Nine Ways To Actually Make Money As A Musician
Once again reminding us the record industry resembles the band on the Titanic playing as it sinks, Rolling Stone reported "9 Ways Musicians Actually Make Money Today." To be blunt, it's pretty stupid.
Among other ineffectual examples, the article points out Bono is investing in Facebook, Green Day licensed their music in The Campaign and Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter was successful (big surprise.) How does this apply to you? It doesn't.
This article doesn't act as a guide unless you're already making bank. Yes, Justin Bieber is making more money than God by plastering his name on tampons and jock straps, but the same formula wouldn't work for underground or blossoming musicians. Can you imagine a Dan Deacon perfume? Of course you can't, because no one would buy it. Dan who-con?
Allow me to introduce a guide that'll actually get you somewhere if you're a struggling musician. (Note: All payoff estimates are guesses because I actually have a job, sucker!)
9. Busk on the Corner This should be your number one go-to. You don't even need to worry about getting booked or having your tour bus break down. Plus, your audience is already built in, assuming you play on a busy street. The only downside is you probably won't have many fans, as evidenced by that famous violinist that nobody paid attention to.
Payoff: $30 a night. It doesn't seem like much, but I once played tambourine while my friend strummed his guitar at First Friday. We made just enough money to spend a week in Tijuana, living off nothing but tacos, Coronas, and cigarettes. In Mexico, we were fuckin' rich.
8. Wait Tables Remember what The Dandy Warhols told us on "Bohemian Like You:" " So, whaddya do? Oh, yeah I wait tables, too. No, I haven't heard your band, 'cuz ya guys are pretty new... " Most musicians have been there, so if you're still waiting to get signed, waiting tables is still a profitable way to pay rent, especially if you want to trot out that "working class hero" vibe. It's kind of cute.
Payoff: $100+ a night if you're not shitty at carrying things and can remember some simple food allergies.
7. Sell CDs on the Corner Chances are, you've been approached by some gangsta-wannabe with a fistful of burned CD-R's asking you to "support local music" and buy his mixtape. I told the last idiot that tried this I worked for New Times, and could possibly hand off his music to a producer if it didn't suck. He scoffed at me and walked off. His loss, but it was probably blank anyway, like the last mixtape I bought off some kid on the corner.
Payoff: $16.42 and some cigarettes. You might be better off just collecting spare change from lint traps at the Laundromat.
6. Give Lessons Many musicians offer to impart their wisdom onto any aspiring instrumentalists with the right sized checkbook. The sad part is watching your students outmatch you and go on to win American Idol or whatever. Just remember to get some autographs and photos while you get the chance - those will make you some moolah on eBay at least.
Payoff: $75 a session. The problem is finding people with enough dough to hire you, rather than using a guide on YouTube.
5. Sell Yourself On The Corner Here's the good news -- you'll be your own boss (unless you're dumb enough to get a pimp) meaning you can set your own hours and work at your own pace. The bad news - you're gonna be writing a lot of songs about aching buttholes and veneral disease. Just remember to keep your lawyer on speed dial, use condoms and chew lots of Valium.
Payoff: $10 - $500, depending on your self-esteem.
4. Join Someone Else's Band If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? In this case, you're beating yourself. But going from lead singer of your GarageBand project to playing kazoo behind the drummer for The Gaslight Anthem isn't so bad. At least you're getting gigs and maybe even a fat groupie will let you diddle her in the green room.
Payoff: $200 per weekend, if you get hooked up with a band that's actually making money. Harder than it sounds.
3. Sell Drugs on the Corner It worked for Biggie, right? All you need is a bulletproof vest and a hookup with someone in a drug cartel. Remember, the more addictive the drug, the more likely someone will stab you for a hit. Just don't be an idiot and start using your own product.
Payoff: $1000 per week. This really only applies to hip-hop, however. Druggies in rap outfits go platinum, whereas druggies in rock bands go to rehab.
2. Sell a Kidney A friend of mine (let's call him Theo, because that's his name) gave his kidney away. Just gave it away! What a sucker! Theo could have made quite a bit of dough, however, you'll probably have to go to Ecuador or wherever for this type of procedure. It's not legal to sell your organs in the U.S.
As Theo tells me, "If you want to sell on the black market, the quality of your hospital treatment will likely suffer. I'd also generally advise against selling organs for profit. While I got away with only occasional twinges of pain and reduced alcohol tolerance, the roulette wheel of possible outcomes include family favorites like 'permanent chronic pain,' 'antibiotic-resistant infection,' and 'death.'"
Theo continued: "It is much easier to accept such risks for the benefit of someone else. Acting for self-interest and suffering as a result is much harder than suffering as a result of helping another."
Finally, Theo added that the first month of his recovery was "very unpleasant. Constant pain in the abdominal area, coupled with fatigue and mood swings."
Payoff: $1000 - $10,000, if that guilt trip doesn't discourage you. Plus, Theo gets drunk way faster than normal people, despite being warned by his doctors never to drink again. He saves a lot on booze, so add that into your calculation and you're practically rich!
1. Sell Your Gear You know what, fuck it. Just give up. If you're trying to make money at music instead of just making music, no matter how broke you are, maybe you should hang up the ol' guitar.
Payoff: depending on how shitty your gear is, you just might break even. Losing your pride is another story.
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