presence/ visibility on the Internet - a website, facebook, different sites where you can put up your music and so on
  • Apply for grants and scholarships

Music- Related Things that You Can Do

  • Make teaching materials - sheet music, text, videos and so on
  • Write articles for journals/ magazines
  • Have a sound reinforcement business
  • Work as an audio engineer or a lighting technician
  • Rent instruments, amplifiers and other technology
  • Have a record company or a publishing company
  • Have a booking agency
  • Arrange concerts and festivals
  • Arrange exhibitions
  • Arrange conferences/ seminars
  • Sell concert and festival tickets
  • Repair or build instruments, amplifiers or effects pedals
  • Tune pianos
  • Sell musical instruments and accessories
  • Sell music books
  • Work in a music shop
  • Work as a music critic or editor
  • Work at a radio station
  • Work as a manager
  • Work as a roadie or an instrument technician

My Point

Personally, I do most of the 40+ things above. For many of them, I do not earn any money at the moment.

Some of them are things that hopefully will generate income in a few years, for example working on my own music and making CDs and music for distribution on the Internet. Some of them are things that do not now and probably never will generate any income at all, for example arranging concerts and festivals for the local jazz society Krs Jazz.

My point is that you should be versatile. When you do a lot of different things, the chances are greater that one or a few of these things will evolve into a living. You may be lucky and ultimately be able to make a living from just writing good songs and/ or performing live and/ or making records, but your chances of survival in the music business are greater if you have more open doors, so to speak.

The most important thing is to never forget the reason you got into music in the first place. If you really have the fire/ the passion/ the soul/ the spirit and you just can not imagine doing anything not related to music full-time, then you will ultimately make it, one way or the other. Believe in your music and believe in yourself. If you really are honest as an artist/ a musician and truly believe in your own music, then sooner or later other people will, too.

I am now over 50 years old, I have not yet made it big time in the music business and I probably never will. I am perfectly OK with that though, I am making my living as a musician all the time and I am allowed to do what I want - to make my own music and to help/ teach others to do the same. The following quote is a favorite of mine that I mention a few times on this site and that pretty well sums up my personal philosophy of life:
There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way. - Christopher Morley

2014 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.