So what do you call a musician with a college degree? The night manager at McDonald’s. Yeah, I didn’t think that was very nice either. But the crappy thing is that it kinda rings true. If you are reading this article in your parent’s basement with your trusty old splintering Gibson by your side, then you’re like the majority of guitarists and singers out there. Unfortunately, not everyone gets discovered for their amazing talent like Ed Sheeran these days. And it’s near impossible to get your kickass industrial metal band into the public eye because even Nine Inch Nails doesn’t listen to Nine Inch Nails anymore.
But you can’t give up your passion. And you sure as hell shouldn’t have to. I always imagined myself shredding like Malmsteen or Vai in front of a sold out stadium, and you probably had similar dreams. Unless you have some unique and mindblowing talent, or the luck to be strumming in the right place at the right time, gigging is not going to earn you a living.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t earn a living off your music though. You don’t need to be making hit records or selling out shows, nor do you need to work a nine-to-five day job like the stereotypical musician in the movies. There are plenty of ways you can get the money flowing in without compromising on what you love to do. Some of these can even enrich your life in ways you would never imagine.
1. Live Entertainment
Now, if you haven’t really explored your options as yet, then this is a serious one to consider. If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve already tried this, or you hate the idea of it, or you’re currently doing it but not earning much. If you are currently performing at a pub or café but looking for a way to supplement your income, then skip to the next section.
If you’ve never considered looking for work at a restaurant, local pub, or café, it’s time to start asking around. You really don’t need to wait to be asked. Even if your favorite café doesn’t have live acts, it won’t hurt to have a chat with the owner and suggest it.
Depending on what kind of deal you can strike up, the audience the place caters to, and your skills, you may just be able to earn a pretty solid living. See if you can play at a few different places if you can’t get more than a night or two at one pub. Even if you are offered low pay, see if you can ask for a meal out of it as well. That alone will help.
2. Compose Jingles
If you’re good at putting together a catchy tune and lyrics, go for it. The more versatile you are, the more indispensable you will be if you get hired by a local TV station, radio station, or studio. Contact a few TV and radio stations, advertising agencies, and local recording studios that you know of and drop off your demo and resume. You don’t need to wait for an ad to turn up in the classifieds. Put yourself out there. If you have a knack for catchy melodies and lyrics, it won’t go unnoticed.
Of course, this is no slacker’s job. If you get hired full time, you will be dealing with headache-inducing deadlines and most likely awful clients or bosses. But it does mean good and steady pay, it means experience, and it means making a name for yourself and forging a path to bigger and better things.
Of course, if you have the talent for playing, you can always earn a pretty penny teaching. Now, it’s important to understand that teaching is not for everybody. Just because you can shred, it does not mean that you can teach. You need to be able to systematically communicate to students the relevant knowledge they require. On top of that, you need to be able to perceive their trouble spots and know how to teach them how to improve.
With that said, teaching can be one of the most lucrative options you have. You can charge quite a bit by offering private or group lessons, you could offer lessons to students all over the world via the internet, or, if you know your theory, you may even be able to get hired as a teacher at a school. Sort of like Jack Black’s character in School of Rock, but perhaps, legitimately. You can even take a fairly basic and short course online or in person to get certified to do this.
4. Be a Session Musician
If you don’t already have a band of your own, why not be a session musician? If you are really good with your playing, improvising, stage presence, and some theory, you’ll go a long way. You could fill in for people, do brief stints with established local acts, or be part of a temporary lineup and earn quite a bit. This is an excellent way to get some attention in the industry and make a name for yourself.
If you can do this for a while and be patient, eventually you’ll be able to strike out on your own with the contacts you’ve made. Then you can quite easily get bigger gigs with your very own act. If you are going to try this out, be sure to have a business card ready.
These are just some of the ways you can earn some money without having to resort to doing something you would hate. Remember, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be impossible either.