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The major symphony orchestras in the United States are facing an increasingly dire financial situations – not just because of a decrease in consumer demand and a decade of economic recessions – but because of systemic, short-sighted and self-inflicted deficiencies in their current business models. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
A musician-for-hire is someone who provides a service to an event coordinator, talent buyer, or group of people that caters to the event’s specific needs and generates a notable yearly income.
You know, the guy that’s singing “Don’t Stop Believing” in the background of a picture-perfect wedding reception, or the guy kicking off “Hava Nagila” at the most anticipated Bar Mitzvah of the year. Even the cover band at the coolest bar in town is an example of musicians-for-hire work. There’s plenty of work like this out there for us to make a living from - but how do you set yourself apart from the rest of the bands trying to compete for these kind of gigs?
Well, although there’s no short answer, there are several steps you can take to set yourself ahead of the competition and create a “wow-factor” for yourself. Indulge:
This is part 1 of a 2 part article I wrote strictly based on my professional experience producing and engineering and managing artists. Since 2006, I’ve been involved as a key member in several music groups, labels, and production teams that despite all their potential to achieve greatness, fail and fall apart, often at critical moments.
In tighter financial times everyone would like to save some money on their musical purchases. This guide can help you save some money when shopping for musical equipment. So lets say you are about to buy some new instruments or some studio equipment, that can cost serious money when you opt for the best quality items. We are currently in a recession and it seems that there is some positive economic news of late on both sides of the big pond and that’s great. However most of us still need to watch the pennies and cents and there are ways that you can ensure you are getting the best possible deals on your equipment purchases. We can use the current situation to our advantage, as both musicians and retailers are experiencing the same economic conditions.
A session musician typically plays for multiple bands and artists. Many musicians dream of becoming a session musician, sitting in on cool gigs, travelling with different outfits and generally being respected by their peers.
As you can imagine, session musicians need to be able to play many styles of music and need to be proficient in all of them. But what does it take to be a session musician?
When I was in college, I held several part time jobs to make ends meet. One of those part time jobs was playing guitar at a few restaurants every month. Nothing glamorous, but I was happy to be playing guitar. I started keeping track of how much money I made on those gigs to see if I could justify quitting one of the other part time jobs.
It turns out keeping a detailed list of my music income has served me well over the last 10 years. I was eventually able to justify quitting all of my day jobs and become a full time musician, and since being a full time musician, I’m able to keep a finger on the pulse of my various streams of musician income. Just as a shop owner keeps track of her inventory and carries whatever products are in demand, I’ve been able to assess and adjust my inventory of music jobs that keep me in business.
Over the last 10 years the way I make a living has changed dramatically. I’ve never made a lot of money, but I’ve been able to make more each year despite the changes in the music industry and economy in general. Here’s my method and what I’ve learned along the way.
A while ago, I wrote a piece about The Unspoken Rules of How to Treat a Touring Band. Basically, it was some rules on courtesy between bands show share a gig. After going on a few more tours myself, I wanted to share some additional advice on how to make shows run a little more smoothly and how you can be a little more professional in your gigging.
Here are some assorted tips on the pro’s do it:
Every now and then, I go on an open mic binge and discover new little spots and new artists honing their craft. There was this one girl who was absolutely amazing. I told her what I did and she started asking questions. Our conversation came around to how one can get the right exposure and further their career. I shared with her a lot of things, but one of them was about reaching out to industry insiders and building a professional network that will help propel her career forward. It’s not enough to play live. You have to also work hard at building your professional network in the music industry. Finding contact info is easy. There are directories and registries out there you can buy. However, there are some realities concerning industry people that you have to understand before you reach out to them. Or else, you’ll only annoy and alienate them. Here are those realities.
I played keyboards on my first Broadway show a few weeks ago. For me, this is a milestone in my career and marks the achievement of a major life goal that I’ve been working toward for over 20 years. When I first decided I wanted to play keyboards on Broadway – and this will be a reoccurring theme – I had no idea where to start. There were a lot of very generous musicians who helped guide me along the way. So in an effort to pay back that kindness, and in the hopes that this might help somebody out there with similar goals, I’m going to tell you the story of how I got my gig.
John McCrea, lead singer of the band Cake, stirred up a reaction when he told NPR’s Melissa Block that he is skeptical about the future of music as a vocation.
“I see music as a really great hobby for most people in five or 10 years,” he remarked.
Keep in mind this was part of a segment about Cake’s historic new album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January. It was historic because the album earned the coveted ranking by selling just 44,000 copies — the lowest amount for a No. 1 in the 20-year history of calculating record sales.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blog posts lately about the doom and gloom of the music biz — including depressing news about the state of independent music. There have been references to the failure of direct-to-fan as a business model, and the harsh realities that aspiring musicians, managers, and promoters face.
Really? Give me a break!
The idea that any emerging artist can become the next multi-platnum recording artist is null and void. Save for very rare instances, there is just not the level of demand in music that creates the necessary environment for a superstar to develop, and those who do break through at that level either had the connections or the marketing team that was smart enough to mold the musician to look and sound exactly how the labels want them to. But this is nothing new.
As the DIY Musician movement strengthens, musicians are continually gaining more understanding as to how they can sustain a career in music without the need to sign to a record label and sell over 1 million copies. There is a seemingly limitless way for musicians to use their knowledge of any and all aspects of music to create a sustainable career doing what they love:
Music licensing is a great opportunity for any aspiring musician to get paid for their recorded works to appear in TV and film. Helen Austin, a musician who has dedicated her career in music to licensing her works has put together a wonderful article on laying out the 4 Steps to Film and TV Placement.
It’s that time again. School is now in session, which means a whole new breed of young musicians are heading off to college for the first time. Whether or not your focus of study is music, the college experience can be an excellent opportunity for you to hone your chops and establish the sort of demand that will launch your career.
But as you will soon realize, four years will go by in the blink of an eye. It is critically important that you have something to guide you through all of the important baby-steps that will take you from a dorm room band to the most important act in the surrounding area. Use the following checklist to ensure that no opportunity is overlooked as you begin to establish yourself in your new local scene:
As a musician looking to establish a fan base, you have to know exactly who and where your fans are. A marketing technique taught in college, one that can be very useful, is to create a highly-detailed description of who your ideal fan is, summed up into one person. Give that person a name, and describe every aspect of that person on paper: what is their background, what clothes do they wear, where do they shop, what are their hobbies, what other music do they listen to, what sort of food do they eat, what beer do they drink, maybe they don,t drink beer but rather drink wine, etc. Once you know EXACTLY who your fan is it will be much easier to pin-point exactly where they will be.
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