By Carlton Clark
There are a lot of very good musicians barely making a living with their talent, and there are a lot of mediocre musicians supporting their families and having a great time using their talent. The reasons for this may not seem so clear to some people, but I believe if you look at it from a business perspective, the reasons will become very clear. Making money as a musician can be a challenge for any musician regardless of your skill level. However, the determining factor does not just rely on your talent. Being self employed as a working musician requires a business approach that requires some very specific disciplines that will guarantee success. I have a list of six ways to become a money making musician.
1) Being a musician is a very time intensive career. A lot of time is spent working on your craft and getting better every day. There are also the tasks of constantly learning new songs, going to rehearsals, and traveling. When trying to balance this lifestyle with family, friends, and other responsibilities presented by life, it can become overwhelming at times. The only way to make everything work is to be as organized as possible. This requires more than just logging task in your calendar. When you do a schedule, set a start time and an ending time for each task. This means, if you are practicing for two hours, don’t answer the phone for two hours; it really can wait. Sometimes, other people can affect your schedule if you allow them to. A good example is band rehearsals. When band rehearsal is scheduled from 1 to 3 and people show up an hour late, you should still pack up and leave at 3. I promise you people will start to take you more serious, but you also must be on time. Always be the master of your time.
2) Stop being so accessible to people who waste your time. When you answer the phone just say “Hi Jim, I have about five minutes, what’s up.” Then Jim will know you don’t have 30 minutes to talk to him about some girl he met last night. Get control of your time and don’t allow other people to waste your time. I have friends who work regular 9 to 5 jobs and they would call me on their breaks just to chat because they knew I was not on a 9 to 5 job. Don’t answer the phone, because this is your job and you have to set the boundaries. I noticed when I stopped answering the phone, nobody was leaving messages and I was not missing anything. The same thing with people who like to hold a conversation with texting; send a smiley face and stop responding. Value your time and let the world know how valuable your time is. Restrict access to the time and energy vampires.
3) Create a work environment that is conducive to your creative style. You ever noticed how much effort goes into making a recording studio comfortable and private. High-end recording studios are usually hidden, out of the way, and very plush. It’s all about maintaining a creative environment. You have to do the same thing in your everyday lifestyle. Your environment and surroundings should make it easy for you to get things done and create ways to step your game up. It should not remind you of how hard the struggle is or how bad the economy is; watching the news every hour does not help you achieve anything. I like for my place to always smell good, it helps me to relax. Create and protect your own mental and physical private space. Don’t allow people to make your space the hangout.
4) Set goals with the end in mind so you always know what you are ultimately striving for. If your goal is to play on major tours and travel as much as possible, then you know sitting home writing jingles is not the best way to accomplish this goal. One of my goals was to become a record producer, so I started working as a recording engineer to get my foot in the door. I learned a lot and it helped with my craft but it didn’t get me noticed as a record producer. I had to take other avenues that were more affective in getting my music placed. So always be prepared to make adjustments, but keep that goal in front of you and you will hit it. Never walk outside of your front door not knowing exactly where you are going. A detour is fine as long as you get to where you set out to go.
5) Commit to what you want to do, and do what you commit to. Having clear goals really helps with this step, because it saves you from committing to things you don’t really want to do. We have all had those situations where we commit to a gig with some terrible singer because we need the money at the time. Then two days later you are trying to come up with an excuse to get out of the gig. If you commit to it, do it to the best of your ability and make it a great gig. Better yet, actively seek out the work you want to do and market yourself in that direction. More often than not, you will end up doing the type of gigs you prefer and making the type of money you prefer.
6) I had to throw this last step in, because this applies not only to musicians, but to life. Musicians tend to get caught up in the struggle and forget the one thing that will help raise your life to another level. The one thing you must do and plan for is giving. No matter what your situation is you have to give and plant seeds. Some people may not like this, but I’m not talking about some mystical concept of giving out of fear or obligation. I’m talking about giving with your self interest in mind. You can give your time and talent; this is a form of planting seeds and looking for them to grow. Be very strategic with giving these assets, and make sure you get a harvest. However, if it’s money you want I suggest you give money and watch that seed grow. Reverend Ike once said, “A closed fist never lets anything out, but it never lets anything in either.”
To sum this up, being a “money making musician” requires you to operate like a “money making musician.” Your assets are your time and your talent, which are very tangible assets. People pay good money to be entertained. It is your job to get good money for entertaining. The best way to achieve this is to be in a position to negotiate your price. The first step is to get your day to day life in order so you can focus on marketing your skills. Then you become a “money making musician.”