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SESSION ONE: Making Money as a Musician

I was wondering if you could do a short video about making a living as a musician.
You seem to have been doing it for a long time and nobody around me personally
has been all that supportive of my interest in it as a career. They just don’t think
that I can make a living as a guitaist.
~ Mac - Bakersfield, CA. U.S.A.

The video above is on YouTube. The second part of this video lecture can be watched below.


This topic is one of the most popular questions that I get asked off of both my web-site and from my YouTube channel.

The whole idea of "making money - making music" is something that a great deal of people who have any level of musical talent wonder about. And, the simple answer is yes - you can carve out a decent living as a musician! However, it isn't easy and it get's more difficult as technology keeps playing a larger role.

In this online program I plan on discussing a number of concepts that will hopefully shed some light on the idea of making a living as a musician. The first direction will be that of, "Fame and Fortune." One of the most popular reasons people seem to pursue the career path to begin with.


Do you want to be on the cover of People or Rolling Stone magazine... Or you have dreams about being featured on MTV... Or being Rich & Famous?

Let’s be honest right from the beginning... Becomming a star, or a wealthy recording artist, or a fixture of the concert circuit, (in other words becoming a celebrity), is - for some people a worthwhile goal. If that’s your desire, then work for it. But also keep in mind, becoming a star depends on many, many factors - most of which are completely out of your control. Hard work and talent will of course be necessary, but so will (To a MUCH greater level) good luck, charisma, a healthy economy and knowing the right people.

For example, back around 2001 or 2002
I had a student in the studio and he was working in a duet situation where they released a CD and they toured the album across North America. They played hundreds of shows, they even made it on some National Television programs - They’re on YouTube - just search “keith and renee - music.” Keith went on to do Canadian Idol - and even made it to the top twenty. You can see there is an enormous amount of work involved in pursuing the independent artist career path and even if you do all of the right things and work your very hardest at it - there is still not much chance of becoming Rich and Famous.


So, if you want to be a superstar, by all means read the books, including the ones by fabulously rich celebrities that present the often false appearance of intending to show you how to become famous. Such as; picking the right manager, agent, road crew, lawyer, and recording company. But realize that only a tiny fraction of those who read such books will ever really profit from their from-the-top advice.

Fewer than 1 percent of all working musicians ever become household names. That leaves more than 99 percent of us to make our living from music in our own communities - which is really what I want to discuss here.

So in this video series we’re going to look at how you man make at least $30,000 a year as a Musician after expenses & taxes - so that’s a take home income of about $2500.00 - $3000.00 per month. In accounting terms, that would be called your net-profit. Now realize, in order to achieve that, your gross profit, (in other words your Overall Sales Revenue), might actually have to be about $50 - 55,000.00 (so really your sales in a month will have to be close to $4500.00 per month in sales).

We’ll be focusing on working frequently in your
music community. If this leads to fame & fortune, that’s great! Most working musicians, however, will never attain fame or fortune.

Making a good living playing music that you, your clients, and your audience will enjoy is an enviable, but overall achievable goal.

That is - If you have the skills and abilities to do it. So, let’s move on to the next concept... ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH?



accelerated learning


The ability to improvise is of utmost importance, yet it’s a very difificult if not impossible skill to teach. Many excellent improvisers, for example, just “play naturally” and can’t tell anyone else how to do it.Often you will profit by taking lessons from a professional player who is not primarily a teacher. Here, though, you must be sure that the pro knows how to teach and can communicate well. Talk to the best players in your area to get leads on appropriate teachers, and investigate schools devoted to your kind of music. It is certainly possible to become a great musician all by yourself, but why continue to invent the wheel? Use the experience and specialized knowledge of other musicians to save yourself time and effort. Just be sure that the teacher you choose is the teacher you need. Again, music is practiced. It’s not mastered once and for all. If you’re good enough today, you may not be adequate tomorrow unless you continue to work at it - Musicians at the very highest levels always continue to practice and work, and you should too.


But exactly how good is good enough for commercial music? These points should begin to help you answer that question:

1). Be sure you’re good enough to do the job. If you have doubts about your ability don’t take the engagement! A poor performance will be long remembered by clients, the audience, and other musicians. If you don’t think you can perform at a professional level, don’t try. You could do more harm than good, and the money you make just won’t be worth the damage to your career.


2). Don’t try to practice until you’re perfect or you’ll never leave your house. There will always be room for improvement - current tunes to learn, more styles to acquire, or new equipment to master.

3). Don’t overlook the nonmusical factors that are crucial to freelance success. Sometimes a businesslike attitude and pleasant personality are as important as your playing ability. Even marvelous musicians usually have to be able to get along with the band, the client, and the audience.

4). Be on time!

5). Knowing what the job requires is also important How will the music fit the overall plan of the event? What’s the big picture? What, really, is needed from the musicians? Virtuosity? Usually not! For most jobs, competent playing will be enough.

6). Finally, since you’re a musician, you will usually be a harsher critic of your playing than your clients will be. As long as you can provide what they need, you’re good enough for the job.