If you hold the belief that it is 'wrong' to try to make money with your musical talents, do not read any further... simply close this page now.
For those of you who have decided to continue reading - welcome. Fact is, the majority of musicians want to have a career in music. However, these musicians also doubt their abilities to make good money in music, and fear that they will not be able to support themselves. Unfortunately, these people end up pursuing non-music jobs where they work full time and despise every time they go to clock in. This is all done out of the idea that a 'normal job' is safe and secure, while a music related career is highly risky with little security. This is one of the very most common misconceptions that I see all the time while training musicians to succeed in their careers!
In truth, achieving great financial success while working on your music career is not as difficult as you might think. In addition, you don't need to be a big time rock star to make good money in the music business. However, in order to become financially free in your music career, you will need to take a very different approach than the one that is taken by most musicians. You will need to approach your music career as both a "musical artist" and as a businessman (or woman). You must run your career as a business, where your primary goal is to add as much value as possible to your fans, other bands, music company officials, and other people in the business of music.
Most musicians do not know how to treat their music career in a professional, business-like manner. This is why so many of these people struggle to make a lot of money in the music business.
To quickly test out your current understanding of what it takes to become successful in the music business, take this quick music career assessment about pursuing a music career before reading the rest of this article.
Besides not being prepared to achieve success in the business side of music, many musicians fail to make a decent income in their careers because they make the following mistakes:
Once you have become familiar with the value you have to give to the music industry, you will you need to find and identify the people who you will give value to. For example, imagine that you were about to release your newest record. Who are the people (fans) that would be waiting to buy your new music? Do you have a way to quickly and easily contact these people? If not, what action are you taking right now to build a list of your potential customers? Now imagine that you were a session musician. Do you have an organized list of all your potential customers/business partners such as musicians, recording studios, or bands? What are you going to do today to get in touch with these people and show them how you can help them with your skills and talents?
One of the most common mistakes made by musicians is that they spend the time to create an album, increase their musical skills, or work in another area of the music industry, but when it comes time to receive the payoff for their hard work, they have great difficulty making any money. This happens because they have not taken the time to build a database of customers who are ready and willing to pay for the value that the musician is offering. Since this is such a common issue, I have made this one of my main areas of focus while mentoring the musicians in my Music Careers Mentoring Program.
Additionally, musicians will make the mistake of assuming that once they are signed with a music company that the company will take all the responsibility to further their career. This is not true. The fact is, you are the one who will need to take initiative in your music career in order to promote yourself and make a better living. Work on building your own list of customers and fans so that you are the one in control of this aspect of your career. This can be used as a great tool to improve negotiations with future music business partners to make more money for you (and for everyone else involved).
To earn a good living in the music industry, you must develop a specific plan for how you will reach your goals. If you merely fantasize about making a lot of money, this is not enough to make this goal a reality. Rather than fantasizing, start working toward what you want to achieve by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is your desired yearly income from your music career?
2. What are the sources of musical income that will make the amount in question 1 possible?
3. What action must you take to set up these sources of income? (Read this article on music business career planning to learn more about this)
4. How many ways can you add value to your interactions with people in the music business? (Think of every possibility!)
5. How many ways can you eliminate risk for other people in the music business?
After you have figured out your answers for each question above, you must focus on making every action you take in your music career go toward achieving the exact goals you have made for yourself.
Most musicians looking to become successful in the music business are not sure what they must do to reach their desired goals. If you are experiencing this as well, the best solution to this problem is to seek out training from a professional who has shown other musicians how to earn a lot of money in their careers. This way, you can avoid making mistakes that will cost you significant time and effort to fix.
Fact is, the majority of musicians who are 'making it' in the music industry are not rock stars. Being part of a popular band does not mean that you will be earning a great living. The truth is that some musicians (who are very popular) still work side jobs just to get by. By understanding this, you will be able to push 'fame' aside in order to focus on the most effective ways to work toward your goal of making a good living in music. Of course it is possible to both be famous and make a lot of money in the music industry, however it is most important at this point to focus your efforts on the appropriate aspects of your goal.
It is common for musicians to treat their music career in the same manner that they have treated any other job that they have had. They expect a single paycheck at the end of an established period of time from doing a "single" activity. Unfortunately, this approach will not help you to achieve financial success in the music business. In order to make a good living in your music career, you must stop thinking from the mindset of obtaining a single sum of money as your main goal. Instead, you must work to build many different sources of musical income that go into your bank account on an ongoing, residual basis. By taking this approach, it becomes much easier to make a lot of money from music. In fact, musicians who use this method with save themselves time as well (because they do not have to continually work to get a paycheck). This enables them to have more freedom to pursue things such as writing music, touring and performing, or recording in the studio. In the end, it is important to have income coming in from both your active efforts and your past efforts that you already took the time to set up (that continue to make you money). Additionally, by approaching your music career in this manner, you will feel much more stable since you will not be dependent on any single source of income to pay your bills.
To gain a solid understanding of what "value" means when it applies to the idea of making a living in the music business, you must pay close attention to the next sentence. Regardless of what you do in the music industry, whether it be touring in a band, creating music in the studio, giving music instruction or working as a record producer, the people in the music industry (including bands you play for, record labels, music students, etc.) must decide on working together with you versus thousands of musicians competing for the same opportunity. If you don't want to blend in with the crowd and go unnoticed, you will need to gain the upper hand on your music competition by creating value that far exceeds that of what most musicians are able to offer. This does not simply mean working on developing your music skills! Developing truly high value in your music career deals with many different aspects of your personal mindset, emotional stability under stress, and ability to work very hard on a consistent basis.
If you want to make a lot of money in your music career, you will need to make it 110% clear that you are the number one choice when someone in the music industry must choose between you and your competitors. In fact, this must be totally clear before anyone has even listened to one second of your music!
This may seem like a simple concept as you are reading it right now. However, as simple as it may be, almost all musicians do not build their music careers by acting on this basic principle. To find out how much you apply this concept in your own music career, take this quick music career survey for creating value in the music business.
By increasing your potential to create value (for all people involved) during any music related activity, you will be able to quickly earn a lot of money in the music business. This is one of the main ideas I focus on while training musicians to build highly successful music careers.
There are a lot of musicians who think that making good money from their musical talents is "wrong" or "deceptive" in some way. These people think that it is only important to continue improving their musical skills. Although improving as a musician is clearly important, if you'd like to have the freedom to make music for a living, you will also need to invest your time into improving upon the business side of your music career. This way you won't need to work a dead end 'day job' just to make ends meet.
There is no precise method for predicting every decision you will need to make in your music career to make more money. However, by simply avoiding the mistakes discussed in this article, you will be well on your way to making a great living in the music business. Once you have gained more time due to the financial freedom you will obtain, you will be able to focus more intensely on creating the music you love.
If you have not yet completed the surveys mentioned above on value in the music business, and pursuing a music career I recommend doing this now.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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