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Perfect Job for Musicians or Ex-Musicians

If you are a musician or songwriter and you are starting to wonder what you are going to do for a living (how you are going to make some money for a change), this may help you.

If you’ve decided to “pack it in” and your equipment (drums, guitars, keyboards, piano, violin(s), microphone(s), typewriter, or notepads have been put aside, then I think I have a job for you.

If you have been trying to “make it” for years, and you are tired of having no money, I think I have a job for you.

If you have finally “come to your senses”, and realize you need to start thinking about ways to make some money, doing something that is fun, creative, with a potential for high earnings, then I have a job idea for you.

This post is for musicians who have been trying for years to make a living in the music business, and are starting to wonder if there is another way to make a living besides “working for the man”. First of all, let us explore why, and how, we got here in the first place.

Why We Wanted to be Musicians in the First Place

The first reason musicians fall in love with music is for the pure enjoyment of making music, listening to music, and creating music. Just the simple act of playing a guitar, a piano, a set of drums, or perhaps singing into a microphone, can be so inspiring and beautiful that it’s hard to explain in words. I know that when I was a young boy, at the age of 10 or 11, I watched my father play guitar for the first time and was very curious. Eventually I started to pick up his guitars and plucked a few strings. Over the years of my adolescence when I picked up a guitar it had more and more meaning. Soon I was able to play a full song on the guitar, and then I was completely addicted to music (for years to come).

What I’m getting at (slowly) is that our (us musicians) first initial motives for getting involved with music were absolutely pure and clear of ego. I am talking about the actual good musicians out there, and not “fly by nighters”. I’m talking about musicians who actually develop their craft well enough that they become accomplished, whether that be in the art of recording, songwriting, or just playing a single instrument. These are the musicians and songwriters that usually accomplish something in their chosen field — the ones that truly love the act of playing music, at their core, are not just gratifying their egos.

There are some musicians that certainly gravitated  towards music making for purely egotistical reasons, such as a way to meet girls, a way to make money, or a way to get attention. Even the musicians who start playing music out of pure love, can (and usually do) become seduced by the ego side of the music business at some point or another. In fact, if the ego takes over completely, it will destroy the initial love for music that the musician had at the genesis of their early inspiration.

So the reasons (motives) are varied, but in this post I am talking about the musicians that had a pure love for music from the very beginning, and were not that wrapped up with the ego side of things.

We Wanted To Do What We Loved For a Living

Obviously all human beings would like to do what they love for living, and this is what drives most serious musicians towards their ultimate goal. We want to be able to make a decent living playing music, recording music, or writing music. At least we think we do.

All of the different motives that drive us to play music, and be part of the music industry, can change over time, and the ones that keep being full-time musicians the rest of their lives, usually have to pay a price. It is very difficult to try and make a full-time living being a musician. Usually there is lack of money. Usually there is lack of support. Often there is a lack of respect from society as a whole.

As young aspiring musicians we all dreamed of living the ultimate dream. We dreamt of making millions of dollars, playing our own music for millions of people, and never having to “work for the man”. This last aspect (of not wanting to work for the man) is a big, big, big, deal! We never wanted to spend a day of our life doing a job we really don’t like, and taking orders from somebody else just to make a little bit of money. In fact, this was a true nightmare for me and my young friends when we were growing up as young musicians.

There are psychologists who suggest that sex is the driving motivation behind all males in human society. I don’t believe this for a second, but when I was a young teenage boy, playing in teenage bands, I did meet some musicians that were solely concerned about how well they did with the girls. These musicians never lasted long, and they soon splintered off and left the music scene altogether.

There are other musicians who believed that with fame and money they could get any girl he wanted (or woman) and this was another ego driving force behind their motivations. These guys never lasted long either. They usually became frustrated very quickly, and after their first couple of bands failed to “make it”, they left the music scene altogether.

The musicians who usually make music their full-time occupation, and their total income, are the ones that have two main motives behind their actions.

  1. They have an absolute pure love for making music
  2. They want the freedom that some highly successful musicians appear have

Unfortunately, musicians who think succeeding in the music business gives them freedom, soon find out that they are simply working for the man anyway – that is if they get that big recording contract and sell a few millions “units”.

Just like any source of income in this world, you have to get the money from somebody, and you have to do something, or be something, to receive it. I remember  one of the bands I played in did nothing but cover music (a musician’s term for playing songs that are not yours – just popular with the masses) so that we could “make a living doing what we love”. Unfortunately, if you are playing music that is not your own, and you are on the road every week from town to town, in all sorts of temperatures and conditions, it doesn’t stay fun for long. It’s truly a young person’s game.

I’ve know musicians who are extremely talented, and extremely in love with what they do, and they end up being true recording artists. They aren’t famous but they have a fair amount of freedom working in their own studios, creating music for commercials (jingles) or movie soundtracks. Unfortunately, this can become nothing more than a job and you are stuck in the same place you always dreaded as a young and upcoming musician – working day in and day out to meet deadlines and pay the bills.

When we were wary young musicians this is what we used to call “selling out”. We believed that playing music just for the sake of making money was simply an act of selling our souls to the corporate Devil(s), and it was paramount to treason!

Regardless of what our motives were, growing up as young men and women aspiring to be great musicians, the road was hard. True freedom was rarely ever tasted.

But let’s face it, when you are 21 years old, it feels PRETTY COOL (at first) when you drive the big truck into a town, unload the equipment, set up the P.A and lighting system, do sound check, go to the hotel room, have a nap, get cleaned up, go back to the club, mingle in the crowd, feel the nerves and the excitement, saunter on stage, plug in, and let ’em have it. (I think we smoked a fattie in there somewhere too) I mean – for us is was the 1970’s and “canned music” played by “DJs” was NOT cool. Musicians got allot more work back then.

Why We Failed to Make a Full Time Living as Musicians

The Commercial Aspect

Many musicians (I should say ex-musicians) that now make their living doing something entirely different, we’ll say that they didn’t make it in the music business because they just weren’t talented enough. It’s always a good joke, and I use that same joke myself. However, this is rarely the reason for not making it in the music business full-time.

What we failed to do as young musicians was understand the true commercial aspect of the music business. Most of us (almost all of us) take a musical path based on the music we love, and we exclaim how we would never sell out just for the money.

It’s truly ironic that young musicians often say, “I don’t want to sell out”, when in reality, they have to sell out if they want to make a full-time living in the music business.

I remember reading many different interviews with local musicians, and one thing really stuck out in regards to the commercialization of music. One interview was with a now famous musician who got his start in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I met him a couple of times because I worked in a music store located in North Van (now defunct Richard’s Rare Guitars). He came in to buy guitar strings, guitar picks, or whatever he needed that particular day. This was Bryan Adams, and he succeeded far beyond anyone’s intial expectations (except his, because he wanted it all, and was really confident about it).

At a very young age Bryan understood that he wanted to be a full-time musician, and he was going to do whatever it took to succeed. He understood that if he wanted to be a full-time musician he was going to have to play music that made money, and that the music industry would only support that end-state. In one of Bryan’s interviews back then he mentioned that he wanted nothing to do with making music, “just for the sake of art”. He was point-blank about his motives, and said that he would only write, record, and perform music that had a commercially viable component to it.

I have read other interviews with commercially successful musicians who discuss the same sort of thing that Bryan Adams was discussing. They fully understood the commercial reality of the music business, and they were willing to play anything to succeed financially. Another one of these artists is Shania Twain, who also comes from Canada. Shania understood at an early age that it was a music business, and she vowed only to get involved with the music making process if it was geared towards commercial success.

The outcome of this being that most of us starving musicians who held on to our lofty ideals,  failed to make music for the rest of our lives. The reality is that we wouldn’t be happy making music just for the sake of making money, so in fact, we did the right thing – we quit. There were some local exceptions I can think of like No Means No who have traveled and played their very own brand of music around the world in Europe and North America. These guys were never worried about being rich or having “company pensions” – they just wanted to be free to play their music.

We Weren’t In the Right Place

Millions of musicians growing up with dreams of making it big in the music business, don’t live in the right location. Yes, it’s true that some musicians do succeed from far and away remote places – but this is very rare. Even in those rare cases, these musicians are discovered by people in the music industry who are established in the main centers.

The main centers for the music industry are Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, London England, etc. It is in these main centers where all of the deals are made. It’s in these places that all the decisions are made about which music will be promoted and recorded for commercial purposes. If I was seriously pursuing a career in commercial music, as a young man, I would have done what Neil Young did, and moved down to Los Angeles or Nashville at a young age. You see this pattern with many of the great musicians in our time. Probably the best example of this would be Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, and if he had not migrated to New York City with his guitar and his dreams (and his encyclopedic knowledge of folk music in the United States – Woody Guthrie etc.) he never would’ve made it to where he is. Dylan would have simply been a man by the name of Robert Allen Zimmerman (his birth name), with a guitar, a very scratchy voice, living and working in Minnesota. People would have likely never seen his real talent, and even the ones that did would only be few local musicians in Dultuh who recognized his talent.

The right location is key, and that can never be understated. If you are a young musicians today who wants to make a living playing music, I urge you to get away from the smaller town or city you live in. Take that risk, and move yourself (even if it means leaving the band you are in) to a major center such as Los Angeles or New York.

Right Time and Right Music

Even if you are in the right location, have extreme talent, extreme originality, and youth, you still have to get lucky to make it as a musician. You have to have, or be involved with, a particular style of music that is desired by the masses and by the music business at the time. The people in the music business who decide which artists to sign up for a record contract, and which artists to promote with their star making machine, is based on money and profit. Most record companies just cannot afford to take a chance on an uncertain musical style or artist. What we have now, in this new century, is a music business that is managed by corporations. These corporations work solely for profit, and usually won’t take a chance on something that is quirky or new.

This is why it is never record companies and corporations that make all of the changes that come about in the music business. The corporations and the big record companies were not responsible for the punk rock movement, the blues movement, the bebop jazz movement, the new wave movement, rap music and/or hip-hop music. Nope — these big companies just jumped on the bandwagon after these musical styles broke out. They are only interested in profit, (and I don’t mean this in a mean way or a negative way) so they will not take a chance and promote something that is completely unique. If you are a music business executive, or A&R rep, please comment below if you think otherwise.

This is why many of the older musicians or ex-musicians (like myself) now believe that the music industry is stagnant (or maybe WE are stagnant!). It needs another shaking up, but it seems like there is very little new musicians can do at this point. There’ll always be many different styles of popular music, but there is only so many sounds you can make out of the limited instruments used in popular music – only so many ways you can dress, and only so many ways you can manipulate your voice on a microphone. I’m not saying that there won’t be something unique and different coming up in the future the music business (there will) – I am just saying that there are not many record companies willing to take a chance on these new ideas.

It used to be that record companies were relatively small, fly-by-night operations, and big business wasn’t involved yet. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the corporations stepped in and wanted to be part of the whole music business engine. Up until then the music industry was, to a large extent, developed and run by music lovers and music makers. This is why so much of the great music from the 1960s and 1970s is still so popular, and so timeless, today. It wasn’t music that was solely chosen for promotion because of its ability to make money. It was chosen because it was unique, had great content, and great style.

So a lot of it comes down to the timing and the style of music you are making. A lot of it comes down to plain money as I have mentioned above, and one last thing I would like to add to this discussion – American Idol (I couldn’t help myself).

Why American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent Have Damaged The Music Business

The reason for the television successes like American Idol, and Britain’s Got Talent, etc., is because there is a huge swell of young people with the ego-created dream of being a star, and their willingness to bear themselves to the world in pursuit of their dreams. The music business loves these kinds of shows, such as American Idol, because the contestants of these talent shows are weeded out and hand-picked by judges who know something about the music business. Essentially, these judges act as pseudo-A&R men (or women) for the music business, and they do the initial weeding out for record companies.

Some of these lucky contestants work their way up the ranks of these talent shows because they can sing well, and have some kind of attractive style. These top contestants gain massive exposure on the world stage, so basically the television program American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent carry out all of the initial marketing for these young singers. This saves the record companies millions and millions and millions of dollars in promotion and advertising costs. They love it! Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much for the consumers of music – the listeners.

Most of these young artists (with the odd exception) can only sing, and perhaps play an instrument or two. Their vocals are good, but somewhat plain and traditional. They (almost always) don’t write lyrics themselves, and even if they do write lyrics, they aren’t exactly inspiring and original. Certainly nothing that gets you thinking like a Bob Dylan lyric.

Can you imagine Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen on American Idol?

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (just to mention a couple of famous artists, because there are many great artists like them)  who don’t have traditionally good singing voices, but yet have a great deal of character in their vocals. The judges wouldn’t give artists like this a second glance. They would be laughed off their very first auditions. Simon Cowell would screw up his face and make a snide remark as he dismissed them as losers.

Could you imagine the music industry without great artists like these who have traditionally bad voices. We would have missed out on a lot of GREAT music. Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Leonard Cohen, Patty Smyth,  Iggy Pop, David Bowie, etc. etc. etc. would have been laughed off in the first audition of American Idol, and the same rings true for an endless list of great artists from the 1960s and 1970s. I bet even the great Freddie Mercury would have been sent home packing in the first round of auditions as well, because although he had an AMAZING voice filled with power, passion and nuance, it wasn’t smooth or silky. Yep….he would have been panned.

So when the record companies and corporations make decisions on who they’re going to promote, they’re going to make the decisions based on how much money they need to spend to get the artist off the ground, and how much the money they can make when the artist (if the artist) gets off the ground and becomes somewhat of a success. They would prefer to sign up American Idol contestants and make a quick buck from their, almost always, temporary star status. We the listeners get more mundane music with bland lyrics, predictable melodies, slick production, and cutesy faces.

The Perfect Job For An Ex-Musician

Now back to the main theme of this article – musicians making money working at home.

I have theorized about what makes a successful moneymaking blogger tick, and, and I have wondered why so many ex-musicians often succeed with their online businesses. I have come to some conclusions, which is why I wrote this post in the first place.

Here is a basic outline of why I believe ex-musicians (and current musicians) can succeed with an online business.


Patience is something that musicians know only too well. It takes an incredible effort to write great lyrics, train your voice on a microphone, play an instrument, put together a band, and make it all happen. Musicians will work for many years at a time on one or two projects without ever being sure they’ll make a single penny from their work, or get any long-term satisfaction out of the experience.

In short, musicians are really good at suffering! Musicians are similar to writers in that they can be working months at a time on a project that may never see the light of day, but yet they keep on trying. This kind of patience is what it takes when you are starting an online business, or a brand-new blog. This is the kind of patience you should practice if you ever want your online business to succeed.

Ability to Dream the Ultimate Dream

All aspiring musicians who’ve worked really hard toward their dream of being a full-time musician, are not afraid to dream. As a matter of fact, most musicians spend their early years of life being told that they need to settle down and face reality. We were told that the odds of making it are very slim, and those that loved us the most would often encourage us to quit, get a haircut, and get a job.

It takes a special kind of person who throws all caution to the wind to pursue the impossible dream. You can say this about actors, painters, writers, and people in the movie business as well. We have to be able to believe in a grandiose outcome, or we would never be willing to take the risk of giving up so much time and money in our pursuits.

Hard Work

Serious musicians understand fully what hard work looks like, tastes like, feels like, and smells like. We understand the ridiculous hours it takes to create a piece of music and then finally get it recorded. We understand the hard work it takes to get a band of people together and keep them happy. We understand how many hours of rehearsal is required before we are ready to be in front of an audience or in a recording studio. We understand the hours of work it takes to learn an instrument proficiently.

We Are Used to Being Poor

In the very early stages of creating a long-term online income, we must be grateful for the pennies we receive, and see them as a great success along the way. If we want to be full-time, we will have to work really hard for very little money in the beginning. All bloggers, and online business owners who built up from nothing, will tell you that you shouldn’t quit your day job if you are worried about having a fairly decent lifestyle.

If you want to drive a brand-new car, live in a big house, in a fancy neighborhood, and go on trips two or three times a year, you won’t be able to do it with the money you make from your first blog or website. At least not in the first couple of years – that’s for sure!

Musicians are used to being poor and living off very little income, so it is not such a shock to their system to work hard for very little money. I remember being extremely poor and literally underfed for years at a time. I remember not owning a vehicle, not owning a home, and never even dreaming that I would have enough money to go on a trip somewhere. I remember having very little clothing, and absolutely no extra money for anything besides the basic necessities.

Not only was I used to being very poor, I remember going to houses that were rented by groups of musicians who kept a studio in the basement. This is very common because musicians have to pool their resources to have a roof over their heads and a place to record and rehearse their music. Most young musicians have no money coming in, and quite often live on the absolute fringes of society. My neighbors were often pimps, drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes. I could tell some stories – and I think I will.

The amazing thing is, when I think of the lifestyles I have described above, any person with an Internet connection and a half decent computer, could earn their way out of the poor house in a few years time. They could do it with just one blog, and I have seen bloggers who have created earnings of $100,000 (or more) a year just from one blog. This is really inspiring to me, although I would not really want to go back to a meager lifestyle, and not have any of the things, and the freedoms, I have now.

The Creative Spark and Ability

Musicians that have been serious for many years of their life, at one point or another, have a creative ability. They tend to be artists at the core regardless of whether or not they practiced in the disciplines of music or not. They usually have the ability to express themselves in any kind of medium. They usually have the ability to be writers, graphic design artists, web coders, and web site builders. This creative spark is necessary at some point along the way if you want to succeed online. The search engines and your website visitors demand it, and they expect it. If you don’t provide creativity and originality, your competition will beat you.

So if you are one of those struggling and starving musicians I have been talking about here today, and you want to find out if there is a way to make money without having to “work for the man”, this might be the idea you have been looking for.

You can start researching online income (how to make money blogging) and start a brand-new journey. You probably already have the unique aptitudes (mentioned above) required to succeed online. If you are still in the throes of pursuing your dreams in the music industry, you probably don’t even want to read this article, and I don’t blame you. I certainly wouldn’t want to read something like this if I was still dreaming of stardom. Maybe just keep this idea in the back of your mind, just in case you want to make a decent living without putting a suit, cutting your hair, like some corporate slave.

It doesn’t really take much, as far as understanding technology, to be a successful blogger and make some decent money. In relative terms, compared to what the average struggling musician makes, Internet income is viable as far as replacement income goes. If you are somebody who comes from a rich family, and have always had a lot of money to spend, and perhaps had a good job land in your lap through family connections, you probably won’t make it as a blogger. You won’t have the patience and the willingness to work long hours, for years at a time, to secure the ultimate income. I don’t want to be a downer, but I believe this to be the truth.

Those of us who come from fairly humble beginnings, and spent some years of our life being poor, have an inbuilt advantage when it comes to succeeding online.

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