So, a question for you all...

We’ve determined the following.
The artist will never go away, nor will the music.
The business side of music is unstable, troubled, but what fails within its processes will always be replaced by something else.
Between the business and the artist, the exchange tends towards the unfair.

Now, for the qualifying statement. I know that there are differing complexities in jobs. For example, it wouldn’t be hard for me to get a job mopping bathroom floors in a mall, or slinging meat at Micky D’s. So… with that in mind I ask the following question as honestly as I can.

Is it truly more difficult to make an affordable living (ie… lower middle / middle class) in music, than it would be for other jobs in that general level of complexity? I’m asking this for selfish reasons of course because I’m still fishing for perspective. Once I find it, I’ll be good because I know how to adapt, but in the meantime I need to find something to grasp on to in this dark abyss of reaching for something unknown, and possibly unreachable according to my current mental structure of how I believe music should be.

Do what you want to do. If you can make a living at it, great. If not, prepare yourself for a trade that you can make a living at … one that affords you time and resources to pursue what it is you want to do with your life.

Recognize that you may be one of those people that can’t not do music. That may be a curse, or a blessing, or both.

This I know for certain. But it was not really the question I was asking. I already have a trade where I can make money, and I like it, but it is nowhere near the satisfaction I get from music.

What I wanted to know… is it more difficult to get set up and making a living from music than it would be other jobs in this general area of complexity.

In other words. Say I had all the necessary talent and experience necessary… just like I would need in any other trade. Is there a higher chance of me failing to achieve a moderate income in relation to other trades? … hopefully that makes better sense.

I am of the opinion that music is one of the most difficult professions that ever was. About the only people who are completely dependent upon it to feel alive, are the musicians themselves. Most folks will pay whatever the market bears ($ hundreds) to have indoor plumbing intact and working. However, many will not pay a paltry $5 cover charge to hear an impassioned band play their hearts out for four sets in a dive bar.

In any case, it takes more than talent and experience. Add hard work, tenacity, excellent business acumen … or an enormous amount of pure, dumb luck (if you can find any that isn’t already used up).

I think that depends on what your aim is… a highly talented singer/songwriter/guitarist could head out on the road and make good money with very minimal gear, sure there are costs associated with management, but even that can be self-done.

On the other hand, if you want to run a studio, and record / produce for others, then as you already know, the costs are prohibitive based upon always needing that better bit of gear… plus location costs, etc.

Either way, its a hard road. That guitar toting minstrel would need to work and travel pretty constantly.

So, yes, more complex than an 9-5 ordinary job.

That’s my take on your question.

Have one :slight_smile:. At least a decent eduction, but I’m a web programmer. I have enough clients. I work from home 99% of the time. A lot of self motivation needed, and very hard concentration.

I’m asking this question, because I can’t give up music. That’s just not in me. But I need to acquire a permanent perspective on how I view music. It might just become an advanced hobby… and once I feel comfortable with the route I want to take, that might simply be “it”. But I’m not quite ready to give up the idea of pursuing it more intensely. That’s mainly why I’m asking for help from those who know more than me in those areas.

I have been thinking that as well. This will most likely influence my decision from a focused pursuit, to something more casual, just doing what I like, on my time, but still learning and working at it towards a career… just not with any expectations or stress involved.

My mind is very "anal"ytical in matters like this. Once I settle in to a POV that works, I’m good. I just tend to put myself through torture in regards to figuring out more complex decisions in my life.

Once you start making music for money, and ergo the money starts to steer the direction of the music the level of satisfaction you get from music will descend to the level of satisfaction you get from your current method of earning a living.

Don’t kill your passion for music by contaminating it with commerce. Make music for fun.

I think I do. But it always helps to have others affirm this by coming to the same conclusions.

If you’re in your bedroom NOW and want to be making a living with ‘music performance and music sales’ be prepared to it taking a long time before that happens. I’m not anyone who’s got any credentials in this area, but I am a business man and I’ve been self employed for 14 years. I didn’t get success overnight, it took about 3 years to get to the point where I had more work than I could possibly shake a stick at. Not anymore, I shake my stick and get little now.

I’m hearing about the same thing from everyone who has started, is starting, is running, or is in school for business. 3 years seems to be the tipping point. To keep at it, to start to see that the business has tenure and is able to keep going. To “keep the faith” as it were and to keep working at it. This is why I’m still unsure. I have been at this (in a serious manner) for less than a year…, so it might be worth it to maintain extra effort for two more years to see if something begins to materialize.

MY POINT is…Making the SAME mistakes, keep giving you the SAME results! This has to be kept in mind with any part of life, especially a business and especially the music business I would think.

Good point. I’ll definitely keep that in mind. Right now the only mistakes I can really make are in the approach to all this. So I’ve got to change my approach, this is what it’s all about.

don’t think just because you’re doing some music related things for a living that it’s going to be all peaches…in the end you’re going to make it your JOB, your GRIND and there’s still going to be WORK involved. Though working hard at what you LOVE (or loved at one time) is far more rewarding than working at something you’ve always hated.

I’ve been hearing some good wisdom from the Zap lately. Is that really you? j/k :laughing: The engineering and production of my music is NOT fun for me. It is work. Having Cubase and other softgear does make it easier. But it is still not the same as sitting here pounding at the synth. I think that might be part of the reason for that other post (about being a DAW syndrome or something). Where creating music is great, but when it comes to finishing a project, everyone has a hard time with it.

Hmmm…jus be careful when you do get to where you’re the king, or the boss…it may go to your head just a little, it’s easy to…occasionally I get into these “I’m the boss, I answer to no one” wild hairs up my butt and go into the Charlie Sheen mode > :laughing:

:mrgreen: I promise to be careful… Dad :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley:

When designing a website, I base it around the clients request. I like to write music based upon a clients description as much as something totally random coming from my own head. I love that challenge. So the music may be commercially geared, but I personally don’t see it as a problem. This is one of the things I have practiced with. For friends, and for opportunity submissions for media.

But I can and do make music for fun as well.

I have a lifelong goal in which I have adhered to for about 12 years now, when I first discovered what it was. The quick version is this.
A life that is complete needs: Work / Play / A spiritual path / and a sport or hobby. My aim is to integrate music into all of these parts, because it has aspects in each. I’ve felt it to be my goal for a long time, but only in the last dozen years or so has something taken shape that I can grasp on to.

These are the things I need to work with, get straight in my head before I can move on and accomplish more than small fragments of something.
Well… yeah… Can’t think of anything more to say. :smiley:

I’ve heard this. However, I must disagree.

I’ve also heard people say that music made for the purpose of making money is not good music.


Art is created by people for any number of reasons. Just because someone wants to make a living from their passionate work, does not make them greedy or a sell-out.

The bottom line is that the less people are willing to compensate you for your exceptional contributions to the matrix of humanity, the less worthy you might feel or the less motivated you might feel.

It comes down to respect, not motivation. If people do not respect you (and taking without giving back is disrespect, with few exceptions), then you will not feel good about creating things for those people, or anyone else.

It’s easy to say something that equates to, “one size fits all”, but that is rarely, if ever, the case.

It’s been my experience that the problem with trying to make a living in the art’s (any art) is the often tenuous linkage between skill/expertise and financial success (heck, just making enough to support ones self).

I couldn’t even count the number of musicians I’ve known over the years who were incredibly talented but barely (or rarely) earned enough to stay afloat. Others who were fortunate enough to hit at one point but, kind of like “almost” catching the wave, they hit for a short moment, enjoyed some success (known a few who had a big burst of success) but then taste’s moved on in a different direction and they returned to some level of obscurity. The proverbial 15 minutes of fame.

We’ve all heard the old saw about “barely surviving doing what you love is better than making a living doing what you hate”… The reality I’ve seen is rarely so clear and defined. Most people make a living, as you’ve said you do…doing something that they’re fairly good at and, while they may not love it, they dont necessarily hate it either.

I agree with an earlier post, if what you do for a living is something that you’re pretty good at, pay’s fairly well and allows you to live comfortably and finance your hobbies, provides reasonably consistent work, and allows you some acceptable amount of time to pursue your hobbies…this is hardly a “wasted life”. In fact, this may be the better balanced life.

Keep your day job, use it to support your music. Let your music work progress on it’s own. If it grows into something big enough to support you, great. That’ll happen if/when it’s supposed to and you’ll be lucky enough to be able to transition over to it full time if you choose. The advantage of this approach is that you get your feet wet and learn to swim without dropping yourself in the middle of the ocean without a life preserver.

The one common thread among starving artists is that they’re all starving! Nothing noble or glorious about that and, personally, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.

First, I’d like to say I appreciate everyone’s help. It really did help. :smiley:

This thread for me winds up a 3 month soul searching session in regards how I want to view music, how I should approach it, and how much I should press towards my goals (previous post).

@Karl. I think you summed up my thoughts, and it seems to align the best with relation to everything that has been spoken here. What brought me into this “crisis” was me pushing myself into something that hasn’t naturally evolved, mostly due to my own mistakes. Seeing a responsibility towards my own future, my friends and the power of the music itself that was basically an illusion added much stress to the factor.

So now I think I’m clear. I’ll be continuing my “day job” of course. That’s not really an option. I’ll also be continuing to pursue music, just at the level of my own speed and interest. I can lose the stress associated with these imaginary responsibilities and keep it more in the “art” category… just doing what I love to do. What is interesting in addition to this, is that my method of mixing has opened up as well and seems to have produced better results.

So my plan with music is to not really have a plan. Just go with it. Let it happen more naturally and at my own pace.


Fair points, but pretty much everyone who I have met who has had commercial success has also had artistic conflicts becuase of the commercial aspects. This is not an experience they have enjoyed.

Very few artistes have got to a level where they are able to call the shots rather than the capitalists calling the shots.

That sounds like the best plan of all :slight_smile:

You need a map. Not many start a journey not knowing where they are or where they’re going.
First find out where you are. Then find out why you’re there and not where you want to be.

You’re a musician. You make money or you make art. Both should be happy decisions. Most successful artists when asked don’t know why people buy their stuff and also there are what we term “cabaret” artists who are puzzled that we call what they do “art”.

First. When you play do you keep people in a room or do they drift in and out?
Second. When you make recordings do people say “Wow! Great!” or do they ask for or buy a copy?
If yes to the above then you really need a business plan.
If not then you could be an artist.

I’ve had to do this several times and will have to do it again.
Brute honesty is good.
And always be honest to yourself despite your honesty or dishonesty with others. (yes, honest people can be dishonest to themselves)

Hhhmmm, business plan for breaking into the current music business??? Most will resolve into something along the lines of…

a. Find nearby cliff
b. Jump

:mrgreen: :laughing: :mrgreen: :laughing: :wink:

Seriously, the vast majority of the people who say they’re making a living in the music business are doing the old “fake it till you make it” dance and most aren’t making it!

Here’s a suggestion for you…most of the money in the music business is not made by making music, it’s made by making something that allows others to try and make music. Think carefully about that. You’re into web site design as I recall…software stuff… make a streaming sample library that folks’ll buy, or some other software gadgetry that folks will imagine to be “THE tool I need to bring my music to the next level!!!” Sound like a familiar marketing pitch???

Start a “recording arts school”, then learn how to help aspiring “artists” sign up for government educational or retraining grants so they can come to your “school” and learn how to use DAW software.

15 years ago I was a partner in a very nice studio down in LA. I’m talking about a 48 chan MCI console that came from Sony studios, 2" 24 track Studer machine, huge control room with a fully floated floor, massive live room with 25’ ceilings (we recorded small orchestras in there sometimes as many as 25 players), 2 voc booth’s, a big drum booth, boatloads of gear etc… Way back then, even with that nice a facility, much of the time we were booking folks who just wanted to do demo tapes and that market ran at about $30 p/hour (pretty much what studios today charge).

The facility was sold off to a local producer who did alot of work with us. He converted much of the live room into a recording training school. Set up 8 or 10 pc’s, some DAW software etc…and he makes money from that several days a week. Darn clever really, even if a student doesn’t pay, he always signs them up for government education or retraining assistance so he gets a check from the government no matter what.

:mrgreen: :laughing: :mrgreen: :laughing: :wink:

One reason why I celebrate the DAW Revolution and the way it’s emancipated so many of us. We have no one to answer to except ourselves, as far as our music goes


The greatest work of art of all time (in my opinion of course) was the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was paid to do it. He fought constantly with the pope who commissioned the work, and the contract for the work was rewritten several times. And he wasn’t even a painter.

Have one. It however, may need a refresher. When I say I’m “just gonna go with it” it’s not like I’m throwing everything out the window. It is more of an idea as to how I approach it, how much of the nastier side of meeting goals, dealing with deadlines, and the stress involved. There is no need for it at this time, so I’m not going to “put on that mask” as it were.

You’re a musician. You make money or you make art. Both should be happy decisions.

Totally agree there.

First. When you play do you keep people in a room or do they drift in and out?
Second. When you make recordings do people say “Wow! Great!” or do they ask for or buy a copy?
If yes to the above then you really need a business plan.
If not then you could be an artist.

:laughing: Well, according to your comments, I could use a business plan. I’m not being egotistical. I’m just too old to be unrealistically humble. But again, at this point I’m not going to stress over it. I’ll keep doing what I do, without the added detriment of feeling like I have to answer to someone. That and ease up the pace are really the only two differences in my plan.

I’ve had to do this several times and will have to do it again.
Brute honesty is good.
And always be honest to yourself despite your honesty or dishonesty with others. (yes, honest people can be dishonest to themselves)

Indeed. It is actually more difficult to be honest to oneself than it is to others.

I can only speak for my little corner of the world, a Midwest town of about 80,000: I know most if not all the musicians in town, and every single one, including myself, make money playing music. For sure, this “for hire” aspect of making music limits in some way what you can do, but they still enjoy doing it. I’d say 90% of the music is doing cover tunes, and about 10% do mostly originals. Then, a fair number also do their own stuff at home simply for the enjoyment of it.

BTW – there are a few musicians from my town that have “made it” and done quite well, and I know them all personally: Steven Hunter (guitarist), Alison Kraus, Brian Culbertson, Chad Grey (of Mudvayne and HellYeah), and the late great Jay Bennett was a friend of mine and lived in Champaign. All of them have had issues with “creative control” but that aspect of self-determination I think can be found in almost every business, especially artistic ones.

But it’s not if you are just doing it for the artistic kicks.

But when you start doing music for money then yes of course it’s like any other business in that the check payers dictate the direction.

I can only speak for myself, and as someone who actually did make a living from music for over 20 years, that these days I prefer to keep creative pursuits and earning a living as separate entities. I’ve done the ‘doing it for money’ trip.