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Is music all you do for work?

Pastafarian

Member
Messages
5,431
Current IT dinosaur that's thinking of doing music/sound related stuff full time. Went through several booms and busts since I have been doing the IT thing and I think I am ready to do music related stuff as a living. The great thing is my wonderful wife will support me while I get it going but on the same token I don't want her to have to "support" me if you know what I mean, we would do fine on just her income but I would feel like a loser if I couldn't hold up my end of the bills. My current company is about to go through major changes and the rumors are the dinosaurs are going buh bye. I don't think I want to update my skill set and look for another job..I'm burnt out. Matter of fact I've been burnt out and just coasting for about 3 years now.

I have done a bunch of one off sound gigs for local bands and have gotten a reputation of being good at it. I have a great lights guy that I could use when lights are needed. I have plenty of gear to pull off bar gigs and small outdoor events. One of my conundrums is that I have never charged real money to do it. Always 100 bucks or so or trade me some gear. occasionally 200 or a little more but rarely. I'd like to be around the 200 range per show with 100 for walk on's.

My goal is to keep it small and to stay busy. Any advice anyone can give me is welcomed. I know there must be some here that run a small sound company. I also plan on staying in my band and maybe picking up another band gig to subsidize things. I know there is a market for affordable Pro Sound around here. Most Pro Sound people charge 300+ and my target audience are bands making sub 1k that can't afford that, at the same time I don't want to get the rep of undercutting everyone but I think I can avoid that if I stay out of the bigger stuff. I really only need to take home about 30K a year. My retirement is pretty much all set as it stands. I figure I could physically do it for about 10 years which pretty much put's me at retirement age any way.

Would love to hear some advice!
 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
Yes, it's all I do, but I take a different route than what you're looking at doing there. I gig, teach music a couple of days a week, and do occasional sessions. I've worked on a sound and light crew but that was many years ago.

Your area will have a lot to do with the opportunities that you can find. Metropolitan areas and college towns will have more going on. The tricky thing is that, again depending on your area, it's not difficult to find prime time weekend work, it's filling in the gaps with work during the week that might be more of a challenge.

Obviously, networking is your friend. In the sound (and light) business, yes of course you would be working with bands and artists, but you will want to dig a bit deeper. If your area has a theatre scene, take a look at what's going on with productions there. Check out colleges and churches, as well as regular monthly events in your city, town, or area. Festival and theatre work calls for some bigger sound systems. An associate and friend of mine teaches music early in the week, and then flies all over the U.S. during the latter part of the week to do sound jobs for moderately successful artists with whom he has managed to hook up.

Being a full time musician is sort of like a never-ending series of odd jobs. I hope that others do chime in here, as I'm always curious to know about some of the less obvious ways in which musicians supplement their income.

As a musician, you are looking at being an independent contractor, which is more difficult than a lot of people realize. It's a good thing you have the support system of a wife there, and I guess you have it worked out with her regarding health care and such.
 

snow and steel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,126
If you're thinking you could play gigs and support even half the bills and you don't already have an "in" for that amount of pay - then don't do it. Likely you won't find it. IF you the type of guy who can play any and all kinds of music then after a couple years on the scene you might build up enough connections to gig 5 or 6 nights a week to make $500 a week.

I think I'd stay in IT.

I gig full time and I'm constantly chasing something, and I try to do anything else I can to make it float too - teach, recording [getting rare these days - so many guys can do it themselves at home on a macbook], pickup gigs, fill in gigs. There is no retirement, no benefits, no sick days, and you WILL be working most holidays.

Stay in IT.
 

Will Box

Member
Messages
123
Yeah, music is how I make my living too. Mostly teaching supplemented with solo gigs, band gigs, soundman gigs. The best thing I ever did was to get an education. Music teacher exam in my case. Freed up a lot of egergy not having to scuffle for gigs........sapped a lot of energy working in the school system.....but the money keeps rolling in.
 

27sauce

Senior Member
Messages
37,204
If you're thinking you could play gigs and support even half the bills and you don't already have an "in" for that amount of pay - then don't do it. Likely you won't find it. IF you the type of guy who can play any and all kinds of music then after a couple years on the scene you might build up enough connections to gig 5 or 6 nights a week to make $500 a week.

I think I'd stay in IT.

I gig full time and I'm constantly chasing something, and I try to do anything else I can to make it float too - teach, recording [getting rare these days - so many guys can do it themselves at home on a macbook], pickup gigs, fill in gigs. There is no retirement, no benefits, no sick days, and you WILL be working most holidays.

Stay in IT.
After making connections you're still only making $100, maybe less, a night?!

Dang. Stay in IT.
 
Last edited:

tiktok

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
23,497
Current IT dinosaur that's thinking of doing music/sound related stuff full time. Went through several booms and busts since I have been doing the IT thing and I think I am ready to do music related stuff as a living. The great thing is my wonderful wife will support me while I get it going but on the same token I don't want her to have to "support" me if you know what I mean, we would do fine on just her income but I would feel like a loser if I couldn't hold up my end of the bills. My current company is about to go through major changes and the rumors are the dinosaurs are going buh bye. I don't think I want to update my skill set and look for another job..I'm burnt out. Matter of fact I've been burnt out and just coasting for about 3 years now.

I have done a bunch of one off sound gigs for local bands and have gotten a reputation of being good at it. I have a great lights guy that I could use when lights are needed. I have plenty of gear to pull off bar gigs and small outdoor events. One of my conundrums is that I have never charged real money to do it. Always 100 bucks or so or trade me some gear. occasionally 200 or a little more but rarely. I'd like to be around the 200 range per show with 100 for walk on's.

My goal is to keep it small and to stay busy. Any advice anyone can give me is welcomed. I know there must be some here that run a small sound company. I also plan on staying in my band and maybe picking up another band gig to subsidize things. I know there is a market for affordable Pro Sound around here. Most Pro Sound people charge 300+ and my target audience are bands making sub 1k that can't afford that, at the same time I don't want to get the rep of undercutting everyone but I think I can avoid that if I stay out of the bigger stuff. I really only need to take home about 30K a year. My retirement is pretty much all set as it stands. I figure I could physically do it for about 10 years which pretty much put's me at retirement age any way.

Would love to hear some advice!
Consider: If you had $100 gigs M-F, the whole year long you'd gross $26k, which is not taking home $30k. And getting five paying gigs a week is tough. So, every day you don't get paid $100, you have to get paid $200 some other day, so that you can make substantially less than $30k take home.

I'd say if you need to make $30k a year, you'll need to bust your ass and do some undercutting, pretty much anything to make the money. It's a tough business.
 

snow and steel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,126
After making connections you're still only making $100, maybe less, a night?!

Dang. Stay in IT.
You may be making more, but not absolutely after expenses.

There are other factors such as Gear insurance, travel costs, gear upkeep, vehicle wear/tear, etc etc that suck into your funds. While Weekend gigs or high profile gigs pay more, they aren't enough by themselves so you work through the week too - and those tend to pay a lot less.

Also, we're talking about a guy who wants to just into this NOW and start - so yes, if he is a REALLY skilled musician who is willing and able to play anything and everything, then as @tiktok pointed out he might make $25k after two years. More years in, better connections, there is a possibility to make more - but I suspect int eh long run he'd do MUCH better staying in IT.
 

jackson

Member
Messages
3,513
I'm in a similar situation (IT dinosaur) and know how you feel about being burnt out, and coasting. I'm going to stick it out in IT for a few more years if possible, as painful as it is. It's not as painful as being broke and trying to hustle gigs for rent/food, etc. I've been wanting to quit my day job for my whole career :), but haven't yet been able to make it possible, financially. Some day....
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,312
I think that the worst IT job probably pays more than what you're proposing will ever pay.

Cheap sound can be a pretty nice side gig - I didn't go to an ATM for probably 20 years, but to expect to bottom feed and make a real living is a little optimistic.

The real $ in pro sound is corporate AV work - you could investigate working for a place that does that, see if you like it.
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
23,409
Consider: If you had $100 gigs M-F, the whole year long you'd gross $26k, which is not taking home $30k. And getting five paying gigs a week is tough. So, every day you don't get paid $100, you have to get paid $200 some other day, so that you can make substantially less than $30k take home.

I'd say if you need to make $30k a year, you'll need to bust your ass and do some undercutting, pretty much anything to make the money. It's a tough business.
All true... I do music full time.. band and teaching... but I have rental income as well.. it would be tough without that, but gigs are only paying $100 a night... a 6 hour day of teaching nets me 3x that... it's a rough business but the rewards are priceless...:)
 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
I don't think there's really any question that the proper grownup response is "Stay in IT." So if we're looking for pragmatic, yep, we're pretty much done here.

Pasatfarian said:
My current company is about to go through major changes and the rumors are the dinosaurs are going buh bye. I don't think I want to update my skill and look for another job..I'm burnt out. Matter of fact I've been burnt out and just coasting for about 3 years now.
How bad is it? How much would be involved with updating the skill set? How much do you hate your job? Will you be able to find or keep employment easily enough if you do soldier on and get the skills or knowledge together?

I was faced with a similar situation in 2003, although more extreme, but this isn't about me. It sounds like you have a foundation of choice there.
 

ripgtr

Member
Messages
10,559
I did it for 25 years, almost all of it gigs.
I am in IT now (I just turned 60).

It was a tough business back when there were tons of bar gigs, and I was young.

Picking up a few gigs is a LOT different than depending on it to eat.
 

shredtrash

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
10,065
Made my living in a touring cover band for a while about 16 years ago. I was fortunate to be in a band with steady income and it was still tough. It actually made playing less enjoyable after a while.

I eventually went back to school and became a HS teacher 14 years ago. Teaching still allows me to gig a lot while having a reliable career. I'll probably retire in a few years and go back to playing full time but I won't have to solely rely on music income because I'll have my pension. For me, that's a much better position to be in.
 

Killed_by_Death

Senior Member
Messages
18,304
LMAO, if I had to do anything musical for my living, I'd have died poor a while back.
I made my fortune in I.T, but in Oil & Gas, and abroad.
 

Pastafarian

Member
Messages
5,431
Some really good advice so far. I should re-iterate that I don't "need" to put food on the table so to speak. My wife makes a pretty good wage, will put me on her medical insurance and the house is paid off. I own my vehicle out right and it's just the two of us. Like I said before though I would feel like a loser if I couldn't at least pay the utility bills. Yes my gear is insured. I figured if I were going to have to hire someone It would be a 1099 situation. I do not plan on hiring any employees. I was just seeking advice and seeing how living off of music has been for those that do. Teaching is out for me. I wouldn't know the circle of fifths or fourths if you smacked me upside the head with it. Hyperbole yes but you get my drift.

I guess I was really feeling the groundswell as far as the company I work for goes. My boss resigned yesterday along with a bunch of others this week and so the mass exodus has begun. Of course I am going to hang on for now because they will owe me a sizeable severance but I will definitely be leaving this field. Seriously could care less if I make half of what I am making now.
 

Pastafarian

Member
Messages
5,431
Made my living in a touring cover band for a while about 16 years ago. I was fortunate to be in a band with steady income and it was still tough. It actually made playing less enjoyable after a while.

I eventually went back to school and became a HS teacher 14 years ago. Teaching still allows me to gig a lot while having a reliable career. I'll probably retire in a few years and go back to playing full time but I won't have to solely rely on music income because I'll have my pension. For me, that's a much better position to be in.
Very cool. Hey maybe we will jam some day. I am heading to Edgewood in a few years if all goes well.

:D
 

CRBMoA

Member
Messages
3,752
Unless you are a MONSTER player with unbelievable energy and willing to teach for the lion's share of your income, you are gonna want to work a conventional job.

I have two close friends that do music solely. One teaches a heavy schedule of private lessons and is a total gig whore and NEVER gets a day off. He is considered a regional big dog and his phone rings a lot, and he can deliver.

The other one is world class and got hired to play with a big last year, was put on a retainer salary plus travel, per diem and gig money and the band us up for a Grammy.

The rest of us get W-2's.
 

swiveltung

Senior Member
Messages
14,485
Most the full time musicians I know are barely able to pay rent.... best case. One I know lives in a non running motorhome on a friends property with no running water. Some are doing OK. Side men, bassists who are in demand. They probably make $500 a week if they constantly stay on top of things.
 






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