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Music For A Living

When I speak at events around the world, one of the questions I usually ask is “how many of you want to play music for a few years and then quit?” Not one person ever raises their hand.

Part of my Live Music Method is my Live Music Business Principles: investing in your music career the right way. You see, we should be spending our time, energy, and money on things that will make a difference for us.

Not that I’m the “sharpest tool in the shed” (as they say here in the South), but after working with hundreds of artists of all kinds in all genres, I’ve watched and learned what successful ones have done.

I remember teaching a class for some indie musicians once, and the panel after my class included a producer talking about his career as a musician. He was telling everyone how his band (which I won’t name) played 5 or 6 years and how they rocked the world. But they had to come off the road because they weren’t making enough money.

Now I had seen the band, and guess what –
they didn’t rock the world. They thought they did, but they didn’t. They spent most of their time, energy, and money in the studio, on equipment, on trying to get a record deal, and not enough time, attention or money on what they should have. They had cool lights and big sound. I think a couple of the guys even went to prestigious colleges to learn to play their instruments. But they were gone in a few years.

So how do you do it? Well, buying equipment is necessary. Learning to play your instrument is necessary. Recording is necessary. It’s not that those things are wrong; but you can’t pour your whole life into them.

Not too many years ago, an article by the Canadian Recording Industry Association reported that major record label sales for one year in Canada had been $538 million. Gross revenues from live musical performances were estimated at $752.8 million the year before. And retail sales of musical instruments, recording and live performance equipment exceeded $900 million the same year.

Did you notice? Artists spent almost 3/4 of what they made on equipment! (Leaving them, by the way, with about $16,000 in average annual income.) And that is a common problem for a lot of groups. They overspend getting the newest, latest, grooviest gadgets, amps, guitars, when in reality, it makes no difference at helping them connect with their audience.

Ariel Hyatt, a great publicist I know from NYC, speaks at a lot of the same conferences I do. She has a saying that people need to invest in things that “move the needle.” In other words, you should look at your career like a business investment. If you spend money on something, it should bring you a return. Eventually. Otherwise it’s not a good investment.

I know that sounds obvious; but what are those things that will make a difference for you?

I’ve seen that there are seven areas that help artists build and maintain a long-lasting career (something quite a bit more than 5 or 6 years). Three are creative, three are business related, and one is relational. Each of them are cornerstones for your career.

I go into detail about them in the last section of my book “Live Music Method”.  Here is a link to that book: https://onstagesuccess.com/merch-table/tom-jacksons-live-music-method-book/

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